Le Grand Tour de la France - le Treizième Jour
Le Grand Croix à Sens via le Château d'Essalois et Lac de Grangent.
On the thirteenth day of our road trip to France last September, we left the Grand Croix near St-Étienne to head toward Sens in the Bourgogne, just below the Île de France region and Paris. On the way, we visited Château d'Essalois and Château de Grangent in the Gorges de la Loire, in the Massif-Central region.
Leaving La Grand Croix to Make our Way North
The Formule 1 hotel we stayed at in Grand Croix is in a lovely setting, intertwined with the most gorgeous, geranium-filled village, with wild flower borders set by the roadside and in the hedgerows. We never did learn the name of this pretty place in the Grand Croix area: we looked out for a signpost on the way out of the tiny hamlet, but there was nothing to give this lovely little village a title.
This morning, our quest was to motor back to Les Gorges de la Loire, in the Massif-Central region, to visit Le Château d'Essalois and the château and lake at Le Lac de Grangent.
The Château d'Essalois is a restored castle in the commune of Chambles in the Loire département of France, overlooking a dammed portion of the Loire River near Lac de Grangent.
The oldest documents mentioning the castle are from the 14th century. The puy (hill) of Essalois is quoted in charters from 1337 onwards, variously named Podium Deysaluym, Mons Deysaluym and Suc du Pré. In 1378, Arthaud de Villedieu paid homage to the Count of Forez for the house and the tower of Essalois which oversaw the Loire. In 1464, the tower of Essalois belonged to Beraud de la Bâtie. But, so far, the vestiges of this early construction have not be identified.
From the car park, we ambled along the gravel track to the château, enjoying the sweet smell of wild herbs and the sounds of birds singing on this warm, blue-skied morning. The views - way, way down to the Loire river - were amazing.
Reaching the château, situated on a small hill (puy), I've got to say, I've seen prettier castles in France, but the history of the place gave me a buzz, knowing that its origins are, as yet, unknown. All we do know, is that man has lived here, it would seem, since time immemorial.
Château de Grangent
Continuing on, past the Château d'Essalois, we came upon the most stunning vision. Looking across the steep gorge and down to the Loire, there's a small island with a fairy-tale château at its centre.
The château is situated in the commune of Saint-Juste-Saint-Rambert in the Loire département of France. At the time of its construction, originally around 800AD, it was on a promontory standing some 50 metres above the Loire Valley. The building of the Grangent dam means that Le Château de Grangent is now on a small island in a lake - Le Lac de Grangent.
I stood and stared at this beautiful castle until time was running out for our stay at the fabulous Gorges de la Loire. We needed to get motoring north to the city of Sens and our next Formule 1 hotel, just below Île de France and Paris.
Goodbye, Château de Grangent. I'll always remember the vision of lovliness that is you.