June 21, 2010

Château de Brissac - June 20 (Part II)

Taller than all the royal castles of France, Brissac, with its seven stories and 204 rooms, has been nicknamed the "Giant of the Loire Valley".  It is also the only one we've visited that has an elevator!
Acquired by René de Cossé in 1502, the first Lord of Brissac, it is today the residence of the 13th Duke of Brissac.  His family lives here permanently and therefore some sections of the château are not available to the public.

Of the original 15th century fortress, there remains two medieval towers and the ancient wine cellars.

Brissac's most unusual underground river is yet another sheer delight to the eye and quite a rarity.

Coat of Arms

This is a kitchen mock-up since the real one is currently being used and not accessible to the public.
One of four Venetian crystal chandeliers from the Murano glassworks found in "Le Grand Salon", previously called the "salon doré" (gilded salon).
Richly carved coffered ceiling dating from the 17th century.  It is gold-leafed.

The monumental mantelpiece is richly sculpted with garlands of flowers, fruit clusters, and scroll motifs.  The bust is of Charles II de Cossé, the one who rebuilt the castle and the first Duke of Brissac.

The current Duke and Duchess of Brissac on their wedding day in 1993.  We met them and their 3 children as they were leaving the château to go for a walk.  We said hello and exchanged pleasantries.

The Dining Room which still hosts special events, from crowns to celebs.

The dishes were made specifically for the Brissac family.
This display case has china from Meissen and a service plate and soup tureen of 18th century Sèvres porcelain with the Brissac coat of arms.

Louis XIII Bedchamber.

This is the room where Louis XIII and his mother, Marie de' Medici, were reconciled in 1620.  Unfortunately, it was short-lived.  The figurines in the display case portray this event.

In the Portrait Gallery, you find this very large portrait of the world famous Veuve Clicquot, one of the great names of French Champagne.  This extraordinary strong-willed and talented lady became a widow early in her marriage.  Well known for her business acumen and her determination, she decided then to take over the family business and turn it into an international enterprise.

The bridal dress of the current Duchess of Brissac, found in the Chapel.  (You can see the wedding picture in a magazine on the podium.)

The Reception Hall or Grand Gallery.
It is 32 meters in length.  Throughout the centuries, it has served for many a festivity and banquet.

Today, the Gallery continues to be used for private receptions, seminars and conferences.

The beamed ceiling is particularly magnificent.  Painted in 1625, it is decorated with some 100 small pictures, pastoral as well as biblical and mythological scenes.

The Opera House or Theatre

Jeanne Say inherited the castle upon the death of her husband, the Marquis de Brissac.  He was to become Duke but died during the War against Prussia in 1871.

She came from a wealthy family which made its fortune producing refined sugar.  The company is known today as Beghin-Say.

She was a music enthusiast and a talented soprano.  When renovating the château, she decided to build her own opera house.  The dress found on stage is the same one she wore in her portrait.

Jeanne Say's portrait . 

An unusual 19th century wedding present to the 11th Duke and Duchess de Brissac: a sedan chair, (chaise à porteurs).  On the side panels, you can read the words "Joy, Happiness and Love".  It was rarely used because it was too heavy.

You can stay at the Château as a guest.  Your room awaits.

Wine growing has been a family tradition for more than 500 years.  We sampled 3 estate wines and purchased the rosé.

Medieval Kitchens
There is an amazing display of copperware, traditional cooking utensils and equipment, a massive fireplace, and cobblestone floor.

Just a wee mortar and pestle.

The old kitchens are still used to this day for private receptions and seminars, but caterers arrive with most of the food already prepared.

We stopped for dinner at l'Auberge des Isles in Montreuil-Bellay.  It wasn't fancy, but was it ever delicious!

We both had aiguillettes de canard (duck strips) with a pepper sauce dip, served with fêves (beans) and a salad.  Karl had the Tiramisu and I had the chocolate mousse for dessert.

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