Friday, March 13, 2015

Duras: My maiden château

Château de Duras

I find myself returning again and again to Duras, the lively village that sits at the northern point of the Lot-et-Garonne department. The Château de Duras is one of the closest castles to where we live, and will always hold a special place in my heart since it’s the very first medieval château I visited.

Moss-covered stairs in Duras
On most any mild day, the outdoor tables in the Place du Marché are full of people relaxing and profiter du soleil et la vie. The village provides plenty of free parking, although spaces are in high demand on Thursdays during the summer, when Duras holds its evening markets. (The all-year-round morning market is held on Monday.) 

Duras offers several places to eat and drink al fresco.

Thirteenth-century gate at the bastide of Duras

Château de Duras is the village’s focal point. Visitors can explore, on their own or with a guide, more than 30 rooms, from the basement to the top of the tower. The visit begins with a short film describing the castle’s rich history.

The château was built in the 12th century, and evolved first into a fortress and then a luxurious home after it was purchased by American citizen Victor Hugo Duras in 1804. The town purchased the castle in 1969 and it became a historic monument the following year. In 2003, Château de Duras was designated a Major Historical Site of Aquitaine. The château is open nearly every day, all year round, except in January. Visit its website here for details.

Entrance to Château de Duras
Grounds of Château de Duras and the view beyond

My two handsome escorts atop the tower at Château de Duras. This
picture was taken three years ago on my maiden visit to a medieval château.

Duras also offers two small museums: Le Musée de la Monnaie du Moyen Age, also called Tresors en Aquitaine ( and Musée Ta’Nawa, Arts des Peuples d’Afrique Noire ( I haven’t visited either, but I did stop by the photo exhibition on the life of Marguerite Duras (née Donnadieu).

French writer and film director Marguerite Donnadieu (1914-1996) lived part of her life in the Lot-et-Garonne and took the name Duras as a tribute to the place where her father died. She may be most recognized for her book “The Lover” and film script “Hirochima, mon amour.” (At least these are the two of her many novels, plays and screenplays with which I am acquainted.) The photo exposition currently is open weekends 2:30-5:30 p.m. and will expand its hours during the summer. Check with the tourist office for details.

Behind this plain exterior, there’s an interesting photo
exhibition about writer/filmmaker Marguerite Duras.

Place Marguerite Duras in Duras

Musée Ta’Nawa in Duras

At the base of the hill as you enter or leave town, La Maison Duras offers visitors a chance to “see, smell and touch the vine” in its garden, as well as taste and buy some of the more than 100 wines from the Duras region. Nearby, Maison Guinguet offers tours and tastings of its chocolats, pruneaux, pralinés, et autres gourmandises. Check the website for hours.

La Maison des Vignerons de Duras

A few years ago, we visited the quiet and oh-so-quaint Jardin de Boissonna, located three km from Duras. It was a hot day, as I recall, and we had the garden to ourselves, except for the birds and bees. Whimsical touches abound throughout the collection of six small English-style gardens. Boissonna is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays April 15 through August 31. Visits on other days can be arranged. See Boissonna’s website for more information, including the chance to have tea in the garden.

Treehouse in Le Jardin de Boissonna

Le Jardin de Boissonna

Flowers in Le Jardin de Boissonna

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