Laura et Seb, les Globe blogueurs
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Slow travel with the family
Visit the Castle of the Counts in Rochefort with Lady EmelynE
2 hours of whimsy
In the very heart of the Famenne area, perched on a rocky spur, the Castle of the Counts in Rochefort dates back to the 12th century and still has many secrets to reveal to interested visitors
We hear the rather impressive castle gates fling wide open and a strange-looking figure awaits us there. It’s Emelyne, the enigmatic castle witch who welcomes passing strangers. Her pointy hat, billowy felt dress, magic walking stick and black lipstick quite naturally intrigue our son. We follow Emelyne, trying to keep up with her brisk and purposeful strides as she heads towards the first castle tower. By the tower, she tells us more about the place’s eventful history.
Centuries of history in Rochefort
In spite of the fact that all that remains of the castle today are the ruins, it is quite easy to let yourself be carried away by its eventful history and to picture the castle at the height of its former glory: the biggest and most important castle of the Famenne area. For centuries, its strategic position protected generations of illustrious lords. By the way, it’s the castle’s location on a rocky spur that gave its name to the town of Rochefort. It was inhabited by numerous influential families before it was abandoned at the time of the French Revolution. Its next owner tried to sell the castle lock, stock and barrel, but failed. So he decided to make some money by selling of the castle, bit by bit, stone by stone. The castle stones were used to build many of the town houses you can admire from the castle terraces. Having enjoyed the historical introduction, the three of us dive head first a narrow stairways leading us to the two rooms occupied by the current museum.
The museum brings together a wealth of historical objects that were unearthed during the archaeological digs. Here, we learn that - even though they were far from the sea - the lords loved to feast upon mussels and oysters! At the time, it would take up to 3 days for the shellfish to arrive here. We examine the pottery shards, intriguing bones, ancient coins and cooking utensils in great detail. A giant timeline gives us some rather useful points of reference to help us understand the castle’s history.
She captures the moment in a bubble outside of time
Visit in the company of a cheeky witch and a quaint châtelain
Emelyne, with her cheeky disposition, infectious enthusiasm and innate wit, breathes life into the castle’s history and many secrets. As if by magic, she manages to conjure up the castle’s now disappeared sections aided by drawings and a scale model. They allow us to picture what the castle really looked like at the height of its glory. Hélio, who is 4 years old, discovers the old larder which is plunged in darkness, and we explain to him the huge differences between life today and everyday life in the Middle Ages. He is quite bewildered by all these changes but also by Emelyne’s jokes and gentle teasing…Especially when she pretends she wants have us for supper…as her main course, not as guests…
Then, we head towards the donjon. Even though it was destroyed a long time ago, we are still quite familiar with its function. The Hall of Honour and its majestic arcades is used by Emelyn as the theatrical setting for a fictional tale straight from Emelyne’s vivid imagination. With the help of several willing visitors, she tells us an ancient castle legend set against the backdrop of a lavish banquet. With a mischievous glint in her eye, Emelyne teases her spellbound audience every chance she gets, even getting them to execute a few medieval dance steps. And this is how she manages to suspend the moment in a bubble outside of time. This friendly moment filled with laughter is the perfect way to end the first part of our visit to the castle.
Amused, he watches us dashing about all over the place
Two scrolls for an entertaining treasure hunt
To allow us to continue our exploration, a messenger hands us an enigmatic parchment safely tucked away in leather roll. Hélio is bubbling over with impatience and can’t wait to untie the knot and see what’s inside. The scroll reveals our mission: we must find the key to the donjon. The first step is to find the answers to 7 questions and a riddle. We immediately get caught up in the thrill of the chase and dash about all over the place to find the clues. The questions are accessible to Hélio allowing him to take part in the treasure hunt. The quest is skilfully orchestrated and makes us take notice of details in the castle that we hadn’t even noticed. Our little treasure hunter covets the tiny, ancient playing dice that we had a hard time finding. Once we have found all the answers we are given the location of a second parchment. We look everywhere for the parchment: among the foliage, under stones, in every nook, crack and cranny of the edifice.
But in the end it’s our son who manages to unearth the precious parchment which he show off with pride. He shows us 7 new questions and a riddle. So off we go again looking for answers. Hélio is highly entertained by our mad dashing about, and enjoys seeing us so excited by the game. Finally, the fateful moment has arrived and we ferret out the elusive and much-coveted key. Hélio excitedly hands it over to the messenger and in return obtains a sweet reward which he hastens to wolf down.
So this pleasant discovery is brought to a close by our son’s radiant, chocolate-covered smile. We had a great time, spending precious moments making memories and playing as a family.
Experience this adventure
Château comtal de Rochefort
5, avenue d'Alost 5580 Rochefort
The castle is accessible for groups of minimum 15 visitors , on reservation. Groups can choose between the guided visit with Emelyn or between several treasure hunts. Individual visitors can enjoy the visit with Emelyne during the exceptional visits that are organized at different times during the year. The dates can be found on their website.