an unexpected lunch at the château ….

by Sharon Santoni

daffodils in chateau grounds

A slightly fictionalised account of a recent lunch.   No actual photos of the day, because sometimes a camera can just spoil it all…


She had only meant to stop by quickly,  just to say hello, and ask about Madame’s health, and maybe take a quick tour of the garden spreading out behind the château, and where she knew the spring bulbs would be in flower.

The truth was that she was feeling guilty because she hadn’t been  recently and so she took a box of fancy biscuits by way of saying “I’m sorry, I don’t know how the days go by so fast” ……

door knocker

She knocked at the château door, and a few minutes later it was pulled open slowly by Madame.  Small, white haired, blue eyed, a sprightly eighty something, dressed simply in black trousers and turtle-neck sweater.  Once inside, there was no fear of guilt or reproach for her prolonged absence, simply the same warm welcome, kind eyes and natural elegance that had always characterised Madame, since the day she had first met her, over twenty years ago.

“Ah vous voila, …oh,  des biscuits! … merci, you are very kind. …. Come in, come in, sit down and tell me how you are”

dining room in chateau

They had only been talking for a while when the invitation popped up unannounced and spontaneous “But why don’t you stay for lunch, I have my friends Beatrice de N. and Laure de T. who are coming, there is enough for you too”

A negative answer was not really an option, and frankly the prospect of lunch with three distinguished ladies, of a certain age, in a beautiful château … well, it was simply too tempting  to refuse.

“Come along, come into the kitchen, I still have to prepare for the lunch”.

She knew the kitchen already, quite large, high ceilings, the walls tiled in old blue and white squares and a long heavy wooden table running down the centre.  Together they checked on the stuffed tomatoes in the oven.

vintage spoon

“Do you think there is enough, yes I am sure, ……  can you cut this bread please ……..  will you drink wine with the meal?  no, neither do I at midday ……  I have a very nice Camembert cheese, let us put it on this plate ……”   Madame chatted easily as they laid the table together and prepared glasses for an aperitif before the meal.

detail of antique porcelain plate

Her friends arrived on time, and walked in through the main entrance, laden with baskets of food.  “But I have already prepared the lunch my dears, what is all of this?!”, Madame was laughing.  “Oh well, it doesn’t matter ma chère, then you will have some left for your dinner tonight”

She could see that Madame’s friends were keen to take care of her, to keep her company and be sure she had all she needed.  They all walked into the kitchen and there was a momentary flurry as one of the guests re-organised the menu, popping more food into the oven, preparing an extra salad.  It was relaxed and pleasant, old familiar friends who had no need to stand upon ceremony, nothing to prove.

monogram on silver tureen

Conversation was quick and amusing.  They jumped from a minor local scandal; to the work they were each undertaking in their respective properties; to the difficulties encountered when hiring a gardener; to the curé’s sermon last Sunday in church; to  their grandchildren and finally to some happy memories from their youth, and their days of dancing late in the châteaux ballrooms, of champagne, of music and … of love.

And while they talked, she observed, smiling.  Posed the occasional question, listened carefully to every word, watched every glance.  She quickly understood that all those present were grand aristocracy, names were mentioned that were an integral part of french history, yet to them they were just lifelong friends.

And then her eyes wandered to her surroundings; the long table; the glass fronted cupboards full of the family china; and she realised that even though the tableware was silver and the glasses were crystal, there was no sense of putting on airs and graces – this was simply the way that things were done.  This was a very simple lunch, shared by old friends, and she  was privileged to be a part of it.

detail of antique porcelain plate

PS.  Many people are asking about the porcelain in the photos here.  They are simply pictures that I found to illustrate my tale.   The service is French,  Porcelaine de Paris, dating from Louis Philippe, so around 1850.


Marika March 19, 2015 - 8:55 pm

Great story!!! Thank you. I wish there were more photos to go with the story. Maybe next time.

Annie Maurer March 19, 2015 - 9:17 pm

What a beautiful story Sharon! Set in a chateau, it is delightful and I can see it clearly. But it could be in any humble little home, with the love and ease of friendship, the most important element. Thank you for sharing.

Madeline Margraves March 19, 2015 - 9:29 pm


bonnie March 19, 2015 - 9:32 pm

No matter one’s station in life, in the end it is friendship and love and that is all that matters. Thank you for a beautiful story. No, taking pictures would have been so so rude. Our imaginations will do it for us

Vida Snyder March 19, 2015 - 9:32 pm

Absolutely delightful! I stopped to shoot out an email and yours was at the top of my inbox. I stopped (of course) to view. What a charming time you have afforded me, in the middle of preparing a roast, mixing the cake and finishing up painting my little table. Salut!

Barbara Warren March 19, 2015 - 9:35 pm

What a fun afternoon interlude!

Diana Ferguson March 19, 2015 - 9:43 pm

More delights from your pen, or should I say fingers? You make the reader feel she is there too… Thank you for that. Diana

Nancee March 19, 2015 - 9:44 pm


Vicky from Athens March 19, 2015 - 9:48 pm

Just a lovely story. A simple stop by the chateau to say hello turned into a delightful lunch with a few gracious ladies. I love it when that happens!

Linda March 19, 2015 - 9:53 pm

Loved this story. So refined and elegant, these three ladies of a certain age. In my work as a nurse I have met a few ladies that could fit right in this scenario. Please share more.


Madonna/aka/Ms. Lemon March 19, 2015 - 9:53 pm

You paint a lovely story even sans photos. 🙂

Nancy Fenstermacher March 19, 2015 - 10:05 pm

Sharon, Your little luncheon party took me away from window cleaning and preparing dinner! How nice. Could you tell me about the plates please? Thanks again for your writing.

Nancy O. March 19, 2015 - 10:08 pm

Thank you Sharon, for a lovely story!

Karen T. March 19, 2015 - 10:10 pm

What a wonderful story! I felt as though I was there, too.

Annette Tracy March 19, 2015 - 10:27 pm

Oh how I enjoy these stories! I’m always so sad when they’re over!

K.Margo Stevenson March 19, 2015 - 10:29 pm

How perfectly enchanting!

Karena March 19, 2015 - 10:42 pm

Sharon a lovely account of a time with friends , beautifully written as always!
The Arts by Karena

Reply March 19, 2015 - 10:51 pm

Thoroughly enjoyed that, thank you. Definitely my kind of lunch, the informality of an old country kitchen, laid back and informal but still effortlessly elegant, good friends and the older generation – their stories are always so fascinating.

Elvie March 19, 2015 - 10:54 pm

What a loverly story,wish I had been there to

Barbara Novello March 19, 2015 - 11:11 pm

Oh my I loved it……..pictured it perfectly too.

So happy for you!

Diane March 19, 2015 - 11:38 pm


Monique March 19, 2015 - 11:57 pm

What a lovely story Sharon, I am french but emigrated to Australia when I was a teenager.
Your blog is such a reminder of my childhood.I love it.
This little lunch story is a try reminder of friendship between friends be they wealthy or not!
Thank you.

sylvia faye March 20, 2015 - 12:59 am

thank you for ‘a dear moment in time. Your pictures are tres perfect, n’est ce pas?
You have a wonderful gift of transporting one with your words and pictures.

Merci Beaucoupe,
Sylvia Faye

La Contessa March 20, 2015 - 1:10 am

THE CHINA…………did you turn it over?!!!!How divine…………….
I hope I will still be able to open the door at 80 something and prepare a lunch for friends.
By chance is she in your book???

Mary L March 20, 2015 - 3:13 am

What a sweet enchanting story to dream about !!!! Please please share some information about the wonderful China !!!

Lise-Lotte Loomer March 20, 2015 - 3:14 am

How beautiful. I was right there….Thank you

Sheila in SF March 20, 2015 - 6:57 am

What a delightful story. Short, but I was engulfed from the beginning….you are such a good writer.

Esther George March 20, 2015 - 8:03 am

Hi Sharon what a lovely story, it felt like I was a part of it. Thank for sharing beauty. Have a wonderful weekend. Till next time regards Esther from Sydney. PS the photographs are beautiful.

Chris March 20, 2015 - 8:21 am

So magical!

Marian from UK March 20, 2015 - 10:37 am

What a lovely vignette to brighten my day! Beautifully told so that it transports us there. There’s nothing better than lunch with old friends, relaxed, easy, sharing memories. No matter they be wealthy or not, the comfort of friendship is universal. Thank you.

Colleen March 20, 2015 - 11:39 am

Thank you Sharon. What a lovely story, one which needs to be expanded upon and published.

Agnes Irene March 20, 2015 - 12:55 pm

Absolutely enchanting! Something about the ease and generosity of these friends really stirred something in me. I love the blend of comfort with elegance, the impromptu lunch with the wealth of tradition. But most of all I love the celebration of the older woman – you’ve portrayed them beautifully.

Mary W. Ferguson March 20, 2015 - 12:57 pm

What a beautiful story and such wonderful friends to have. Thank you for sharing.
Happy Spring and have a wonderful weekend.

Jeanne McKay Hartmann March 20, 2015 - 1:07 pm

Sharon, I’m so glad I popped in, I always adore your fiction. It takes me away to another world, is always so sweet, but still gives plenty of food for thought – I find that the essence of your stories stay with me for days, the characters seem so real. Thanks for sharing them with us!

Looking forward to our lunch soon! XOXO

Debbie Spence March 20, 2015 - 2:53 pm

I am inspired to have friends over for lunch. I enjoyed this for many reasons: 1. Because you have a delightful relationship that allows you to just stop by. 2. Because you did not arrive empty handed. 3. The other ladies did not arrive empty handed either. 4. But mostly because no matter the country, no matter the age, no matter the financial status, we all enjoy chatting with those who know us and accept us just as we are. Delightful afternoon!

Judy March 20, 2015 - 4:25 pm

What a lovely story which transported me back in time to my dear friend from the past,of a certain age, who was delightful with her tales of growing up in Victoria. We too would have had a lunch such as this!

Marlene Stephenson March 20, 2015 - 6:25 pm

My father always said people that have don’t have to put on airs,they just enjoy,and i have found that to be very true,i just love people for who they are not what they have. I loved your story it was delightful,thank you Sharon.

Sherry Hawkins March 20, 2015 - 10:34 pm

This post reminds us of all the endearing aspects of established friendship between
women, regardless of culture and nationality. Again, you make my heart soar….
thank you, Sharon, for making your insights and your gifts available to women all
across the globe.

Sherry, USA

Tracy Bedeker March 21, 2015 - 1:45 am

I think I have met a couple of these characters. I absolutely love your stories. You have such a flair at writing. I hope Madam is doing well, we absolutely adored visiting with her that day. It was definitely one of our highlights. And… I wish we would have skipped our train to have tea that day.

Sandra T. March 21, 2015 - 2:42 am

Thank you for that lovely story. I feel like I too was part of that elegant luncheon! Those plates are so beautiful! Exquisite doesn’t begin to describe them.

Deb March 21, 2015 - 4:57 am

Such a lovely story. I’ve always thought how nice it is when friends get together to jointly prepare, cook and enjoy good food.

Kathy from Memphis March 21, 2015 - 12:02 pm

A beautiful, simple story.
Thank you.

Josephine March 21, 2015 - 6:07 pm

Sans photos leaves sooooo much to the imagination. Merci bien.
More stories, pls.

Shell Parsons March 22, 2015 - 4:41 am

A delightful, captivating story.x

Heather in Arles March 22, 2015 - 5:33 pm

Just wonderful. What an exceptional and yet beautifully simple moment, Sharon. Thank you for sharing it…

Gayle de Bruyckere March 22, 2015 - 11:21 pm

I love how it takes me to another place, a quiet observer…thank you!

Lucia Donahower March 24, 2015 - 8:53 pm

Dear Sharon, lovely story! I thoroughly enjoyed it and loved the photographs. Thank you also for posting on the various Parisian arrondissement.
Thank you so much,
Lucy in California.

Gail, in northern California March 25, 2015 - 12:26 am

I loved this story…so much so that I shared it with several friends. They loved it too! Thank you.

Victoria Savu March 27, 2015 - 2:44 pm

Love reading your stories. Can hardly wait for your book. Thank you for your blog.


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