Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chateau with a Small c

This is what he saw on the internet.

"How would you like to stay at a French Chateau?", he asked.

The best clothes we packed for the entire trip were for the four course dinner that was to be part of our stay at The Chateau. We didn't want to take the chance of looking like hicks in front of the owners who might be titled French landowners, or for that matter the other probably very posh guests.

 So as we got close to our target, after we passed the less than romantic scene of a laundry line-strewn gypsy encampment on the riverbank and thought we were headed out into the 
bucolic countryside we were totally bewildered when, as we entered a dingy little village,
 the GPS said we would be at our destination in 40 metres.

Disbelieving, we determined this was the chateau where we would be sleeping that night.

The meal prepared by the owner's wife was indeed four courses and very nice. 
Madame Bullwinkel would have thought the magret de canard overcooked, but overall the dinner was delicious, generous, and beautifully presented. 
During the evening we enjoyed chatting with another American couple who shared their horror story of being stuck in a French toll road exit gate without a machine-friendly credit card or the correct coins to make the gate go up. As they struggled to get out they were holding up a long and growing longer line of angry French drivers. We immediately programmed our GPS to avoid toll roads. Our French is not good enough for arguing over a scratchy intercom with remote toll booth attendants or pacifying irate Frenchmen. The small roads we took for the rest of the time in France were incredibly scenic and almost completely stress-free. 
As an unexpected side benefit we are now experts at roundabout negotiation.

At the end of the evening our faded-bluejean-clad host gave us a a brief history of the estate which started with the original owner, a nobleman who had only daughters who could not inherit the chateau, followed by a period of sitting vacant, then the sale of the building to the city government with the surrounding property divided up and sold off to build other dwellings, and just before the current owner took possession the building was occupied by squatters comprised of at least 10 families including gypsies and migrant workers from Africa. 

TMI thank you.

The bed linens were lovely. 

The internet is a great tool for making travel plans, but if we have learned anything it is that camera angle and lighting can sell even the most dowdy place and sadly, some of the most wonderful towns, restaurants, and lodgings get less notice as they suffer from poor website design and or honest or amateur photography. We had surprises opposite that of the chateau reality more than once when a spot on our itinerary surpassed the expectations we had formed from what we had seen on the internet.

So, as always, let's be careful out there (in cyberspace) and have a bon voyage in the real world.


Laural said...

Funny! This is too true. That's why I like to rely on traveler reviews rather than photos - always good to get the scoop from someone who's been there before you. Glad you still had a nice time though.

Shaundra said...

Wow! It seems like there's more going on there than camera angle and lighting...but I'm glad it wasn't a total loss. The estate saga puts me in mind of Downton Abby.