“As You Wish…..”
Like a scene from ‘Princess Bride,’ Ray (aka: farm boy), fetched me a huge bucket of warm water from the deep dark dungeons of the castle every other day and heaved it up three flights of stairs to our bathroom so I could bathe. Funny enough, I can’t seem to think that when he said back “As you wish” as he lugged that heavy awkward bucket all the way up to me, it was the same as when Westley said it and it meant “I love you” to Buttercup.
But….. I could be wrong.
Sure, luxurious amenities like ‘warm water coming through metal pipes’ or ‘clothes washers’ may not have been one of the many modern conveniences that perhaps were missing throughout our 5 weeks and 3 day stay at the Chateau du Thil— but when you had a vista-vineyard-view to wake up to every morning; well, how many pairs of undies you had left to wear before you had to wash them by hand again—just didn’t seem to matter.
Queen of My Castle…..well, sorta.
Thursday, September 15th- Chenoves, France- BURGUNDY: Four countries (yes, Belgium and Luxembourg do count) and about 850 miles later we arrived in front of the castle gates from our ‘long way down’ from Denmark. As we waited for the owner to arrive and drop the drawbridge (kidding) we couldn’t help but be curious as to what was beyond those vine swept gates— but we certainly couldn’t be more enthusiastic as to the adventures that lay ahead.
This was our first proper ‘workaway’ project and Ken, the owner of the Chateau, needed help caretaking the grounds whilst he lived/worked up in England with his wife. They had purchased this ‘Kingdom’ I like to call it (he also owned the surrounding gobs of acres, caretaker house, carriage house, vineyards, gardens and not to mention one beautiful old church….basically a small French-town) just over a year ago, and within that time had done a tremendous amount of renovations inside. The workers had just left for the fall season and Ray and I were going to ensure that it was properly looked after, grounds manicured and flies vacuumed away for the next 5+ weeks in exchange for our accommodation.
SIDENOTE: Oh yes……the flies. Along with this mighty 12th century castle, 28 bedrooms and acreage galore, the owner also inherited a few extra ‘friends’ with it. Throughout our stay at Chateau Le Thil we became the ultimate FLY WARRIORS of the French countryside. Supposedly, there is a problem with such things called ‘cluster flies.’ Smaller then your average fly, it literally clusters and swarms ONLY around warm windowsills until nighttime and then they ‘pretend to play dead.’ (When really they are just doubling their cluster fly township and coming back the next day in full force.) This is why you must diligently ‘suck them up’ so they can multiply no more. We even named one of our vacuums ‘SUPERFLY’ as it powered against these little buggers. Little did I know that I had become QUEEN OF THE FLIES of my castle; and my scepter—‘THE SUPERFLY.’ Not so magical…. In fact, I don’t remember ‘cluster fly’ as ride in Disneyworld, but I could be wrong.
So as we settled into our new home (and ‘cleverly’ sorted out the few amenity mishaps we were faced with) we started to explore our new world. Now, we learned very quickly that this ‘exploring’ in France must never fall into the times between 12pm and 230pm (or certainly any time after 6pm) as you will be left with closed shops, ghost towns and empty ‘Diva’ tanks. Yes, it was our first lesson learned living in such a small village (and the ones surrounding us) France ADORES their siesta-time. Now, I can honestly say I have never ached for the ‘back-home’ conveniences of running errands 24/7 and having things ACCESSIBLE and more importantly, OPEN. My biggest question is (and still, not even the French can quite honesty tell us) “Crikey, what DO you do for 3 hours?” Ray always wondered if there was a fire that happened mid-day, would the fire brigade tell the caller that they would be there AFTER 2?
But I will give the French massive props for one thing…. They’ve mastered the art of FETES. (PARTIES) We were starting to realize that being apart of a community in Burgundy had its constant rewards as we got to submerse ourselves into this new culture and all of its reasons to ‘celebrate.’ Lucky for us, the main focus in Burgundy is its GRAPES— so you can only imagine that every celebration included a wee’ bit of vin. Lucky us.
France and its Fêtes
Sunday, October 2nd- ‘Montagny les Buxy’ Marche: One of my most favorite ‘community organized events’ was a hike throughout the stunning rolling hills of Montagny, which was a very important wine region of the area. (For those wine lovers, Burgundy has extraordinary WHITES—and this region spoiled us). The French are crazy about its local marche’s we quickly found out, and every weekend we would see leaflets and banners throughout towns that highlighted their upcoming hike. They Wyatt’s would not be left out! For us, we looked at it as a 14 KM hike to get to know the area we lived in better, and perhaps meet a few people on the way…. We had NO idea that our small fee of 4 Euro’s each would end up rocking our world.
The hike started that morning at 8am. Well silly us, knowing the French- we shouldn’t have rushed out of bed, as we were beginning to learn they were also called the: ‘Notoriously TARDY French’ ( I think we may have been 2 of the only people as we began the hike!) but after picking up our drink coupons (huh? Drink coupons?) for our ‘break stops’ along the way, and a map we were well intrigued to find out what this adventure had in store.
And shoot, how far can 14 KM’s really be?
As we came up and over the first hill, there was still a bit of a chill in the air and the fog dusted the surrounding villages below us…. the sky was so blue that day with the Indian Summer that still lingered, we couldn’t have asked for a more sensational day. There were people of all ages, families- couples and it was so wonderful to see them all enjoying themselves together— certainly, this is what it’s all about. Life felt good. And then, out of the clearing we saw our first break stop and as we were just planning on a quick ‘cup of water or juice’ when we noticed French woman cutting up baguettes…. (aye??) laying out chocolates, cheeses and crackers for all the hikers…. and then—whats this? A bit of wine to wash it all down with? OUI! OUI! S’il vous plaît! We had to laugh at the ‘Frenchness’ of it all. We could get used to this….
SIDENOTE: Along with our many ‘new observations,’ we were starting to notice that the French will sport their ‘tight pants’ whenever they get the opportunity. I believe that they may even do ONLY activities that would require such an ‘uniform.’ For instance…. BIKING. (Hellooooo, have you ever heard of Tour de France?) ….ROLLERBLADING…. RUNNING…. and, now apparently HIKING. (see right for a proper example; you are welcome)
After our 14KM’s (it took 4 1/2 hours!) surprisingly we were still on quite a high, (it could have been a slight sugar high from the ‘breakstop’ snacks) and decided to see what the ‘fete du vin doux’ in the nearby town of Buxy that Sunday was all about. (We saw ‘vin’ in the title… it had to be good) However, upon entering we noticed that this was actually a Political Rally devised as a mini-fair (quite cunning, indeed)…. A band played, Beer/Wine stands were packed and Prize booths encircled the small park and there were banners throughout to ‘support the cause.’ We didn’t quite understand what we were ‘contributing to’— so we said, ‘C’est la vie’ and jumped right in. One paper roll and breadknife won later at the local raffle (you can never have too much paper rolls) and a go at the ‘shoot the Indian and Cowboy game for some sweets,’ (at a political rally, no doubt) we couldn’t have been more full filled and called it…A DAY.
Yes, I must admit, that was the day we learned a few new things about the French culture….like its fabulously organized Marches, Political Rally’s with a twist and ‘wine & cheese breakstops’…. and then some new things like ‘tight pants’ that will forever haunt us. (and now you, too).
Don’t let all this vin drinking-Cowboy shooting-French-Fête fun fool you….. through all this ‘culture submersion’ there was plenty of work to do back at the kingdom. We had to keep up the gardens, rake leaves, paint the caretaker house, trim bushes, cut treelines and of course, ‘suck up the flies’….. I can honestly say we worked hard, played hard. (Ray even found he had a new found talent…. ‘creative shrubbery’) And it didn’t hurt that the weather was incredible outside. Finally, after all this time… we had to come to the middle of France to get our ‘summer.’ And we soaked it up each and everyday…..
Sunday, October 9th- The Montagny Wine Walk: Don’t rain on MY PARADE! Of course, the sun couldn’t shine EVERYday and decided that regardless of some sprinkles we were going to check out the Fete in the next village over where they were showcasing all their ‘new Montagny vins.’ This was the time of year that all the vineyards wanted to advertise their newest harvests. We had no problem supporting ‘THIS CAUSE.’ Our next door neighbor Didier (well, as close as you could get outside the castle wall neighbor) was a local musician that would be playing his haunting Celtic tunes under one of the tents—and for 5 Euros per person (oh yes, big spenders on this Fete) we each got our own wine glass and ‘drink coupons’ (HOO-RAY for the DRINK COUPONS!) and made our way around in a large circle to different wine vendors placed strategically throughout the village. What a BRILLIANT way to showcase wine by:
A) placing each cave conveniently within in walking distance of each other B) sporadically including food tents throughout and C) having lovely entertainment for us to listen to whilst we ‘wine and dine’ our afternoon away. SPLENDID!
SIDENOTE: This was also the very same day that the ‘Danish Sisters’ came into our lives….. As we were standing in line at one of the caves to ‘turn in our drink coupon’ (HOO-RAY!) Ray overheard a lady on the phone speaking Danish and immediately in a joking tone said to her IN Danish “Keep it down…. I can understand everything you are saying!” And from that point, we were fast friends…. And actually kept in touch with them as they lived in the town next to us and did a few ‘fetes’ of our own together! They even gave us all their extra ‘drink coupons’—- Perhaps they thought we looked thirsty??
So here ends our the first ‘bits and bobs’ of my QUEEN OF THE CASTLE experience….. Just wait until you hear about the last week we spent at Chateae Du Thil! It includes birthday celebrations with Minnesota Friends, hot air balloon rides, English bulldogs and Beef Bourguignon….. How on earth could you miss out on all this meaty goodness?
Can’t wait to see what this pot stirs up.