travel

My Weekend in a French Château

I couldn’t even have dreamed it.  I have big plans for my life: to see the world, to make a difference in my community, to be bilingual.  But never in my wildest dreams did I conceive of spending the night in a castle.  Too far out.  Too expensive.  C’est trop.  Cultural immersion isn’t always easy, but it opens doors to experiencing life abroad on a deeper level.  When you’re in the culture, you meet people and do life with them.  And one of these people happens to have a family castle in Aveyron.  Words can’t describe my excitement when my friend invited a group of us to spend Bastille Day Weekend at his French château, but my squeals and jumping can give you an idea of my exhilaration.Version 2

Built in the 12th century, this castle boasts five floors and 11 bedrooms.  Family trees, photos and paintings line the walls; I so admire the French’s commitment and reverence for their family history.  And I felt like a curious child in wonder as I explored the castle, opening doors and drawers left and right.French Chateau Castle Stone Aveyron

I’d opened almost every door I’d encountered except for one.  One with a warning sign written in French on the door.  Swantje and I approached the door.  We didn’t understand the words on the sign, but what was behind that door?  We slowly opened the door and flipped on the light switch.  A stone pathway curved to the left with its destination out of sight.

“Should we?  Do you think it’s a secret passage?” she asked me.

“Let’s go,” I said.

“I don’t know—”

“Come on!!”

Swantje led the way as we creeped around the corner until she immediately stopped and collapsed against the wall.  In between gasps of laughter and my subsequent head poke around the corner, we realized we’d found a throne of some sorts.  A toilet to be exact.  Our eyes watered as we leaned on the wall for support from our uncontrollable laughter.Spiral Staircase Stone Aveyron Castle Medieval Chateau FranceJardin Backyard South of France Castle Chateau

Elsewhere in the castle, we encountered many, many more doors and more keys than I’ve seen in my lifetime.  At first glance, we saw just a bedroom wall, but with a bit more inspection, we found a latch in the middle of the wall.  I tried to unlatch it, but it didn’t seem to budge.  I’m not known for my gracefulness, and I wasn’t about to break something in a building three times as old as my country.  So I let Swantje give it a try, and bam, unlocked.  Inside we found a small dark space with another door, which opened to the next bedroom.  Let’s blame my pure, elated wonder for me acting half my age in this moment.Secret Passage Castle Chateau FrenchFrench Chateau French Parlor Salon Princess

When I say I’d rolled out of bed, I mean it.  Unbrushed hair.  “Fresh” morning breath.  In my brother’s Nike t-shirt, leopard pj pants and tennis shoes sans socks.  We climbed several flights of stairs to reach a wooden door, which needed some tough love to be opened.  A dusty attic with random chests about the room greeted us with a rickety ladder propped up against a beam.  The warm Aveyron sun shined outside but barely peeked into the attic.  In mild darkness, I slowly wiggled my way up the janky ladder to step into the tower.  I could peer out of the wire mesh-covered windows into the vast countryside.  As I mounted another ancient ladder, I placed my hand on the beam to hoist me up to find a nice gift underneath: dried bird poop.  Lovely.  My OCD was pushed to the back burner because I’m in a freakin’ castle, and I’m walking on the beams of a castle built in the 1100s.  Wow, never in my wildest dreams.Beams French Castle Chateau AveyronTower View Aveyron Chateau Castle

The French know how to savor life and all of its moments.  We didn’t set any alarms and finished breakfast not long before noon most days.  Schedule?  N’importe quoi !  The first thing we did after dropping our bags at the castle was a trip to the store for fresh fruits, baguette and Nutella.  Hailing from the United States, I’m used to 30-minute meals—and that’s approaching the max.  But I’m in France, which means I adapt to French culture, and that means two to three hours for mealtimes.

In spite of my typical impatient nature, I was surprised to find how refreshing these extended meal times were.  Phones didn’t inhabit the table—not because we’d made a conscious decision to unplug but because what’s the use of an iPhone in between the jam and bread crumbs?  Even though lugging out all our plates and food to the backyard required more energy, we made the trek to enjoy the incredible views of Aveyron.French Meal Repas Chateau CastleChateau Aveyron Castle France

“Kristin, can you pass me the salt?”  “Excuse me, that’s Dame Kristin to you!”  Our group refined our “castle behavior” by calling each other mon seigneur (my lord) or Dame Kristin (Lady Kristin).  Because when in a castle, act as royalty would, right?!

Plum trees lined our path during a calm evening walk.  Following suit of my friends, I picked a plum, dusted it off and took a juicy bite. The setting sun, rolling hills and sweet plums all created such a carefree aura.  There are so many unknowns in my life right now, but I chose to embrace this short bliss: I’m in France, and there will never be another moment like this.Arbre Prune Plum Tree Aveyron France

I don’t know how to describe this weekend except that it was an absolute dream.  Sure, the age of the castle meant finding dried animal droppings in the attic and hearing the floorboards creak on the way to the bathroom in the dark of night.  But this weekend I truly indulged in the French culture and understood the art of rest better.  I don’t think this warm, dreamy mist surrounding my heart from this princess weekend will ever disappear.  I may never stay in a castle again, but this weekend will live happily ever after through these fond memories.

{What enchants you most about castles?}

9 thoughts on “My Weekend in a French Château”

  1. Kristin, this post is one of your best. Not because it’s about your weekend in a freaking castle (!!!! still like what!!!) but you incorporated beautiful, candid, REAL stories throughout. I love it. I think it makes your readers (me, too) learn more about who you are — the lovely, goofy and life-loving gal you are. I love that you are loving the heck out of life in moments like these. I know it’s not always easy, but you are truly living your best life my friend. I LOVE YA.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s