Walking down into the Château parc and woodlands it is hard to not feel nostalgic. Looking upwards towards the Château and wondering about the owners and families who lived here long ago.
Thinking about how the trees, now fully grown - so tall and so wide - were planted by hands who knew they would never see this moment.
Once upon a time, back in the 18th Century, a party was held in the parc where three thousand glass venetian lanterns were hung delicately like Christmas ornaments on the branches of the fir trees. Walking through these woodlands now, I try to imagine what it must have looked like.
I used to think I was the one who had fallen down a rabbit hole into a world of curious happenings. But now I imagine the wonder of Louis Gaspard, his wife Marie-Therese, and their family of eight little children, seeing their beloved home which they built so many centuries ago, continuing to stand proud, undefeated by time and change. The home that they created, with its warmth and love, pulled apart during the revolution, now shines far beyond just the surrounding mountainous valleys, and into an entirely new world to be shared, seen, and felt by many from all far reaching corners of the earth.
Which brings me to share with you the Medal of Honour, which our family received recently from the Institute of France for the ongoing restoration of the Château. We spent a few days in Paris together as a family to attend the ceremony. Nowadays, we rarely have the ability to all be together as a family, so this was a special occasion on many different levels. With Craig working in Perth and with me onsite at the Château, we generally accept that it's rarely possible for it to be any other way for now. So, all of us being together for the occasion was a blessing in itself.
We attended the ceremony in October in the presence of Prince Albert II of Monaco, the Prince of Belgium, and numerous French dignitaries. It goes without saying that we never imagined that the Château would have brought us there.
Three medals were awarded that evening. It was a glamorous affair with photographers and smouldering velvet jackets.
But underneath the glamour there was a beautiful and authentic balance in the ritual of giving and receiving. Prince Albert II congratulated each of the prize recipients and spoke graciously and genuinely. He had made himself familiar with even the smallest of details when presenting each award, in sofar as mentioning how our son Ben had happened upon Château de Gudanes on the internet. The grand recipient Monsieur Serge Rezvani gave the most tender speech of acceptance, and as he spoke, his tears fell.
'Appreciation is a wonderful thing;
It makes what is excellent in others
belong to us as well.'
Voltaire visited the Château back in the 18th Century and so true are his words. The Château has her own special way of doing this, and it could be easy to forget that this medal truly belongs to her. It is her honour, for what she has given for so many centuries. It was her fairytale come true.
Thinking about it, it was not only a medal of honour but also a medal of remembrance. I reflected about those who have been part of the Château over the centuries, from the families who once lived inside her walls, to the 92 year old man who delivered the ice to the owners when he was 10 years old and still lives in our local village, to the brass buttoned footman, to the many Mrs Patmores, to our Catalonian builders, and to all of us who have contributed and believed in the journey along the way.
On behalf of Château de Gudanes, we sincerely thank the Institute of France, the Fondation Prince Louis de Polignac, and all the Princes and of course the person who so thoughtfully nominated us for this award (who remains a mystery). And, we thank Louis and Marie-Therese Gaspard de Salles for believing in their dream so long ago to create their Château de Gudanes, and everyone who has supported and contributed to the Château both past and present.
During our stay in Paris, we were very privileged to be able to stay at the newly re-opened and restored Ritz. I will be writing a story for Expedia Australia about our stay there, and I look forward to sharing the story of their own restoration work with you very soon - their 178 clocks, tunnels underneath the hotel, 48 staircases, and a sneak peak of Coco Chanel's room. I also recently wrote another story about some of the places I visited in Paris, from the antique auctions to specialist restorers of ancient wallpapers. You can read this story at Expedia Australia.
Château de Gudanes