Okay, here is the first installment of stories about my time at The Academy!
Before we get any further I need to tell you about the place that we stayed.
It is a 13th century chateau in Villefranche-de-Longchapt. The population is TINY because anytime we walked or drove through the village it felt like a ghost town. Seriously, where are the people??
There are parts of the Chateau that are original to it's 13th century heritage while other parts were add-ons in the 15th century, as well as the gite which was added in the 1800's I believe. The gite is that 1-story section on the far right. It included 3 bedrooms & 2 bathrooms where several of the Academy attendees stayed, a small kitchen and dining area that was available for our use, and a lovely porch & table on which we ate a few casual meals.
But just look at that sweet Juliet balcony on the main building! And the white shutters!
The door on the far left led into the dining room where we had breakfast each morning and the middle door led into Martine's kitchen.
This table was also the setting for our dinner en blanc and our final meal at the chateau.
The trailing roses on the gite were amazing!
And how cute it that horseshoe hanging next to the door?
This is a view of the Chateau from the back. We though the palm trees were an interesting landscaping choice. You just don't associate palm trees with France, am I right?
You can see the original turret on the left. Two of the ladies in our group got to stay in the turret! Just check out their room!
It was hard to photograph, but just above those massive, rustic wooden beams there is a huge circular glass sealing that allows you to look up into the turret roof while laying in bed! Look carefully and you can see light coming through the roof shingles. There were spotlights that illuminated the ceiling area as well -- what a magical room!
While all this looks amazing - and it was - I should point out that this building is old and with old buildings there are challenges. Like heating (or lack thereof), bugs, and oh maybe a random bird flying through your room. The bird was too much for Lisa and she re-located to another room in the house. Totally understandable! :)
We loved exploring the home and were just delighted by the original touches -- little porthole windows as well as small holes in the walls of the turret cut out for shooting arrows! Laurent shared a little history about the chateau and explained that it was essentially a fortified farmhouse.
Detached from the Chateau sat a little cottage and that is where my mom and I got to stay! (you can see it in the porthole photo above) We were seriously so lucky! There was a bedroom, sitting area with a large fireplace, and a full modern bathroom. The building was originally a stable or barn of some sort, and when Laurent & Martine gained ownership of the place they converted it into another area for guests. Again, I loved all of the rustic touches. Just take a look!
And this sweet window from the outside . . .
So many possibilities lying ahead!
And the bathroom . . .
One afternoon during our free time I took a long walk around the back lot of the chateau. There was a meadow as well as expansive vineyards just beyond the old stone walls. The Bordeaux region is known for it's wine production and the chateau has it's own wine label. As I walked around the yard I couldn't help but think of the families that have lived in this chateau over time, and in my mind I pictured children frolicking through the yard & meadows, climbing the trees and walls, playing hide & go seek, gathering little bugs, . . . . . all the things that children do, but in such an idyllic setting.
Just an absolutely beautiful place!
Do you love my fake leather jacket I picked up in Perigueux? It was under 30 Euro!
Laurent & Martine are the owners of the chateau. They are oringally from Paris, I believe Laurent worked as a lawyer, and they retired and purchased this chateau about 10 or so years ago. (I could be wrong on that.) They live in the chateau and rent out the rooms to travelers, groups like us, and host weddings & events.
Martine prepared our breakfasts every morning. And for our dinner en blanc they prepared and served a 7 course meal. Throughout the week Martine was busy around the house and the kitchen.
And Laurent could be spotted throughout the property working on this and that.
I should also introduce you to Benoit - a helper / groundskeeper at the chateau. Although it sounds like he comes and goes as he pleases so his employment there isn't always consistent. Anyways, Benoit. He suddenly appeared mid-week, wearing a beret (!), tooling around the grounds on a golf cart (like for real, that thing was his race car). A little while later we saw him on the golf cart again, still wearing the beret, but no shirt! You can imagine the laughter that ensued among this group of women. A while later we spotted him again, shirt on. And later still he would come around the corner with no shirt. So we gave him the nickname -- naked Benoit.
His appearances were always so random and quick that no one was able to get a photo of him. We were all on a mission to capture Benoit in his natural habitat. One morning at breakfast, we spotted him in the yard. AND . . . we can't make this stuff up . . . he was chugging on a wine bottle! Quick, someone take his picture! Denise ran out to grab his photo and he happily re-enacted his morning drink. Although he claims that it was just "prune juice".
One of the funniest moments of the week was at the final dinner, for which Martine & Laurent joined us. We told Martine the story of Naked Benoit and her reaction was priceless! She was absolutely beside herself with laughter and I personally got so much enjoyment & entertainment out of just watching her.
Martine & Laurent were a delightful couple, friendly, helpful, and sweet as can be. We asked them to share a picture of their wedding and they told us the story of a brother who took all their wedding pictures, and then discovered the next day that the film was ruined. So sad - no weddding pictures at all! But they did bring out this small framed photo so we could get a glimpse of them in their younger days.
Across the road from the chateau sat a farm house. It included a large stable, living quarters (where Heather, Jill, and Jaci stayed) and a covered outdoor area where we held our classes. I didn't get a photo of the farmhouse in it's entirety but here are some glimpses.
This is actually a view of the chateau from the farmhouse grounds. How about that thatched fencing?
The trees were ah-mazing!
Inside the stables. Absolutely gorgeous!
One of our dinners was held in this room and it was just magical. That golden light . . . yummy.
More of Jill's calligraphy touches on handmade paper. For dinner she made us the most amazing vegetarian lasagna. Yum-o!
It was peaceful, quiet, relaxing. The birds chirped all day long and late in to the night. Really, at midnight the birds were still chirping! Someone commented that it was because they are just so happy to be there.
Once again, what a unique once-in-a-lifetime experience. I stayed in a 13th century chateau! Maybe if I say it enough times out loud it will finally seem real to me!