Thursday, May 17, 2012

Day Five- An Adventure to "Camelot" aka Pierrefonds, Beaumont Hamel and Arras

Planning a trip with kids is very different than planning one for just my husband and I as you always have to remember that the kids need to be engaged.  They bore pretty quickly of art museums and churches.  With this in mind we knew 4 days in Paris would be enough for them and it was time to move on.

During the planning we were watching Merlin one night, (my 10 year old's favorite show) and my asked where the Castle was from the film.  Was it near London?  Perhaps we could see it when we get to London.

A quick google search brought a surprise  Chateau de Pierrfonds is the actual set of "Camelot" in the television series.  What a stroke of luck!!  It was just about an hour from Paris and not out of our way to get to Beaumont Hamel and Arras.

Bags packed and goodbyes said to the proprietors of our wonderful Oasis in Paris we made our way down to the train station Gare du Nord to pick up our rental car (making sure we stopped at the bakery one last time of course).   A few things to note about that.   First I had requested a GPS.  We had rented a larger car to seat 7 to accomodate all the bags.  The gentleman insisted I take the Tom Tom for an additional 15 Euros a day.  Not a problem really, I'd rather have a gps than get lost.  It turned out our car actually had a gps system in it but it was too late at that point.  We'd gotten out of the parking garage and my husband made his first wrong turn (onto a one way street).  Trying to back out of the street was an entirely different story.

Imagine if you will...pouring rain, and hail.   A husband annoyed because he went the wrong way and hasn't driven a standard car (stick) in a good 10 years.  Husband getting extremely aggitated because he could not engage reverse and there is now oncoming traffic.  Husband suddenly jumps out of car and says "get in the driver's seat"...what??  Okay.   I am now wet, he is pushing the car into reverse as I steer and a kind man jumps out from a coffee shop and comes to his assistance.

At this point husband jumps into passenger seat and says you drive.  Uhhhhh....okay.  I haven't driven a stick in 10 years either (if not longer) but that's riding a horse....other than the inability to put it into reverse we are fine!!!    I ask if perhaps we should inquire about how to engage reverse since we both seem to failing that particular IQ test.   Nothing is more humbling for two type A overachieving brilliant minds than this particular issue at this moment in time.  He pulls out the manual which of in french, (that he doesn't read).   To make this comedy of errors even funnier the Tom tom finally wakes up and starts to direct us.  I figure...just get me out of the city and we'll figure it out then....Sure.  He declines my suggestion to ask for help....sigh

I get to the set of lights as directed by our now helpful Tom Tom only to discover they are not working.   My suspicion that it's a free for all in these particular situations in Paris is confirmed and I try to make my way into a left turn where 6 streets are intersecting.  Oh yes!!!   Thanks honey.   I did it and without a single honk in my general direction!  That aggressive driving on the Toronto streets finally paid off.

I got us out of the city!!!  We were heading "mostly" in the right direction when our little Tom Tom informed me I took the wrong exit off the roundabout....oops...back in the right direction everyone started to relax again as my husband tried to make heads or tails of the owners manual to engage reverse.   My only thought at this time was "I will never laugh at anyone on the Amazing Race again"  seriously...It's got to be something simple right?  I can see the freakin R on gear does one get to it.   We decide we will figure it out once we get to Pierrefonds.

A lovely drive through the countryside we had actually.  Very pretty.  We pulled into the village of Pierrefonds and my young lad in the backseat was getting very excited as he could see the Chateau towering over the village.   I decided after pulling into a parking spot to ask the only other person in sight if she could assist with the reverse thing.   Not a phrase I had learned actually in French so it made for a funny exchange when she let me know she did not speak english.  My old Northern Ontario Franglais came out of nowhere.  We have a particular dialect back home where we mix both french and english sentences together.  Anyhow...we laughed together and she came over to assist explaining the little rim had to be pulled up to put it into reverse.   Oh dear really was that simple.   Feeling a little idiotic we thanked her graciously and made our way into the village and up to the Chateau.

It's really quite stunning.   The original Chateau had been left in ruins and was ordered restored by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte who visited the castle in 1850. As emperor, he asked Viollet le Duc in 1857 to undertake its restoration.  There was no question of a simple repair to the habitable parts (the keep and annexes): the "picturesque" ruins in front were to be kept for decor. In 1861, the project grew in scale: the sovereign wanted to create an imperial residence, so the castle was to be entirely rebuilt. The works, which would cost 5 million francs, of which 4 million were stopped in 1885, six years after the death of Viollet-le-Duc. The departure of Napoléon III had halted the reconstruction and, through lack of money, the decoration of rooms was unfinished. Inside, Viollet-le-Duc produced more a work of invention than restoration (polychrome paintings). He imagined how the castle ought to have been, rather than basing his work on the strict history of the building.

 Making his way up the walkway. 
 Again, these are built for the TV series Merlin.  Some only have half roofs.  I have shots when we leave illustrating this.

 The arrowholes you see here above the door here are actually fake.  If you look behind you will see the prop boards made

 This is all real!!  Away we go

 The main square
 Exterior of the Chapel
 Happy to be here.  Liam rattled off what scenes were filmed in the various locations.  A Merlin fan through and through

 Liam informs me this was the exterior shot of Morgana's room when it was on fire

 The Chapel Interior
 Interior of the Castle

That's a big fireplace
 Cast models for the statues in the main hall
 Would have been the study.  Over in the left corner is the loo. 

This would have been the Bedroom.  Quite stunning really

Heading into the main hall.   You can see some of the statues made from the previously shown casts

They do Alot of filming in this room.  It gets dressed up or down a lot and I recognized it at once from the television show.

The view to the back of the room.  As you can see on the ceiling there is quite a bit of restoration work still needing to be done here.

The workwork throughout was really incredible.  What was great was the fact that there was really only a small school group on the grounds with us and the kids could explore at their leisure, able to touch a lot of things along the way.  It amazing what a tactile response can bring to a child

Where Uther Pendragon hosts his feasts!!

For the Merlin fans out there, this is used in the filming quite a bit.  You often see Merlin walking down this corridor.  We also saw the hallway where Morgana dragged Uther's lifeless body along as well.  
If you can see the balcony in the upper left side of the photo, that the long hallway Morgana dragged Uther's body down

A Stone model of the entire complex.  It was something to behold all on it's own

We are now down in the bowels of the Chateau.  This was unlit but Liam crawled in for a photo.  The entire lower level is filled with funeral statues and caskets, a few creepy holograms.  Great for giving the kids a spook!!   Liam thinks this is the entrance to the dragon's lair

A decoration above a railing.   Neat

The balcony and railing that the decor sat atop

Some of the Ruins

Making our way out, you can see how the roofs are constructed for filming.

We bid Adieu to Chateau de Pierrefonds.  What a great morning.  A little boy thrilled (and he doesn't yet know what's in store for him in London).   We missed actual filming by about a week and a half to two weeks.  That would have put Liam over the moon, but alas, it will have to wait.

He did ask on the way out if we could maybe skip London and go to Caerphilly Castle in Wales to watch them film there...LOL.  Sorry kiddo, no Wales for this trip. (I love Wales)

From here we move to Beaumont Hamel and the Newfoundland Memorial before heading into Arras for the evening.  Next post


  1. Oh what a shame that you seem to have missed the basement of the château! I consider it to be the most extraordinary sight there.

  2. Nope, we didn't miss it kerouac, I didn't get any usable shots down there unfortunately. I assume you are referring to the crypts down there. Fascinating indeed.