As a child I was fond of reading storybooks, mostly comics which depicted castles, the sight of which would always take me wandering into little boy’s dreamland. I confess that fairy tales fascinated me. Sometimes in my mind, I would write my own story of kings, knights, queens, princesses, sorcerers, witches, dragons, gargoyles, beasts and birds. Even dragonflies, butterflies and stars could swirl over my head and be unseen. That was when I was knocked back to my senses by my father urging me to concentrate on my studies rather than on fantasy. Well, it had to happen, I guess. We all grow up in our own way, into a world we make around us and go on about it every day. But, can one say that he or she does not get excited when coming upon something that had fascinated them since childhood? I would say in such a situation the excitement is manifold for that is what they say is “dream come true”.
In the northeast of France, about 70 km from Paris, in a remote town called Pierrefonds, I came across one such medieval castle belonging to the 12th century which bewildered me and floated my senses into fantasy. I must admit that the castle as such was not so huge. Yet, it had set on fire the filmdom of many countries. I was told that movies such as Highlander, The story of Joan of Arc, The Messenger, The Man in the Iron Mask, Les Visiteurs, Camelot and the BBC serial Merlin were all filmed here. I was in heaven.
Such is the magnitude of its architectural greatness. In reality this castle had withstood many an attack., and its roofs were brought down making it un inhabitable by Cardinal Richelieu in his attempt to quell rebellion. Distraught for a few centuries it was bought over by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in the 18th century for a mere 3000 francs.
Then it passed over to Louis Phillipe who performed the marriage of his daughter to the first King of Belgium. From then on this romantic ruin (as it was said to be called) was restored by the successors to the French hierarchy. Today is a venue for happy dreams, vacations, weekend lunches for all people including the locals and tourists alike.
Set among a forest on a hillock with a small little quiet town around it, this Chateau sure did and will always do set alight even the dullest minds with imagination.
And the best part is the reality. I got to relive the dreams of my childhood for a day. That alone was worthy of the travel. Sometimes we travel to the past, to understand the present. Who can say that being a child again is not entertaining?