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Travel and design – Chaumont, a very French Garden festival

Chaumont Garden Festival

Garden festivals tend to be sedate affairs. The Chelsea Garden festival in England conjuring up thoughts of Pimm’s Cup, or maybe a nice cup of tea and a cucumber sandwich. Please note, its always a ‘nice’ cup of tea, never just a cup. The Chaumont Garden Festival is rather different.

In Chaumont, the  garden festival is distinctly French. Annual themes like Time, Water, Sharing and, of course, because this is France, ‘Eroticism’, challenge teams from across the world to produce the weird and wonderful.

Its all in a beautiful setting in a part of the country famed for crisp white wine and wonderful patés.  And I’m determined to complete this blog with out using the word ‘pretentious’.

The 2010 theme is ‘Body and Soul’. The judges , chaired by famous neurologist, Jean-Pierre Changeux, selected 20 gardens, including contributions from the UK, Japan, Germany, Italy  and Netherlands from over 300 proposals. The festival runs until 17 October by when some of the displays will be getting a little droopy but, I promise, will still be worth the trip.

Chaumont Garden Festival

It’s probably not worth trying too hard to make sense of the exhibits, just enjoy them. Some you just and admire, others you play with. Those big balls in the first picture are intended to be pushed about.

Chaumont Garden Festival

Not sure if it is possible to actually sit in these. ‘Probably’ is our guess. It is that sort of place.

Chaumont Garden Festival

A glass of wine is probably more likely than a cup of tea but the designers of this garden seem to be making a point about the restorative properties of Britain’s favourite hot beverage.

Chaumont Garden Festival

From last years festival ‘Gardens of Colour’. You may notice that the flowers are colour coordinated with the washing above them, of course.

Chaumont Garden Festival

And how do you get into the gardens? Via a hollowed out tree, of course!

Chaumont Garden Festival

And having navigated your way through the tree there are some shaky bridges over the mist valley.


The whole thing is set in the gardens of a rather lovely a 15th Century chateau. The Loire is so full of chateaux you can hire a balloon to get a bird’s eye view and guide books seriously warn of the perils of ‘Chateaux fatigue’. It makes you wonder why Disney thought it was such a good idea to build a plastic and fiberglass version outside Paris. If you are anywhere close, or even in the same content, Chaumont is worth a visit. And if you do go, do let us know what you made of it.

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