Castle in France:
When I was a little girl, I often heard a song on the radio about seeing “castles in Spain” and visiting “faraway places with strange sounding names.”
Decades later, I’m not exactly visiting castles in Spain. But on the other hand, I am living in France, and I did visit a castle recently.
My lovely new French friends drove us to the nearby village of Castries for a delightful Sunday outing. All of us were committed to practicing our languages, so I had to speak French, and they had to speak English.
Although I mangled the French, my friends seemed to understand me. Likewise, I managed to understand them.
Castries is a small town of 6,000 inhabitants in the Occitanie region less than 30 minutes from my home.
The castle, nicknamed "little Versailles of Languedoc," was built between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by the family of La Croix de Castries. In summer, the grounds showcase beautiful gardens designed by André Le Nôtre, the principal gardener of King Louis XIV.
The walled structure dominates the area because of its position at the top of a rise overlooking the village and its massive size.
Once inside the walled gates, we climbed several sets of stone steps until we arrived at the entrance to the castle. The castle has been mostly restored, and we were delighted to learn that it was open and that the work of Georgio Dante, a young master who paints in the traditional manner of the great Italian masters, was on exhibit.
Dante’s paintings were based on key scenes from Dante’s Inferno. But the exhibit also included a photograph of the Italian artist in one painting. I spent time studying the artist. He appeared to be the essence of an Italian artist—sensitive, handsome, and oddly enough, left-handed.
I’m no art expert by any means, but as an uneducated viewer, I thought his paintings were powerful, intensely rich in color and impact, and gorgeously erotic.
After a tour of Dante’s work, we went for a stroll on the Castle in France, including a walk to a massive park. Families picnic in the huge garden area in the summer, concerts are held in the square, and art exhibits occur year-round.
We also walked along an aqueduct that once supplied water to the castle. Since the castle lacked its own water source, the Duke of Castries had a massive aqueduct constructed to bring water from a source 7 kilometers (about 4.5 miles) away.
We drove to the source of the water and walked beside the aqueduct. The structure, although it no longer delivers water, seems remarkably well preserved. All I could think of was how many people had to work for so many years to move the massive carved rock required to build it.
We ended our outing back at my house, where we shared infusion (tea without caffeine) and cookies. My son, Expresso, and his wife, Attenderella, joined us. I was happy to be relieved of my responsibility to speak French. Two hours of struggling to communicate is, I think, my limit. But what a delightful way to learn French.