He is known in France as Sir Mick, Sir Jagger, Mick de Fourchette, Le Seigneur de Fourchette, sexy papy British, le père Mick, le pape du rock, Dr. Jagger and Mister Mick. (In England, of course, his group is referred to as “The Strolling Bones.”) He is the best hard-to-find attraction in the Touraine, an area that has attracted stars for centuries-at least since 1516, when François Ier imported Leonardo da Vinci to live in the Manoir de Clos Lucé, near the royal château of Amboise. It has welcomed artists, writers, sculptors, poets, inventors and untold quantities of tourists. And for the last quarter-century, the king of rock, the Peter Pan of modern music, Mick Jagger himself has been a part-time resident. The singer has known this part of France since early childhood, when he first came to Amboise on camping holidays with his family. But it is likely that he chose this part of France because of how quickly he could get from here to London or New York.
Curiously, this sexagenarian lion (and Leo, birthday July 26) has managed to keep a low profile and perhaps even get some satisfaction. He seems to spend more time in his €3 million château here than in any of his other stately homes, and in spite of his wealth, his reputation and his glamorous friends, he has integrated himself into the life of the village and the surrounding countryside, using local plumbers, upholsterers, electricians and so on. He is liked for himself and consequently quietly protected. Locals are loath to discuss him with strangers. His friends include some of the English residents in the area as well as aristocrats like Gonzague Saint Bris and the Marquise de Brantes. On one occasion, at a dinner for 20 people, the singer attracted the attention of a grande dame with a hearing problem. She boomed across the table, “Young man, I haven’t seen you here before. Tell me, what do you do in life?” Conversation came to a jolting halt. The hostess swiftly picked up the threads; there is no record of the answer.
Twenty-five years ago Jagger and his wife at the time, Jerry Hall, bought Fourchette, a pretty 18th-century château that was once the residence of the Duchesse de Choiseul, in a tiny village called Pocé-sur-Cisse (now just over 1,600 inhabitants) on the north side of the Loire River, a few kilometers from Amboise. A discreet sign indicates the way to Fourchette. This is wine country, with its own appellation contrôlée, and numerous wine growers offer tastings to visitors.
Well placed geographically, Pocé is only 220 kilometers (135 mi) from Paris on A10. And just 25 kilometers (15 mi) from the village is the Tours airport, where a private, three-person taxi-plane whisks Jagger to London in 70 minutes. The singer takes care to travel during gaps in the commercial flight schedule, and the airport staff appreciates it. “He has never caused us any problem: A simple, straightforward person,” said a top airport official.
Hard to connect this considerate gentleman with the gyrating, rampaging rocker who belts it out to audiences of more than a million. Some of the grandee guests who visit him at Fourchette include David Bowie, Roman Polanski, Tina Turner and Paul McCartney. They too may take private airplanes or simply the TGV, which zooms into Tours or its satellite station, St-Pierre-des-Corps, in 62 minutes from Paris’s Gare Montparnasse. Madame Bardet, wife of famed Tours restaurateur Jean Bardet, says they have clients who arrive one evening by plane, are transported to the restaurant for an amazing meal, sleep the night and then leave for London the next morning.
You can jog or drive through the village in just a few minutes: past the mairie set back in a small parking lot; around the corner by the little white church on the right across from the Maison de la Presse (the newsstand where, for 30 cents, you can buy a postcard of Sir Mick’s château); past the two hairdressers who have been known to trim the hair of Sir Mick’s children; past the small Auberge de Ramberge, which has lodged more than a few visitors to Fourchette; past the baker, the two pharmacies, the pizzeria and a vast park with an impressive 15th-century château. It’s all over in flash.
Going the other way, you pass a huge commercial complex with a Bricomarché (do-it-yourself store), a great favorite with the English star, who sends the girls at the cash registers into fits of blushes and giggles every time he buys a handful of batteries or screws. Farther down the road is the Pfizer factory, famous for making Viagra, and at Nazelles is the Opel garage that has the distinction of keeping Sir Mick’s collection of thoroughbred cars up to snuff. These number a large Delahaye, several Ferraris and a Cadillac, although he is mostly seen at the wheel of a fairly downmarket Opel station wagon (or break, as they are known in France), his old 505 Peugeot or a tiny Nissan Micra.
Composer, singer, gastronome, father, host, lover, grandfather, bon vivant and amateur gardener, Mick Jagger is above all a rebel from an age of rebels. And perhaps, here in this quiet backwater of the Touraine with its woods, caves and vineyards, he can relax with friends and family. Nowhere in England or the United States could he find a similar peace or a village that would abstain from cashing in on T-shirts and Rolling Stones memorabilia.
This Englishman has proved a great ambassador for his country, never losing the common touch. But if he is betrayed-a request for an autograph in a favorite restaurant, say, or a peeping tom with a camera-the person or establishment is instantly blacklisted, and Peter Pan metamorphoses into Captain Hook.
Ariane Castaing, a former journalist, has lived in France between Paris and a romantic old farmhouse in the Loire Valley for the past three decades.
Where to go in Jaggerland
You may not meet the king of rock, but then you might. Perhaps a glimpse in a bar or restaurant-from the super-luxe to the simple-at a village fête or playing with one of his grandchildren in a local café. He goes for quality, ambiance, the unusual. The owners of his favorite places are often his friends. Play it cool. Here are a few addresses:
La Farigoulette A pizzeria in the middle of the village that’s a favorite haunt of the star and only a short walk from Fourchette.
Auberge de Ramberge A few doors away from the pizzeria, the inn offers few rooms and simple fare, but a hearty welcome and perhaps a few of Sir Mick’s buddies at the next table. 04.47.57.32.48
Les Caves de la Croix Verte Sir Mick can sometimes be seen at this vast wine cellar and restaurant carved out of sheer rock. 20 rue d’Amboise, 02.47.57.03.65
L’Aubinière A great hotel restaurant in the next village, with rooms named after flowers and spices and menus starting at a modest €18. On a fine day ask to eat in the garden. 25 rue Jules Gautier, 02.47.3015.29
For bars, go to Place Plumereau in the center of the Old Town, where you’ll find great drinking spots. A favorite with young and old, it really buzzes-look for the most attractive establishments.
Hôtel Restaurant Jean Bardet The décor is Napoléon III and the food sublime. Not cheap, but something you’ll remember. 57 rue Groison, 02.47.41.41.11
Hôtel Le Choiseul Lots of charm and great food. 36 quai Charles Guinot, 02.47.23.22.41
Le Shaker A bar on the island in the middle of the Loire (Ile d’Or). The proprietor reserves a special glass for his most famous client’s favorite fruit cocktail, the Pénélope. 3 quai Tissard, 02.47.23.24.26
Bigot For those with a sweet tooth: a tearoom and confiserie (candy maker) on the corner of Rue Nationale and Place du Château. 02.47.57.04.46
Amboise is celebrated for its great Sunday market along the banks of the Loire. Everything from sardines to sandals and a true treat for the eye. Literally everyone who is anyone goes there on a Sunday morning. So keep your eye out for a slight figure who looks a good deal younger than his sixty-odd years, with a good crop of hair and an apple-green silk shirt atop a pair of checkered trousers. But don’t ask for his autograph!