Hi from Rick: Humbled in a French Château
|The Carnot family's American keepsake transcends the language — and unfair assumptions — barrier.|
Good travel takes us out of our comfort zone, opening a daily floodgate of surprises. Some of these delight us, others rub us the wrong way. And sometimes we misunderstand our European hosts.
For years I had a negative feeling for the national chauvinism of Château de la Rochepot in Burgundy. Its owners, the noble Carnot family, refused to offer English descriptions of their fine rooms as a matter of principle ("As part of the patrimony of France, it should be explained only in French"). Every time I swept through the marvelous castle to update my guidebook, this snobbish attitude rubbed me the wrong way.
Then, a couple of summers ago, I dropped by with my film crew. After we had filmed the remarkably-preserved, centuries-old kitchen, the staff announced that Madame Carnot had a special treat for us. They opened a fine ancient chest and carefully pulled out a huge 48-star American flag. As they unfurled it before us, they explained that this was the flag that the Carnot family flew on the day of Liberation in 1944. And to this day, they told me, they love their American guests.
I'd gotten it wrong, assuming that our hosts couldn't care less for Americans. It was a humbling surprise, and remains one of my most moving memories from that summer.
Visiting France on a Rick Steves tour means visiting with an 'insider' guide. This makes sure we appreciate a culture that is so often misunderstood, yet so undeniably rich. To learn more, check out this month's Tour News, with a special focus on our France tours.
Vive la différence.
P.S. And speaking of humbling surprises, this week's issue of TIME magazine includes an article on the work I do. Have a look!