by Paige Donner
Summer is a time for exploring the beautiful towns and villages of France. Many head south for the warmer months but there are sufficient treasures to be found in the North of France as well, many not far from Paris.
Crowning the center of the Loire’s much-loved and much-visited village of Amboise, is this Royal Domain that for centuries went forgotten. When the current owner, Marc Lelandais, bought the Royal Domain, whose construction dates back to 1496 under King Charles VII, it was in a massive shambles. He recounts his adventure in first trying to unearth the pedigree of this estate:
It was a secret, overgrown garden in the middle of one of the most visited town’s in the famous Loire Valley, full of equally famous châteaus (Chambord, Chinon, Chenonceau, Blois…). But for some reason these royal gardens and estate had gone literally unnoticed, hidden by its jungle-like gardens and its big decrepit wooden gates. It was in plain view in the center of Amboise but somehow invisible to the local community.
Once M. Lelandais began unearthing the historical documents to this unique estate he discovered that it is the only royal domain in the history of France to ever be bequeathed by a king to a monk. And it wasn’t any monk, either. It was an Italian monk named dom Pacello de Mercogliano. He had carved out an extraordinary reputation as a gardener during the Italian Renaissance so much so that the King of France invited him to create the first Orangerie in France. The scent of orange blossom, or Neroli, had become all the fashion in the Kings’ courts of Europe and King Charles VIII was determined to have exclusive rights to this elixir. Hence he bequeathed the Royal Domain to Dom Pacello in exchange for… a single branch of orange blossoms.
To discover more about the extraordinary history of this Royal Domain and the man who resurrected it, you can visit the website here. They welcome day visitors and walking the gardens, even picnicking on the château’s terrace is encouraged.
Abbaye de Royaumont
In the Val d’Oise county of France, just north of Paris, is this Cistercian Abbey built between 1228 and 1235 under King Louis IX (Saint Louis).
Just about an hour’s train ride from Paris, and you are transported as if in a time capsule to this magical place where French historical figures once walked. Saint Louis ‘mother was Blanche de Castille and this is one of the last Abbeys dedicated to the Virgin, the Holy Mother.
Today the Abbey houses the Fondation Royaumont, a foundation dedicated to educating young French school children about the rich history of France. It also welcomes artists in residence every year who put on a show during the annual summer festival, the Festival de Royaumont which begins in August. The Abbey offers state-of-the-art digital information plaques and listening stations for those who would like to soak up some French history while visiting. You can also book an entire weekend as the Abbey now offers a few rather simple and austere rooms for guests who would like to experience the peacefulness of the property. When you make your reservations you can also request to dine on site. The Fondation Royaumont is supported in part by generous funding from DHL.
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