A few days ago I started to write about the party which was recently held at the château, not hosted by us, but by our builder, Monsieur Noray and his team. And a shindig it turned out to be: a night of fine cuisine, wine, spirits, music and happiness. Local residents, international authors, and village Mayors joined the celebration. The château warmed and charmed us all, perhaps a sign of its former life.
But today I received an email from one of our facebook family, Caroline. I read her email and was speechless. Caroline had translated an article written in a local paper in 1896 which described so beautifully a party held at Château de Gudanes. After reading this, I simply stopped typing my party story and instead felt the need to share the story written over 100 years ago, aptly titled ' The Workers Party'.
I'm hoping you have a little time to read this. It's inspiring, the words winding their way to the wonders of wisdom.
L'Express du Midi
Tuesday, July 28th, 1896
Regional news, Ariège
A workers' fete
It probably still counts for a lot, even in these democratic times, to have a prestigious name; But it is even better to live up to it. It is all very well having a great fortune; but it is even better to use it usefully and nobly.
These philosophical reflections often came to mind when I attended the memorable, sparkling fete which was held last Saturday at Chateau de Gudanes.
Gudanes is a chateau dating from the time of Louis XIV, situated in the middle of the Haute Ariège, overlooking the village and the valley of Les Cabannes, between the spa towns of Ax and Ussat-les-Bains.
The setting certainly was beautiful.
Opposite was the fertile plain of Saint Martin; on the left, the hilly, grand avenue which leads from the church up to the chateau, beneath a dome of thick branches.
On the right, behind the beautiful, large property, the valley of the Aston, so vast, so cool, where the sound of the torrent merges, day and night, with the noise made by the many hammers from the Chateau-Verdun factories.
Add to this the fact that it was a splendid evening, that the night was calm and peaceful, and that at one moment the moon suddenly appeared from behind a nearby peak and lent its pale clear light to the fete.
The Chateau provided a wonderful backdrop.
The great courtyard, and the large rectangular lawns, which the chateau terrace looks down on, formed an exceptional ballroom. Almost three thousand Venetian glass lanterns hung above the heads of the dancers or were strung between the trees of the grand avenue, giving the party a fairy tale atmosphere.
As rockets and fireworks were let off from half-way up the nearby mountainside, and roman candles lit up the old ruins of Chateau-Verdun, carriages arrived by the grand avenue, filled with dancers from Ussat, followed by a group of donkeys from Ornolac, which were also decorated with different coloured lanterns.
The ball was open to all, and from one end of the valley to the other, everyone had hastened to participate in the joyful festivities. The policeman in uniform rubbed shoulders with the bourgeois gentleman in evening suit, and the elegant working class girl stood opposite the country woman in her Sunday best. All the houses had emptied and the whole community was there, with no distinctions of class or political opinion.
For whom or what was this cheering crowd? Which saint's day was being celebrated? Was it some sort of local festival?
It was none of these things. The reason for all this pomp and joy was the homecoming of Monsieur Xavier Baudon de Mony with his bride.
To tell you the truth, it seemed as if the entire valley had made it a point of honour to compete against each other in order to provide a reception and a welcome worthy of the daughter of our Ambassador in London.
What was particularly interesting and truly heart-warming about the whole event was this:
It was not the lord and lady of the chateau who threw the party, wishing to include the local population in their happiness.
The fete was organised in their honour by the local agricultural and industrial communities.
Here is a show of gratitude by the people, which upholds that well-known saying: one good turn deserves another.
I am a little bit of a philosopher, and sometimes, in my spare time, an incorrigible optimist.
So when I managed to tear myself away from all the excitement, and return to the calm of the peaceful night, I kept thinking about what I have told myself many times before: If all great landowners had this fine attitude of living on their property, and if all factory owners lived amongst their workers, if all those who have inherited a fortune knew how to use it to improve the lives of the people around them, things would get much better...
We gave Monsieur Noray some Australian wine, vegemite and boomerangs. And guess what he shared with us on the night: a boomerang represents: what goes around comes around! Truly spoken from his heart.
Our experience renovating in France couldn't be better.
à bientôt, et merci Caroline,
Château de Gudanes