The Château de Cheverny was built in the early part of the 17th century on the foundations of an earlier château. It’s been in the hands of the Hurault family for six hundred years. Like Chenonceau, Cheverny is located in the Loire Valley, about an hour south-west of Paris. The strict symmetry of the architecture contrasts with the elaborate roofline. Because it was built all at once, instead of growing in various stages, the architecture is remarkably harmonious. It’s been open to the public since 1922. The fully-furnished interior gives a glimpse of château life. Cheverny was the inspiration for Hergé’s Marlinspike Hall in the Tintin books and there’s a permanent exhibition on the château grounds.
As lovely as the house is, far more memorable are the kennels. The Hurault family keeps a full complement of hunting hounds. Every day at five, you can witness the spectacle of their dinner ritual. We were amazed by how large the dogs were. They went running madly around their enclosure, baying incessantly. Then their keeper came out, closed them behind a gate while he spread out a few hundred pounds of putrid-smelling meat. Once he opened the gate, the dogs surged forward, but then were kept behind an imaginary line by his whip for a few minutes. After he let them at the food, they demonstrated the true meaning of “feeding frenzy.” They stepped on one another, nipping, yapping, snarling and tearing at as much meat as they could snatch from the other dogs. Within a few moments, it was all over; every speck of food was gone, bones and all. The keeper hosed down the yard and it was as though nothing had ever happened. This footage shows the spectacle. It was one of the most extraordinary things we’ve ever seen.
Today’s expression, se regarder en chien de faïence (suh ruh-gar-day ohn sheen duh fayonse) literally means “to look at each other like china dogs,” but figuratively it means “to glare at each other.” There was more than just glaring going on in the kennels of Cheverny! It’s a château I will never forget.