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Friday, July 01, 2005

House Hunting

Yesterday was nearly the death of me! Before we went chateau hunting, I went with my nephews to the local ATAC (BI-LO). That really isn't that big of a deal except that I went to the store on roller blades. It was the first time in my life I had put a pair of those infernal things on my feet.

Cournon is a hilly city. I didn't mind the going up part. I have roller skated as a teen and can handle ice skates well enough. So, I was able to get going on the roller blades (even turning around and skating backward). However, when I got started going down hill - it got scary. Going wasn't really a problem. Stopping was! Thankfully, we made it to the store, got our bagettes and then headed back to the maison.

Then it was off to the chateaux. We got a later start than we had hoped because the movers were supposed to come and pack my sister's family's belongings into a big shipping container. This container would be placed on a ship and finally delivered to their house in Greenville. Right now, as I am typing this, there are very sparce furnishings. Good thing we are heading to Paris today.

All week we had seen signs for a chateau near Cournon that the family had never visited. We decided we would go to find it. I'm glad we did. Le Chateau de la Batisse was great - not so much for the house itself, but for the grounds surrounding it. We spent more time enjoying the garden than the inside.

Chateaux can be found all over France. Basically, these were the homes of the land owners. They owned huge tracks of land and people who lived on the land had to pay the owner part of their produce, etc. This made the landowners very rich and powerful. Though the people living on the land were not slaves (I guess they would be called serfs) they did not have many choices. Sometimes the land owners treated them fairly and sometimes they didn't. Regardless, all of this lead up to the French revolution. You probably know these landowners better as the Aristocracy. And if you know anything about the French revolution then you know what happened to the Aristocracy!

As many of the landowners and their families were murdered in the revolution, many of the chateaux were also damaged or destroyed. That is why finding an original chateau is not normal and it makes those chateaux more of a national treasure. Thankfully, le Chateau de la Batisse is one of those that went untouched by the revolution. It was also unique in other ways.

The home started out as a guard tower in the 13th century. It was used to send messages by flashing lights to the nearby city. Also, there was a tunnel built to the the nearby city. We're talking about 3 miles! Then the house was added on about two more times over the next several hundred years. You could actually see the additions because of the different styles incorporated in the design and building of the house.

Inside wasn't anything overly special except that it was a good example of the various time periods. There was also a box beneath a portrait of a man. Our French guide picked up the box and opened it. You didn't need to understand French to figure out what it was. It was the man's skull! Why they kept it in a box is beyond me, but there it was. It also had a note pasted to the top of the bone - it looked pretty old.

We then went down into what I would call the cellar. That was where I would have loved to have been given freedom to explore. There were two doors down in the large cave area. One door said something like "To the Chateau some name" and then the other door said something similar but a different name. These doors opened to tunnels that would lead you to nearby chateaux! It would have been so neat to have explored through all of them.

The gardens were the best part. There was a natural four tiered water fall near the rear of the property. A long grassy avenue lined by trees lead from the house to the water falls. You could look down between the trees and see the water. There were also flowers and a small resting area cut into the side of the hill. I could have stayed there even longer, but it was time to head back for dinner.

Now we are getting ready to head out to Paris. I don't think I'll be making any updates until I get home. Au revoir for now!


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