Medieval History Alive: Guédelon, France
The last time (part of) the Louisiana Krewe went to France, we rented a car to do a road trip around the northern half of France. It. was. fabulous. (side note: I was a little nervous about driving in a new country, but it was AMAZING to get off the well-beaten tourist paths and visit places you can’t without a car. Bring a GPS, and if you’re looking to rent a car in France you can’t beat the Join Us in France Podcast’s driving in France resource page. There are a few things I would do differently if I were to do it again, but that’s a topic for another day…)
Reading through my munchkins’ history book got me thinking of our visit to Château de Guédelon, a castle being built using only materials and techniques authentic to the 13th century. It was started over twenty years ago, and probably has another twenty to go before being finished! Several of our AirBnb hosts remembered visiting it on field trips when they were in school, ha! It was our day trip on the way from Reims to Bourges, and was well worth the stop.
When they say they’re only using 13th century techniques, they mean it — they twist their rope from scratch, grind and mix the pigments for paints by hand, mold every brick and paver, cut every plank of wood used to hoist hand-hewn stones in place (cemented with authentic hand-mixed mortar, obvs), and grind wheat using a water-powered mill (to make bread, which was delicious)…I don’t know how many times I watched the work being done and thought “This is how they built all these cathedrals and castles?? THIS?!?!” It made the sights we saw later in our trip that much more incredible. Many of the stations were hands-on, and if not, they were all up close. I would love to go back with all my kiddoes after doing a proper unit study on the time period. In case you can’t tell, I found it fascinating!
Know before you go:
- Buy tickets ahead of time for a 1€ discount; you can then have them on your phone and skip ticket lines.
- It’s in the middle of nowhere — be sure to visit the website for GPS coordinates!
- Wear shoes/boots that can handle mud and walking.
- Strollers would work for most areas, but not for all of it; it’s not paved.
- There are plentiful picnic areas available, and parking is easily accessible. But food is also sold there and didn’t seem to be exorbitant. (It was off-season when we went, so wasn’t widely available).
- It’s definitely French, but brochures are available in English and even guided tours during the summer.