France

La Roche-Guyon Castle …

La Roche-Guyon castle with its Medieval watch tower

La Roche-Guyon castle with its Medieval watch tower

It was a wonderful sunny morning when we drove towards La Roche-Guyon heading to the castle passing through the scenic river side road surrounded by chalk cliffs known for its troglodyte dwellings. From afar the imposing Medieval watch tower of La Roche-Guyon is already visible. The village itself is definitely worth a visit. I can just imagine how this place must have looked like in the old days. Embedded with a rich history, it all began in the 12th century during the reign of Phillipe Auguste King of France, when a fortified castle with its watch tower hollowed out of the cliff was built to keep control of the river crossing to and from Normandy. The tower originally measured up to 38m. Destroyed during the French revolution, today its height reaches 18m.The first nobility to reside was Guy de la Roche who built his house leaning against the cliff. Throughout the centuries the property changes hands from one family to another through marriages and inheritance until the early 17th century when it came into the hands of the Rochefoucauld family through marriage. In 1944 the castle became the Head Quarter of Rommel during the German occupation. Today the castle still belongs to the descendants of the Rochefoucauld family while the “Etablissement Public de Coopération Culturelle” created by the Conseil Général du Val d’Oise help finance and run the place by organizing cultural events as to preserve the castle and its environment as part of the region’s national heritage. The Medieval part and the troglodyte dwellings are one of the most interesting sections to visit. With the 250 steep steps carved out from the rock leading to the watch tower (donjon), you are sure to get your exercise of the day! Further down the steps are the unique dovecote, family crypts and chapel all carved out from the rock as part of the Medieval troglodyte dwelling.

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Climbing those steps are finally rewarded with breathtaking views from the watch tower of the surrounding area and the Seine river …

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It was in the 17th and 18th centuries during the days of Alexandre de La Rochefoucauld, Duke of La Rochefoucauld and his daughter Duchess d’Enville when the castle was given its splendour. Gatherings or “salons” centered around the cultural movement among the intellectuals at the time known as the era of Enlightenment were held at the castle. Among its members were Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. The Duke also had a specially cemented ditch built to bring fresh water from the source of Chérence to the village and castle. The orchard and vegetable patch were also created.

The lovely organic orchard and vegetable patch of La Roche Guyon

The lovely organic orchard and vegetable patch of La Roche Guyon

Today the orchard with its organically grown fruits and vegetables has more than 400 variety of pears, season vegetables and medicinal herbs.

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Another garden was created by the Duchess d’Enville known as the “Jardin Anglais“, romantic walks built around the castle special for their guests. It was then a fabulous walk with sandy path along green forest with waterfalls and richly decorated carved out grottoes as rest houses complete with silk cushions and comfortable benches to admire the spectacular views of the surroundings. unfortunately all the 18th century splendours of what was once the “jardin anglais” is today a garden lost and forgotten in the sands of time. It is now like walking along a forest covered with vegetation and one would simply have to imagine how it must have been like, prior to the French revolution walking those paths in the glorious days of the Duchess d’Enville and her guests.

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And the castle lives on throughout time with unfortunately most of the furniture and books from the library dispersed and sold by the family but the lovely stylish decor of the halls overlooking the hanging gardens remains the living witness of the past splendour as well as the priceless Gobelins tapestry bought back by the General Council of Val d’Oise to once again find its place in the original setting in the halls of the castle. La Roche-Guyon is definitely worth a stop over when visiting the area.

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Categories: France

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7 replies »

  1. Hello, last time we met it was at Xmas 2012 for Marché de Noël Notre Dame in Paris.( I organize it..).
    I see you’ve been in La Roche Guyon, I actually live in Vétheuil ( 5km). Next time, do come over to my place I ,ll be delighted to offer you a drink and have a chat.
    Nina, 15 avenue Claude Monet, 95510 Vétheuil. 0624685625

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