France Day 17: Exploring the Medieval Castle

Today we visited a castle, or chateau, in Baux de Provence. This place is a real, live, living, working commune village housed in an ancient village settlement that has been there since the Middle Ages. People still live and work here, in the adorable stone-built, all-connected houses and shops that open onto stone streets. It's like walking back in time into a fairy tale. It's hard to believe a place exists like this. But it does. Just instead of going into town to pickup your chainmail or jousting stick, you can buy cookies or sandwiches. In fact, I can tell you after much driving throughout France that most of it is arranged like this: a castle to some ancient fiefdom that no longer exists, a village that's been there ever since that people still live in, and around that, farm land and beautiful old stone farmhouses. The castles are about one day's horse ride apart each. Which means there are hundreds of castles. Nothing much has changed in the basic structure of how living is set up over the past 800 years or so.

The children had a wonderful time climbing on everything, which was allowed because this castle is so old no one cares. The remains are limestone and will eventually wear away to nothing, from the rain. I took a closeup photo of one of the walls so you can see the large golf ball-sized pits in some of the walls.

Geoff patiently packed (and then walked all the way back out to the car to retrieve) our lunch of jambon (ham) and prosciutto and pepperoni and Emmental on baguette, chips, and those amazing flat peaches I love.

there was a weapons demonstration of medieval weapons, then as we ended our picnic, a show, and a demonstration of the trebuchet, which is a fairly advanced catapult operated by a group of people. Butterscotch was so deeply impacted by the experience that he found a way to say use the word "trebuchet" about 745 times before finally short-circuiting from excitement and falling asleep on the way home.

At the end of the day, we reached the two towers. There was a warning sign at the outset of the treacherous stairs up, so we were extra careful with Bittykins. But Butterscotch would only go so high. He threw a huge, fuzzy fit. We coaxed. We encouraged. We made an ultimatum. It was ignored. Finally, he made up his own mind, and he would go one step up with me directly behind and around him. I think he might be afraid of heights just a little bit.

But he overcame his fear. I was *so* proud of him. He picked me flowers. He explored. He had a wonderful, magical time up there overlooking his imaginary kingdom with me.

And then, he got too confident.

He wandered off, climbed the boulder that was wedged in between the safety fences to the absolute highest part of the entire castle. He was just about to stand up when an older French lady grabbed him down. He growled at her, and scratched her fragile arm from elbow to wrist. I was furious that he hurt her. She acted like it was totally fine!! But it was not OK with me. He had to sit in time out. Around the same time, Geoff and Bittykins got hungry, Bittykins stopped listening, and everyone got frustrated. It was the moment we realized we'd been there about and hour or two too long. After a meltdown, we headed down in a mellower peace than we'd ventured up with. I still have the yellow flowers Butterscotch picked for me up there. He put them in my hair.

France has some things figured out, definitely. The way of life seems set up to preserve the lifestyle that's currently going. It feels as though a pinnacle or ideal of life has been achieved and much energy is put into maintaining that slow pace and relative luxury. The long vacations. The delicious food. But it's a two-sided coin. In America, I sense an energy, a hunger, as the status quo. There's an openness, both physically in its grandeur, and figuratively in its reception to new ideas. America - and everything in it - seems to fresh and new, like you could skip right through the Heartland and nobody would stop you.

We had a lovely dinner that ended in tiramisu for me, chocolate mousse for the children, and a coffee/ice cream thing for Geoff.  Our table overlooked the valley and castle.  So beautiful.  Butterscotch even took a really good picture of the rest of us with the iPhone.  I love that he's taking an interest in photography.  He's already telling me he wants a tripod for Christmas.  He's 5.

The lavender is coming up quite purple now, more so even than two days ago. It won't be long now before we go play in the fragrant lavender fields in the back yard...

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