Sunday, September 18, 2016
Given the success of yesterday, we thought it would be a good idea to go out again and see another site. We settled on a visit to the nearby Château de Lunéville. (Ben laughed at the name, appropriately enough. Personally, I think it would really suit my friend Marianne and her family, for obvious reasons). Myriam and I set off together while Thierry, busy preparing for a week-long trip to Lyon for work, planned to join us later at the chateau. I had heard a few people talk about the chateau in very glowing terms, saying I really should see it while I was here, and that it resembled a 'petite Versailles.' Having been so impressed with Versailles when I saw it twenty-five years ago and awestruck by its spectacular rooms, mirrors, tapestries and gardens, I was quite excited to see a smaller version.
We arrived in light drizzle, received a map of sorts and tried to decipher it. It wasn't entirely clear where we were to start so we just picked a building and proceeded up the stairs. Entering a small room at the top, we saw a lone man sitting at a table. He beamed when he saw us, explaining he was a historian and could tell us about the chateau and answer any questions. A family had come up behind us and the father dubiously asked how long this man's talk would take. The historian promised he would only take 'dix minutes' so the five of us sat down. Grinning from ear to ear, the professor then proceeded to take us through what I can only imagine was a very thorough history of the building from medieval times to present day. Every few minutes, a new group of people would poke their heads in, at which point he would explain to them, yet again, that he was a historian and was at our disposal for any questions we might have. Even his great enthusiasm for his subject could not appease the growing discontent I felt as he went on and on and on, in French of course. I was eager to see the rooms and knew we could run out of time as we did yesterday if we weren't careful. Finally, 25 minutes later, we escaped and entered our second building. Interesting though it was because it showed some signs of the German occupation during WW II when they used it for barracks, it was very rough and decayed. Where are these glorious Versailles-like rooms, I wondered. We skipped across the courtyard, briefly taking in the black slate roofs and balustrades atop them. Entering the next section, which advertised the chapel and ducal apartments, I felt sure we would be upon the pageantry soon. However, it turns out the phrase 'Versailles-like' refers to the architecture only; all of the rooms had been stripped bare of everything and sent to other chateaux across Europe years ago. This chateau had then suffered several fires and occupation by both the German and French armies so was in quite a state. Some parts have been renovated but only to their basic condition.
Near the chapel, we were approached by a local guide who talked to us for ten minutes. She went so fast I couldn't really understand anything. Myriam asked if I understood all of it and at that point, I realized there was a real disconnect between what she thought I could understand and what in reality I can actually comprehend. I had this sudden gush of disappointment, loneliness, failure, and feeling misunderstood well up within me, and together with the impatience I had been harbouring, it all came together in a perfect storm. I quickly found the word 'abattu' (overwhelmed) in my electronic dictionary and indicated I needed a rest in the gardens for a few minutes. There were so many French people here! And I couldn't understand them! And they couldn't understand me! I didn't want to see them! I didn't want to hear them! I felt like I was trapped in a French movie and couldn't escape! A stroll around the gardens (which were actually quite pretty) and a few deep breaths later, I regained a pleasant facade. Thierry and Myriam looked concernedly at me. Thierry said it must be because I was very tired, Myriam blamed the grey weather, and I held menopause firmly responsible.
After I got home, I had a much-needed sleep and felt much more refreshed and normal again. Myriam took it all in stride, saying she had felt similarly when she was immersed in English for two weeks last year. I realized anew how important it is to have the ability to share one's more complex thoughts and feelings at various junctures in order to express deeper emotions, have richer discussions and work through quandaries; I suspect that is true for most. Without that outlet, because of the language limitations, I now recognize a tension builds in me. I think days like this can be tallied up as a 'personal learning opportunity.'