France · travel

Christmas in Europe: Chateau De L’ile


Where I Went:

Following our almost 14 hour journey (including flights, stopovers, and waiting an hour for a rental car) and lunch in Dinant, Belgium, we headed south through the Alsace-Lorraine wine region of France, jutting past Strasbourg and settling in at Chateau De L’ile in Ostwald. Ostwald itself is really just an offshoot of Strasbourg, charming in its own little way with little pastel homes and flower shops. It does have its own church and market- just a handful of stalls but pretty all the same. The Chateau itself sits on sprawling grounds on the edge of Ostwald. Built in the 17th Century it overlooks the village with its austere stone walls and timber framed architecture.


What I Did:

We settled in to the hotel and awkwardly booked dinner and massages. We each booked a 30 minute massage an hour before our meal and were subsequently given awkward paper underwear and directives to arrive 15 minutes early. Except we didn’t arrive 15 minutes early, we arrived 45 minutes early because my less than rudimentary French had me miscalculating times. So we sat, exhausted, in a steamy hallway adjacent to the pool, watching pot-bellied French men saunter from their lounge chairs to the showers and back again as bikini-ed women splayed out plastic chairs. I felt strangely Puritanical seeing a roomful of strangers flopping their legs open at each other, lazing in a hot room next to an empty, enclosed pool while I sat bundled in an oversized robe with slippers 5 sizes too big, wearing my bunched up paper panties. When we finally were whisked upstairs, our room overlooked the pool with billowing, gaping curtains. We had booked separately and yet were in the same room- fine, just my mother, but odd- and asked to undress in front of the masseuses. Whatever. I clamor onto the table with the grace of a bear escaping hibernation and she pulls a sheet over me, tucks it into the underwear, and then slides it down so that I essentially have a blanket tucked into my pants, under my bare ass. She then poured hot oil on my ass and proceeded to massage my slippery bum for a good ten minutes before finally, thankfully moving on to some (any) other part of my body. Unlike an American massage (which they hilariously called “California Massage” while we call it Swedish), it ended abruptly with no yogic fanfare or tinkling chimes. I scraped myself off the table, dabbed the oil off my ass, and changed for dinner.

Dinner, it should be noted, will last approximately all night long. And this is mostly because the staff will ignore you if you refuse appetizers or wine. I was feeling fairly dehydrated and ready for bed, so I planned to stick to the basics. Also, the main courses were starting at around $35 USD. They must have felt bad for me, poor as I must have appeared, because they brought me an appetizer anyway and bread, and a dessert for my dessert. Still, any attempts at service were rebuffed in favor of the table ordering 6 bottles of champagne. IMG_20151205_101440(2).jpg

in my ridiculous massage get-up with mile long sleeves


View from the room

What I Thought:

Again, hardly anyone spoke coherent English and I certainly can’t speak coherent French so in most cases, rather than calling down, it was easier to just appear at various desks and pantomime. This often had me feeling like an obvious American and while everyone seemed saccharine enough,  I couldn’t help but notice a sense of discomfort in that 1) I wasn’t parading about the hotel in stiletto heels and 2) I wasn’t spending exorbitant amounts of cash. It seemed obvious that we had scored a great deal and it was very Cinderella at the ball at times. Also, they guess at the bill. I knocked $150 off our bill since they charged twice for breakfast and dinner saying they thought we had gone. Receipts from different restaurants at the same time proved otherwise.

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