11 June 2011
Bonsoir. (It’s after 2pm). I’d love to say my French had improved. But it hasn’t. For once in my life I have learned to let Mike do all the talking. Thank God for the Canadian.
At my last update, we were sitting in Place du Chatelet in Orleans ordering the wrong drinks. Well after several attempts to please the palate, we gave up.
We thought the safe bet was a wine bar. Now as I mentioned in my previous email, we were extremely sleep-deprived. We had decided to stay up and push on, so as to adjust to the time difference. We had the pleasure of twilight. I will refrain from berating those who didn’t vote for Daylight Saving in our last West Australian referendum. Twilight is amazing. A soft glow was descending over our medieval city, the bells of the cathedral of Orleans were ringing, the birds still singing (they really do sing here, not like ours that squawk and crow with an Australian twang) and the two bleary-eyed travellers were looking for sustenance.
We found a little bar that specialised in regional wines and offered a selection of local cheese and meats. After my first sip of an earthy Pinot Noir, I asked Mike how he was enjoying the cheese. Mikey replied, “It’s fantastic, this one is the best, it’s so creamy and buttery”. I tried it. Indeed the cheese Mike was relishing was in fact a lump of butter…
In his defence, I do remind you of our sleep deprivation. Mikey is such a gourmet.
The next day we toured the medieval city and followed the trail of its most famous citizen, Joan of Arc. A lot of money has been spent in the cathedral, with its stained glass windows of blood red and royal blue. Not to mention the preservation of Joan’s medieval home that escaped the bombing of WW2, or the many places she prayed, slept and, well, sh*t. All these monuments … considering the locals burned her at the stake.
We then collected our hire car, which we promptly named Florian, in tribute to the handsome waiter from our final dinner in Orleans.
We drove to Chambord – as Mike put it, “the mother of all Chateaus”. Built as a hunting lodge six hundred years earlier, although only used 18 times by its builder, and then only for two nights per visit. Makes you think twice about that Weekender. The place had over sixty fireplaces alone, lost count of the number of rooms. All the stairs were double helixes (and that’s before DNA was even discovered). The design meant that that master of the house could sneak his mistress down one set of stairs without bumping into his wife. who was coming up the other set.
It was a very cold (even with all the fireplaces) and vast holiday home.
Then we headed to our own Chateau, built on a tree lined ridge. Chateau de Vaulx is the remains of a medieval estate that has been renovated many times through different periods, starting prior to the French Revolution and last undertaken in 2009. The photo below is taken from our suite in one of the wings looking towards the main entrance.
The owners are a couple, Martin (said best with an outrageous French accent), who is a retired Dutch ballet dancer, and his partner Thierry, who works Monday to Friday in Geneva. Last night Martin, Mike and I had an intimate dinner in their kitchen, which is bigger than our house. We listened to tales of the life of a professional ballet dancer traveling the world (including a stint in Vancouver) and extending to how to renovate a Chateau (this is their second).
To say Martin’s taste is ‘magnifique’ would be an understatement. The Chateau is completely filled – from the servants’ quarters in the attic to the family chapel – with family portraits, heraldic fireplaces, Jack Russells, secret doors and antiques. I’m in my element. I was born into the wrong family (no offence, Mum and Dad).
Today, after an enormous breakfast (I’ll need an intervention soon to my new addiction: “Hi, my name is Richard and I’m addicted to French pastries”), out came the fat clothes.
So now I sit on the gravel terrace at a table, drinking Chardonnay with the ivy-covered walls of Chateau de Vaulx behind, looking over the freshly mown grass and the fountain, down to the surrounding farm land and villages in the distance.
Time to retire to our suite for a snooze before tonight’s dinner.
Warning: All references to the extremely great time we are having are designed to make you incredibly jealous.