Chateau de Pierrefonds

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My wife, daughter, boyfriend and I visited the chateau because of my daughter's fascination with the television series Merlin, for it was here that parts were filmed. Indeed some of the sets can be seen below the castle.

I was not initially keen on the idea but having seen the turrets of the chateau whilst on route to another destination was intrigued. The town that the chateau resides in is small, more like a scaled up village, having a few shops, several restaurants and a lake, more of that later. The castle is medieval in origin and was heavily restored in the 19th century. Think of a hillock with a large white chateau complete with turrets, draw bridge, sculpted figures on the roof, in a word a fairytale castle. Inside the extensive restoration shows that little money was spared by Napoleon 111.

At the time of our visit I was very surprised at the lack of people in the chateau and it's surrounds. Many of the rooms were open and we had them entirely to ourselves at times. In the basement is the largest collection of carved sarcophagi I have ever seen with the varying costume and repose of those entombed there represented in their stone effigies. The lighting in here is very dim but I found this to be a fascinating insight to the various occupants of the chateau.

There were two excellent exhibitions inside, one showing drawings of the castle pre and post restoration and the other metal statuary (I'm sure there is a correct name for it) which adorns the roof of this and many othe great buildings in france. These works in zinc, bronze and lead are fabulous and the skills that created them went into the creation of the greatest example of this art form, the Statue of Liberty.

The chateau was besieged in the 17th century and subsequently partly demolished. In one of the walls canon ball strikes are evident, though I question the authenticity of the canon balls present there. Still they make a good photo. The grounds have a couple of reconstructed siege engines and make for a pleasant walk for a pick nick being well shaded with mature trees.

Access to the castle entails a sloping road from the town. This is about 6-800 yards from the centre of town. There is then a quite steep flight of steps to the crest of the hill. There may well be a back entrance to the park which has a winding path to the top. There is a large visitor centre/shop and the receptionist I spoke to spoke passable English although the stewards inside had to cope with my school boy french as their English was not good but we managed. Access for the less able is less well catered for most areas within the castle apart from the central quad being accessed via flights steps. Thankfully most of these were not too long. There are toilets within the castle for visitors. There is no food provided in the castle or shop, unless you include some of the souvenir confectionary. The towns restaurants compensate for this and we had the best meal of the holiday in a restaurant by the pedal hire on the lake side. I know it's kitsch but the pedalo's are great fun and give good views of the castle and town. Do have your camera ready and time your visit as the morning sun is behind the castle as viewed from the lake and visitor centre (early July) but from lunchtime swings around and beautifully illuminates it.

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