Thursday, 8 October 2015

Eleanor, day 8

Today we visited both Fontévraud Abbey and the Forteresse de Chinon. It is both possible and easy to do them both in one day, but I'd strongly suggest, if you do, doing then the other way round, as Fontévraud is marvellous and Chinon rather disappointing.
Instead of playing up the really fabulous architecture and telling us about the buildings and so on, they have a series of very dull films inside, about the various royals who lived there and only a very little about the building, and outside they have decided that King Arthur had links with the place so it is all about the Knights of the Round Table. As if! Everybody knows that was Winchester, where Alfred still waits to drop his sword in shock when a virgin walks by! And the Round Table is there and visible to all! Chinon, forsooth!
So we came away and went to the supermarket before coming to this camp site. We really didn't feel we had learnt anything from our visit, except perhaps that Joan of Arc came here, but that was all.
But Fontévraud, by contrast, was totally magical. The huge church, with the effigies of three of my many-times-great grandparents and Richard the Lionheart. 
The cloisters, the refectory, the dormitories... Many of the areas are used for concerts and so on, it's very well used. One cloister is used for conferences, and I think there was one going on.

What we hadn't known was that it had been, until 1963, a maximum security prison, and there was a lot about that, too.  One exhibition compared and contrasted the lives of the nuns and the prisoners. It was brilliant. And some pictures showed you what the area had been like when it was a prison, and how it had been restored. Fascinating. Definitively "worth the journey", as the guidebooks say, whereas Chinon, despite having been the seat of English government for the best part of a century, simply isn't.  One star - " interesting " at most.

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