1st weekend, Fevrier 2010.
Destination: Brittany, France
Co-Pilots: Diego, KK, Charles, et myself
1 tiny French car
2 French rifles
3 days of nobles
Away we go.....
I knew when I was told I couldn't wear my normal attire of leggings and a sweater that I was in for some upper crest action. So, I slid on my bright blue skinny jeans.
We arrived at the DeLegge Chateau, adequately dubbed "Bel-Air", late on Friday night, with a packed tiny car of Frenchies and 2 Americans not knowing the slightest of what to expect from a Breton chateau, and not knowing what to make of the hunting gear in the back. Of course, since from this point onward we skipped back to the 18th century, where the only lights to take a peek at the place once we reached our destination were from the moon. We stumbled into the a building that I could have guessed was Walt Disney's vision for the haunted mansion attraction. But this is bigger. and better. And way more on target when scaring the shit out of Americans. Oh yeah.....and this one is real...and someone's home.
The next morning KK et moi awoke around 11, feeling a bit disoriented as we looked out of our castle-like windows down onto the grounds where we could see the countryside of Brittany for miles and miles, fountains, a front courtyard that was shaped with grasses cut into perfect geographical mazes, and a gravel driveway looking as though it were awaiting armed knights on horseback leading some sort of royalty back home for teatime and biscuits. Well, holy shit, call me Marie Antoinette.... I'm just praying this place doesn't come complete with a guillotine, since vegetarians aren't the most popular in the country of steak tartare and horse meats. Eeek...mommy... help!
So beside from my astonishment from the grandeur of the house...ughh..chateau....ummm...castle... where I was staying, it was great to spend the weekend in my roomies shoes, as they spend many of their weekends in this beautiful place. Their mom was kind enough to make a four course Breton lunch for us, complete with Brittany's famous galettes (savoury crepes), an entree with plenty of veggies, and the regional tarte tatine. KK et moi sat at the table with Carole's mom and dad (not to mention a Senator) bundled in plenty of layers, topped off with a coat and scarf at the dining table. They, as many French do, leisurely walk around their freezing stone chateau in pants and a measly sweater, it seemingly not bothering them in the slightest. Must be all that iron in the horse meat. Just as I thought I was losing all my French, the four of us got on quite easily, discussing the region, the states, and the different varieties of plants that surround this little place they call home.
After lunch, we were given a tour of chateau, and Im sorry, but I lost count of the number of bedrooms, but can tell you that the entire basement floor was at one time solely for the personnel to eat, wash, and cook for the rest of the place. Oh, and at one point during the tour, Madame DeLegge pushed aside a floor to ceiling mirror to bring us to their very own chapel. And yes they hold masses there. Just thinking about it makes my head spin, and it was just enough to give me my first nightmare in about 10 years. I think the last one was after I stepped in a church as well... they scare me. Sorry Shaina.
We toured a nearby town and then met up with the rest of the younger clan who had just finished their hunting festivities. They killed some things, but I didn't really understand what until we returned home Sunday night and Carole pulled two HUGE beefy legs out of a sac. Huh, hello! Anywho...back to the present past. I thought we were going to a simple dinner just the 5 of us, at the local "dive bar" as Carole called it, but soon found that we were at another's house, teaming with young hunters. Charles promised us that we were simply stopping by a friend's and quote: "modest" house, for an aperitif. Huh. Yeah, so if you call the white house modest, then yes, I guess it was. We stood around the fire, drinking vin chaud and I was mostly starring at the hunting outfits of the room full of french men. Most of them donned blazers, knee highs with capri length trousers, and don't forget the ties! KK so rightly pointed out they all were sporting the same golden ring on their fingers. My first thoughts raced back to some type of movie reminiscent of blood brothers but I inquired about this at the dinner in the "dive bar" when one of the guys answered rather nonchalantly that it is a sign of "nobles". Hmmm...don't hear that one everyday in the states.
So we ate dinner with nobles, but you know what, they were in general some of the nicest people Ive met so far in France. They might be prestigious, but they were a really great time. I mean they ARE nobles eating in a dive bar (at least to their standards). I have to give them credit for that. But what I really want to do is take them to Doc Holiday's for drink your face off, $5 Tuesdays.
The next day Carole surprised us with a visit to Mt St. Michel, a famous landmark situated on the border of Brittany and Normandy.
We climbed enough stairs to work off about a ton of pork fat and toured the gigantic church at the top while the rest of the group prayed their hearts content at mass. But really, the place is gorgeous. The streets were old and tiny, and circled up and up, as far as the mountain went. The island of sorts is surrounded by a beautiful overcast bay, complete with quicksand and monks. I was a bit afraid to see the monks pull the bells in their hooded garb, but that's just me, and church creeps me out....especially this kind. But Give me a break.... this was a weekend of derangement. I feel like I don't even know what century I'm actually in anymore.
I think my favorite part of the whole weekend was seeing how excited Carole and her family was to show me around their life, their country and to share it with me. I don't think I would ever be comfortable in a noble's shoes, attending church and hunting, but its who they are, and I was so happy to experience it. I feel,after the weekend, I know my roomies better, even without Ombeline being there, as visiting ones home is reaching a bit deeper into who they really are. They are so proud, and I couldn't have been more flattered to be allowed a little more into their lives. Just thinking about how different my life in leggings on a cherry orchard is from their skyscraping stone walls covered with ancient painting of relatives, it reassures me every time I see something new, that however grand our differences are, we can get along just fine.... and yes I cant help but say it once again, in french.
PS Any guesses how they would react to my family... full of we don't give a "fuck" and dinners that not only don't have courses but last under 15 minutes? Yeah, I thought so, about as scared as I was when I saw a hooded monk and a room full of crosses.