The interior of the castle showed
more of the ravages of time, making this castle one of the more "mundane" castles
in southern France. There was no roof. Not all the walls were standing. Those
that were standing were mainly chunks of walls with gaping holes that afforded
breathtaking views of the valley below. Flowers and grass grew throughout. One
of the turrets was almost entirely intact, however. A climb up the steep and
winding steps inside the turret was rewarded with a wonderful view that was
rapidly lost in the enveloping haze of a swiftly advancing cloud cover. The
local historical society had caringly reinforced the "roof" on the top of the
turret and had installed informative plaques around the top that described what
the visitor would be seeing as he looked out over the top to the manicured fields
and purposeful forests below.
After I finished walking around,
climbing on, peering under, scrambling over, observing, photographing, smelling
and touching (sorry...no tasting) the d'Urfe castle, my bemused host and I headed
off for lunch with his very gracious family and then on to the bastie. The bastie
is the chateau (i.e., real fancy house with an estate around it) that certain
of the d'Urfe family built in and lived in during the 1500's/1600's. It is well
restored and comes complete with an admission fee and a tour guide. It is a
bit of a museum and attraction in this area, and is used as the location of
various cultural events. The real truth is that I was still awestruck by the
castle, and this "new" structure was just a little anticlimatic. It was nonetheless
Having a little time left to kill,
and back in Montbrison, Vincent proudly showed me the town's cathedral (which
would have been the envy of any American city). Adjacent to the cathedral, we
stepped inside another old building. In addition to being the headquarters of
the historical society, the building's main distinction was that it was constructed
by Guy IV (ok, ok, I don't know who he was but he obviously lived a darned long
time ago and was pretty important) specifically as a wedding hall on the occasion
of his daughter's marriage. The cool thing is that this Guy IV had painted on
the ceiling the family coat of arms of all the aristocrat families that were
in attendance at this wedding. And, yup, there was the d'Urfe coat of arms...just
like I had seen it in the "Origin" book and also at the bastie. "Party on,"
I thought to myself.
Well, I spent only 6 hours on my
mini-tour of the castle, the bastie and the Montbrison area. And, yes, I know
that if any of us go back more than just a couple of generations we find that
we have lots of "roots" and we're related to lots of people, not just the one
person who, as a result of a quirk in cultural decorum, was responsible for
our name. But, you know, it felt good and maybe it even felt right to touch
and walk where ancestors of mine long ago touched and walked and to feel a connection
to a place that has always seemed so foreign and now seems much less so. And
one thing I'm certain of...many, many years ago, in a beautiful countryside,
on a shady lane, an ancestor of Vincent's was out for a ride in his carriage
and gave a ride to an ancestor of mine...and scared the living hell out of him!
What a ride.
Thanks, Montbrison, on behalf of
all the Durfees, Durfeys, and d'Urfes.
to find the Castle. . .
the directions Dave Durfee gave to get to the d'Urfe castle near Montbrison:
I don't have a map or directions
to either the old castle or the bastie. The best thing to do is simply
get to St. Etienne (which you can do by train from Paris) and then get
to Montbrison (there may be public transportation, but I really don't
know) and ask someone there. In particular, the Historical Society is
downtown and they could give directions, but my guess is that most of
the people there know how to get to the castle, even though it is off
in the boondocks a ways, and I'm sure they know how to get to the bastie,
which is closer in. But it is a little convoluted to get to the castle,
as best as I can remember, so my real suggestion is probably to hire
a cab or hire a local simply to take her there.