You stare at the map and ache to visit every irresistible little town...
until reality sets in and you realize you need to "pick your battles".
Throughout France, the competition is stiff.
Too many treasures to count, so many places to love....
After a while you start feeling like a shipwreck lost at sea.
So you narrow the list, take a chance and BOOM!
You land in the place you've been dreaming of all your life.
That's just how we felt when we worked our way to Fougères,
namesake of both castle and town in beautiful Brittany.
There it was, the castle to beat all castles, the one we
will use to measure every other feudal fortress hereafter...
Think big. Think magical.
Think butterflies in the tummy awesome.
Chateau de Fougères is in a league of its own.
It just may be the best medieval castle of all time.
with the pretty Renaissance chateaux of the Loire.
This is one hundred percent medieval, partly in ruin, but utterly captivating.
Few castles are as evocative of a specific time and place as this one.
When first built, it was surrounded by water, its moat
exaggerating the strong physical heft you see today.
Shouldering 11 imposing towers, the massive fortress-castle maintains
ramparts perfect for a stroll in a make-believe feudal kingdom.
The chateau began as a primitive wooden structure in the
11th century, later rebuilt to fortress strength in stone
and continually modified over the next 400 years.
A town grew around its ramparts and taken as a whole, you'll
be privileged to see history, and better still, FEEL it in every step you take.
of conflict between France and England.
Everyone wanted a piece of the Brittany tarte and a torrent
of power struggle and fighting included notables such as
King Henry II of England and Francis I of France.
But for my money, the most haunting history waited until the 20th century.
Brittany's anguish under Nazi rule came to a head on June 8, 1944
when Operation Overlord forever changed the landscape
of Fougères and the surrounding area.
Bomb after bomb devastated the beautiful land
in order to rid France of the Nazi threat.
Too often, we think only of Normandy when it comes to the early
clashes and deadly destruction during the Allied invasion in WWII.
American and other Allied forces fought the enemy and won, though
the good citizens of Fougères, having long endured Nazi tyranny,
lost their homes, their industry and too often even their lives.
The Battle of Brittany was a battle to win the Atlantic, ensuring a free flow of fuel, weapons and troops for the remainder of the great war.
We are grateful that the great castle of Fougères is still standing.
Just 14 miles north (to Saint-James) of the chateau,
look for the Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial, regrettably
too often an overlooked historical marker on the Brittany landscape.
Many of us only seek out the more famous cemeteries
of nearby Normandy but this one is special too.
On 28 rolling acres of lush green grass, 4,410 American soldiers
are buried, forever remembered by the grateful citizens of France.
A memorial wall includes 499 names of those missing in action and
every year, hundreds of military elite (both French & American),
Fougère locals and lovers of freedom, gather to give thanks.
The chapel showcases stained glass and sculpture
with the Great Seal of the United States.
Bells toll daily to pay respect to those who gave their lives to liberate
France, including two Medal of Honor recipients
whose graves forever memorialize the soldiers' ultimate sacrifice.
castles and knights, fair maidens and happily ever after.
As we grow up and learn the disheartening truth of "castles in the air",
we sometimes lose our way and need history's reminders.
I believe we should all dare to dream the impossible, get lost
in wistful thoughts of winning the horse race or writing a best-selling novel.
Fougères is a great place to inspire such imaginings -- speculation
gone wild, a thoughtful roam to another dimension.
Plan a trip tout de suite to this part of Brittany
and re-write your own storybook ending.
Chateau de Fougères -- where time passes gently,
offering a chance to get lost in a nearly forgotten time and place.