Sunday, September 30, 2007


Our last stop in the Loire region was the town of Montrésor. We first read of this place in Undiscovered France, an attractive book which nevertheless featured many villages which have been quite thoroughly discovered. But in the case of Montrésor, the authors were perfectly on the money. For some reason, the tour buses didn't seem to make it to this place, much to our satisfaction.

To view the 15th-century Château de Montrésor, we had to track down the caretaker in his house on the grounds. He let us into the building with a medieval-looking ring of keys and told us to take our time. When we were done, he instructed us to knock on his door so he could show us the castle's treasury. Soon, we were wandering around the castle, completely by ourselves. In addition to hunting trophies and ancient weaponry, we found the walls covered with extraordinary paintings, including a Veronese.

When the caretaker showed us the piles of gold and silver goblets in the treasury, we found out quite a bit more about the place. He said that the Veronese was the last one known to be in private hands, and estimated it would probably fetch upwards of $50 million at auction. I joked that the owners must have a lot of confidence in him. He demurred by pointing to the extensive alarm system. But the conversation soon revealed that he was the owner. Though modest in dress and demeanor, he was evidently sitting on a fortune that would have made a courtier at Versailles blush. Mon trésor, indeed.

On the way out, he pointed to a statue in the garden. "It's the devil," he explained. "Mick Jagger, who has a large estate in this area, once offered to buy it from me. But it's not for sale."

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