Oh, Chateau!

How lovely, how odd, how complicated and delightful…. How do we find ourselves in this time and space, a tourist, a holiday-maker, in a enormous chateau in Dordogne, France? First of all the chateau is enormous– built in 1840 for the Duke “who won Algeria and Morocco for France”…!!!! Class, race, colonialism, imperialism all converge upon the site where we rest our bodies, 21rst C. tourists from so many different countries, races and cultures. Those of us who have the income to afford travel for leisure are truly privileged. I don’t want to forget this; I still want a good time….

I am having a good time! I’m tripped out by the lodgings! So very grand, but also a little worn at the edges. A posh chateau converted into accomodations will wear. But the grand high ceilings, the large massive rooms, the four-poster beds and the tall windows– we are in a time slip and what shall we say when the Duke and Duchess return! I stare at the portraits of the original owners who look down upon us when we dine at the great long table and wonder what they would think. How they would never have imagined such a gathering in their home. The flow of time, the changing of demographics and privilege and today we breakfast upon sweet canteloupe wrapped with prosciutto. Slices of tangy juicy nectarines, savoury fatty fig sausage procured at the market in Martel.

We drove to Rocamadour yesterday. First off I must say that my misgivings about the use of GPS devices have grown since being here. I don’t have one at home and my sister and brother-in-law have been using theirs in the rental cars. They’ve both chosen female voices. You cannot moderate the volume so “The Lady in the Car” (this is what I call the voice) shouts her information at odd intervals startling me greatly. But this is the least of it. Now I understand why there are stories in the news about people driving into lakes and drowning! “The Lady in the Car” (I really mean the program) is limited to what was orginally input. So new roads that were constructed afterward are not accounted for. Following the directions can lead you astray, in oddly circuitous routes, extraordinarily long scenic side trips along back country single-lane farm roads (pretty!!!) and take a very long time even after you’ve inputted “fastest route”! Hahahahahahahhaaaaa! I do see how it would be useful for a single driver who was travelling alone– it’s so dangerous to look at a paper map and drive at the same time.

I loved viewing Rocamadour from the ramparts of the L’Hospitalet perched atop the cliff. The perspective was so intense– the 3-D effect seemed hyper-accentuated, I don’t know why. The valley and river so far below and the tourists milling down the main roadway, going up and down the stairs like Escher people…. And still higher above us vultures soared and spiralled in great sweeping arcs like silent angels.

Enroute we stopped at Martel. It was a smaller medieval town without the bustle and clamour of the more well-trod tourist sites. It was so lovely. We had a most beautiful dejeuner outside under umbrellas. We feasted upon canard and the most delicious sliced and garlicked potatoes! Daughter adored this town.

The vegetables and fruit are so much fresher and tastier than what we buy in supermarkets in British Columbia. What sad things have we done to our produce? They are grown in bulk with fertilizers, picked too early, and shipped from afar to arrive upon our shores tasteless and devoid of goodness.

I hope Son is watering my garden while I’m gone! I have high hopes for my potatoes and carrots. The cold weather things are doing well this year. I think there is time to plant late rows of lettuce and kale upon my return. All good.

I haven’t had a proper walk around the grounds. We have been busy with sightseeing. There is a skylight in our bedroom. The natural shift in light wakes me gently at 6 a.m. It’s such a slow waking I can’t even be resentful. It is calm and quiet this early. The chateau is so full of peoples, children, movement and sound. The morning quiet is a pleasing way to start the day’s movements. Tomorrow or the day after I shall walk around the entire estate. The morning birds.

Speaking of movement, the chateau is so very large (three floors of rooms plus a basement) that people are always looking for each other. One will glide into the dining room, ask for someone, and no, we have not seen her. The seeker moves on and continues searching. Perhaps up the marble staircase. Perhaps up the cramped spiral servants’ passage. The sought enters the dining room five minutes later. So the seeker and sought flow through the chateau, always in another room, one floor away.