Aug 21, 2012

Chateau d'Uzes

  Ornate rooftop of the Chateau d'Uzes

Chateau d'Uzes was my second and last castle that I visited while being in Provence. Bear in mind that Uzes is a part of Languedoc-Roussillon region, not Provence. Located in Nimes, I was ready to leave this place after Day 1. I had high expectations of the city, mainly because of the Roman heritage and gardens, but it turned out to be the most disappointing part of my lovely trip. So here is how it went: in the afternoon of my second day, I decided to take a bus to Pont du Gard, but I missed it. I was going through the timetables, with Uzes being the only place I have heard of, so it was a no-brainer really. I remember reading about a castle or something similar being there. The only problem was that I had max. 45 minutes to see it, since the lines were very infrequent and the last bus from Uzes was leaving around 18.30 or so. I was ready to take an almost one-hour ride rather that spend more time in Nimes. And it was a good decision. Pleasant town, pretty scenery. On top of everything, Nimes-Uzes bus cost me just 1.5 euros!

Let me just add that on Day 3 I wanted to visit La Bambouseraie, but I went to Pont du Gard instead. You wanna take a guess? Yes, I missed the bus again!


       The chapel is on the right

Okay, back to Uzes and its castle: Since I had no idea where the castle is situated, I was a bit worried about my plan. As the bus was approaching the town, a few towers arose above the houses, so everything was fine. Still, I had no time to waste so I got out of bus and rushed to find the castle. It was maybe five minutes away from the bus station, so I got there pretty quickly. Another problem emerged: the woman working in the souvenir shop (at least I think it was) and who was in charge of selling tickets spoke French only. I got a bit dizzy looking at the prices. I wasn't sure if the castle was still working, but after a few minutes I realized I have to pay 12 EUR just to climb the tower. Since I was in a rush and it's still a fucking castle, I spat out the money and started my solo tour. Naturally, I was the only visitor. Out of the five or so entrances, I was allowed to enter two: the rest were reserved for a guided visit including apartments, wine cellar and the chapel. Actually, maybe I was allowed to enter the chapel, but that lady  made no effort to help me. The first entrance was very forgettable and it included a few exhibits like this:


Naturally, zero information is given, so you stare like a sheep for few moments and then move on- to find this:

 
Actually, the car is put there for a reason, but if you haven't read anything prior to visiting the castle, it will look out of place. I'll write about this connection later. There were a few more exhibits, but nothing special. So I went to the other entrance to climb the tower. Here is how it looks:


                                                               The stairs are fun, but exhausting :)

 When I saw the thick tower, I didn't expect the staircase to be so narrow! More than 120 circular stairs got me a bit dizzy since I was still rushing like maniac. If anyone needs a perfect location for Vertigo 2, this must be it. Overall, the feel was more like climbing the bell tower rather than one belonging to a castle.
                                                             The tower photographed from the courtyard



  View of the church with Fenestrelle Tower, akin to Italian campanile. It is allegedly the only round bell tower in France


                                        Who doesn't love flags in the wind? Uzes Duchy flag, the first duchy in France!



        The 12th- century Bishop's tower was the seat of the bishop's temporal powers up until the French Revolution.                          The tallest tower in the town is topped by an octogonal clock tower and belfry, added in the 19th century.


                                                          One of sentry boxes of the Belmonde tower
               The chapel rooftop from the "wrong" side...


                                                         and from the right one :) taken from here:
                                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/gaetanlee/2569342563/sizes/l/in/photostream/

So there it is. I'll repeat again- maybe something extra was included in that 12EUR ticket, but I didn't know. Anyway, read some reviews on tripadvisor and you'll see that almost everyone was very disappointed for various reasons and felt it was a rip-off. Unfortunately, I have to agree with them. When it comes to attractions, I don't ever recall paying that much money and getting so little.

Anyway, now something about the history of the castle: The Duke's castle (aka Duchy) was built on the remains of Roman Castrum. The wooden construction has not survived and very little is known about it. The first of two very important women to inhabit the castle was Dhouda, the first female writer of the Western World to write a book. She was the author of Liber Manualis, a handbook written in the 9th century for her son William. It is preserved until our days, but it is not kept in the castle. 
     During the difficult times of the Revolution the building was considered as belonging to the nation, and sold. It was much misused, and ended as a school. In 1824 the Duke bought back the Duchy of Uzès from the townspeople (the writer André Gide was one of them) who in buying it had actually protected it. In 1834 a new school was build in Uzes and the Duke set about restoring the Duchy of Uzès.
     The second important woman was Anne de Rochechouart Mortemart (1847-1933). She was a sculptor and early feminist. She is notable for being the first woman, along with Camille du Gast, to hold a driving license in France (1897), the first woman to be ticketed for speeding in 1898 (15 km/h instead of 12 km/h), and the first woman 'lieutenant de louveterie' (aka Wolfcactcher Royal, a person responsible for organizing all aspects of the wolf-hunt and presided over the royal pack of wolfhounds and their handlers). Now that's a real badass! And this is just half of the story. I think this woman deserves more recognition and I'm baffled that she barely has a page on wikipedia, and it's in French only!
    The first part of the 20th century saw sad days for the Duchy of Uzès. In financial difficulty, the Duke sold the furnishings and rented the Duchy of Uzès to the Board of Education who once again installed a school. They did not fulfill their obligation to care for the building and concreted both inside and out.
   From 1951 the widowed Marchioness of Crussol set about restoring the Duchy of Uzès that she had re-acquired with the help of the Fine Arts Ministry. Aided by her friend André Malraux, Minister of Culture under General de Gaulle, whom she had met in her Political Society Gatherings, she had the town of Uzes classed in 1964 as a heritage site, which greatly helped it after two centuries of being forgotten.
      Her grandson and his wife, the present Duke and Duchess of Uzes, are continuing the work started by the Marchioness. Since then major work has been done to the building, and furnishings and objects are regularly added to enrich the collections for the pleasure of the visitor. The Duchy of Uzès is a rare example in the 21st century of a family castle being completely restored.
     Well yeah, basically I just copy-pasted the history of the castle from the official site since I couldn't find any extra info in English. It's a very nice site, by the way.

How to reach Chateau: It is located in the centre of Uzes, so no problem here. You will see a few towers next to each other and one of them belongs to the castle.

Visitor info:

a) Opening hours:

The castle is open every day except December 25th.
From 1 Sept to 30 June: 10 - 12 am and 2 - 6 pm
July and August: 10 - 12.30 am and 2 - 6.30 pm

 Last entrance 1/2 an hour before closing time.

b) Admission

Visit of the Tower plus a guided visit to the Apartments and the Cellars:

 Adult                                    17€
 From 12 to 16 years             13€
 From 7 to 11 years                 6€
 Under 7's                              Free

Tower only

Adults or children                  12€

c) Contact:

Official website: http://www.duche-uzes.fr/home-en.php

Adress

Le Duché
Place du Duché
30700 UZES - FRANCE
Tél : +33(0)4 66 22 18 96

Administration

Le Duché d'Uzès - 9, Place de la Porte de Passy
75016 PARIS - FRANCE
Fax : +33(0)1 42 88 36 65
Email : duchy@uzes.com

d) What to do nearby: Except for the castle, the main attraction of this town is Haribo museum, but it is not really close to the centre. Also worth checking out are few museums, like Les Truffieres d'Uzes, Atelier du cafe, museum of pottery and medieval garden.

Every year the duché hosts many events held in the courtyard and ground rooms in particular the famous Musical Nights.

e) Multimedia:

If you want to read more about Uzes Duchy, but in French only: http://www.nemausensis.com/personnages/SagadUzes.htm


And here is nice insight into the castle where owner tries to justify the high admission. Apparently, he also lives there. I had no clue! http://www.discover-uzes.com/2011/08/meet-jacques-de-crussol-17th-duke-of-uz%C3%A8s-and-visit-his-castle.html

If you don't bother reading, you can get the tour of the castle on Saturday morning for a reduced price of 10 EUR :)



2 comments:

104446432757073842619 said...

I'm so impressed with the level of detailed information here. Will definitely know where to look when I'm ready to begin a castle+fort tour ;)

Too bad they under-delivered on the tour, but still not a bad way to spend an afternoon when you weren't even planning to go to Uzes. Sometimes missed busses are a blessing.

LaMix said...

Hey, thank you for the comment! Yeah, I am still glad that I went there.