Barge holidays in France are a perfect way to explore this well-loved country from a new perspective. Picture yourself aboard a comfortable hotel barge, cruising gently along the waterways of Southern Burgundy, a glass of wine in hand. Sound ideal? Read on to discover one of the most interesting places you can visit in Southern Burgundy, an exemplar of a Burgundian ducal residence, the Château de Germolles. |
Daring Dukes and a Charming Château
The Château de Germolles was home to some of the most important dukes of the region during the late medieval and early Renaissance eras: Philip the Bold, John the Fearless, Philip the Good and Charles the Bold. As their impressive names suggest, these men were powerful and influential rulers who reigned over the region of Burgundy just before the blossoming of the French Renaissance. During this period, the cultural and economic groundwork was laid for an explosion of arts, learning and culture.
Philip the Bold’s central seat was in Dijon in the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy. He was an ambitious man and extensively extended the palace in Dijon, adding a huge ceremonial hall along with kitchens large enough for thirty chefs to work. Imagine the size of the banquets they produced! Philip’s palace in Dijon now retains only a few remnants of medieval architecture. However, the Château de Germolles, which he bought for his wife Margaret III of Flanders, is a fantastic example of the medieval style.
In the 1380s Philip gave his wife an ‘austere’ fortress and over the next ten years she worked to create a comfortable country estate containing works of art from some of the best artists from the Burgundian School. The luxurious country retreat was in the possession of French royalty until the eighteenth century. The building was damaged but luckily not destroyed during the turbulence of the Revolution and it has been owned by the same family since the nineteenth century.
The Château Today
Sadly, many of the princely buildings which date from fourteenth- and fifteenth-century France have since disappeared. This makes the château in Burgundy a rare and exciting survival from this era. The building is astonishingly well-preserved, allowing visitors to imagine what court life just before the Renaissance would have been like. Many itineraries for barge holidays in France give you the opportunity to explore this unique estate.
Of artistic interest are the heraldic frescos which decorate the private apartments in the château. Architecturally, the Hall of Honour and the chapels are fine examples of late medieval work. Tours are often led by the current owners of the estate. As the family has owned the property for over one hundred years, they have a wealth of knowledge, passed-down through the generations, that they are very willing to share.
If you’ve never considered barge holidays in France before, imagine approaching this fascinating site by river. One of my favourite sites on the tour is the thirteenth-century storeroom as it provides just a small idea of the amount of people and supplies it would take to support such as large and wealthy house.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider if you're looking for all-inclusive, luxury barge holidays in France or other great destinations. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.
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