Thursday, October 2, 2014

In The Valley Of The Seven Chateaux: The Gardens Of The Grand-Chateau D'Ansembourg

The god of grapes/wine..what isn't
to like?
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, a.k.a. Luxembourg, a.k.a. the "lux" of BENELUX is a tiny sovereign nation sandwiched between Belgium, France and Germany. It is a member of the European Union, NATO and the United Nations as well as other international organizations. Luxembourg has the second highest GDP in the world and is officially tri-lingual with French, German and Luxembourgish (who knew there was such a thing!) being the languages of choice. And as is the case with most of western Europe, English is also widely spoken. Luxembourg is a country I had only driven through when going from Belgium to Germany and back again. From the highway the land looked a lot like neighboring Belgium and Germany with rolling farm land filled with cows, soaring windmills keeping the power on and immaculately kept villages. And as I discovered on a recent trip to Luxembourg where I actually got off the highway, it is all that and so much more.

The scenery in Luxembourg is truly spectacular with lush fields and forests and the afore mentioned quaint villages. But Luxembourg also has castles, or as they are called in French, chateaux. Lots of them. In the central part of the country lies the Valley of the Seven Chateaux, which as the name aptly describes, is home to seven impressive chateaux that date back to the earliest days before Luxembourg was called Luxembourg. They dot the hillsides, some are obvious and others hidden, but all add to the charm and beauty of this bucolic valley. Today the chateaux are in various states of (dis)repair with most of them being closed to the public. The (new) Chateau of Ansembourg however, is one that is partially opened to the public.

The restored gardens as viewed from the Chateau

The new Chateau of Ansembourg was first built in 1639 (only in Europe would this be considered "new") by a prosperous Belgian industrialist who benefited from the local timber and iron industries. Over the years the chateau changed hands through marriage, expanded its footprint, changed hands again and ultimately fell into a state of neglect when its upkeep simply became too much for the family to bear. (This seems to be the case with so many great estates--upkeep and maintenance is expensive). Unfortunately, the estate was abandoned for years.

After years of neglect, the chateau is currently undergoing an extensive renovation. The current owner purchased the property in 1987 and immediately set about a series of renovations to the buildings that is still ongoing today. While the chateau itself is still under construction and closed to the public the stables have been fully restored and currently house event space. During my visit they hosted a Japanese art and porcelain exhibit.


The chateau as seen from the back garden; this is, in my opinion, the
most impressive view

But the real show stopper is the gardens, whose renovation took place in 1999. Today they are fully restored and visitors can tour the garden daily. What appears to be a single large garden is actually a series of specialized garden spaces. Fruit trees line the stone walls of the upper part of the garden producing apples and pears which are turned into juice and jams which visitors can purchase. (Honey is also available and it is some of the best honey I have ever tasted). Below the terraced walls lies a series of koi ponds and fountains which are surrounded by boxwood hedges. All of the water features in the gardens are spring fed from the nearby Eisch River. A manicured boxwood maze invites visitors to find their way to the center and out again as does the shady walkway that separates the garden from the river. Our guide informed us that this walkway was designed with two purposes in mind; first for ladies to be able to get fresh air without their skin being colored by the sun and secondly, for these same ladies to be able to discretely walk with suitors without out prying eyes taking notice. There are also numerous rose gardens and open green lawns. Statuary Row features a series of carefully restored statues featuring various gods and goddesses. And throughout the garden, in both sunny and shaded areas, there are benches inviting visitors to stop and take in the atmosphere.

This is definitely a place that is serene and invites lingering. The restoration of the chateau itself is still a work in progress but when it is complete if it is anything like the gardens it will be a masterpiece. But in the meantime, if you find yourself in the Valley of the Seven Chateaux, take some time to stop and stroll through the garden. You won't be disappointed.

Statuary Row
If you go:

Grand-Chateau d' Ansembourg
10 Rue de la Vallee
L-7411 Ansembourg
+35 2 30 88 41 316

Open most days from 09.00 

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