CRUISING THE BARGE FOOD & WINE

The Château of La Bussière

It’s hard to say which, of all the visits that we offer, is my favorite but I think that the gorgeous Château of La Bussière ranks right up there. I’m not sure whether it is the château itself or the incredible potager (fruit and vegetable garden) which dates from the 18th century. The château was built originally in the 12th century as a true château-fort (stronghold or fortress). The main house, in its present incarnation, was rebuilt in the 17th century having suffered being besieged and partial destruction during the religious wars.
As you enter the courtyard of the château itself you pass through the original 12th century tower – impressive. It sits out on its own little peninsula in the middle of a 15-acre lake. The original moat can be seen but it no longer contains water. When the château was first built it needed a deep moat and drawbridges to protect it because it was on the original “silk road” from Lyons to Paris. This road is now N7 -a major national road that we drive on all the time!
(Click on the first photo of each group to enlarge and have easier viewing…)


During the time of Louis XIV the estate was raised to the rank of marquisate and the owner, Jean Baptiste Du Tillet, decided to upgrade the look of his estate by engaging the famous André Le Nôtre, landscape architect. Le Nôtre (who did the gardens at Versailles) redid the gardens at La Bussiere and his designs remain to this day.
During the revolution Du Tillet emigrated to the UK and the château was sold to Count de Chasseval, the current owner’s ancestor. Countess de Chasseval still lives at the château, although not in the castle itself, but in an apartment set up in one of the buildings surrounding it known as the farm buildings.

We are often lucky enough to see the Countess and have a conversation about La Bussière and its famous gardens. Sometimes she will be working in the gardens and is more than happy to talk about the amazing flowers and fruits and vegetables that grow there.

For me the best part about the visit are the gardens and grounds. Depending upon the time of year, the potager is positively groaning with an abundance of produce. The flowers are breathtaking……….there is always an astounding array of species and colors……
There are extraordinary examples of espaliers (trained fruit trees) — clearly 100’s of years old. These are varieties of apples and pears – I have no idea how many different kinds. There is an alley of quince trees. I had no idea what they were until I asked – – they look like huge pears. There is every type of vegetable you could think of, berries dripping off the bushes, tomato varieties that make you drool, an arbor of squash looking like colored lanterns…….it goes on and on. Amazing!
I am often asked, and in fact asked the same question myself, why are we not allowed to pick the fruit and veggies – especially since it does drop on the ground and there is no way that it can all be consumed by the Countess, her family and the staff! The answer I was given, which seems reasonable, is that the appeal of the gardens is all that is there and if it was stripped there would be nothing to look at….However — last season the Countess planted a huge area of the potager with raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants and red currants which we were allowed to pick! Hooray!!!!!
(Lots of photos in this group — it’s difficult to choose…)

I went there several times with guests and we picked berries. We pay for the berries and all proceeds go to the upkeep of the gardens. You cannot imagine how good these berries were — huge, perfect, fragrant, delicious. We picked kilos and kilos of them and chef made delicious tarts and ice-creams, we ate them fresh and I made copious amounts of jams. Yum, yum, yum!!! I’m looking forward to doing the same thing this year.
Of course the inside of the château deserves some page space! It’s sad to see the evident struggles to preserve such a heritage. Only the basement and first floor are available for visiting but it’s beautiful nonetheless. The Countess receives no help from the government other than tax relief on the cost of running the business part of the estate. I’m often asked why there are not foundations to help preserve treasures like La Bussière. There are simply too many places like this in France!!! It’s just not feasible. Sad but that’s the way it is…

So that’s La Bussière. I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit. Maybe you can visit in person one day…

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