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Balzac at the Château de Saché

Balzac at the Château de Saché

Georges Rouzeau - 2010-09-06

The Château de Saché is the sort of author’s residence we love. The presence of the creator of La Comédie Humaine infuses the walls of his small writing room as well as the landscape beyond.

Writers’ residences often disappoint, as they generally do not quite manage to convey the spirit of the artist who was born, lived, worked and/or died there. It’s quite the opposite with the Château de Saché in the Indre et Loire département. Honoré de Balzac’s presence can truly be felt in the walls of the manor and the surrounding landscapes he so expressively described. The whole place simply exudes Balzacian charm.
 
Saché is still a large rural town which, despite the proximity of Tours, has not yet been spoilt by the expansion of its suburbs. The Château de Saché, an imposing manor, is set in a splendid environment amidst a romantic-style park looking onto a wooded valley. Everything about this environment evokes the loveliest pages of Balzac’s celebrated novel The Lily of the Valley.
 
Balzac was a guest here. The owner was a certain Monsieur de Margonne, one of the wealthiest gentlemen of the region, who lived on Rue Nationale in Tours. He was Balzac’s mother’s neighbour and, in due course, her lover. Balzac began to spend time in the château in 1813, when he was 13 years old; starting in 1829, he stayed here regularly. The Château de Saché welcomed the author of La Comédie Humaine for the last time in 1848.
 
Balzac did not visit Saché for the distractions of society, save for a hand of whist or readings of his own works now and again. He came ‘as in a monastery’ to write - and to avoid creditors. One of the rooms on the ground floor, with its printing presses and leaden letters, evokes Balzac’s ill-fated attempts at printing, an experiment which led to bankruptcy but also allowed him to publish Lost Illusions.
 
When residing in Saché, the author’s programme was quite simple. He would soak himself in coffee and write like a madman from three in the morning ‘til five in the evening every day. A local coffee roaster has managed to recreate the very blend of mocha, bourbon and Arabica coffee beans which was Balzac’s favourite brew. You can try a cup at the ground floor coffee shop housed in the château’s medieval tower.
 
Balzac’s imaginary presence is most strongly felt on the upper floor of the manor in his small room with its writing desk and low-slung armchair. The little window gives onto a wooded vale straight out of his novel The Lily in the Valley.
 
 
 
PRACTICAL INFORMATION
 
Château de Saché, Musée Balzac
 
 
Where to stay
 
La Maison du Lavoir
27, rue des Lavandières
37260 Thilouze
Tel: (33) 02 47 67 44 88
 
At five kilometres from Saché, this lovely B&B located in the village has a wing which dates from 1796. The proprietor is mad about Balzac. Two well-appointed rooms; large flower-filled garden.
 
 
Eating out
 
L’Auberge du XIIe Siècle
1, rue du Château
37190 Saché
Tel: (33) 02 47 26 88 77
 
Balzac was a regular patron of this venerable inn, as was Calder, the town of Saché’s other claim to fame. Thierry Gimenez and Xavier Aubrun, two seasoned chefs who have been running the place for twelve years, didn’t want to play favourites: each artist has a menu in their honour. Asparagus and grilled langoustine mille-feuilles, veal sweetbreads with morels, scrambled eggs with salmon... Choose your favourite dish among their nicely served classics of French cuisine. The dining room is smoothly managed by a young maître d’hôtel-sommelière well-versed in the wines of the region.

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