Vacances en France – 2018 – Polminhac

After the previous days travels around Murat, St Flour and Garabit we decided on a gentle start to the day, followed by a short afternoon trip over to Polminhac, where we planned to visit Chateau Pesteills

Chateau Pesteils

Perched on its steep rock, 750m above sea level , the old fortress Polminhac proudly dominates the valley of Cère.
The imposing dungeon symbolizes all the majesty of the castle of Pesteils and evokes the Middle Ages in its harshest expression, glorious testimony of what was to be this stronghold of Cantal. 
Beautiful frescoes of the 15th adorn the interior. 

The seventeenth century enriches the main body with remarkable painted ceilings.
Tapestries, paintings, furniture, parent richly this set. 
Enlarged and restored in the nineteenth century, the castle has been owned since 1608 by  
the family of Cassagne de Beaufort Miramon Pesteils  who still lives today.

The chateau is a very interesting place, although the English language printed guides provided were very confusing, mixing information from various rooms and floors with wild abandon.

The rooms are furnished and decorated in line with the history of the chateau.

Moving our of the main chateau we headed up to the “donjon” (keep). Climbing the spiral stairs up through the many floors, of the keep, we were greeted by a bat. On one occasion it flew out of the fireplace on one floor, into and back out of the medaeval loo, back in and up the spiral staircase to the higher floors. At one point it darted out the window on the top floor, out into the bright sunshine. I always thought bats were nocturnal. Obviously this one couldn’t make up its mind if it was a bat or a House Martin. Maybe it’s only the vampire variety that fly at night.

As we climbed, many of the upper rooms were infested with flies, all swarming the windows. Their buzzing was very reminiscent of crime movies when a long dead body is discovered. Thankfully, we did not encounter any bodies.

We ascended to the top of the spiral staircase, which terminated on a walkway under the eaves of the roof of the keep. The walkway consisted of metal grid plates spread across the roof buttressed. You could see all the way down to the ground. Something of a heart stopping, stomach churning sight.

Leaving our two partners, Dave and I stepped out onto the grids to circumnavigate the top of the tower. The views were stunning but we were constantly reminded of the drop below our feet. This uneasy feeling was not diminished by the crumbling state of the stone butresses on which the grids rested.

The following are a few images from around the grounds…..


Chateau Hautefort

The weather, since we arrived, has been nothing like we had anticipated. We had expected for the temperatures to be higher than back in the UK. Apart from a couple of days, the temperatures have been quite low, the days have been dull and the last couple of days have been decidedly wet.

With that in mind, we decided to hedge our bets and do a château tour.  At least, if its raining, we can be inside.

So off we set on, Sunday morning, for Hautefort which is to the west of Brive-la-Gaillarde in the Perigord. And so as to not get distracted we programmed the satnag for the quickest route, including tolls.

Before one reaches the village of Hautefort, you are treated to glimpses of the château from several miles out.  Built, as it is, on a promontory the château dominates the landscape. Shame the weather detracted somewhat but here is a shot to give you some idea of the scene.

Chateau Hautefort - A distant view through the rain and mist
Chateau Hautefort – A distant view through the rain and mist

We initially parked immediately below the château and walked up into the village. Planning to have lunch before entering the chateau proper.

Although there were several eateries, it transpired that they were fully booked. This being a Sunday, I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised. Never mind, just a few hundred metres further on we came across Le “Me” Loko, a brasserie. We were soon seated, orders taken and beers delivered. I had what was basically a Ciabatta roll filled with hot roast beef, onions, mushrooms and gravy with chips and salad on the side. Gerry had a salad of prawns with pineapple and sun-dried tomatoes. Not a gourmet meal but good nonetheless.

Throughout the meal we were observed by a white wolf, well perhaps a white alsation type dog. She seemed to keep coming and sitting by our table with a canine smile, patiently waiting for any scraps. Obviously she didn’t know me and how rare scraps are when I am around. I did ask her if she had seen John Snow recently. She seemed to perk up at the mention of his name. Or, maybe, I just imagined it.

After lunch we completed our tour of the village, which meant we had walked the perimeter of the château base. Arriving back at the car park we decided to move the car up nearer the ticket office, to save ourselves from having to climb the hill again.

The château is most impressive and one forgets that it is also an ancient fortress. However, the presence of a drawbridge acts as a quick reminder.

Apparently Chateau Hautefort is built on the site of former Roman camp and historical records indicate the presence of some kind of fortress as far back as 1000 A.D. Since then the château has gone through some dramatic transformations culminating in the grand building which dominates the landscape.

For many years the château was left untended, until 1929 when it was purchased by Baron and Baronne de Bastard. Baron de Bastard carried out considerable works to save and restore the château. These works were interrupted by WW2 when the château was used to store art collections from eastern France. After the war restoration works continued before stalling again due to the death of Baron de Bastard.

Baronne de Bastard took up the baton, continuing the restoration.

In 1959 the gardens were opened to the general public and by 1962 the buildings became habitable. There aren’t that many rooms inside to visit and to be honest this isn’t like visiting the likes of Uppark, Arundel Castle or Windsor Castle. Where the rooms are stuffed with pictures and furniture.

You have to remember the origins of the château, as first and foremost a private residence, that has only recently become a charitable institution. And then there is the major catastrophe that struck on the night of 30th August, 1968 when a fire destroyed the building with the exception of the wings. Baronne de Bastard decided to rebuild and that restoration continues to this day, albeit under the management of a charitable foundation.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and would recommend others to take the time to tour both the château and the village.

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