We woke up early and the surrounding was very quiet -- it was a cold morning. We went out and what a beautiful scenery it was -- there was smoke coming from the lake, the grass was wet because of the morning dew. We took a morning stroll around the property (La Tuilerie), laughing and talking quietly as we passed the main house because we didn't want to wake up the family.
Morning at La Tuilerie -- morning dew. It was Summer in France and yet it felt like Baguio.
The man-made lake and the family's horses can be seen grazing in the background
When we returned, Bruce and Edouard were already outside. Papou was already busy preparing the breakfast. We were all excited because Mamou would take us to Nevers. And yes, at 65 years old, she still drives her own car. We ere supposed to go to Lourdes but when we learned that it is an 8-hour trip by train from Paris, we immediately nixed the idea.
Breakfast at La Tuilerie -- baguette, jams, Beurre-de-I'signy (French butter), cubed cane sucre, orange juice -- mismatched flatwares. Is there anything else more French than this table spread?
On our way to Nevers, the sceneries were very picturesque --- wheat fields, endless vineyards, beautiful chateaus, and hamlets (small villages) scattered like peppercorns on the multi-colored landscape.
Endless vineyards on our way to Nevers
One of the tiny villages in the Sancerre region
Espace Bernadette and Saint Bernadette Subirous
After more than an hour, we reached Nevers, a town famous for nougats and potteries. We came here mainly for one thing, to see the uncorrupted body of St. Bernadette Subirous, the Visionary of Our Lady of Lourdes at Espace Bernadette. Inside the compound stands a replica of the Grotto of Massabielle, where Bernadette saw the 18 apparitions of Mother Mary. We lighted some candles and wrote our petitions and prayers.
Mamou with Knoll, Liweng, and VG near the entrance of Espace.
In the open area of Espace, chapel in the right, dormitories in the back.
The replica of the Grotto of Massabielle
I could feel the serenity in the place the moment I set my foot in Espace. Mamou took us inside the chapel. The first thing I noticed was the altar which is simply plain with a symbol of Christianity on the wall, the Crucified Jesus Christ. On the left side of the altar, there she rests, the incorruptible body of Bernadette encased in a glass coffin. We were all speechless and in awe. She is so beautiful -- beauty that comes from the lifeless body yet so tender that still speaks love. Gradually, I could feel something deep within me. What were those feelings? Indescribable.
We arrived in time for the Holy Mass. There were only a handful of people inside and a group of pilgrims from Africa came in just before the Holy Mass started. I don't know what we felt, but when it was time to greet each other "peace be with you", we were all crying. The other pilgrims were just so wonderful and we hugged and greeted each other. After the Holy Mass, Mamou took us to the garden where Bernadette used to walk around.
This is Our Lady of the Waters, a statue which has its place at the back of the convent, hidden behind hedgerow. Bernadette would often steal herself some peace here, away from what was often an extremely difficult life in the convent.
Sancerre and an Enchanted Castle
St Joseph's chapel, behind us, where Bernadette rested till 1925 is the perfect place to hide away and say your Rosary. It was here that many early visitors to her burial site were said to have experienced miraculous cures through the intercession of Bernadette.
After a heavenly lunch at the cafeteria, we visited the Espace's Museum dedicated to the life of Bernadette. Some of the items on display are the actual chair where she died and the clothes that she wore to the Convent.
Our lunch at Espace started with a Salad Nicoise and freshly baked baguette…..
…. followed by chicken and pork roast with mushroom gravy and boiled veggies…..
….and for desserts -- brie and camembert fromages, yogurt, nougat (Nevers is famous for this), and the moistest chocolate brownies I ever had. I am not a fan of chocolate cakes and brownies, but I swear, the brownies they served us at Espace were the best.
The actual chair in which Bernadette Subirous died
Entrance to the Espace's Museum -- the likeness of Bernadette welcomes visitors. Those eyes -- it's all in her eyes.
Sancerre and an Enchanted Castle
We returned to La Tuilerie in the afternoon and after a short rest, Edouard took us for another drive and on to Sancerre in the Loire Valley we went. Sancerre itself is perhaps the model town of rural France : scenic, historic, and certain to make a lasting impression. It is famous for its vineyards and the town center was built ascending up a considerably steep hill that overlooks much of the surrounding area -- lush valleys, acres and acres of fertile vineyards and farmlands. I was also charmed by the streets, the shutters, and the signages especially the pig atop the charcuterie.
The vineyards of Sancerre in the background
The Loire River and the Bordeaux region in the background (as seen from the main square in the town center of Sancerre).
Sancerre's town center. L'Esplanade restaurant in the left, Salon de The (Tea Saloon) in the right.
Medieval churches add to the charm of Sancerre
Then on our way back to La Tuilerie, we visited the Chateau de la Verrerie in Oizon. Huge trees lined the approach as we drove in next to the lake. We learned that the castle's origins date back to the 14th century. It is a breathtakingly lovely castle nestled alongside a romantic lake and surrounded by a large forest and a well-tended garden. Set against a backdrop of oak forest, La Verrerie has a fairy-tale quality. A stone chapel greets the visitor at the entrance and faded frescoes of the apostles adorn the walls of the exterior hallways. There is also a little restaurant in a half-timbered cottage on the chateau grounds called La Maison d'Helene.
The main open area leading to the entrance of the castle
The exterior of Chateau de la Verrerie. The castle is now a giant 600 years old B&B and is being managed by a private company.
This half-timbered cottage converted into a restaurant called La Maison d'Helene
A man-made lake adds magic to an already magical castle
A chapel with a "witches hat" spire is the first structure that you will see in the property
What can I say? The chateau and the property surrounding will mesmerize you.