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Life in Rural France

Living the French Dream….The Good, The Bad, and The Hilarious

Castle in La Rochfoucauld

3 Things to do in La Rochefoucauld

I love discovering new places here where I live in the beautiful Charente region of South West France. Not only does it feed my curious soul, but it gives me more places to take friends and family to when they come to visit.

So when our close friends from Australia came over to see us I started putting together some ideas for where to take them. Their schedule was tight and we only had two full days with them. Therefore I knew I had to pick somewhere that was both close and showcased my own backyard here in France.

The obvious choice was La Rochefoucauld. It’s steeped in history, and my friends who both originated from the UK don’t get this in Australia. So that put one tick in the box. Secondly, it’s close, only a 25 minute drive from home.

Now for me, any good day trip needs three things, something to look at, somewhere to buy things, and a place to eat great food accompanied by good wine.

Chateau de La Rochefoucauld.

I know La Rochefoucauld pretty well so there was only one option for something to look at, and that was Chateau de La Rochefoucauld. This stunning castle has been in the same family since the 10th century and the town derived its name from the family.

The castle was fortified to stop invasions from the sea and the only original part left from this time is the Romanesque keep. Nicknamed La Perle de l’Angoumois (Pearl of Angoumois) it sits on the banks of the River Tardoire, overlooking the village. You can see it as you drive into the town from pretty much every entry point. Its three towers have been built up over the years and it dominates the landscape.

It’s open to the public most of the year only closing in January and February. Once you get inside you’ll see the monumental circular staircase which is rumoured to have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci. Although it’s never been proven.


The Architectural Styles of the Chateau

The castle has been through many architectural styles over the years, but for me one of my favourite places was the 18th century library containing more than 20,000 books. I’ve always been a book lover so this really took my breath away.

You also get to see the huge kitchens with their massive fireplaces. You can’t help but wonder how they kept these going. Plus, just how many staff it took to run them.

The icing on the cake though was the hundred or more costumes available for people to wear. You can really immerse yourself in the history of the castle. Of course, as you can imagine, my hubby couldn’t resist but play dress up. Naturally he was egged on by my friends. It definitely added a certain something to the trip. And much to our delight we also met the Duchess herself, the current owner of the castle.

The best place to eat in La Rochefoucauld

As you can imagine, after all that dressing up we were starting to get hungry. So next on the list was somewhere to eat and drink. And in La Rochefoucauld there’s no point in looking much further than Chez Steph. In prime position it sits right at the foot of the castle.

Steak in La Rochefoucauld

I can hand on heart say that their steak is the best steak I’ve had at a French restaurant. They are Limousin beef specialists, and boy can you tell. Just one word of warning though, you should never make the mistake of asking for your steak well done (“Bien cuit” en Francais).

Hubby did this on our first visit. The waiter just looked at him, shook his head and said “no”. That was it, proving the customer is not always right when it comes to how you want your steak cooked in France. Luckily hubby’s taste buds have developed somewhat since then. He can now go with medium rare (“À point” en Francais).

Streak at Chez Steph La Rochefoucauld

But it isn’t just the food that’s amazing. The restaurant is in an old 17th century building which just oozes charm, warmth and authenticity. The pizzas are amazing too, or so I’m told by my step son Alex. So a trip to Chez Steph is always on the list every time we visit La Rochefoucauld.

La Chocolaterie d'Antan

Rounding out our 3 things to do in La Rochefoucauld is a visit to the chocolate shop. And trust me this is not something you want to do before lunch. You see it’s a bit like going food shopping when you’re hungry. All that happens is you buy what you fancy instead of what you need. Well it’s the same with this. If I go into La Chocolaterie d’Antan hungry I know I’m going to spend a fortune.

Run by Annick Grenier and her son Guillaume the chocolates are all made on site using the traditional methods of master chocolatiers. I can vouch for just how good they really are as I’ve been there many times and never left empty handed. The smell when you walk in is divine and then when you taste the produce it’s hard to leave. It’s quite literally an assault on your tastebuds.

Chocolate from La Rochefoucauld

So if you’re a chocolate lover like me then this is one not to miss.

I should just quickly mention the shopping street as you walk into La Rochefoucauld towards the castle. You’ll find some great little boutique shops for window shopping. One I go into every time is a little home décor store called BB Home Décoration. I just can’t walk past as they have so many lovely things in there it’s hard to say no.

My other favourite place to browse is Alcuvilla Jérôme Antiques. I haven’t yet bought anything but I’ve come close a few times. But regardless of whether you buy or not it’s a great place to lose yourself in looking at all the antiques, wondering what their story is and where they’ve come from.

Well I hope if nothing else I’ve inspired you to take some time to visit the historical town of La Rochefoucauld. It really is one of the jewels in our crown here in the Charente.

À bientôt et merci beaucoup!

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