For the past 2 years, my friend Candice and I have a fun cultural ritual dubbed #CandiceTKBBMarathonDesMusées. A couple times a year, we book ourselves a full day to see all the new exhibitions in Paris.
We combine pleasures: spending a day together, feeding our spirit with beautiful art and also trying out new yummy addresses in between museums. Actually, our very first marathon had been described here in a drawing, remember?
Last week, our marathon migrated from Paris to Léméré in the Touraine region – we were invited to spend a day at the Rivau castle and its fairytale gardens.
“Old woman shoe ” by Amy O’ Neill
Meeting the locals…
Caroline, the owner, even spoiled us by inviting us to stay the night before – a princess night in one of the rooms habitually reserved for weddings and private events.
Rosa gallica, one of the oldest roses in France
Located in the Val de Loire, near Chinon, we took the TGV train (about 1h30) to get there. I tried not to read as little as possible on the castle, in order to make up my own mind, and I’m glad I did!
Indeed the Rivau castle is full of surprises. It’s a whole multidisciplinary museum marathon in itself, with History, botanic, contemporary art and culinary delights. Everything has been thought out in detail, and that’s what I enjoyed most about our visit.
The castle and its royal stables
Once upon a time, there was the Rivau Castle, a medieval forteress dating back to the 15th century. Historical funfact, Joan of Arc stopped there to find the horses that would help her in her battle against the English in Orleans in 1429.
Inside, you’ll find gothic and renaissance furniture, mixed with contemporary art. When we visited, the Ghost Exhibition was haunting the place.
“Totems protecteurs” by Alexandre Joly
“Peter” by Hervé le Nost
“Blanc Manger” by Magali Vaillant
The mysterious “Blanc Manger” installation by Magali Vaillant was proudly displayed in the middle of a large room with baroque armchairs and stag heads, as if to commemorate a feast that would have taken place in the middle ages.
This ancient-modern duality is well played, making the whole experience more enjoyable than your regular castle visit.
“Prière” by Armelle Blary
“Curly ghost clown” by Marnie Weber
“Debout” by Pierre Ardouvin
In the former royal stables, I especially enjoyed the videos and animations screened on the wall, retracing the horsemanship of Francois 1er and honouring legendary horses like Pegasus or Bucephalus. Myth and History 2.0 style!
The Fairytale gardens
The main asset of this castle is its garden, that we spent the better part of the morning exploring.
“Yellow fleurette” rose
Not surprisingly, they’re listed as one of the “Remarquable Gardens” by our Ministry of Culture! They are remarquable both on a visual and an olfactive level – the garden is filled with more than 450 species of fragrant roses. Botanic lovers, your eyes and nose will enjoy this!
“La forêt qui court” by Basserode
As contemporary art enthusiasts, Candice and I especially enjoyed detailling the installations and main pieces to be found here and there. The surprising giant glass of saké that collects rainwater with a mischevious picture at the bottom (that you can see, if you’re curious, in my Snapchat video here)
“Après la pluie” by Nicole Tran Ban Vang
… the two huge 7 mile boots, meant to underline the excesses of our consumer society (indeed, who would find use for two 3m high rubber boots – both for a left foot! … a left-footed giant perhaps)
“Invendus-bottes” by Lilian Bourgeat
The fairytale thematic is well thought : a Rapunzel braid hanging from a tower, 7 dwarves hiding in the forest, an Alice labyrinth…
This castle can be seen two ways : a child will see the Disneyland quality and the adults will find spiritual, artistic and cultural meaning. We enjoyed both!
The Fairy table
As you know we love to indulge … so we were delighted to find out there was a restaurant inside this enchanted medieval forteress.
Caroline explained that all products came from the castle’s own vegetable garden, or from neighboring farms (except for the Parmesan…let’s give credit where credit is due!).
Picking some rasperries !
Cucumber-mint (from the garden!) soup
A wonderful locavore initiative, that once again demonstrates the attention to detail of the lord and lady of the castle, who really want everything to be homemade. We had delicious and generous salads (and cheap at that – around 10€ each).
Touraine salad and its “rillons”
Lavender flavoured cream
We especially liked the dessert, with this homemade lavander flavoured cream : it felt like we had headed for the south of France!
And they lived happily…
I am aware of my very privileged visit, thanks to the blog, but I sincerely recommend this castle to all : it can interest history lovers, contemporary art amateurs, garden lovers and curious and/or dreamy children (young or older).
And if on top of it all, the culinary delights can seduce the Gargantua in you, what more can one ask for?
In any case, make sure to schedule a full day for your visit if you’re the kind of person that likes to go inspect every nook cranny and detail. I think you won’t be disappointed … or else, it’ll mean you’ve been cast a spell!
PS: a huge thank you to “Princess” Caroline for her warm greeting, enthusiastic explanations and her kindness. It allowed my “Babe” and I to discover – better than the holy grail – this little medieval gem. (English translation by Marine)