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The castel of Gilles de Rais (Bluebeard) in Tiffauges

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In a medieval re-enactment, this armoured knight is lowered onto his horse.
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This man was in charge of the catapult.

Gilles de Rais, who lived in the early part of the fifteenth century, was said to be the inspiration for Perrault's fairytale character 'Bluebeard'. A military man, he was a lieutenant in the army of Charles VII and fought alongside Joan of Arc in many battles. Her subsequent fate affected him deeply and he never fought again after her death.

Gilles de Rais was a wealthy man and his marriage brought him even more money, yet all was easily consumed by his love of the high life. Parties, feasts and elaborate pageants left him penniless, and in such dire straits he turned to alchemy. Among his many misdeeds in this field, he was said to have murdered hundreds of young children in the belief that their blood could be turned to gold. Eventually brought to justice, Gilles de Rais was condemned to death by hanging in at Nantes in 1440.

- from Judy Smith's guidebook Vendeé & Charente-Maritime
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A sinister looking black knight
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The explanation was all in French.
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Another of Gilles de Rais' castles, at Pouzauges
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Inside the Pouzauges castle
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This bit of the Marais Poitevin is called 'Green Venice' because of the canals.
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This time, we were determined to rent a boat and row on the canals.
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A nice, not-too-crowded beach
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The lifeguard with the pert bottom
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Imagine our surprise when we discovered that naturists basked in the nearby woods!
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Our home base for this trip was a lovely farmhouse called La Fraudiere, owned by our lovely friends.
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These cream coloured cows moved from field to field around the house, sometimes grazing close to us while we ate outside.
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This meal featured margaritas and fried aubergines.

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Nick, fetching games and goodies. As in Rouen, each night, we saw bats flitting overhead while we ate.
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After dinner, we enjoyed our own version of Pass the Bomb (name places we've been on this trip, etc*. before the bomb explodes) as well as Trivial Pursuit and the Know Your Partner game.

*Funniest topic: 'Things to do with Neil'. I meant things associated with our friend Neil, but Nick misunderstood and started with "tie him up..."
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We have some lovely souvenirs from our visit: numerous jars of homemade apricot jam with fruit from the Challans market, boiled in our new copper pot by Nick.
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Meanwhile, I made jars of chrerries preserved in armagnac, made from a recipe from Joanne Harris's French Kitchen.
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The cherries, too, were bought in the Challans market. The finished product will last for 40 or more years!
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Nick did a lot of phoning during this trip, either to the RAC about car repairs, or, here, to his mother, who had been caught in the Cheltenham floods back in England.
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One of the neighbors built this mini version of Bazoges' donjon which serves as a good landmark for lost travellers.
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Bazoges has a famous medieval donjon, or castle keep.
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The view of the herb garden from atop the donjon.
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Luckily, our visit coincided with Bazoges' medieval festival, which held on the last Saturday of our stay.
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Many of the townfolk dress in medieval garb and contribute to this spectacular event.
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A dramatic re-enactment took place throughout the evening.
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The juggler, looking skyward towards his club
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There were displays of crafs and skills
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Each of the villagers had their role or roles to play, including the poor woman who worked in the donjon's ticket office, who played the outcast all night.
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While some people got exciting parts such as knights and jugglers, this woman got stuck with offering cinnamon to people to sniff.
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A Harry Potter-like man with his goat. Nick called this a wet underwear contest.
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Creepy hooded monks
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Dextrous jugglers (hired by the town, we were told)
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I like this photo, which looks straight out of Monty Python
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A hunka hunka burnin' woodwork
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I try my hand at sawing.
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...and posing next to the horse.
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I admired this man's dedication to acting.
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One of the hired actors, I believe, skilled at battle and cup holding
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I became a bit camera happy with these two rough and sexy jokers, taking enough photos to merit a separate page. Click if you dare.
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A cute knight, who became "drunk" as the night wore on.
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Hunka hunka again
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One of the audience, like us
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These knights put on a show on the head table's stage.
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We got a free tour of the donjon, or castle keep, where there were demonstrations of calligraphy, embroidery, dulcimer playing, and chess.
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We dined at long, communal tables. Here, Nick accepts dried and jellied fruits.
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Naughty Nick in the stocks
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Fire eaters ended the night with excitement.
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A round dance that we didn't join, but could have.
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