A Chateau Christmas

I had read about the Christmas lights and decorations at the Vaux le Vicomte which is a chateau not too far from Paris. We took a train and then a bus and were quickly there. I had visited here years ago. It is really lovely.

We had a quick meal before touring the chateau. There were paintings all over the restaurant of beloved hunting dogs, like these two.

There were decorations set up in the stables too like this one.

The entrance to the chateau all decorated for Christmas. As it got dark the front was also lit up in red but we had to catch the bus back to the train station so I didn’t get a good photo.

A painting of the trial that took place when Fouquet, the owner of the Vaux le Vicomte was found guilty of using the money from France’s treasury to build his chateau and the very famous grounds which Louis XIV copied when building Versailles. ┬áHe probably wasn’t guilty but was framed by a jealous cohort but ended up spending the rest of his life in prison.

A Hansel and Gretel theme for the Christmas decorations.

A little wildlife seen amongst the trees.

A magnificent roof in one room over Christmas trees.

Lobsters as Christmas decorations in the kitchen.

Copper pots in the kitchen. Beautiful but lots of upkeep to keep them shiny.

 

A French Wedding

So we finally went to the wedding. It was in Lyon. Maurice’s cousin and his wife actually came to our wedding. I have to say that it seemed to be a bit strange to me and I thought it might be typical for a French wedding but I guess it isn’t. In France, if you are Catholic, you have a civil ceremony with the mayor and then a religious cereminy in a church. Since both Maurice and I were divorced we couldn’t be married in the Catholic church (plus, I’m not Catholic) so we just had a civil ceremony. This couple had already had the civil ceremony and we were there for the church ceremony. We arrived about in the afternoon and there were some other people there. We all stood in the parking lot in the blazing sun. I have no idea why we didn’t go into the church. Soon, the groom arrived and then the car with the bride arrived wearing her wedding gown. The groom went and helped her out of the car. I was shocked. You know how in America, the bride is hidden away and no one sees her until she walks down the aisle. Maybe it was because they had the civil ceremon before. We didn’t go into the church for almost 30 minutes. We were all huddled under a tree for relief from the sun. Finaaly, we went in for the ceremony. I was surprised to find that the music was a man with a guitar and a woman with an electric piano and their music sounded like something right out of a Baptist church. I expected just organ music I guess. The rest of the ceremony was as I expected. I asked a couple of French women if it was normal to stand outside until the actual ceremony and they said no.

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The bride and groom with paper hearts being thrown instead of rice.

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Where the after wedding party was held, a chateau.

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The grounds of he chateau.

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Doesn’t Maurice look handsome?

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The wedding cake is a mountain of custard filled cream puffs with melted sugar cascading down the sides. A sort of fire works were lit before serving.
The party was a sit down dinner. It started at 6pm with champagne and hors d’ouvres of which I ate too many because there was a six course meal afterwards. We finally left at 2am. When we got to bed it was almost three and that’s when I discovered we were next to a church that chimed the time twice every hour. Due to eating so late we didn’t sleep well at all.

Music From Argentina

One day Maurice came home with the information that he had just purchased tickets for a concert of music from Argentina, something I know very little about except that it often has a tango music influence. In fact, years ago I went with Maurice on a business trip to Argentina and we saw tangos done in the street. Anyway, I was happy to go especially since it was taking place in the nearby chateau of la Tour d’Aigues.

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It was once a really love place as shown in old prints, rather Italian in flavor, but destroyed during the French Revolution which seems like a shame to me. Why destroy beauty? I’ve seen door and windows around the town which were probably taken from the ruins.

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It is slowly being restored but probably not much more that it is now. In the summer there are concerts outside with the grounds, a very nice place to be.

Our concert was inside the chateau as it is still chilly in the evenings, down deep inside and under of what remains outside. We were in what I would call a cave, a room with a round ceiling with perfect acoustics.

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The hall entering the cave that I didn’t get a photo of.

We arrived a little early and sat down. A man in front of us was asked to move and he went balistic and started shouting. The room went dead silent. He obviously wasn’t going to move. I decided that he was mentally unbalanced and was hoping that he would keep quiet during the concert and that the music would sooth the savage beast, so to speak. When a man got up front to introduce the musicians, the crazy man started yelling at him. It was very uncomfortable. Luckily for all of us, he left after the first song.

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A victory angel above the door of the chateau.

The musical group, Milontango, was a trio of women from Nice, one Italian, one German and one Argentenian which I thought was interesting. There was a piano, bass fiddle and a flute. They were really very good and the music was great.

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While I was sitting there listening I could help but go back to all of the many concerts I attended with my exhusband. He was a musician and loved music. I knew very little other than the rock and roll I grew up with, Elvis and Ricky Nelson being just two. In college I was required to take a music appreciation class, all classical music as it turned out. Our final was to listen to just a portion of a record (way before tapes and CD’s) and be able to tell who the composer was. I had to spend a lot of time in the library trying to learn how to do that. I got so I could actually tell if it was Chopin or Bach, their music being rather like hand writing with a distinct sound. It still is with me years later and I can use that knowledge when I listen to classical music on the radio, which isn’t very often to tell the truth. Anyway, I sat through many operas and symphonies and even attented every single night of a famous piano competition in Fort Worth. Maurice likes an occasional classical concert. Back when we first started dating, we went to hear a sympony. This is where I found out that he often sleeps during concerts–movies too.

The name of the group was Milontango and here is a link to their website: Milontango They were very accomplished to my amateur ear and it was a great night.

The Chateau of Ansouis

A posting by Emily, my guest blogger while I celebrate Easter in Switzerland:

While driving on any one of several winding roads criss-crossing the Grand Luberon, one can see in the distance the chateau of Ansouis high atop a rocky spur, its red baronial flag whipping in the wind. The chateau, built in the 12th century, is the star attraction of the tiny hilltop village and has been in the Sabran family for centuries. Sadly, the current generation has put it up for sale.

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The ironwork castle gate originally was raised and lowered by its guards and although today it is motor-driven, it remains the entrance for all wishing to tour the chateau. The day we visited there were about eight people waiting for the tour to begin, and what fun it was to stand outside and see the gate slowly rise and then lower once more when everyone was inside the grounds.

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These are bells of the church, which is adjacent to the chateau and is seen in this view from the chateau’s courtyard. It was built in the 13th century and was the courtroom of the counts of Sabran before becoming a church. There are arrow slits on one side which were used during more turbulent times. This church was one of the locations for the film Manon des Sources.

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My favorite room was the kitchen and I could have spent a lot of time there investigating the beautiful copper pots and utensils and the antique faience. We were shown a wooden item that looked like an Inquisition era thumb screw used for torture and asked to guess its use. Turned out it was a device to squeeze every bit of blood out of a piece of meat for use in cooking. Since cooking with blood is not my area of expertise I only can assume it was used for blood sausage or blood pudding or some such thing. The kitchen still is in use. This photo is a postcard I scanned because cameras are not allowed inside the chateau.

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The lovely dining room (also from a postcard) is hung with 17th century Flemish tapestries. Reminds me of home. Riiiight!

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This typically French box garden in an inner courtyard was designed to be enjoyed from above.

Sideroads of Europe