We made it! We’re back home with our long lost, financially crippling but now steerable Renault. My little Fiat made the round trip to the garage at Faverolles sur Cher, no problem. She was a bit slow uphill, and a bit slow downhill, not to mention on the flat as well, but she kept going and I reckon could have kept going all week.

The trip there took us through Valençay, which I’ve heard about but never been to before. It has a fabulous castle, which I shall be going back to visit over the spring holidays. It’s a beautiful Renaissance building. It’s famous for the Doric and Corinthian features in its architecture. It was built by the Estampes family, who started work in the mid 16th century, around 1540, but didn’t actually it finish for nearly 200 years. (It was bad enough spending two years renovating our two buildings, let alone two centuries!) In 1719 a Scottish banker, John Law, bought the place, then in 1803 Napoleon’s finance minister Charles Talleyrand took possession. The idea was for him to hold sumptuous banquets for dignitaries there.  Ferdinand VII of Spain was imprisoned there for six years. Poor old chap, that must have been tough.

In 1979 the castle was sold to an association that has been responsible for its upkeep since then.

The castle has a good reputation as a family friendly venue with an Easter Egg hunt in its forty acres of grounds each year, as well as other fun events, and it has a play area and petting zoo, reputed to contain llamas. Both kids and adults can dress up in period costumes and have their photos taken. Twice a year in summer there are candlelight visits to the castle at night. I would have thought that was rather risky, what with all the old furnishings, but so far things have gone well.

The château is open all year round. Here’s a good site about it to check out. The west wing houses a car museum that’s well worth a visit, apparently. Maybe they’ll take my Fiat one day.

Chris’s satnav brought us a different way home. We drove past Zooparc du Beauval, where France’s only two pandas now reside. We could see the Chinese section of the zoo with its pagodas and curvy lion statues, but I didn’t get a glimpse of any black and white fur though!  The satnav also brought us home behind a straw lorry for a fair chunk of the route. Now, straw is not meant to go at 90 km per hour. It’s fine at 20 km or so when towed by a tractor but when it’s hurtling along on a main road, it disintegrates. We were driving through thick cloud of bits of the stuff. There will be a good bit less of it when it arrives from when it left.

Early days at Les Fragnes

It was fun to travel in our mini convoy of two cars. It brought back memories of when we drove down here on that fateful day, 13th August 2006, to start our new lives in France. Chris was ahead in the Renault with Caiti, who was navigating, and Ruadhri,  and he was pulling the trailer. I brought up the rear in the Fiat with Benj and Nessie (our dog). Nessie is stouter and more grizzled than she was, all three kids have grown a lot and become totally Frenchified, and Chris and I have a few more wrinkles than we did then and a whole new outlook on life. But we’re all still enjoying our adventure.