South of Paris

June 1 and 2: A Tale of Two Castles
From our recent experience, we have found that there can be a huge difference between a small castle and a large one—besides the size and the ambience. At Anet, the only way that we could see the inside of the small castle was through a guided tour. The docent, who spoke only French, led us and a few other couples (they were French as well) into an antechamber. As she was jabbering away—with my rusty French, I could barely make out any of her rushed words--my wife and I began to gawk at the antiquities. But not for long. The docent abruptly unlocked a door and ushered us into another room where she allowed us to spend a minute or two, then shooed us out of the chamber, locked it, and took us to another room. She continued this routine for the rest of the tour. We had no time to appreciate the luxurious surroundings—we were on someone else’s timetable.
On the other hand, at Chambord, site of the largest castle in France, my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. There was no docent to hurry us along. Instead, we had an audio cassette in impeccably enunciated English that detailed the history and idiosyncrasies of each of the chambers. And we could spend as much time as we liked. We paced ourselves accordingly—without any arbitrary schedule. My wife and I didn’t have to be huddled together in a tour group; in fact, we didn’t even have to be together—as long as we didn’t lose each other in the mammoth castle (our cell phones didn’t work oversees, a disadvantage that we are getting used to bit by bit).

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