After we completed the Greek portion of our adventure, we arrived in one of the vast wine regions of France. Our home for five days was was a magnificent chateau that was well over 150 years old. Rumor has it that the palatial estate was originally built by Marie Antoinette for her pastry chef as a reward for preparing an adequate amount of cake. The current owner would not confirm this for fear that his exorbitant taxes would go up even further.

The charming mistress of the fifedom ruled assertively over the entire estate. You either followed her rules or you were banished from the kingdom. However, despite her stern demeanor, she was known to feed and shelter the homeless, downtrodden and particularly the deplorables, allowing them to take advantage of her endless generosity. Here’s one example that tells it all. Her friend told her about a couple who was an acquaintance of a neighbor that wanted to spend a few days in their city for a family event, but couldn’t afford the local hotels. So our mistress offered to put Stash and Svetlana Miserable up for a few days, despite not knowing them. After seven days, one of the slovenly guests, Stash brought three plastic bags to her, explaining that one contained white clothes, the second, darks, and the third required hand washing. Taken completely by surprise, she responded that she would wash their clothes, but since she didn’t hand wash her own clothes, she wasn’t about to do theirs. Finally after three weeks of freeloading, without once offering to even buy a liter of milk, Les Miserables were asked to leave. However, they would need a ride to the train station as they couldn’t afford a taxi. And before they left, they tried to make a reservation for the following year.

Appalled by this and other similar horror stories, we were bound and determined to carry our load and keep Madam happy. Upon arriving and entering the 10-foot high doors, and seeing the impeccably decorated mansion which looked more like a museum, Maggie asked if we should remove our shoes. Madam responded, “Oh, no. This is our home, not a mosque.” Since none of us want our hosts to fuss, we constantly offered to handle small tasks. However, the Iron Mistress wouldn’t even allow us to set the table, much less help prepare a snack, or even coffee. Advising that she didn’t know how to cook, a claim made my most of the elite French women, she managed to serve endless four-course gourmet extravaganzas. And she never once served anything on paper or plastic. It was always a different set of fine China, and every course on different plates. Oh, did I mention the fine wine our host served with lunch, dinner and cocktail time? No Two-Buck-Chuck was found in the halls of this former wine grower’s chateau. Our sommelier host was a wine connoisseur, and taught us a lot about different types of wines.

Cave drawing from Lascaux.

And the hospitality was just the beginning of this remarkable visit. Since it was our first time to this part of France, we were taken on tours of the cities, wineries, Michelin Star restaurants, and the famous caves of the Lascaux region. We even had to fight over the restaurant checks and admission fees, as they wanted to pay or share costs for everything. But the best and most entertaining part of being in their company was witnessing the constant banter between them. It rivaled the comedy of the most famous TV couples in the history of television.

And so, on this extraordinary, monthlong adventure, we were now experiencing a second lifetime memory.