Château de Valençay
Here’s one for all my students at the CIA!
I especially wanted to visit this château because it features the kitchens of 19th Century master chef, Marie-Antoine de Carème!
The approach is classic. The château was constructed in the mid 1500s and then changed hands several times before being purchased in 1803 by Napoleon’s foreign minister Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord to host elaborate state visits.
Inside, there are several rooms for receiving dignitaries. This is the the “Congress of Vienna” table, alleged to be the table upon which the final document establishing the division of power in post-Napoleonic Europe was signed in 1815. i guess Talleyrand brought it back with him in his suitcase?
A bust of Napoleon looks over the table from a mantel on the right. Cheeky, non? It makes you wonder who had the last laugh given Napoleon’s lasting effect on modern France.
The rooms are nicely appointed with period furnishings, many original the château.
Tapestries hang in the staircases. The detail of this guinea pig is astonishing.
A Napoleonic era table is set in the dinning room.
The attending footman and ginormous silver chafing table looks like it’s ready to go. The huge lid is resting on a trolley that must have been required to move such an enormous service up from the kitchens.
Downstairs you can see part of the château’s cellar. They have records stating that at one point they were buying 45 casks of just one variety of red wine per year.
The kitchen spaces are set up as they might have been in Carème’s day. He was especially know for his design of “pièce montées” or architectural cake and sugar creations that were the finale of any important banquet.
At one point, bells started to ring and the room went dark. Suddenly, a sound and light show filled the kitchen with extremely loud noise and flashing lights. I think is was to educate any non-professional pastry chefs in the room about Chef Carème’s genius. We were the only ones there and it was kind of weird.
The room next door was a more traditional kitchen space.
Lots of copper pots!
And a huge wood-fired range from 1892. This must have been a huge upgrade over cooking in front of the open fire place.
After the kitchens, you exit in to the interior courtyard where you can admire more of the château’s beautiful proportions.
In the center of the courtyard, there is a huge reflecting pool encircled with flowerbeds.
The Château de Valençay may not be the biggest or the most famous of the great French châteaux, but it was definitely one of my favorites for its historical connections and its charm.