Saturday, November 14, 2009

Vacation in France, October 2009 - Part #3: Moleskine sketches and photos at Château de Hautefort - Périgord Noir, France.

`On another day during our October trip in France (seems so long ago now...), we took a short ride into the upper Dordogne, Périgord Noir region to see the Château de Hautefort - which is located just 25 miles (40 km) east of Périgueux. Château de Hautefort is one of the most prestigious castles in Dordogne and is listed as an historical monument. From where we were staying in the Limousin, we travelled south-southwest to the château. We had seen it, from a distance (you can’t miss it, really) during our summer vacation, but didn’t have time for a vist then.

copyright Judith Nijholt-Strong
Château de Hautefort gardens - France, Oct. 2009
colored pencils, pen & ink in Moleskine sketchbook

This is a pen & ink with colored pencil drawing, in my French vacations Moleskine, towards the back of the château from the formal garden. I was able to lean against a wall to draw this...and no one blocked my view, not even my husband who was millling around taking photos of the dahlias still in bloom. I knew before we went that I’d probably be sketching lots of greenery, fortunately I took along enough variations of green colored pencils!

We were extremely pleased to visit the château in the fall, as it was less crowded with tourists (though quite a few, given the time of year) which means no long lines to wait in (swelter in) as there would have been in the summer months.

image copyright Judith Nijholt-Strong
Château de Hautefort - overview of the front.

Overlooking the Auvézère Valley, high over Hautefort village, Château de Hautefort is an impressive sight with two long wings of rooms each terminating in a round tower. The entire castle is surrounded by exquisite French style formal gardens, (which I must say are meticulously maintained), and a large wooded park with winding foot paths with spectacular views to the valley below. The gardens and park were redesigned in the 19th century by the French landscape designer, Comte de Choulot, and again redesigned in the mid- 20th century by the current owners to include box hedges and topiary. The architectural style of this chateau (and its manicured gardens), is rare in the Dordogne - more akin to those built by the nobles in the Loire Valley.

This was shot from the castle's park area overlooking the valley, with the river Auvézère in the middle background.

image copyright Judith Nijholt-Strong
This sketch was done in the wooded park, looking down towards the neighbouring village of of St. Agnan in the distance. (Just noticed that I wrote "Périgord Vert (green)", under this sketch in my moleskine, when it shoud really be "Périgord Noir (black)" ... there are 4 different color distinctions for the Périgord area of the Dordogne... a lil confusing.)

copyright Judith Nijholt-Strong
A view towards St. Agnan at Château de Hautefort-France, Oct. 2009
watercolors, pen & ink in Moleskine sketchbook

Me sketching that view ...

Along with some very peaceful foot paths, the park area has benches, here & there, throughout... excellent! I sat on one to do the Moleskine drawing and add the watercolors with my little travelling Winsor & Newton watercolor set and my Niji waterbrush. Auke, my husband, was wandering around taking pictures of the woods and sneaking pictures of me...

Built on the foundations of a 12th century fortified castle (some details of which remain, i.e. the drawbridge), Château de Hautefort was constructed in the middle of the 17th century by the Marquis de Hautefort. He chose the renaissance style of the Loire Valley castles for the château because it would be more pleasing to his sister’s taste and, it is said, to elevate his family’s social standing. After subsequently, more or less, falling into disrepair over the next 200 years of its existance, the château was bought by the Baron and Baronnesse de Bastard (yes, that’s the real name). They made it their life work to reconstruct and renovate the château to its former 17th century grandeur. This “task” took several decades during the middle of the 20th century (work began in 1929) and was completed by 1968 - after the baron had died, his wife continued alone.

Though you’re not allowed to take pictures of the castle interior, I shot this photo from a window at the end of a long , covered portico that runs the length of one of the wings (that was allowed). This window is just before you go up a grand staircase to enter the castle’s first floor. The view looks down upon one of the castle's formal gardens and out to the village of Hautefort.

Shortly after four decades of work had been completed, the château burned almost completely to the ground – an unfortunate accident (a careless guest dropped a burning cigarette, so the story goes) which left only the stone foundations and walls (albeit many in a sad state) behind. Undeterred by the catastrophe, the baroness resumed reconstruction work, again, and the chateau was renovated to it's current satate. The resulting, absolutely stunning, castle is a tribute to the efforts and dedication of the Baron and Baroness. A room in one of the towers of the château commemorates the events of the fire in 1968, complete with pictures of the disaster and the renovation work. It was amazing to see how much was actually destroyed and brought back to life again.

The photo below is of the inside of one of the tower’s bell shaped roof, just above the room where the exhibit of the reconstruction work and the many “medals of honor” of the late Baron de Bastard are also on display. He was awarded a medal of honor from the Netherlands as well as many from France & England, as well as many other countries (sorry, no pics allowed in that room).

image copyright Judith Nijholt-Strong
All that framing was done in the traditional wooden peg & hole manner... I didn't detect a single iron nail. However, there is some metal bracing in place at the top...good thing!

And, of course, “the photo moment” for my Kermits.

image copyright Judith Nijholt-Strong
The Kermits in front of Château de Hautefort.

Such happy travellers! lol

Me trying to get them to sit still for their photo shoot ...

“Petit Kermit”almost jumped off this wall! He would have landed on his noggin ... many feet below. I guess he was too excited.

Before leaving the château grounds, I was able to do this somewhat "wonky" drawing of one of the topiary boxwoods lining the pathway out.

copyright Judith Nijholt-Strong
The Topiary Person - Château de Hautefort, France - Oct. 2009
colored pencils, pen & ink in Moleskine sketchbook

I thought the topiary looked like a human figure, in a way. They fascinated me. I wish I had the patience and artistry to do that to one of my boxwoods at home....not likely to ever happen.

I’ve put together another image mosaic of some of the photos I took on the day – around the château, inside the courtyard, in the formal gardens and in the wooded park.

all images copyright 2009, Judith Nijholt-Strong
Photo mosaic of Château de Hautefort - France, Oct. 2009

Along with the splendors of the building itself, Château de Hautefort contains an impressive collection of 17th century paintings and tapestries on view and is one of the most popular and visited châteaux (castles) in the Dordogne.

I'm glad I had the opportunity to visit the château on such a lovely October day.

tot ziens,

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