The town of Chinon came to our attention due to its proximity to Fontevraud and of course its history with the Plantagenets. Interestingly enough, despite a distance of only 17km to Fontevraud, there is no direct public connection between these to places. So we ordered a taxi to the train station in Chinon to leave our luggage. Turns out though, French train stations do not have either lockers nor drop off places for luggage. Really inconveniencing for a traveler! Thankfully the hotel across trusted us and guarded our luggage. And it had a bar which stayed open all day. So we had no worries for our onward journey.
We walked along the river Vienne (it felt almost like home), passing a very romanticized statue of Jeanne d’Arc from the end of the 19th century, and then moved on in the direction of the castle. It can’t be missed since it thrones right above the town.
Chinon’s most famous citizen though was François Rabelais, a Renaissance humanist and scolar, who had an unfailing sense of humor like this quote eg “A mother-in-law dies only when another devil is needed in hell.” Or “If the skies fall, one may hope to catch larks.” Definitely a very clever man with words as his many books show. Chinon is by right proud of him and put his statue on the banks of the Vienne.
Chinon has also some really nice timber framed houses, like the Maison Rouge and Bleu side by side in the Rue Voltaire. But it’s the impression as a whole, which makes for an enchanting experience. No wonder the Plantagenets liked it here. As did the French kings later on during the 100 Years’ War, when Chinon Castle was their main residence.
While looking for ‘Les caves de painctes‘ (which were by appointment only in 2022), we headed more and more up, in the direction of the castle.
This was our goal anyway, because who doesn’t want to see the castle where Henry II. died in 1189? After an extensive castle visit and a short break for refreshments, we still had some time to kill, before we needed to get on our next train. We therefore decided to walk to the Chapelle of St. Radegonde, which was somewhere in the vineyards around Chinon.
Saint Radegund has a really interesting history. Radegund came to France from Thüringen in Germany. Not voluntarily honest, but rather with the sons of Clovis, who raided her homeland and killed her parents. She and her brother were taken and later, when she became of marriageable age, was forced to marry one of the son Clotaire. Running away from this fate didn’t help, since she was recaptured. There is no denying that she didn’t develop any Stockholm syndrome for her captor. Neither did her younger brother, who was eventually murdered by her husband. This then was the last straw for Radegund, and after ten years of marriage she left him to live with some nuns. Five years later she founded her own monastery and lived a good thirty years without her beastly husband.
The chapel unfortunately was only open on the weekends, plus it was currently undergoing restorations. So I am not even sure if you can visit it at the moment. But the walk through the vineyards was nice enough. We tried in vain to catch a glimpse of the famous frescoes, so had to leave the chapel without success.
At least the train station was just below the chapel and a mere ten minutes away. After a rather interesting and long ticket buying experience at the counter (why does the SNCF need a phone number to sell a ticket?), we retrieved our luggage from the hotel bar and settled down with a beer. It was well deserved after discovering all of Chinon on foot. Finally we boarded our train to Poitiers and left this magical place. Yours, Pollybert