Last weekend, a friend from our university days stopped by Aix on a trip around Europe. Her request? To see a castle.
I'd seen signs for "Chateau de la Barben" and it seemed like the most castle-y castle around. Most of the "chateaux" in our region are either grand country houses or primitive-looking ruins. But this one had a good combination of medieval fortification outside and luxury living inside.
The gardens aren't open to visitors, but we could peer down into them as we climbed up to the gates. Since it was le jour du patrimoine, a special holiday celebrating historical sites, there was classical music floating down from speakers set up in the castle courtyard. In the area for tourists to picnic, we ran into a few people that seemed to be visiting from another time instead of another place.
It turned out that the castle was peopled by historical re-enacters for the day. But instead of taking their jobs too seriously, they were all just enjoying the castle like we were. It seemed like a few of the women had just used the day as a playdate, and lounged around the lady of the castle's private salon while their kids played with dolls, ribbons, and puppies.
The kids seemed to be enjoying themselves too--not least because they were given ice cream at the castle's snack shop.
Pretty dresses, an enchanted castle, and an ice cream cone? Sign me up.
Downstairs in the castle kitchen, two women in kirtles and bodices were whipping up a medieval feast in the castle's giant old fireplace/stove/oven.
They had to pause shoving cloves of garlic into one of the largest sides of meat I've ever seen and stirring vegetables in pans set among the coals to wipe their hands off on their voluminous aprons and answer the castle's phone. Chateau de la Barben is in business as a bed and breakfast and this weekend, overnight guests were sharing a feast with the re-enacters.
Hopefully they weren't sharing a bathroom, too.
We finished up the afternoon with a stroll around the castle grounds. The castle is in a tiny swath of deciduous forest (most of what we've got here is scruffy pine groves) and it was lovely to walk around and listen to the birds chirp and the stream gurgle.
And it was the first time we've visited an attraction formerly inaccessible to us due to lack of vehicle! Now that we're car owners we can get to these lesser known, out-of-the-way gems. Well, most of the time. The next day when we went to drive to a coastal town so our friend could see the Mediterranean, the car was dead. After a new battery (and a lot of scrambling around to find out who we know that has jumper cables), we're vehiculé ("vehicled") once more. Just in time for this weekend's destination: a new apartment! Yup, the bugs have won, and we're getting out of here. I'll show pictures once we've signed the lease. This new place seems pretty sweet and I don't want to jinx it. Stay tuned!