Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Blass in Blois

We left Graham and Christine's delightful place in Burgundy, France - see previous post - and then stayed here, in the town of Mer, in the Loire Valley for a couple of nights. No wifi though, but a lovely, calm, elegant house. Well it was before we got there, anyway.

I loved the breakfast there - the best croissants we've had, brioches, baguette, some really delicious jams, yogurts and figs from the garden (which I like, but didn't eat, as they're too sweet for me).

We wandered round nearby Blois, including its chateau. This had clearly been rather run-down until some nineteenth-century bloke with delusions of grandeur and a lot of purplish wallpaper got his hands on it and "restored" almost everything in it until little of the original innards remains. So there was a lot of mediaeval-looking Victoriana, if you call it Victoriana when it's French, which you probably don't. But I am, anyway, so there.

Later, we drove past the enormous Chambord, the king of chateaux, all turrets like an elaborate Disney castle. I was glad we saw it but also glad we didn't go round it as it's just huge. Silverback did tell me how many rooms it has and I've forgotten but I know it was several hundred. We stood on a bit of grass and took photos of it whilst one of those Standard Issue French Old Ladies tutted at us and said in French that we shouldn't be doing this. Not sure why: presumably she's in the pay of the Chambord bosses who would prefer you to cough up the entrance fee. Fortunately we lost all ability to understand any French until we'd taken the pictures.

After a while it's possible to get Chateau Fatigue. You know this has set in when you find yourself muttering things like "yeah, yeah, another sodding tapestry and a bit more armour. Oh, look, a turret. Is it lunchtime yet?"

The Communist was once told by some family member who'd done some research that there was a pogrom in Blois in 1171 and the Jews were driven out, and that this was where the name Blass - which was my maiden name - came from.

It's possible, I suppose - and I was pleased to come across a street called Rue des Juifs (the Road of Jews) which has given me as much proof as I'm ever going to ask for.

Now we're in the Dordogne, at a place called Nonton, in a posh and rather pricy place - a hotel rather than a b and b - with wonderful views and a swimming pool.

We've taken a squillion or two photos between us and I expect some of mine will be on this blog when I get back to Blighty, but I haven't had a chance to look through them properly whilst I'm away.

As always, grateful thanks to my travelling companions: my husband Stephen and great friend Silverback who are looking after me so well. They do tend to tease me a bit though. Okay, a lot. No idea why.


Anonymous Ruth said...

I suspect the Communist may have slightly sanitised the pogrom in Blois. I think the Jews in Blois were massacred, burnt at the stake, in 1171. So that would mean you come from a family of survivors. Stephen and Silverback can tease you all they like, a Blass from Blois will not be beaten.

6:54 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

I hesitate to appear pedantic Daphne but don't you mean NontRon with an r? I just happen to have remembered a little about the place.

Nontron was founded by Phoenician explorers in 1100 BC. Throughout its interesting development it has survived a number of wars and sieges. In 1199 Richard the Lionheart met his end here.

This charming city offers a few attractions. The Castle of Castelnaud built in the 12th Century and is now a war museum. The castle of Marvel constructed under the orders of the Viscounts of Limoges in the 13th Century and the Castle of Beauvais built in the 15th Century.

Nontron is the largest town in what is called 'Périgord Vert' (Green Perigord), a vast area of lush valleys and trickling streams. It is here that you will also find the acclaimed Perigord-Limousin Regional National Park. The Bois de Beausac is a large green area that surrounds this small community and has been preserved by the regional government as an area of natural beauty. The parkland has in places left to the wild in order to attract the growth of native wild plants that do not have a chance in much of the area because of cultivation.

Nontron is also famous for its knife making. The methods and techniques used in making these have remained virtually unchanged since the fifteenth century when they were first in manufacture. In fact the workshop where they are hand made by local craftsman is the oldest continually running cutlery forge in France. It is certainly worth a visit to this exceptional piece of local history, still in the making.

Are you asleep yet?

8:07 pm  
Blogger Silverback said...

Nontron is ace.

Nuff said !!

9:20 pm  
Blogger Jennyta said...

The Loire valley is one of my favourite regions in France. I'm delighted you are all enjoying it too.

9:21 am  
OpenID writeousindignation said...

Sounds like you are having a lovely time!
Stephen and Silverback are teasing you because they are jealous of your thick veneer of French sophistication, which they cannot hope to replicate. LOL.
Happy Croissants! :-)

9:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Daphne, you're not that far from Jo's future inlaws!
Glad you survived Blois, and have had an enjoyable wedding anniversary. I celebrated our 30th with a car crash!

7:51 am  
Anonymous Michael Communistson said...

Just read this, so here's a belated comment...
We grew up with the Blois legend. Then a couple of years ago I stumbled on this:
Blass, variant of Blas, Jewish (Ashkenazic): nickname for a pale person, from Yiddish blas or modern German blass ‘pale’.
The Communist spoke both Yiddish and German, but curiously he never mentioned the more obvious explanation – that our surname, rather than commemorating medieval French pogrom survivors, actually means 'pasty-face'!

6:01 pm  

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