31 January 2008

Château of Roquebrune - the Great Room - 1

We've walked up the staircase and entered the room through the doorway you see almost dead centre in the photograph. You might think we are in the castle courtyard but not so. This was a room where receptions and ceremonies took place. Here the Castellan received the Lord and is where the vassals came here to pay homage and inhabitants of the village swore an oath of allegiance.

This room used to have a stone vaulted ceiled but was destroyed in fire and replaced by a coffered ceiling. Fires were frequent and there were three: in 1506 (under Genovese rule), in 1597 (under Provençal rule) and in 1747 during the Austro-Sardinian war. In the end, the room remained open to the elements.

Come back the day after tomorrow when we'll explore more of the Great Room. Tomorrow is Theme Day, of course.

Note 1. I've added copy to the last two days' entries - discussing the drawbridge and the retractable staircase. I visited the castle again this morning, this time writing down a lot more information and this time legibly enough for me to read it when I got home!

Note 2. Roquebrune village in New York? Does it exist? Go to New York City Daily Photo to find out!

30 January 2008

Château of Roquebrune - the staircase to the Great Room

We've crossed the bridge and entered the castle through this doorway and immediately we climb this staircase. It's quite steep. No rush, take your time.

Originally there was no staircase like this but a retractable ladder and a trap door were used which could easily be taken away if the castle was attacked. At the end of the 15th century, the retractable staircase was replaced by the current staircase.

The Counts of Ventimiglia ruled the castle from 970 to 1157 when it was given to the Republic of Genoa, who ruled between 1157 and 1395. They had a triple role: military, political and judiciary. The Genoese Castellans guarded the castle with an ordinary garrison but in times of war, the contingent was reinforced when the male population of the village was mobilised.

These steps lead to the Great Room, which we will see tomorrow.

29 January 2008

Château of Roquebrune - view from the Open Air Theatre

It's dark - perhaps there's a moon - the lights of Monte Carlo shimmer in the distance, the air is balmy. We take our places. Soon we'll have lights, music, action - let the magic begin...

Tomorrow - we enter the castle.

28 January 2008

Château of Roquebrune - the Open Air Theatre

You can see the bridge and entrance to the castle on the lower left-hand side (see yesterday's photograph to see the bridge from the side). We've already walked up those wide steps and passed under one of those green structures to reach it. But here's the surprise - an open air theatre. To watch a performance, lit from those green towers, with a view of the Mediterranean and across to Monaco isn't at all a bad thing.

I've seen several productions here - I remember Macbeth put on by the English-Speaking Drama Group of Monaco. The setting is perfect. You can probably picture Lady Macbeth running down the bridge, white robes catching the moonlight - 'Out damned spot!'

Or the three witches...'Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble.'

There wasn't always the wooden seating you see in this photograph. We sat on the bare stone benches in those days and woe betide anyone who didn't take a cushion to sit on! You always knew who was going to the theatre as they walked up the hill from the carpark, cushion at the ready.

Tomorrow? - the view from the theatre - and then we enter the castle.

27 January 2008

Château of Roquebrune - the Bridge

This is a sideview of the bridge up to the castle keep. See yesterday's photograph which gave no idea it is actually a bridge and how high we are. It would, therefore, have acted like a moat in preventing invasion. It also gives some idea - along with yesterday's photograph - of the height of the castle which is on four separate levels.

Originally there was a wooden drawbridge to the castle which was winched up with chains.

Tomorrow you'll have a surprise - something we must see before we actually enter the castle. Do come back.

(Apologies for the not so good photograph - taken, as you see, against the sun)

26 January 2008

Château of Roquebrune - the Fortress

We entered the grounds to the left of this photograph. We paid at the cash desk and some of us now have an audio guide around our necks - we've chosen our language. To borrow one of these devices we had to leave our identity card or passport as security.

As we walked up steps, almost tripping over the castle cat, the length of the castle is on our left. The castle was built in 970 by Conrad 1st, Count of Vintimille allowing him to defend the western border of his feudal domain from the Saracens.

Roquebrune castle is a fortress without luxury or ostentation. The Castellans, appointed by the Republic of Genoa between 1157 and 1395 lived the life of soldiers. The officials were replaced each year. They governed the village, collected taxes and judged minor offences. We will see how these soldiers lived as the tour goes on.

We are about to enter the fort - donjon - over a bridge. Do come back tomorrow.

25 January 2008

Château of Roquebrune - Let the tour begin...

We've climbed to the top of Roquebrune village - to Place William Ingram - which you can see in the photograph below. You'll see the entrance to the Château is just off to the right (and above).

As our tour continues, you'll read of the varied history of the castle, which was originally a a 10th century Carolingian castle.

Today, however, I want to jump a good few centuries and tell you about Sir William Ingram, a rich English baronet, for whom this square was named. In 1888 the castle was sold to 5 Roquebrunois citizens and they, in turn, sold it to Ingram in 1911. He started restoring it into an unauthentic fairytale castle. The locals kicked up a fuss and stopped the work. Later, in 1921, Sir William Ingram gave the castle to Roquebrune.

If you would like to see La Vigie, the house that Sir William Ingram built to the east of Monte Carlo, please click on the link.

Tomorrow, we enter the castle grounds.

24 January 2008

Day trip

Sunday afternoon and this boat is about to take off on a little trip. Notice the guys fishing on the right-hand side.

Tomorrow - back to Roquebrune village and the tour of the Château.

23 January 2008


We've not finished in Roquebrune village (see second paragraph) - but just for a couple of days I fancied coming back down to Menton (no good reason, I just thought we might all like to be by the sea) - so I hope you approve. Here we are in the port below the Old Town. It's a glorious day after so much rain - the autoroute was closed above Roquebrune - falling rocks, dangerous boulders that needed to be brought down. The train track was closed at Eze just along the coast. Heavy rain after a long dry spell is always dangerous and driving up and down the valleys, you really have to take care. I've had to avoid three falls on the Route de Gorbio already - but look at today - absolute heaven.

As for Roquebrune, we'll go back in a couple of days and then we start a full tour of the 10th century Château. I promise you it'll be worth the wait.

22 January 2008

Roquebrune village - 24

Many villages retain their lavoir (wash house) - indeed many are still in use by villagers. The one in my village, Gorbio, is regularly in use by the locals.

Here's the lavoir in Roquebrune, which is found near to the entrance of the village. As you can see, no water in it at the moment. Don't you love the sign 'It is forbidden to wash vehicles.' I took this photograph over the Christmas/New Year period, hence the crèche which you see in front of the lavoir. Each Christmas the village of Roquebrune creates a Chemin des Crèches. This year 130 crèches were exhibited - one family alone created 17. All compete for the top prize and the tourist office organises tours of the crèches.

21 January 2008

Roquebrune village - 23

This is part of rue Pié, one of the oldest streets in the village. It rises up from where we saw the pool and view of Monaco a couple of days ago. In less than a minute or so from where I took that photograph, we are in this hidden part of rue Pié - carved as you see, out of the 'poudingue' rock.

20 January 2008

Roquebrune village - 22

This is the hotel and restaurant Les Deux Frères. It's in the main square with La Grotte opposite. From the car parking way below, you enter the village by the road that you can just see at the end of the building.

See the stone bench to the left? Well alongside that is an iron railing with wondrous views down to Cap Martin and to Monaco. If you click on the link for the hotel, you'll see a photograph that makes this even clearer. I've posted several photographs already of Monaco and of Cap Martin taken from those railings.

Les Deux Frères is run by a very amiable Dutchman called Willem who will give you a very warm welcome if you visit his lovely hotel. It's a great place to stay or simply to visit for lunch or dinner.

19 January 2008

Roquebrune village - 21

This is Impasse du Four, which means the Cul-de-sac of the Oven. This is where, in times medieval, the seigneurial oven would have been found. I'm adding the photograph below - I really don't know - but perhaps what we see behind the screen is the original oven.

18 January 2008

Roquebrune village - 20

Not all the houses in the village are jumbled together, with no view. In fact, many are surprising - internal gardens, balconies with a view of the sea. You can see another view of this house in the photo below - who'd have thought they'd have a view like this!

Tomorrow, come and see the Impasse du Four - where the seigneurial oven once stood.

17 January 2008

Roquebrune village - 19

Here's the village post office in a building that was once the presbytery of St. Marguerite church you see in the background. Above the door you can see a fragment of a sarcophagus from the second century.

We'll be visiting the church one day. Meanwhile, let me know if you'd like us to continue looking around the village a little longer or whether you'd like to start the tour of the Xth century Château.

There's so much to see in this beautiful village, it's hard to know where to stop and frankly we've hardly begun - there's so much I want to show you. But don't worry - even if we go back down to Menton, we can always come back up again. It's not far!

16 January 2008

Roquebrune village - 18

A pretty corner of the village. Note the boarded-up windows and state of the walls. Just a little work needed, methinks.

15 January 2008

Roquebrune village - 17

Meet Julien Mehmed (Julien des bois) in his workshop which is situated just below the Xth century Château in the village. Julien works in olive wood and I found the following words on a very small website dedicated to him.

Olivier arbre mythique, symbole de paix et de longévité existait déjà à l'époque de la préhistoire. Cultivé encore aujourd'hui tout autour du bassin méditerranéen son bois dur, avec son veinage riche donne des sculptures pleine de vie.

....and my probably not quite correct translation...

The mythical olive tree, symbol of peace and longlife already existed at the time of pre-history. Still cultivated today in the Mediterranean basin for its hard wood with rich veining which makes sculptures come to life.

And if you missed the beautiful 1,000 (plus) year old olive tree in the village please click on the link.

14 January 2008

Roquebrune village - 16

'Au Coeur de l'Olivier' - this is the atelier and gallery of Julien Mehmed, the olive wood sculptor. Known as Julien des bois, he opened this studio in rue du Château in 1959. He's fascinated by the history of Roquebrune and is always happy to share his knowledge. Come back tomorrow and see Julien at work.

13 January 2008

Roquebrune village - 15

Kids play football everywhere - here are a couple kicking a ball about in rue de la Fontaine.

12 January 2008

Roquebrune village - 14

This is the butcher's shop in the village. The church is off to the left. Notice the two plastic bottles outside? Do you know what these are for? Most original answer gets a postcard of Roquebrune village - and first correct answer gets one too.

11 January 2008

Roquebrune village - 13

Here's a small part of the village as seen from above. You can really see how narrow the streets are and how the houses live cheek by jowl. Some have new roofs, some have those beautiful old tiles.

And if want to know where we are standing, click on THIS LINK - see the flagpole - that's where we are, leaning over the parapet of the Xth century Château. Of course, we'll be taking a full tour of the Château - and that's a treat - but I've more good things to show you in the village first.

10 January 2008

Roquebrune village - 12

This look-out and tiny picnic area has always fascinated me. It belongs, so far as I can tell, to a house just out of shot. We are standing, leaning over the railings at the main square of the village - the Place des Deux Frères. It overlooks Cap Martin to the left and Monaco to the right.

09 January 2008

Roquebrune village - 11

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the village of Roquebrune is built on rock called 'le poudinge' - pudding - which is a tertiary rock: a solid mix of shingle and sand. As you walk through the old streets, you can see how the houses literally grow out of it. This photograph is a good example - if you enlarge the photograph, you'll really see it. This is part of rue Moncollet, the oldest street in the village.

08 January 2008

Roquebrune village - 10

A pretty corner of rue Pié. The plastic bowls are, presumably, for the local cats. Rue Pié and rue Moncollet are the two oldest streets in the village.

07 January 2008

What's 'Jilly' in Arabic?

This smiling potter was working alongside the many pots he has for sale as part of the Christmas Fair. You can see MORE OF THE POTS HERE. I asked if I could take his photograph and he then asked my name. I told him and he asked me to repeat it and then he picked up one of the tiny vases you see on the edge of the table, scribbled on it and handed it to me. I noticed a few coins on the table, so I put down a couple of euros. I wonder if there is an equivalent to my name in Arabic? Can any Arabic reader tell me?

06 January 2008


We're back in Menton for the moment but we will be returning to the beautiful village of Roquebrune village - never fear.

This ice-rink had been installed, by the sea, as part of the Christmas/New Year facilities and as you can see Menton kids aren't natural skaters but they have a lot of fun trying. On the far side of the rink, you can see the Christmas market and in the background, the lower part of the Old Town with its steeples rising into the blue sky - yes, first blue sky for days after a week or more of rain. Oh happy day - this is what January is normally like in Menton. It's unusual to have had the amount of rain we've had this past week.

Today, I believe, is the last day of the Christmas/New Year market and facilities for the children.

05 January 2008

Roquebrune village - 9

This pretty little impasse has recently been decorated by the new owners. When I first came to this part of France in 1992, I lived below the village of Roquebrune and often used to walk up the donkey track with my dog, Milou, to have a coffee in La Grotte or at the Deux Frères. There was always a table in this impasse, which looked very scruffy in those days. A Dutch artist, Philippe, used to live and work here, selling his paintings and postcards. I remember sitting with him on occasion sharing a bottle of wine and putting the world to rights. Now it's got considerably smarter and more chi-chi. We are just down from the main place and almost opposite rue Moncollet, the oldest street in the village.

04 January 2008

Roquebrune village - 8

A couple more doors today - if I dare call them that. These are in the rue du Château.

Posting old doors is a good excuse to mention Marie from Montpellier's page of beautiful doors and arches.

03 January 2008

Roquebrune village - 7

As you can imagine, Roquebrune village has many old doorways. Here's just one in rue Grimaldi. You'll be seeing more old doorways - and windows - because I love them - and I know many of you do too.

02 January 2008

Roquebrune village - 6

This monument to the departed stands outside the 13th century, l'Eglise Sainte Marguerite which is to our right. We'll be visiting the church another day. The steps on the left lead to rue du Château ( we saw another part of this street the other day). Note the mosaic of black and white pebbles which dates back to 1776 and is called 'Calade.'

The motif is by Simon Bussy (1870 - 1954), who was a lifelong friend of Matisse (a fellow pupil at art school) and through his marriage to Dorothy Strachey, brother of the writer Lytton, was on the fringes of the famous Bloomsbury circle. He was the teacher of Duncan Grant.

'Simon Bussy was five years younger than Dorothy, and the son of a shoemaker from the Jura town of Dole. Lady Strachey’s liberalism faltered at the sight of him actually cleaning up his plate with pieces of bread. The family drama "shook the regime of Lancaster Gate to its foundations" (Holroyd), and, despite the silent disapprobation of the older Stracheys, Dorothy remained determined to marry him with what her brother Lytton later called "extraordinary courage".'

Simon and Dorothy Bussy lived in Roquebrune in winter and spent their summers in England and Scotland.

01 January 2008

Theme Day: photo of the year - 2007

My choice was between two photographs: this one I took on a day in September when I'd come down to the beach to photograph the beautiful Old Town for the header of this blog. You can see another - just the little girl - HERE.

My other choice was BEAUTY - I so love the colours. I really don't consider myself a 'proper photographer' (yet!) in a technical sense, as I use a simple point and shoot - and so if anything works it's down to the camera and luck and so much encouragement and great advice from so many of you - my fellow City Bloggers - THANK YOU SO MUCH.

HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone - and may all your dreams come true and all your photographs be PERFECT.

There are 118 Daily City Photo bloggers participating in today's Theme. Do please visit them - you'll see fabulous photographs from around the world.

Paris, France - London, England - Hyde, UK - West Sacramento (CA), USA - Grenoble, France - Stockholm, Sweden - Riga, Latvia - Saint Paul (MN), USA - Manila, Philippines - Silver Spring (MD), USA - Weston (FL), USA - Prague, Czech Republic - New Orleans (LA), USA - Wichita (KS), USA - Cleveland (OH), USA - San Francisco (CA), USA - Hobart (Tasmania), Australia - Greenville (SC), USA - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Menton, France - Monte Carlo, Monaco - Mainz, Germany - Melbourne, Australia - Portland (OR), USA - Albuquerque (NM), USA - Wassenaar (ZH), Netherlands - Kyoto, Japan - Tokyo, Japan - Toulouse, France - Naples (FL), USA - Jakarta, Indonesia - Brussels, Belgium - Stayton (OR), USA - Selma (AL), USA - Mexico City, Mexico - Ocean Township (NJ), USA - Minneapolis (MN), USA - Port Angeles (WA), USA - Toruń, Poland - Fort Lauderdale (FL), USA - Budapest, Hungary - Baziège, France - Nashville (TN), USA - Saint Louis (MO), USA - Cottage Grove (MN), USA - Chicago (IL), USA - Prescott (AZ), USA - Bellefonte (PA), USA - Nottingham, UK - Moscow, Russia - Philadelphia (PA), USA - Evry, France - Trujillo, Peru - Arlington (VA), USA - Denpasar, Indonesia - American Fork (UT), USA - Seattle (WA), USA - Chandler (AZ), USA - Coral Gables (FL), USA - Montpellier, France - Joplin (MO), USA - Pilisvörösvár, Hungary - Crystal Lake (IL), USA - Bucaramanga (Santander), Colombia - Boston (MA), USA - Torun, Poland - New York City (NY), USA - Dunedin (FL), USA - Quincy (MA), USA - Stavanger, Norway - Chateaubriant, France - Maple Ridge (BC), Canada - Jackson (MS), USA - Wailea (HI), USA - Port Elizabeth, South Africa - Budapest, Hungary - Austin (TX), USA - Montréal (QC), Canada - Cypress (TX), USA - Bicheno, Australia - Wrocław, Poland - Brookville (OH), USA - Minneapolis (MN), USA - Nelson, New Zealand - Cheltenham, UK - Wellington, New Zealand - Rabaul, Papua New Guinea - Mumbai (Maharashtra), India - London, UK - Haninge, Sweden - Saint-Petersburg, Russian Federation - Arradon, France - Jefferson City (MO), USA - Orlando (FL), USA - Mumbai, India - Terrell (TX), USA - Bogor, Indonesia - Delta (CO), USA - Radonvilliers, France - Saigon, Vietnam - San Diego (CA), USA - Adelaide (SA), Australia - Belgrade, Serbia - Auckland, New Zealand - Seguin (TX), USA - Inverness (IL), USA - Oslo, Norway - Singapore, Singapore - Las Vegas (NV), USA - New York City (NY), USA - Anderson (SC), USA - Torino, Italy - Susanville (CA), USA - San Diego (CA), USA - Sharon (CT), USA - Melbourne, Australia - Port Vila, Vanuatu - Memphis (Tennessee), USA

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