I sometimes try to envision how “the other half live.” You know, that half that has money and never has to work for a living. People who have servants to do those annoying little tasks such as press that flap on your pants pocket that will never stay down, change the filter on the air conditioner before it starts to look like a golden retriever, or file all those papers that come in the mail that just take up space, but that you know you shouldn’t toss or it could cause a real frown on the face of the IRS – and subsequently, a real dent in your bank account. But a trip to Chenonceau in France taught me three things about the aristocratic way of life: a medieval castle without central heating and air isn’t worth the extra square footage, a man may still cheat on you no matter how many jewels you have in your crown, and children whine for ice cream in every language.
The château was my favorite hands down. When you’re buying real estate with imaginary euros, you can afford to be picky and hold out until you find that 13th century structure that really speaks to you. So as I made my way through the vast halls and admired the view overlooking the river, I mentally repaired tile and added a modern bathroom or two (with Jacuzzi tubs, of course), until I had the place just the way I wanted it. I’d hold a housewarming party in the grand hall, shoot off fireworks from the turret, and have my battalion of servants toting up all those tedious little appetizers from the kitchen that I would never take the time myself to make for 400 guests. Oh, yes. This place would do quite nicely as long as we could add some central heating ducts.
But as I read about the history wedged between the stones in the walls, I discovered that even the lives of the rich and ruling are fraught with concern. It seems that King Henri II had given this château to his girlfriend Diane, and it wasn’t until his death that his wife Catherine Medici was able to roust the little hussy out of her summer home. Diane had left behind the legacy of a beautiful garden, so Catherine set about adding a garden to trump the former occupant’s, and I must say, she succeeded with flair. Sure, Diane may have been beautiful, smart, and in possession of Henri’s heart; but Catherine was powerful, crafty, and in possession of manicured hedges and the keys to the château. Well done, wife. That will teach the little heifer to plant petunias on your lawn.
As we toured the extensive gardens and marveled at their beauty under a brilliant sun, the time came for the inevitable: we needed gelato. A small stand a stone’s throw from the castle came to our rescue and sold single or double scoops in cup or cone. The price for this creamy goodness was appropriately along the lines of a king’s ransom, and as we stood pondering the grave choices of caramel over grasshopper mint, a high-pitched voice intruded on our conversation. I had no idea what the boy in Birkenstocks was saying since my second language was only functional a couple of continents over, but Lauren spoke enough German that she could translate the exchange between father and son.
“I want two scoops!”
“You get one big one.”
“But I want TWO scoops!”
“You’ll get one big one.”
“Why can’t I have two scoops?”
“Because you’re getting one big one.”
As I licked my cone to keep any renegade dabs of pistachio gelato from escaping, I came to the conclusion that no matter how the other half lives, if they have children, I can guarantee they’ll run into dairy difficulties just like the peasants.
© 2013 – Traci Carver