Story and Photos by ITN European Reporter Herve’ Rebollo.
Salut à toi American rider,
Lucky me, in this late March, as it was not raining on this Saturday morning, my daughter was ok for a little ride (no more than 200 miles) with her old father biker. Hurrah!!!!
Ok, let’s go to the old fortress!
Not very far from home, no more than 60 miles from Paris, to the East, there is a very typical village named BLANDY-LES-TOURS (when in Paris think to visit that place, nearby Disneyland Paris).
And right in the middle of this charming little place you find a marvelous castle.
From a simple fortified manor to a fortified castle during the hundred Year’s War, from the Renaissance residential castle to the Ferme des Tours (Farm of the towers), the castle of Blandy-les-Tours has gone through the centuries and has counted many prestigious families among its owners. Restored by the County, this castle, rare example of medieval military architecture in Ile-de-France (the County all around Paris), strikes up a permanent dialogue between patrimony and contemporary artistic creation.
The site of Blandy has been occupied since Prehistory. During Antiquity, the territory was owned by Blandius who gave his name to the village of Blandy (Blandiacum in Gallo-Roman). The Viscounts of Melun built a fortified manor in Blandy which goes back possibly to the 11th century. In 1016, the earldom of Melun was incorporated in the royal domain. Such a stronghold was therefore the expression of royal power and held a strategic position in order to watch over the shared border with the impetuous Count of Champagne. The surrounding walls still remain in the North part of the castle and are dated between the 11th and the 13th century. They follow a moon-shaped outline which includes two towers: the square tower (tower gate) and a small cylindrical tower, the tower of justice. A square keep was built opposite the tower-gate; its lower room may have been the storeroom. Dwellings were built along the surrounding walls. A ditch surrounded the manor.
As from 1316, the Viscounts of Melun form an alliance with the Counts of Tancarville. New structural changes followed by several construction campaigns during the 14th century transform the old stronghold into the fortified castle we know today. A fortified gate with a drawbridge reinforces the 13th century manor. A new dwelling is built in the courtyard. The back of its wall falls in to the initial ditch, replacing the old curtain wall. New building work (mid 14th century and 1371-1384) enables the extension of the surrounding walls and the reinforcement of the defences. A new curtain wall and three new towers are built in the south. The old curtain wall, in the north, is raised and reinforced. The new keep, main tower of the castle, has a stair tower (door and portcullis still standing) and a latrine tower. The 6th level is the parapet walk, encircled by machicolations. The watch tower (with a parapet walk) and the archival tower (with a latrine turret) are a little less high. According to the desire of the Counts of Tancarville, Blandy becomes a place of defence as well as a residence at the threshold of the Hundred Years’ War.
View of the castle of Blandy, Mid XVIIth century, gouache on paper stuck on a wooden panel (property of the municipality of Blandy-les-Tours).
In the middle of the 19th century, the castle ruins arouse the interest of local scholars and of the “Commission des Monuments historiques”. In 1883, the count de Choiseul-Praslin agrees to sell the castle to the municipality thanks to the intervention of its mayor, Pierre-Charles Tuot. The ancient castle is saved being listed as a historical monument in 1889. Its repurchase by the Conseil général de Seine-et-Marne in 1992 is an important reference point of its history, a date which will be remembered in the future
The first building work is carried out as from 1984. Volunteers clear the monument invaded by vegetation. A village hall created in the auditorium then enables the inhabitants of Blandy to regularly visit the site. The municipality entrusts Jacques Moulin, chief architect for historical monuments, with the study for the restoration of the castle (1986). With the help of the State and the Conseil général de Seine-et-Marne, the roofs of the archival tower and of the north tower are put back in place (1986-1988).
After the repurchase of the site by the Conseil général de Seine-et-Marne (1992), all the surrounding walls are restored as from 1993. Archaeological excavations follow : recognition of the ditches, prospecting of the enclosure.
The data, collected by the Service Archeaological service of the Département (1998-2007), contribute to a better understanding of the site, of the monument and its chronology. After a second preliminary study (1998), the last building campaign is prepared with the support of the Île-de-France Region. This stage (2005-2007) is the most important : achievement of the restoration, construction of the reception building for the public, creation of a permanent exhibition room and of a visit itinerary (layout of the courtyard, visit of the towers and strolling along the curtain walls). Two rooms are also opened in the auditorium in order to host a cultural program of quality.
I’m always on the lookout for quirky, historical and downright fascinating places to visit. Blandy les Tours is less than two hours away from Paris, and it’s possible you find barely any mention of it in any guidebooks! Perhaps the ‘well-kept secret’ status of the château, as well as its somewhat awkward location, accounted for the eerie atmosphere pervading the place. As a result, it was completely devoid of tourists, making it the perfect day to uncover the castle’s mysteries in peace. And all the entire village around the castle really worths it too.
And of course, as we are in France, it’s impossible having a good motorcycle ride without … a great restaurant. And in Blandy-les-Tour prepare to be spoiled!!
This typical French restaurant is names “Les 12 Vins” (means “ The 12 Wines).
The place is quiet and smart…
And the food, fresh and delicious, the cooking home-made by the owner himself …
With a real unique ambiance …
Trought the window, you have a direct view on the magnificent castle…
And after lunch, it’s very common to meet many MC crossing the county or classic-car lovers with their old ladies …
Ah, and don’t forget to pay a visit to the “little” church near by the castle.
So, next time you’re in Paris, will spend 2 hours in Blandy-les-Tours.
See ya soon on the road …who knows?!?!,
Hervé your French biker friend.