Today we would like to introduce to you three visitors who are staying at the Château over the summer - Molly, Wendy and Ariana. Each experienced a perfect moment of fleeting rightness that encouraged them to come and throw each of their unique skills into the mix. All strangers to one another in the beginning, but joined together by the Château, and then brought even closer by their wildly adventurous experiences.
To give a brief introduction to each... Molly is a pastry chef from Texas, who studied at Le Cordon bleu in Paris (her specialty is macarons and tarts). Ever enthusiastic, and with a ceaseless smile, Molly's eternal optimism is infectious and nothing short of welcomed. Molly joined us at the Château and over the past week and so far has nurtured us with delicious desserts!
Wendy is our wonderful and warmest family friend. Just like Alice Wendy fell down the rabbit hole last year when she visited the Château for a month in July. Like a trail left in the water, being at the Château left a somewhat inexplicable effect on both her heart and soul, and so this year Wendy has returned to stay for three months.
Ariana has a self confessed nostalgia for other times, and nurtures a particular fascination for past architecture. Following her passion Ariana is pursuing a Masters in Architectural Preservation, using the Château as a case study in her thesis and staying here whilst conducting her meticulous research.
Molly, Wendy and Ariana each bring their own perspective and unique story to tell, so this week we asked each of them to write something about themselves, how they came to be at the Château, and their experiences being here so far. All very different, but all uniquely inspiring, here's what they wrote...
"It was a letter that read something like "I'll do anything", complete with a picture of me and a cow, that brought me to the Château. I'd been following the story on Facebook for awhile and had read Karina's blog post about opening a cafe. After several months it was still in the back of my mind so I said to heck with it late one night and wrote Karina an email.
I randomly write in my blog- www.toffeebitsandchocolatechips.com if something comes to mind. My dream is to open a B&B in France with a chicken coop and a huge vegetable garden where I can pick fresh produce and teach cooking lessons to my guests.
Seeing the Château in person is an unbelievable experience. It's nestled between mountains and right now surrounded by wild flowers. Each time I go up to wander through the rooms I've noticed something new from spotting the panelling Karina wrote about with the kids heights and ages to a revealing hole in the wall which has exposed wallpaper from a bygone era. Currently I'm at the Château making pastries for upcoming events including the restoration workshop with Messors. I studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris getting a certification in pastry after a making a career change from marketing. Following a stage at la Fabrique à Gâteaux, I returned to Texas to work at two bakeries and a fromagerie (I love cheese...). If you're in the Dallas area, check out Bisous Bisous Pâtisserie and say hi to Chef Andrea! It's an incredible experience to be able to follow my passion and make French pastries in this setting. I can't wait to get into the kitchen and (spoiler alert) work on the old Château recipes for an upcoming cookbook. We will also be holding cooking classes at the end of July on macarons, tarts and other French pastries. Hope to catch y'all there!"
“The second time around...
Like a lamb back into the fold I journeyed back in time once again, to that magical place of mystery and history in the midi-Pyrénées, where stands "Chateau de Gudanes”. Sitting precariously and regally high on Plateau de Beille, keeping company with and being protected by the hugeness of the Pyrénées and that amazingly dimensional mountain, I call "backdrop". Once bitten, not to be forgotten, now engrained under my skin a part of me will always be tucked away in it's walls watching the progress and hoping all will unfold as the owners wish it. My first introduction was in July 2014 and my second June/August 2015. It still holds all the magic and allure of my first glance, when what first struck me, looking through those imposing iron gates, was the grandeur, the carpet of greenery surrounding the building, and the constant sound of the gushing Aston river. The only difference the second time was the greenery was speckled with colourful wild flowers, just adding to its charm. It has been my pleasure to have the opportunity to be part of this ongoing grand plan, I will always follow the enfolding story with great anticipation. To me, it has been greater than any expectation, as a family friend and fellow follower I could not have imagined the lifetime effect it would have on me.”
“I have been following the restoration of the Château with enthusiasm since the beginning of 2014, and I am very excited to see it happening in person. Originally from a historic town in Vermont, I wrote my undergraduate history thesis on the architecture of English country houses and then went on to help restore the Ames Mansion in Boston. At the moment I am a student in the University of Edinburgh’s MSc Architectural Conservation program, and I will be writing my dissertation on complex interiors that contain layers of history from multiple eras. Château de Gudanes seemed like the perfect case study for this topic. By the end of my project I plan to have drawings and plans of the Château, and suggestions about the way in which to best conserve its varied interior fabric. I have been researching the historical background of the Château, and I’ve already made some interesting discoveries – for example, it was used as housing for soldiers during the French Revolution. In addition, I learned that the Château’s thirteenth century basement was used as a baronial prison when it was a fortified castle, and that a door leading to a room where animals were butchered was blocked off in the mid-twentieth century. Karina thinks she knows the location of the door – who knows what we’d find if it were opened again?”
As summer eventually passes, and our friends depart, they will surely take a piece of the Château with them as they leave. All that will be left are the memories held dearly, and the reminiscing in the future of the past that has been, the memories shared, the friendships made, and the experiences had, will begin.
But they will undoubtedly also leave a piece of themselves at the Château too. And it is this exchange that not only helps keep the project alive, but also helps in the rebirth of the Château herself, breathing new life into her spirit.
In July we will also welcome Cheryl, Sue and Caitlin.
Chateau de Gudanes.