Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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As the rumor goes, all French people live in a chateau and have an old butler with a moustache sorting out wine botles in the century-old cellar. Oops, hold your horses. Wasn’t there a revolution too?
Yes, that’s where the story stops. Since the 1789 Revolution and very sadly, NOT all French people live in a castle. Not to worry though. French chateaux haven’t all been destroyed nor are they sitting idly surrounded by deep moats. As big chunks of real estates, castles have become a common recreational rental opportunity.
Hey, big formal rooms, ample kitchens, possibly tons of bedrooms (big on the noble second floor, small for servants under the roof) and if you’re lucky, a nice view. What’s not to like if you’re organizing a wedding or family reunion?
The Chateau de La Gressiere where my friend Albane got married was privately owned and occupied until 1972. It still shows somehow.
The way the ballrooms have interconnected electrical wires (can’t switch off ceiling chandelier in first ballroom without switching off second ballroom and bar area), the way each room is decorated with haphazard furniture, the way breakfast will be served at a big oval table family-style in the morning.
Perhaps it’s what makes the charm of the place. Albane is one of my oldest friends and I would not have missed her wedding for an empire. So after shrimps and oysters, we all headed to La Bernerie en Retz, where the chateau is located. While the foundations date back to the late 1000s, the current construction dates back to 1879.
In a way, it’s a French Victorian castle in Italianate style. Happy hour was served on the terrace overlooking cedar trees and green lawns, followed by dinner under a white tent, a typical mainstay of weddings nowadays since weather forecast four months in advance can’t be relied upon.
Since the coast is on the windy side, everybody welcomed the shelter of the tent. As the first stars appeared and champagne still flowed in glasses, I realized I had forgotten to check the view on the ocean barely a mile away. Never mind the sea.
There was something more bubbling happening in the tent. Together with all the bridemaids and three professional dancers, I danced on Mahii Ve the title song of a super-famous Bollywood movie, the song’s choregraphy being organized by Dolsy of Dansez Masala in Paris. Wow! Now, that’s highly unusual for a French wedding but it’s the best skit I’ve ever been part of.