There are 35 chateaux close enough to Rennes to see two or three in a single day trip. Over the final two days in possession of our rental car, we knocked off four: Josselin, Chateaugiron, Vitré and Bois Orcan. My favorite of the four, Josselin, today literally towers over a canal where barges idly cruise by.
The castles are the stuff of fairy tales. In fact, they brought to my mind the French fairy tale book I read over and again as a child, which neglected with the usual Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Puss in Boots stories in favor of the pure medieval fables that never became Disney and ballet favorites. I’ve never gotten over the loss of that book, and can’t even remember its title, to my everlasting chagrin.
The plaques describing the histories of the chateaux referenced the regular slaughters of the middle ages. How could Charles Perrault and the other fairy tale authors from the period have conjured up such an alternative, romantic world of chivalrous and heroic knights, and virtuous ladies?
Fittingly, at Vitré the World War I memorial is placed just before the gate to the castle. The slaughters aren’t just a thing of the distant past.
Many of the castles are still lived-in, presumably by descendants of the Dukes and Princes who built them. Leaving Josselin in the evening, I spotted an elderly woman making her way along the cobblestones before turning towards the castle, knocking on a small door, and, soon after, walking through.