These whispering walls,
They tell a story,
Will you listen,
To all of their glory?
Once upon a time, I would wake, always far too late, to walk out the door for work and never quite feel that I had ever slept a wink. But life dominated by a château has woken me up! Now, I am up and out the door just as dawn appears over the mountain summit. Dense cloud blankets the valley, like layers and layers of white waiting to be unveiled by the warmth of first light. Bird life fills the crisp, cool air with melody.
Layered with thermals, gloves and camera, I head to the château gates, and stare for a few seconds as I take it all in - a land of make-believe, a world of fantasy and fairytale. The sound of black crows echoing from far in the valley, and black horses making their way across the terrace make me think of past kingdoms, both fact and fiction.
I prepare myself for the solid, heavy, and nearly impassible gates. Turning the padlock key, I can't help but pause and think about how many others have done this before me, and as I heave open the gates - how many have passed through?
Back in the château's heyday, the original owner, the Marquis of Gudanes, Louis Gaspard de Sales (aptly named King of the Pyrénées) put on quite a show at the front gates. Invitees from far and wide, okay I can drop some name's here, Voltaire, Diderot and Rosseau to name a few, were presented with a spectacle. Footman lined the avenue from the gates to the front of the château with fire lit torches as horse drawn carriages hoofed it by.
As I walk the same route, I can faintly see the path which once existed.
Last week we had the pleasure of a visit from the Chief Architect of the Monuments Historic from Paris. In fact, it was more of a history lesson than an inspection of the work to date. He explained the history before the construction of the current chateau - how the site dates back the 12th century, and its purpose as a fort during the religious wars. It was destroyed by fire in the 1500s. I found some old black stones in the château months ago and have kept them in a cupboard, curious!
When we bought the château last year we were led to believe that the back section was of little interest. Now, we have realised it truly is the diamond in the rough! The Paris architect explained that the painted ceilings date to the 1600s, and that the recently discovered frescoes depict the history of the region. Layers of plaster on the walls need to be carefully lifted to reveal the painted works that hide behind.
The delicate, colourful walls have slowly revealed themselves to us; whether by chance or by choice, who knows!
The region, the site, the château, has a way of weaving you to think and feel differently, and to hear the sounds of the gentle whispering walls.
Poem extract: Maria Lattice