Travel log Maigret's journeys in France
Sancerre - 2
M.Gallet, décédé
Paray-le-Frésil - Châteauneuf-sur-Loire - Sancerre - 2 - Arpajon / Avrainville - Dizy - Givet - Vichy - Meung-sur-Loire - Ingrannes - Poissy/Orgeval - Nemours/Glandelles - St.-Fargeau - Le-Coudray-Montceaux - Morsang-sur-Seine - Jeumont
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Tracy-sur-Loire
From the Hôtel de la Loire in Saint-Thibault over the bridge to the train station of Tracy is only about 1 kilometer, but to the village of Tracy, and the Château, is about 6 km.
It wasn't my lucky day. Before going to the château I went looking for the station where Mme Gallet and Maigret arrive and go on their way to the hotel. I cross the bridge and start following the indications for Tracy. A beautiful road, parts of forests, vineyards, fields. No village, no castle and certainly no train station. At last I arrive in the village. It is impossible that Maigret and his companion walked all this way by foot to the bridge and the hotel. Through the trees I see the railroad tracks so I guess the station must be nearby. The little side road I choose traverses the tracks by a level crossing
The level-crossing
Next to the crossing a small cottage, white, scintillating in the sun. In front a tiny garden and heaps of flowers behind a wooden paling. When I stop my car an older man steps outside. I greet him politely, as people do in France, and ask him for the train station of Tracy. "There is no train station in Tracy" he says. Disenchantment and disappointment! The gentlemen's wife comes outside and greets me. She looks gauging at her husband and he answers her unspoken question with: "Le station de Tracy". "Ah", she says, "ce n'est pas près" (That is not close by). I frown and consider that this situation is lacking sense. A train station that does not exists is not nearby? Or there is a train station, near by or far away, or there is not.
Standing there in the hot noontime sun, a little wound up by the situation, I suppose some drops of sweat appear on my brow because the lady asks her husband reprovingly "Monsieur ne veut pas un verre de vin frappé?" (Would the gentleman not like a cooled glass of wine?). "Mais si!" utters the man "come inside sir, come in". After some chivalrous refusal and some courteous insisting, because that is the way things are done in France, I accept the friendly invitation and enter the small home.
A minute living room with a sofa, a TV set, a table with a plastic cover, 4 outmoded wooden chairs and an even older side board. "Assiez vous, monsieur" (please sit down, sir), the lady says. I take a seat. She removes some mishmash from the table and wipes it clean with a slip of her apron, while informing where I come from and what I am occupied with. From the buffet she collects two glasses. I can't suppress a little smile because I see what will happen. She won't drink with us. When men drink, it is not proper for woman to participate, certainly no wine or alcohol.
Artist impression of the keeper's house and the bariers of a typical "passage à niveau" - a level crossing - in the French country side.
Among older or very traditional people wine is not considered a real alcoholic beverage in France.
It is what men drink all day. In many cases, bought directly at the winery "en vrac", this means the customer brings his own plastic container of 10 or 20 liters (4 or 8 gal) which is filled up at the large tanks of the wine-grower, it is cheaper than bottled water.
In the mean time the man left the room and reappears with an, apparently much used, brownish bottle without label, dripping from the ice water were it was kept in. He pours my glass and his, clinks with me and tosses down his wine in one swig. He reaches for the bottle and keeps it ready to refill my glass while I'm still finishing my first drink. After he served us both again he sits down and says: "le station de Tracy". He explains that the station is actually not in Tracy but 6 km outside of the village and that it isn't a real station anymore but merely a stopping-place. The station building was sold and is now a private home.
Sketch of the visit by a kind reader of this website - Thanks!
His wife, sitting on the third chair but with no drink, interrupts him a few times with some witty remarks about the new proprietors of the station building who are obviously not coming from the region and therefore have to be regarded with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Then a long and very complicated explanation of the way to the station follows. The details of a whole lot of marks of recognition are mentioned with an amount of self-evidence as if have lived all my live in the area. But, I think I will get there. After 5 glasses of wine and a "third degree" about my family, children and work I succeed in thanking these friendly people for there hospitality and readiness to help me out. While I walk out of their home, work my way through the tiny garden and towards my car, they keep repeating in chorus the directions to the station
The train station... after all
Finally I'm in my car and on my way again. It is easy, actually there only is one road to follow. It turns and it swings but there is no other way to go. After 6 km I arrive at a crossroad. And yes, this is the point where I began my journey an hour ago, right after the bridge from Saint-Thibault! And yes, I look to my right and there is the train station! And yes, I drove past it an hour ago, without seeing it!

The station hasn't changed a bit since Simenon's time. It is exactly like on the old postcards. It lies there simmering in the sun. The children of the new owners are playing in a small swimming pool in the shadow behind the building. Mom is watching them and by the sounds that comes out of the house dad is obviously busy restoring the old edifice.

I go to the front and take my pictures. And yes, overexpose them! Photoshop will have to do the job when I'm back home. Could it be the 5 glasses of wine? No, it will be the heat.
I approach the mother of the playing children and ask her for the Château de Tracy. "C'est à Tracy, monsieur" (it's in Tracy, sir). Yes, that is where I just came from. The village where those friendly people asked me in their home. I never thought about asking them for the castle. Very clever!
Back in Tracy I pass through the village and there I see the castle at a distance. It is very large and monumental, an eye-catching building. The Château de Tracy is build in the 15th and 16th century and is now occupied by the Comte and Comtess d'Estutt d'Assay. The Comtess d'Assay is the sister of the current Marquis de Tracy who lives in the castle at Paray-le-Frésil. The countess therefore is the daughter of Raymond de Tracy, Simenon's employer.
The Château de Tracy wine

On this site of the Loire the wine-area is called "Pouilly". There is not so much difference between the Sancerre and the Pouilly wines. In the remarkable "Pouilly Fumé" the smoky taste of the Sauvignon grapes maybe a little more distinct than in the wines of the Sancerre area.
"Château de Tracy" is the dominant vineyard of the "Pouilly Fumé". On an authoritative internet site about French wines it is defined like this:

"Near the beautiful Loire River on the terraces of Château de Tracy, the Count and Countess d'Estutt d'Assay produce one of the region's best examples of Pouilly-Fumé. The vines are lovingly tendered to produce this fine Sauvignon displaying all the characteristics of the unique soils. Fruity notes dominated by sweet ripe oranges blend with and complement the legendary flinty-mineral aromas of the Loire region. The first mouthful is fresh and inviting, giving way to a smooth, velvety texture. The palate has a good balance and structure with fruity aromas that will develop and reach their peak after about three years."
The wine is world-wide available. In Europe & UK a bottle of "Château de Tracy" 2000, sells for 17,60 at: Wine and Co. and on: The Old World Wine Company
For the US: Spec's Online (Houston).The 1999 sells for $24.85.
At the Château de Tracy
Leaving the village the castle is nicely indicated. From the main road I follow a dirt road to a vast complex of farm houses that belongs to the château. Everything seems very quiet although it is September, the harvest month for the wine-grapes. Because of the very hot summer the harvest was weeks earlier than usual. The hard work is over, tranquility returned.

I park my car in front of the main farm house and when I walk towards the castle I notice an excavator that apparently was digging narrow trenches in the fields that surround the caste. From where I stand the view on the castle is sheltered by trees, only the roof and the towers are vaguely visible. To take photos I will have to go nearer. The access road to the château is fenced off with a white and red chain bearing a sign: "Entrée interdit - Propriété privé" (No admittance - private Property). Well, I've seen these signs before... I'm not planning on doing anything wrong or to intrude on someone's privacy. I only want to take a photo of the front façade of the castle. So... I step over the chain, or I try to step over the chain. When I have one lake in the air the other still on the right side of the boundary, I hear someone calling: "Monsieur, monsieur!". That "monsieur" would be me, I guess...
Of course I go back on my steps. A man has come out of the farm building and approaches me. He greets me politely and asks me what I am doing. I tell him why I'm there and that I want to take a picture of the château. He explains kindly that there is no chance of getting near to the castle. When i persist, he smiles, tells me he understands and regrets, but after all he stays unrelenting.
Madame la comtesse is very dismayed, he tells me, because a few days ago a group of cracksman raided the castle in brought daylight. They entered the grounds in a 4x4 over a field that connects with the public road. That is why trenches are being dogged, to make this kind of hold up impossible in the future.
I understand very well that the countess has been frightened by the event and rather not sees strangers saunter around the residence.
The Château de Tracy
The jovial caretaker, who is obviously not very animated about his new job as a watchman, gives me directions to a spot with a nice outlook on the castle from where I can take photos.
Paray-le-Frésil - Châteauneuf-sur-Loire - Sancerre - 2 - Arpajon / Avrainville - Dizy - Givet - Vichy - Meung-sur-Loire - Ingrannes - Poissy/Orgeval - Nemours/Glandelles - St.-Fargeau - Le-Coudray-Montceaux - Morsang-sur-Seine - Jeumont
Home Page - summary of works - Travel log (main page)