Bordeaux was warmer than Paris when we first arrived at the train station… but as we drove towards our chateau near Nerac, the storm clouds got bigger and the temperature dropped further down.
I felt like we were driving backwards into time, to a medieval land where soldiers rode around on horses in suits of armour protecting princesses in castles that had moats and drawbridges! :D
Our castle didn’t have a moat, but it was from the 14th century and had everything else you could possibly ask for from a medieval land, including suits of armour in the hallways and stuffed animal heads placed in different areas of the building (that spooked the hell outta me when I had to walk alone in the shadowy silence, with their glassy eyes staring).
We picked lots to choose rooms, and while everyone else got rooms that were brighter and more modern, I got the room which still retained its old-world decor, with wood-paneling and faded green brocade wallpaper and a fireplace.
It was massive, I could’ve done my morning jog around the place! And it was beautiful, but a bit dark and spooky at night, especially since they only had lamps to light up the room and no other light fixtures! But towards the end… I found it cosy instead of scary and was happy to nestle under the covers in the four-poster bed and read the book I’d taken from the library (of course the chateau has its own library! :P).
The chateau is nestled in a 450 hectare estate that has all sorts of animals roaming around free. One day I was woken up by an unfamiliar cry and when I looked out the window, I saw a peacock strutting around the lawn below! We also had wild horses and deer roaming around freely, which added to the magic of the place. I felt like I was living in a fairy-tale.
The sun begins to set only around 9pm there, and it felt strange in the beginning to have dinner when the sun shined on us like it was afternoon. But the long hours of daylight meant we could spend more time enjoying the surroundings.
This one time I walked into the woods to explore a bit. Very soon I came across an old cottage.
I knew from what the caretaker had mentioned before that it was an old abandoned glass factory. It looked creepy, so though I took a few pictures from the outside, I didn’t want to venture in alone.
I walked on ahead, and pretty soon the castle itself was far away and all I could hear was the sound of the leaves in the wind. The trees were really tall, so I didn’t want to stray from my path and wind up getting lost, so I stuck to the path and kept going.
From the picture below , you can see that it slowly rises on ahead, so it was uphill all the way, and I was hoping to kinda reach the end of the rise and see what lay beyond.
But the path just didn’t seem to end. Then I came across a footprint of some animal, and a little ahead, a bone that’d been stripped clean and lying there so long it was growing weird stuff on it. I looked back and saw that the chateau was just a speck in the horizon. I decided to turn back and head to relative civilization where I wouldn’t be chased by a wild boar or worse!
The other time I explored the area was when a couple of the guys from the group arranged a scavenger hunt around the castle. We were divided into 3 groups, each group was given a set of pictures taken on our cellphones, and we had to seek out the places where those pictures were taken using the riddles they wrote for each picture as clues, and replicate the pictures with us in it, to prove we’d been there. The first team to do that would win. They blew the whistle and we were off, running around in different directions, trying to figure out how far ahead or behind the other teams were, conspiring against each other and whispering and pretending to be lost… it was the most fun I had at the chateau (though my team came in second!).
We were there for 5 days and most our of time was spent eating or drinking. In fact, I think most of our time in France was spent around a dinner table! (You can see evidence of this in my newly expanded waistline! *sigh*). We would go out to the village (about a half an hour drive away) to have those legendary 3 hour long french meals we’d heard so much about.
We went wine-tasting, and to the local chocolatier where I fell in love with (among other things) a preparation of crystallized orange slices half dipped in dark chocolate! I wish I had pictures, but I was too overwhelmed by the taste to think of capturing it on camera!
We left on the morning of the sixth day at four friggin thirty in the morning! We had a long drive ahead of us and we wanted to get an early start. It was too dark to see the castle we were leaving behind, which I suppose was just as well. It felt like I was driving away to another time altogether, leaving behind an era that was more wild and more dangerous maybe… but infinitely more romantic.