After living in France for a while, you sometimes begin to take for granted certain things that, to short-term visitors, seem exceptional. Warm crusty baguettes around every corner? Bien sûr! Stunning architecture? Tout à fait. World-class museums? Naturellement. Fairytale châteaux? Toutes sont les mêmes.
En fait, I started this blog to help me avoid becoming one of those jaded expat, and to instead, find the extraordinary every single day.
I was reminded of the crazy wonderfulness of this country yesterday as we got turned around on our drive through Aquitaine and strayed into the Limousin region. In France, one wrong turn, and the next thing you know, you may find yourself standing in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
Château Rochefoucauld, une petite maison, is easily the most fun and friendly château we have ever stumbled across. As I mentioned, from the outside, it is all Disney, but on the inside, it is like an Italian palazzo with a magnificent courtyard that evokes Renaissance Italy. It is a château that has been in the family for over 1,000 years, and its spiral staircases, elegant rooms, and bursting libraries are still used by the 19th Duke Rochefoucauld and his young family. Not only are there family portraits painted by French masters lining the walls, there are also black and white photographs, glossy Polaroid’s and normal Kodak moment framed and displayed for all to see. It’s like the modern regal family went out for a stroll and left the doors unlocked to (un)wanted guests.
There are lots of things to see and do at Château Rochefoucauld, from snaking through the strange cave in the basement, to touching the real roche, to pretending to cook up a royal feast in the original kitchens, to resting your weary head on the beds in the servants’ chilly rooms. But most fun of all, is an entire room dedicated to dress up clothes for all aspiring royals, the young and the old included. Think medieval kings and queens, wenches and jesters, mad hatters and knights. Once dressed, you are free to roam the entire castle, ramparts and all.
After satisfying your theatrical bent and maybe, say, acting out a scene or two from the new princess movie Frozen, the caretakers are happy to let you picnic on the daisy-filled lawn just beyond the castle doors…with your dog!
C’est bien extraordinaire…even for France.
Bien sûr! Of course!
C’est bien extraordinaire: it’s (very) extraordinary
En fait: in fact
Tout à fait: quite, absolutely
Toutes sont les mêmes. They’re all the same.
une petite maison: a small house