David's Diary: Wednesday, August 1, 2001

Château de Breteuil, France

Château de Breteuil
Château de Breteuil

Château de Breteuil was built in the valley of Chevreuse between 1604 and 1610. As the Château is close by where we are staying, we decided to pay a visit and walk through the gardens. Our original plan was to picnic in the park, but forgetting that all shops close between 1:30 and 3:00 we were too late to get picnic supplies. A small cafe in Chevreuse got us through lunch then we worked our way through the tiny roads that lead to the Château.

The Breteuil family has closely served the kings of France. The main floor reception has portraits of kings, ministers, ambassadors, and bishops who lived in the time of Kings Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI. Because the chateau tour was in French we decided to focus on the gardens instead of the chateau.

Medieval Pigeon House
Medieval Pigeon House

Near the chateau the gardens are laid out in formal French style. But farther away are forested trails, lakes, and benches, which allow the visitor to sit in the shade and enjoy the views. Part of the garden includes secondary buildings that now have displays showing their original use. The stables have excellent examples of carriages and riding gear. The fruit house shows how fruits were stored on wooden shelves underground to maximize how long they could be preserved. The icehouse was hundreds of feet deep and would be filled with ice in winter to be used the following summer.

One of the different buildings we saw was the Medieval Pigeon House. This round building with a pointed roof contains thousands of small enclosures, each one big enough to hold a pigeon. In early times, homing pigeons were one of the main ways of passing messages. We could not understand the French signs enough to provide you with details of how life worked in the pigeon house, but its very size and organization let us know how important this was to running the chateau.

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