Last year, I visited Delfshaven, the quaint town on the edge of Rotterdam that had formed the backdrop for a parallel story that I wrote to accompany my retelling of The Sleeping Beauty. Sleep in Heavenly Peace remains my favourite story that I have written.
While I had researched the story, including taking a look at photographs of the canal-lined terraces, in my writing, much inevitably needed to be imagined. When I strolled around the streets of the pretty neighbourhood last year, I was amazed to discover how close to reality my imagined scenes had been.
The same came true last week when I visited the supposed setting for the original story, Chateau Ussé, close to Tours in Pays de Loire. The author of The Sleeping Beauty, Charles Perault, supposedly stayed and found inspiration for his story here, arriving through the surrounding dark forest at night, when the whole chateau was sleeping.
Today, a display of recreated scenes from the story occupy various rooms in one of the chateau’s towers. These are far removed from what I’d imagined, but the castle’s external appearance, its stables and drawbridge-protected approach, are almost exactly what I had in mind when I last read Perault’s great story.