Monday, 1 December 2008

Fontevraud Abbey

I’ve just finished watching Roland Joffé’s Vatel set in 1671 at the Château de Chantilly. It tells the story of François Vatel, a French chef, famous for inventing Chantilly cream during a visit from the court of Louis XIV. The kitchens in this charming film reminded me of a photograph I had taken at Fontevraud Abbey near Chinon. The abbey dates from the 11th century and contains the tombstone effigies of Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart who were buried here.
I loved the cookhouse chimneys each one denoting an oven and it’s hexagon architecture. The Abbey was unusual being both a nunnery and a monastery and to my taste has been over restored. The inner spaces tell little of the story of it’s inhabitants expect, maybe, in the nun’s ‘warming’ room off the cloisters and the kitchen, but this could be my imagination, as these two areas appear to be the only rooms that had fireplaces. Could it be that they warmed both the occupants and my opinions? Admittedly the austerity of the place was matched by the coldness of the day, however, warmth and cheer was at hand in a glass of Chinon cabernet franc wine.

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