I’m writing this while enjoying a glass of champagne at the saloon of Chateau D’ Hassonville, a castle hotel in Aye, Belgium. I’m surrounded with old hunting paintings , sitting beside an antique cabinet full of the best varities of whiskey, from Johnny Walker Red Label to Macallan 18 years old. Whenever I move to get something from the other side of the room, the floor creeks and the heels of my boots make loud tapping sounds on the wooden floor. The stillness of the saloon adds to the rather mystical yet eerie ambiance of the castle. We are the only two persons enjoying a drink in this chandelier-lit saloon and all the guests we saw earlier seemed to have disappeared in their own suites. Even the restaurant is empty.
According to historical records, Chateau D’ Hassonville used to be the hunting lodge of King Louis XIV. The Rodriques family renovated this old estate in 1986 and retained the original structure of the castle. It has 17 rooms and three suites, all have views of either the courtyard, the golf course of the garden. The estate is 55-hectare big and perfect for a morning run or walk. This is my first weekend stay in a castle hotel and the moment the car entered the automatic steel gates, I knew that castles will always be on top of the list whenever I’m booking an accomodation during my weekend travels.
R just finished ordering our dinner, after struggling with his French for 15 minutes. The menu was only in French and the waiter/butler speaks only French. So now what I know of my dinner is that I am getting fish but have no idea what kind and how it was cooked. I saw that it comes with truffles and that is fine because I like cooking with truffles. And since R’s French is rusty and I couldn’t understand a thing about his conversation with the waiter/butler I just let them choose a wine to go with my meal.
Late lunch in Durbuy, tiniest village in Europe
The drive from the Netherlands to Aye had been smooth and uneventful. I slept most of the time until we get to Ayen. The almost 3-hour journey made us hungry and we didn’t want to eat at highway restaurants so we waited until we have checked in and then drove to Durbuy.
Durbuy is Europe’s smallest village. It has a pretty center but since we went there to eat and it started raining when we were done, we decided to explore it tomorrow.
We had lunch at a restaurant called Vieux Pont located at the centre. It is a lovely place to stare at the outside panorama of old buildings, a bridge and children doing their tours of the village. And the heater was a delight because it suddenly became very cold in the afternoon.
Of course the menu was in French but at least the waitress spoke a bit of Dutch so she was able to explain the menu. I decided to go light and order a turkey with mushroom sauce while R opted for steak. His steak also came with mushroom sauce so that’s a minus point for the restaurant. They also served us the same kind of salad from the appetizer of cheese kroket and ham to the main course. The meat dishes weren’t very special, neither was the chocolate mouse dessert. We ordered the set menu so we didn’t really have much choice. The muscat and the wines were at least decent.
Durbuy looks very interesting. Too bad I felt sleepy and we had to go back to the castle.
A bath and a glass of red port
We found a half-full bottle of alchol on the table when we arrived at our room. It was only when we get back that we decided to check what it was. A bottle of red port!
I initially sunk in the very soft bed to take my afternoon but later on decided to enjoy the bath tub instead, with Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot as my companion . It has been sitting in my bag and my book shelf since August 2010 and I couldn’t find time to read it. The book demands so much concentration and time.
But after a while, the three glasses of alcohol took a toll on my conciousness. I began to drift off until the water began to get cold. Then I moved to the bed, very easily sent off to dreamland by the soft pillows and the rain softly falling on the roof.
After an hour I found myself in this saloon, too early for dinner but too late for high tea, staring at huge paintings and enjoying the classical music being played by invisible speakers. It is very tranquil and exactly the way to start a weekend in a castle. So now excuse me while I go back to my champagne.