Wednesday, 13 June 2007

The coin in the cellar...




On 19 May, Chris, Mum and I headed back to Segur...


On arrival in the village and during a routine outing to the boulangerie, to buy baguette from the lady who never seems keen to sell it… Chris had a medium sized breakdown. Apparently, in light of the recent election result and because it is an English birthright to abhor all things French, rural France had become too much. He could neither go forward to the boulangerie, nor back to the house, as both were in rural France. So the only option was to leave him on the road and hope he found his way home, either to London or Rue Jean d'Albret.

Eventually he did, unfortunately without baguette.

We'd heard rumors about an eccentric American architect living in one of the chateau towers, so wandered over early evening to present ourselves and hopefully make an English speaking friend. We found Karen, Magpie and Fenston in the garden of the 15th century appellate court, an imposing tower across the river from the chateau proper, entertaining guests. Suddenly nervous, we weren’t entirely sure of our next move, but Chris advised it was better to stand and stare, than come back later. Eventually we introduced ourselves and Karen explained it’s not uncommon for strangers to stand at the front door of her house, look at the French, US and Irish flags and debate to whether the tower is the house of the Maire. An enthusiastic tour guide, Karen showed us the tower, which she purchased off 32 cats and their owner. The sight of Karen’s internet connection and functioning phone line relieved Chris to no end, and he had to hold back from kissing her, when she said he could use it at any time.

In an effort to buy bread we drove to the four neighbouring villages and located four boulangerie, all closed. Down on our luck, and without bread, we drove into Pompadour, hoping to at least find a coffee. We were greeted by a market stall filled with bread, cheese and, too excited to park, Chris jumped from the car and secured some bread. Suddenly the day looked up. Across the street from the chateau was a spectacular racing, cross country and steeplechase course, gearing up for a day of races. Excited at the prospect of the familiar, horse racing is similar in English and French, we paid our 6 Euros and headed to the races. After burning 40 Euros each we decided to up the stakes and only continue betting if we won… and in the following races, we read the form guide (although we don’t read well in French), viewed the horses, placed our bets, one on the nose and one each way, and collected our winnings.

In the evening we climbed the hill above the village to look across to the chateau. Built originally during the 11th century and rebuilt during the 15th and 17th, it’s an enchanting structure set in the bend of the River Auverge. Tempted by it’s history but also by our nosiness, we headed down the hill and towards the gate. Luckily for us the gatekeeper could be heard arguing loudly with his wife, so I snuck (mission impossible style) and Chris walked (James Bond style) through the side gate, passed the house and over the bridge to the main doors. We knocked on the large wooden doors to no avail, so instead Chris lifted me up to see through what could have been a letterbox (for giants). Inside, there was a modest car, more towers and hours of fun… if only we could get in. At around the same time we gained the attention of the gatekeepers dog and soon after the gatekeeper. Lucky for us, we don’t speak French and even if he called us stupid – we were none wiser. We smiled, said “pardon” and trotted back down the hill, whilst he huffed and puffed and waved his arms. We retreated to our small courtyard, took a seat on the comfy deck chairs (thanks Mum!), tucked into some of Anne’s delicious antipasto and discussed other options for accessing the chateau. Ideas so far include: scaling the ivy; hang-gliding in from above; or dressing as Santa and his sexy elf and entering through the chimney…. Failing this we may dig out way in, from the cellar!

On the following day, in Chris’ attempt to impress Mum, and convince her he was more than just a well-heeled Londoner, we began to clear the cellar of building rubble. Always the creative, Chris lit the space with fairy lights… Whilst Mum and Chris cleared all the rubble, except the shower cubicle, I concentrated on undertaking an archeological dig. In search of a tomb, or a tunnel to the chateau, or something old, no-one was disappointed when I unearthed a Spanish coin from 1873. Digging will continue on the next visit....

6 comments:

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