Rich:I am trying to fall asleep on a 17th century bed in a room played in by a 12 year old Alexandre Dumas, who pretended to be a Musketeer or imagined the Man in the Iron Mask. Crazy way to start our adventure, in France at Chateau Villers-Helon, one hour outside of Paris. A 12th century Chateau built and used as a Templar house during the Crusades...Yikes!
The village of Villers-Helon is so filled with history from those early days of the 12th century,
(the eastern edge of France being the battleground for so many wars) and WWI, and WWII being a large part of the Chateau's history. The Nazis took over the Chateau and used it as a POW camp, and there are caves with cartoonish drawings where the soldiers partied. You can look through holes made in the walls for rifles and see the bullet holes of both sides. As you look out over fields recently plowed you can imagine troops approaching and gunfire going off as bullets whiz by your head. You can feel the centuries of history around you.
Thanks Tony and to Barbara, his girlfriend and Chateau Manager, we feel so fortunate to have met and shared time with you
|Tony, Barbara, Hazel, Gerald, Rich, and Renata.
The Templar "Safe House" Stone
|Outside of Chateau
|Visiting the underground caves where it is believed the German soldiers hung out
|German soldiers artwork found on the cave walls
|Rich could not keep up with Aoife and Gerald in a game of Giant Chess-
both beat him rather quickly - actually Gerald beat him in 5 moves!
|Richard with the family pet Obama, looking for a hand-out. Obama-Care in action.
|Hazel and Renata in front of the chateau
|Visiting a nearby castle Pierrrefonds
As Rich said, Tony is a person of mystery and amazing talent! He is also a man that loves to cook and cook and cook. I think he thought there were 10 of us dining. (Oh, that's right, Richard eats for 4 anyway) Everything from Crepes, Waffles, and Croque Monsieurs for breakfast to Coq au Vin, Spicy Lobster, Eggplant 3 ways, and numerous specialties for dinner. Check out his table. (It was like this every day!)
What do you do in the French countryside everyday?
I know what I did- I enjoyed great company and ate! We discussed and consumed quite a few of the recipes that Tony is assembling for his book. I tried to take notes on my favorites, but like a magician, he is quick and sleight of hand (you never see a measuring cup) - one of my favorites was the fish soup, I at least got what he puts into it:
Fish Stew/Cioppino/Bouillabaisse/Brodetto: This French/Italian favorite was the fisherman's way to dispose of the ugliest unsalable fish of the days catch. Ugly fish, tomatoes, onions, garlic and white wine along with whatever shellfish is available and you have a southern European favorite. A variation would be to use simply shrimp, scallops and a hard kielbasa type sausage.
Bon encore une fois ma belle femme, un festin digne des rois.