Bruno Hulin's wonderful charcuterie
The cité idéale of Richelieu is not a wealthy town. It has never been really prosperous since the death of the cardinal in 1642. After all, without the great minister himself, and since the 1830s without his grand palace filled with the entourage of the succeeding dukes of Richelieu, is this not a truely isolated large village, surrounded with 30 kilometers of agricultural land in every direction? Any pre-existing centre was reduced at the cardinal's command to emphasise the hubris of the great man's new duchy.
In the nineteenth century, Paris' passion for baby white veal made Richelieu a centre for animal husbandry; place Louis XIII was a busy veal market; a large veal factory on rue Henri Proust sent its product to Paris from the grand new SNCF railway station, through Chinon on to the metropolis. Today veal and other livestock are raised elsewhere, white veal is almost taboo and the railway line lies derelict (see photo below).
There are a few factories on the town's industrial estate on the road to Chinon, but these seem frail. The largest, Richelieu Art et Meubles de France, has now moved much of its furniture production to Romania, and the large factory seems ghostly in comparison with former days. Timber and stone construction firms seem the most active. Ets. Merlot have just constructed a new computerised timber mill, but this seems exceptional.
Chômage - unemployment - secondary and retirement homes (and three schools!) are today the main business of the town intra-muros. The actual residential population within the walls must be very low; the official statistics for the town of Richelieu show 2000 souls registered at the Mairie, but only a small proportion actually live within the walls of this Touraine Pompeii.
The retail business of the town is largely conducted at the neighbouring suburb of Chaveignes where the town's few 'grand surfaces' are located; Intermarché Mousquetaires supermarket; recently expanded, a branch of the Weldom hardware franchise, the builder's merchants Colomat. But these three make a viable business by serving the car-driving population of the large agricultural hinterland that, being isolated, finds it quicker to get to Chaveignes in a car trip of a few miles (with easy parking) than the one hour trip to the mega-grand surfaces of Chambray les Tours.
This paradoxical dilemma is the reason that the town remains zombie-like; neither really dead nor really alive. This is why the extraordinary architectural feat of the town is, to this day one might say, 'in a vegetative state'.
There are a few retailers within the town itself - presumably rents are very low - and they show the much loved traditional face of la France profonde, but they seem to be closing too - last year M. Bigot's (sic) fish shop closed, with even the adjoining pompes funebres shop joining him in funereal obsequies. Even death doesn't make enough loot to survive!!
Bruno Hulin's wonderful charcuterie however clings on, succeeding despite the lengthened charcuterie counter at the supermarket, by supplying wonderful authentic Touraine products. Here (above) is a façade to be proud of -
P.S. This reads a bit negative (even if it is largely true): I'll find a some other shops that grace the walled town to show all is not yet lost. Maybe la belle dormante can be awakened by the right prince's kiss.
the derelict railway line - zero maintenance!