Tuesday, September 28, 2021

France 2021, Day 13, Lyon and Château de Fléchères

I think most of the passengers were doing a winery tour this morning but we wanted to stroll around Lyon and I wanted to do some shopping. We had driven past one of the main shopping areas previously and it was a pleasant walk along the Rhône and then over the Pont de la Guillotière to what is called La Presqu’ile, between the Rhône and Saône rivers.
Château de Fléchères
I enjoyed wandering in and out of stores, although I was having a hard time making myself understood. I think our French was better when we were in Paris before we boarded our Viking cruise where all the staff speak English and stopped practicing. I found presents for my sisters and sister-in-law at Le Printemps and bought a watch for myself at a little shop called (surprise) Montres. We also found some pretty notebooks and erasers.
Inside St. Bonaventure
In our wanderings, we came across the Église Saint-Bonaventure, a 14th and 15th-century Gothic church belonging to the Franciscan order. As I was leaving, I read that St. Bonaventure was buried there so I politely asked the gentleman stationed near the entrance exactly where the tomb was. It just goes to show that when someone takes the time to speak slowly and simply, our French comprehension was pretty good – on the other hand, he was going into gruesome detail about the Huguenots mutilating St. Bonaventure’s body and separating his head from his body!  He told us the Franciscans were nicknamed Les Cordeliers because of their knotted rope worn around their waists and that is the name for the whole area near the church in Lyon's 2nd arrondissement.  This man was pleased by our interest in history and we also really enjoyed the conversation; I think we explained to him that our Cardinal in Boston is a Franciscan.
Looking toward the Buri from a bridge on the Rhone
There was time for lunch on the ship before we set out for what wound up being one of our favorite parts of the cruise, a visit to Fléchères – a stunning 17th-century chateau commissioned by a rich Protestant draper from Lyon, about 45 minutes away. The chateau was constructed of yellow stone, with a multi-story central main building, flanked by two perpendicular wings and two projecting square towers. On the pictured side, a double staircase leads to a huge terraced garden. The current owners rescued it from possible destruction and have been restoring it since 1997, filling it with appropriate period furniture. Their work is far from finished and the chapel is not open to the public but we were able to see most of the chateau and enjoy the grounds. I felt as if I were at Versailles, admittedly on a smaller scale.
I could almost imagine living in a chateau
Our guide told us that due to a special arrangement with Viking, we were going to meet and have a drink with one of the owners. I was reminded of A Company of Swans, a favorite of mine by Eva Ibbotson in which visiting noble estates is a key plot element:
Both Mrs. Belper and Aunt Louisa were passionate visitors of stately homes and living in constant hope of converting a mere “sighting” – that of a distant marquis crouched over his herbaceous border or a viscountess entering her carriage, for example – into an actual meeting during which sentences were exchanged.
The bed was actually quite small
I suspect the owner, Pierre Almendros, was hoping one of us would be a millionaire who would want to subsidize the rest of the restoration of the chateau – or at least write an article for the New York Times Travel section! If I still worked with Frommer’s, I would definitely urge them to include the chateau in a “must see” chapter. He ushered us into the dining room and gave us champagne and a Provençal sugar tart with pralines (I was trying to save myself for dinner but could not resist). He was very friendly and answered all our questions about the chateau.
Sugar Tart
There was something a little melancholy about our last dinner on the Buri. We sat outside to enjoy the river and the lights, and dinner included a French Goat Cheese Soufflé, Braised Red Wine Chicken with herb mashed potatoes, and I turned down Pear in Red Wine Sauce and Chocolate and Cranberry Layer Cake for Chocolate Mousse. My mother had Gambas Sauté Provençale, which was sautéed shrimp, parsley, tomatoes and rice. Everyone was saying goodbye; we were touched that Drew Ann from Nashville wanted to take a picture of us. I left my copy of Madam, Will You Talk? on Raquel’s desk as she was leaving at dawn to return to Portugal for some time off. A cruise activity director gets no opportunity to relax until the passengers leave.  We were impressed by how effortlessly she did her job and her genuine friendliness.
Looking out onto the Chateau's garden


Cath said...

Well that was a delightful 10 minutes catching up on your travels! And I felt your sadness on the last night aboard ship too. Also thank you for telling us about the food, so interesting. And the people you met! Loved it.

Katrina said...

Thank you. I really enjoyed all of the photos from your cruise.