CHATEAU DE L’ISLETTE
The friendliest little chateau in France
Cycling from chateau to chateau in the Loire Valley region of France is an assault on the senses. Avenues of trees lead to imposing gates, and offer welcome shade in the heat of the day. Flowers cascade over walls, generously distributing their scent to walkers and cyclists. Boaters splash and paddle on rivers, streams and ponds. Around every corner there is a fairytale castle awaiting visitors.
There’s one chateau that is very special to me – it is the Chateau de l’Islette. A romantic and modest building, idyllically located on the banks of the River Indre. When Lucy and I parked our bikes at the entrance we knew nothing of this chateau apart from it’s association with Rodin, the sculptor. He came here as a paying guest in the 19th century and took advantage of its secluded location and tranquility to spend time in private with his student and lover Camille Claudel.
As soon as we’d bought our tickets we walked into a room filled with dressing up boxes, children are invited to dress in historic costumes. There are wooden swords, shields and even capes for the adults. Next door there is a garden bench decked out with brightly coloured cushions, welcoming and comfortable. As we stroll towards the chateau we realise that the gardens are liberally scattered with old-fashioned deck chairs, thoughtfully positioned for visitors to relax and enjoy the beauty of the setting. There are wooden rowing boats for hire on the river. The ivy-clad mill houses a cafe and on a gravel terrace there are tables and chairs.
An elegant gentleman on a bicycle welcomes us to the chateau. It is only later that we realise this is the owner. He and his wife are both in the garden, greeting visitors and thanking them for coming. The chateau itself is open to the public from May to September when Pierre Andre and Benedicte Michaud move out of the house to the neighbouring farm. The tour of the house is a very personal experience. We were able to see the bedrooms, sitting room and even the kitchen. Rooms filled with family photos, books and the day-to-day paraphenalia of life. I particularly liked one of the children’s bedrooms. It had a blackboard on the wall and the usual occupant of the room had written in chalk ‘Welcome to my bedroom’……The kitchen too was warm and inviting, with a seating area by the fire as well as ovens, cooking range and fridge.
Adjacent is the Great Hall where visitors and important guests would have been entertained in the past. Today it is the Michaud family’s elegant drawing room. We wonder if this large, high-ceilinged room may have served as a studio for Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel when they spent their summers here in the early 1890s. It is a pleasure to dream of life in this chateau over the years. A rusting bell chain hangs outside the door at the foot of one of the towers. It is fun to imagine people pulling the chain and awaiting a response from deep within the chateau.
However for me the greatest appeal of L’Islette is that it remains a private home. This fabulous chateau and its generous owners host visitors here every day during the summer months and they are doing a great job. Visitors are genuinely made to feel welcome. I’m reminded once again of the huge responsibility that comes with ownership of a historic house. The need to maintain and restore the fabric. The never-ending tasks of repair and maintenance.
If you are visiting the Loire region try to visit the smaller, less well known chateaux like Chateau de l’Islette. In many ways they are so much more charming and engaging than their monolithic neighbours.
- I recently wrote another article on the chateaux – which I hope you will enjoy:
- Fairytale Castles of the River Loire, France
- Chateau de l’Islette is the private home of Pierre Andre Michaud and his wife Benedicte Michaud. I strongly recommend a visit.
- Chateau de l’Islette web site: www.chateaudelislette.fr