We arrived in England in mid-June and have since managed to get our bodies adjusted to the appropriate time zone. For the past several weeks we’ve been spending most of our time catching up with family and friends, trying to stay cool during a 5-day heat wave, and getting settled in at Alastair’s parents’ house where we’ll be based during the next few months. A handful of side trips have been planned during our time here, the first of which took us to France.
A couple friends from Seattle decided to celebrate their 50th birthdays by spending a week in southwest France, just outside Bergerac. They rented an accommodation with many bedrooms and invited us and several other friends to join them. It’s only a short flight from England to France, and we decided it sounded like a great way to spend a few days.
We caught a flight to Toulouse on Thursday, July 6, and then rented a car to drive the few hours north toward Bergerac. During the drive we made a quick stop at a grocery store to pick up a couple bottles of wine and some food.
Upon exiting the grocery store we both had a flash of panic when we saw that someone had swiped the side of our rental car with enough force to scrape off the paint down to the metal and slightly dent the frame. We’d had the car for less than two hours. We’d been in the store for less than twenty minutes. We’d parked in a space surrounded by empty spaces. And nobody in the parking lot claimed to have witnessed what happened.
Alastair called the rental car company but since we did not have any coverage through our rental policy, they kindly suggested we contact our credit card company. Alastair did just that, and it looks like the credit card we used to pay for the car may actually cover the damages. This is a fantastic perk that we had totally forgotten we even had! It’s going to be a lot of patience and paperwork, but our fingers are crossed that we’ll be off the hook paying for someone else’s terrible driving.
We continued on toward Bergerac with no further issues aside from some mild residual anxiety. Our navigation app appeared to be sending us in the correct direction, with each turn getting us closer to the flag on the map indicating our friends’ accommodation where we would be staying. The final turn, however, made us think we must have gone wrong. We were headed straight for a 14th century castle.
We hesitantly rounded the corner into the castle’s driveway while simultaneously looking for some type of servant’s cabin nearby which seemed a more likely bet for our lodging. We parked the car at the castle’s front entrance and, while looking around in disbelief, out walked one of our friends with a wave and a big smile welcoming us to Château de Montastruc.
Here we were, in the beautiful countryside of southwest France, suddenly getting a personal tour of a castle we’d be staying in for the next few days. Plus, our group of about 16 people had the entire castle and its grounds all to ourselves! A few highlights of the property were the 10 bedrooms, 16 fireplaces, big dining room, multiple sitting rooms, library with a hidden bookshelf door, original kitchen area with a fireplace spit in the basement, large swimming pool, and the remains of a moat. We found ourselves giggling with disbelief on many occasions.
On Friday, July 7, Alastair spent the day rock climbing with a couple others from the group. My initial plan for the day was to just hang out at the castle, do some reading and writing, and maybe go for a walk. Luckily, one of our friends had arranged to rent bicycles from a shop in Bergerac and she asked if I wanted to come along. Ride a bike through the rolling hills of the countryside of southwest France, past vineyards and through small communities on a gorgeous sunny day? Yes, please!
That evening everyone reconvened and walked down the road to a small village’s weekly market with a variety of food booths, music, and dancing. Our group spent a couple hours at the market eating our meals of choice (for me, a fresh salad topped with goat cheese on toast, followed by a Nutella crepe), enjoying each other’s company and being entertained by the liveliness of a variety of dancers making the most of their Friday night. It was a nice atmosphere for a casual evening of socializing with our old and new friends. It was also our last night together living like royalty. In the morning everyone would be parting ways and bidding adieu to castle life. It was time to rejoin the commoners.