Chateau LaCage Chambre d' Hote

(The story of the second cage)


Renee awoke with a start, experiencing for a moment that fleeting sensation of panic upon waking in an unfamiliar bed. Then she heard it again, the sound of a cock crowing. She realized it was the sound that had awakened her. She remembered now, where she was and smiled down at a still sleeping Philippe who seemed unaware of Le Coq’s “wake up call”.

It was the morning of their third wedding anniversary and they had spent the night in the just completed “bridal bed and breakfast cottage” in the garden adjoining the Chateau. That afternoon they would go to LaCage de l’ Ile, their very own island hideaway. They needed and deserved the week of rest that lay ahead. As the soft light of the early morning sun played about the room, Renee thought about the events of the last year that had brought them to this place. It had been just a little over a year ago that Philippe’s Aunt Sophie had come to see the “island cage” that she had heard so much about from her son, Louis. Philippe’s cousin, Louis, had been skeptical about turning the Cage into a retreat, but he became intrigued with the project when after the first remodeling steps began, he could see that it really was going to work. Louis owned an art gallery in Paris, but as an artist himself, spent much of his time on the island painting. When Philippe and Renee could not be there, he was on site and was able to supervise the early structural work. The small island had been in Louis’s father’s family for generations. Fortunately the island had remained in the hands of the family and had not been turned into a tourist resort.

Even though they were second cousins, Louis and Philippe had not known each other until they met at the University in Paris. Their fathers were first cousins, but as children they saw very little of one another. Louis’s father, Claude, had served in the French resistance during World War II while Philippe’s father, was still a young boy. Sophie met Claude when he returned after the war to visit with several young men who had fought with him in the underground forces. One of those young men was Sophie’s oldest brother, who introduced his young sister to his former comrades. For Claude and Sophie, it was love at first sight. Actually second sight for Sophie. She remembered as a young girl first seeing Claude that wonderful spring day years ago when the war ended. Everyone was shouting and hugging each other, and she especially remembered hugging Claude. Now 10 years later their hugs were different. Claude and Sophie were married a short time later.

The sound of noises downstairs brought Renee back to the present. Breakfast was being delivered. The sounds awoke Philippe, and Renee reminded him of the breakfast arrangement. Instead of joining the guests in the dining room of the Chateau, they had chosen to have a breakfast basket delivered to them, so they could enjoy the privacy of the little breakfast room. 

Philippe retrieved the basket which had been placed by the front door and set it on the waiting serving cart. A lift of the large colorful napkin revealed still hot, soft cooked eggs and sausage, remarkably crisp and warm cinnamon toast, strawberry preserves and fresh fruit. A separate compartment held assorted pastries and hot coffee. This sumptuous meal was certainly different from the hurried cup of coffee and muffin that had begun most mornings during the last few hectic weeks as they worked together to complete this Bed and Breakfast for the arrival of its first honeymoon couple in a few days.

As they enjoyed their delectable breakfast, Renee and Philippe recalled Claude and Sophie’s post-war meeting, their wedding and early life together, and their eventual move to Claude’s family’s lovely old Chateau in Provence. In later years Louis suggested to his widowed mother that she have the Chateau refurbished and open it as a bed and breakfast. She liked the idea, it was a decision that was to give her much pleasure.

When Sophie saw the transformation of the old island cage into a wonderful retreat, she was enchanted. She thought what fun it would be to create a similar structure in the garden behind the Chateau. Her Bed and Breakfast frequently attracted young couples, especially newly weds. She thought it would be delightful to offer a separate Bridal Cottage as an alternative to staying in one of the Chateau bedrooms. The unique Cage was so appealing to Sophie and she was so impressed with the demonstrated creative skills of Renee and Philippe that she asked them if they would supervise the construction and design the interior of a similar building on the Chateau grounds. The beautiful garden behind the Chateau would be the perfect site for this special “Petite” Chateau.

So, now here they were, a year after completing that first La Cage, celebrating the creation of yet another hideaway. Little did Renee know when she and Philippe decided to create their island retreat what an impact it would have on their lives. When Sophie asked for their help, it was Renee’s turn to be skeptical. She thought about the unusual architecture of their little hideaway and wondered how it would look in the middle of a French country garden, next to the lovely old Chateau. But Sophie had apparently given quite a bit of thought to this project and had a clear idea of what it should look like. Despite its unusual style, the Bed and Breakfast cage would have many of the architectural features that defined the look of the Chateau.  The domed roof would have terra cotta canal tiles and the walls would be stuccoed limestone in the same creamy color as the Chateau. There would be a small balcony with a wrought iron railing, just like the one outside her own bedroom. She felt the echoing of these features of the Chateau would be enough to tie this quirky little honeymoon cottage to its more traditional surroundings.

As Sophie went on describing how she pictured this little honeymoon retreat, Renee could visualize it too, and thought it would be another delightful challenge. Philippe’s smile assured her that this, happily, would be a joint adventure.

Renee and Philippe had often been invited guests at the Chateau, so they were familiar with its interior and furnishings. It was large but not a grand and extravagant Chateau as were many of the magnificent country homes around Paris, which often served as royal residences. It was like many of the Chateaux in the south of France, comfortable, appealing and even exuberant but not pretentious. The furniture, mostly from local cabinet makers, was either a simpler variation of the ever popular Louis XV furniture or basic country pieces with straightforward functional design. The fabrics were colorful cottons rather than brocades and velvets. There were lace curtains at the windows which softened the sun filled rooms.

Sophie’s enthusiasm for this project never wavered. She had some definite ideas about both the exterior and the interior but for the most part she wanted Renee and Philippe to feel free to follow their own creative direction. She agreed with Renee’s suggestion for the colors of the interior rooms. Since the exterior colors of the stucco walls and terra cotta clay roof tiles would be the same as the Chateau, she thought the interior should also incorporate those colors. They would range from pale, creamy pinks through warm sun baked clay tones to a rich, deep brick red. She wanted the colors to reflect the sun drenched fields and cliffs of the countryside. The sun in Provence seems to make everything glow. That was the effect she wanted to achieve for this Petite Chateau. 

The breakfast room was to be warm and inviting. The furnishings would be a mixture of styles and colors, but with the strong country feeling of Provence. The bedroom, however, would be more subdued with softer color tones and an intentionally romantic look.

Sophie had suggested that they tour the Chateau’s unused rooms for possible furniture choices, since only five of the Chateau’s many bedrooms were used for the bed and breakfast. The furniture search produced several pieces for the bedroom, but the final choices for the breakfast room came mostly from outside sources including two pieces from a local pastry shop that was closing its doors and selling its furnishings.

The more involved Renee became in this exciting adventure, the more she realized that her work with the House of Fortuny in Rome was losing its appeal. There she did not have as much creative freedom as she had anticipated. During the visits back and forth to the Chateau, both she and Philippe realized how much they loved Provence. Renee decided, and Philippe readily agreed that she would resign from her job in Rome. They liked the quality of life in Provence and their shopping forays into the quaint but busy little villages, suggested to Renee that she would likely be successful in setting up her own interior design studio. Philippe’s income from his popular series of mystery novels, would more than take care of their living expenses while they considered the possibility of this new venture.

Philippe removed their breakfast plates and brought over the coffee and a dazzling array of pastries. Renee was thoroughly enjoying this leisurely dejeune and their pleasant conversation reflecting on the events of the past year and the exciting plans for their future in Provence.

This “golden couple” would indeed have lovely and exciting years ahead of them.

The Photos......