We enjoy having family and friends to stay as it gives us a chance to faire le touriste. Although we once lived in Cormatin within a stone’s throw of the Chateau we rarely got around to visiting it.
When you enter the grounds of the Chateau it is a different world, far away from the bustle of the village. We crossed the bridge over the moat and investigated the caves by the courtyard, waiting for the guide to ring the bell for the next tour. For me the sound of this bell is evocative of the hot summer of 2008 when we first lived in France.
Cormatin Chateau was built in the early 17th century by the du Blé family who owned Tournus and vast estates in Burgundy. It is a most sumptuous chateau, largely unspoilt and typical of the period of Louis XIII. The wealth of the family is reflected in the lavish gold and lapis lazuli decoration and magnificent wallhangings. You see how the nobility lived in those days. The Marquis and his wife would live in separate apartments and visitors were entertained in the bedchamber. The phrase ‘setting the table’ originated from the time the table was literally brought into the room and set in place. The vast kitchen has many gadgets we would think quite up to date like a coffee grinder and an automatic rotisserie with a weight and chains.
Our little granddaughter was most fascinated by the gardens. They were skilfully reconstructed in the 1990s in the original Baroque style with box hedges and lavender borders. A gardener was trimming topiary into pigs, elephants and rabbits. The centrepiece is the Fountain of Life where we spent a long time gazing at the turtles spouting water. Nearby is the maze. When you reach the centre there is a wrought iron aviary with a circular staircase up to the balcony from where you get a good view of the garden. Some of the budgies in the aviary were sitting in nesting boxes so no doubt there’ll be some young ones soon.
The grounds of the Chateau go down to the river as far as the old textile mill, the Filaterie, now a craft centre. To the south is an open air theatre where you can watch plays and operas in the summer. A canal with huge willows is home to a flock of white geese.
We were especially interested in the potager in the lovely walled garden. The vegetables are way ahead of ours; I always think that Cormatin has an climate much kinder than the windy hillside where we live. We made a mental note of the design of the willow withies which supported the peas and beans with a view to copying them next year.