“You are going to get us kicked out of here,” warned David, a serious look on his face as his three friends continued to laugh uncontrollably.
It was embarrassing. There was a table not too far away at which sat a nice French family, parents and three children, all nicely dressed and nicely behaved. He didn’t really care for children but for God’s sake, those kids were better behaved than his convulsing companions.
He looked out of the centuries old stone building, across the road to the deep blue sea and sighed. Gert, Herman and Annie continued in hysterics. They were doing voiceovers now for the various shrimp and cockles and periwinkles, and even the lobster, which had been delivered to their table on a large multi-tiered platter.
He could see the humour, but at a certain point, there needed to be some decorum. And that point, he hoped, would arrive before they were ejected from the nice restaurant.
A table full of crustaceans sat before them. Granted, there were three of them, but, still, there was an awful lot of food there. And it was all crustacean. No lettuce, no vegetables. Ok, there was a sprig of rosemary, some lemon, some seaweed, but that was just a garnish. Some of the crustaceans they couldn’t even name, didn’t even recognize.
“How did we decide to order this again?” Asked Herman, recovering from his fit of giggles.
“And where do we start?” returned Gert between hysterical sobs of laughter.
They sat with their friends, David and Annie, by the open window of a beautiful old stone fish restaurant, looking out at the little Atlantic fishing village and the blue expanse of the ocean beyond.
Herman took some lobster while Annie swallowed two oysters. Gert was just lifting a full-bodied jumbo prawn onto her plate when its alien appearance prompted her to launch into the Eddie Izzard Darth Vader skit again.
Annie and Herman were almost on the floor they were laughing so hard.
Feeling a bit rueful, Gert tried to look a little more composed as she pulled herself together and got on with the business of eating.
“You are going to get us kicked out of here,” David was saying.
“I’m sure you will get along very well with Gert and Herman,” David reassured Annie as they climbed out of their small car, their eyes on the castle before them.
“It’s really a castle!” exclaimed Annie, looking up at the turrets, and taking in the roses growing at the base of the castle walls, the forest in the distance, the gardens and the beautiful French countryside of the Loire Valley.
She could hardly believe she was here, that they would be staying in an actual 14th Century French chateau, for two weeks.
She was looking forward to having a holiday with David, and with their friends from home. And she was eager to meet David’s friends from his previous life in New Zealand. She just hoped that they would get along. Two weeks could be a long time if you were staying in a secluded castle in a foreign country with people you didn’t like, or who didn’t like you.
At the very least, meals could be awkward.
Annie and David found the caretaker, obtained the keys to the chateau – real, old iron castle keys – and had a look around.
The large oak doors across the foyer from the front door opened out onto a courtyard with a pond and two rows of sculpted trees, leading into a field and a forest beyond. They left the doors open to clear out the stale air and mounted the spiral stone staircase to the second floor.
Upstairs, they found four bedrooms. They selected one for themselves, and threw open the large shutters and windows to let in the light and some air. They stood there, gazing at the courtyard below and the rolling forested hills in the distance.
Having unpacked, they looked around the castle some more, ensuring that the other rooms would be satisfactory for their friends.
“Hello?” a man’s voice echoed from somewhere below them.
“That’s Herman,” explained David, heading toward the stairs to greet his friend.
“Don’t worry, I know you will really like Herman and Gert,” he reassured her again, as he disappeared down the stairs.
And in fact, David was right. The very next day, Annie went with Herman and Gert to the nearest city. It felt immediately as though they had always been friends. They spent the day perusing the French countryside market, laughing and having a wonderful time.
When they returned to the chateau that evening, they had so many inside jokes from their day out, none of the others were really sure what they were laughing at. Gert and Annie cooked dinner and everyone sat down to a fabulous feast, accompanied by a number of wonderful bottles of wine.
As the holiday progressed, the six holidayers came and went, visiting nearby sites or taking the picnic basket and a blanket to spend the day under one of the many trees on the grounds.
As the holiday drew to a close, David suggested that perhaps someone might like to join him for a day on the coast. Herman, Gert and Annie jumped at the chance to see the ocean.
Annie had been doing some research in a dated guidebook she had found in the castle’s drawing room and suggested that they have lunch at a lovely seafood restaurant in one of the villages by the sea. Everybody agreed, and they set out in good spirits.
By the time they had reached the coast, they were all hungry. The found Annie’s restaurant easily; it was situated in an old stone building on the main street, and offered a beautiful, expansive view of the sea.
They ordered wine as they perused the menu.
“I’m quite hungry,” Annie thought aloud. “Would anyone like to share the seafood platter?”