While waiting for our bus to the Chateau de Rully, we joined some new friends for a drink at a little cafe. Gerda and Margery had come all the way from Capetown South Africa to tour France, but they had been on the Bordeaux cruise while we went to Normandy. The Ramblers learned that Gerda, mother and Margery, daughter, were of Boer heritage and Gerda still farms in the countryside outside Capetown.
When Gerda learned that I was a retired history professor, she asked if I would answer some questions she had about US history. I was happy to do so and before the end of the cruise, we would sit down for a question and answer session. I think it was fun for both of us. Today, however, we were just getting to know each other. Soon after we finished our coffee, our bus arrived and we eagerly boarded for our trip into the Burgundy countryside.
The Chateau was a fair distance from Beaune and along the way, our guide, Leslie, told us something of its history. What was amazing to me was that the estate had been in the same family since the 12th century although the owners’ last names have changed over time. This was because the Chateau was inherited through the female line several times. The bride then took her husband’a name when she married, no hyphenated names in this family. Ownership thus went from the Rully founders who built the first square, fortified keep, to the St. Leger’s , the Montsessus’ and finally to the De Ternays who have owned the Chateau for the last three generations.
Count Raoul de Ternary is the current owner and he grew up and now lives in the Chateau with his wife and three little sons, his mother and his aunt. Unfortunately for the Count and his family, although the Chateau is classified as a monument historique, the De Ternays receive no funds for its maintenance from the French government. Thus the Count in engaged in a constant battle to maintain his beautiful but aging home. You can just imagine what might need work in an 800 year old building. Consequently he decided to open the Chateau to tour groups, by appointment. In addition he added a wedding facility in the former stables where we would enjoy a farm-style lunch. He also owns a successful winery which is made from grapes grown in the vineyards that surround the estate. Fortunately for him, some of his vineyards are classified as Premier Cru, which generally means the wines made from the grapes grown there will sell for a higher price.
We gained some background about the Chateau’s construction from Leslie en route. By end of the 14th century, the castle, initially a small fortified keep , now had, along with the initial keep, three round corner towers and one flanking tower. All were connected by curtain walls and crenelated at the top. The St. Leger’s dug a broad, deep moat surrounding its base. The only entrance was then through a single drawbridge. By the 15th century, the Saint-Leger’s had added a succession of buildings with splendid oak woodwork on the east, north and west of the interior courtyard,
However at the end of the 19th century, the medieval structure. was modernized. The moat was filled in by the order of the first De Ternay owner, after he fell into it! The drawbridge and the large, protective courtyard doors were also removed at this time, and another more modern building was constructed. Since the family lives on the upper floors of the Chateau we would only be touring the ground floor as well as the wine cellar. As it turned out, there was plenty to see.
Needless to say, we were all excited when we got our first sight of the Chateau. It certainly lived up to its billing, towering over the acres of vineyards that surrounded it on all sides like a fairy tale castle. In August, the vines were a deep green and the grapes were beginning to ripen. It was only a short walk to the open courtyard of the Chateau. No longer would we have to walk across a drawbridge which spanned a deep moat.
One of the things that Leslie pointed out was the statue of the Virgin Mary which rested high in a niche over the entrance. The statue was placed there by the Count’s great grandmother after WWII, in thanksgiving as the Chateau had been spared from Nazi bombs during the war.
We were met at the entrance by the Count who welcomed us to his home. This was a very different experience than entering a castle or historic building that no longer housed a family. It was obvious that the Chateau besides surviving from the 12th century, was lived in and loved.
Count Raoul was very friendly and hospitable and open to answering questions from our group. As he talked about growing up at Rully, I asked him how his wife felt when she came to the Chateau as a bride. He responded that it had been quite an adjustment for her at first, as she had been a city girl. I can see how one would eventually succumb to the charm and beauty of the Chateau, and it is a wonderful place to raise three active little boys. They certainly have plenty of places to explore. No one asked if the Chateau was haunted, and the Ramblers felt that it was too happy a place to house a ghost of any kind.
Before we entered the Chateau we walked around the side of the building and entered its wine cellar.
There we would have a tasting of the wines produced from the Rully vineyards. The Count does not manage the vineyards himself as it would be a full time job. The Rully vineyards extend over 800 acres! Burgundy is, of course, one of the important wine producing regions of France and the Rully vineyards are just outside the famous golden triangle of Burgundy viticulture which produces the greatest white burgundy wines. Fortunately it shares the same terroir or soil and climate.
We tasted four of the Count’s wines, two whites and two reds, and while the senior Rambler passed on wine as did a few others, I enjoyed them very much. I recently checked and found that they are available at our local Total Wine warehouse, so I had to buy a bottle of the white to enjoy at home.
After the tasting, we were escorted to lunch held in part of the stables which had been converted into a sunlit room. There we were served..what else but Boeuf Bourguignon, family style along with delicious bread, salad and coffee. Of course we enjoyed a red wine with the meal. it was an tasty meal and the service by women from a local village, was excellent.
After lunch, it was time for our tour of the inside of the Chateau. Of course its walls were lined with family portraits, some dating back to the 16th century. Perhaps the most interesting was the portrait of the Marquise who was imprisoned by the Jacobin revolutionaries
during the French Revolution. She was so beloved by the people who lived on and nearby the Rully estate that they protected the Chateau from damage and petitioned for her release. She was eventually able to return to the Chateau although the records are unclear as to how long she was imprisoned. Family tradition says a few days but the Count told us he recently found records indicating she had been imprisoned for months.
Mere photographs don’t do justice to the interior of the Chateau. We got a chance to see a series of formal and informal rooms, the library and finally the kitchen. The windows were relatively few in the old part of the building and the walls thick which only added to the sense of history and the past. A secret passage was even mentioned by the Count.
This had been an outstanding day, but Leslie rounded us up to board the bus for our trip back to Macon and the Catherine. As we were sleepily watching the countryside roll by from the auto-route, Leslie asked us to look outside the windows of the left side of the bus. Of course, the Ramblers with their usual luck, were sitting on the right side but… as it turned out we were able to see the white peak of Mount Blanc in the distance, more than 200 miles away
. Leslie said it was extremely unusual to sight the famous mountain from Burgundy but it did happen once in a while. She then added that it usually meant bad weather was coming. As it turned out, she was wrong about the weather, as we had no rain on the rest of the trip.
Back to Lyon tonight!