Taking Legends and Making Them My Own: The Invisible Castle of Lac Blanc

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There are many legends in the region of Alsace, France. One that I have embraced and made my own, weaving it into my latest work of fiction, transpired in and around Lac Blanc (White Lake). This beautiful pristine lake is nestled inside a glacial cirque and sits atop one of the Vosges Mountains at 3,458 feet (1054 meters) in Haut-Rhin, France. It’s counterpart Lac Noir (Black Lake) sits just below at 3,130 feet.

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This view across the lake shows the rocky white shoreline surrounding the water. 

One of the legends states there is an invisible castle that appears only to those who are pure of heart and mind. It rises up out of the waters and extends a walkway for the righteous one. I was told by someone who lives nearby that “once upon a time” a young man who was pure of heart came upon the castle and when he crossed the walkway he met a beautiful young woman who resided within the castle walls. They immediately fell in love and lived “happily ever after” under the water of the lake in the castle. Stuff of legends, people.

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In my novel, at the far end of the lake, Coventina’s castle appears to Ursula who is hiding behind the rowan trees, watching her brother Lancelot play along the shoreline. Then, four hundred years later it appears again to Ursula as she brings her daughter to meet Coventina, the Lady of the Lake. Yes, I said four hundred years later. And, yes, I said Lancelot. I love that Arthurian legends abound in this part of France.

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This is a photo taken of the opposite end of the lake. The large granite tower to the left is known as Château Hans. It has its own stories to tell, for another time, perhaps.

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The day we drove up to the lake the wind was howling. This is the fourth and final attempt to have my picture taken. I grabbed my hair, wound it tight and held it down, but to no avail. It would not be tamed. Thus, with my wild hair flying this way and that, a story formed in my head. I walked along the shoreline and tried hard as I might to see the invisible castle. It did not appear! No righteousness of my own to bring it forth. No surprise there, but disappointed all the same. So I did what all fiction writers do. I used my imagination, and voila, the castle presented itself to me. It was at that very moment I met the Lady of the Lake, and we have been friends ever since.

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She introduced me to the Enchanted Wood that surrounded Lac Blanc. We have taken a number of walks through the forest, and of late she showed me the hidden Hermitage where old knights retire and spend the last of their days.

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As I said goodbye to Lac Blanc, I knelt down and picked up a small rose quartz stone along the water’s edge. A stone of remembrance, as is my habit. I looked into the crystal waters hoping for a glimpse of something otherworldly. It was then another tale came to mind, of water horses, who would take you for a ride into the depths of the lake from which you could never return. I stood, put the stone in my pocket and walked rather quickly to the car. Yes, I would live to see another day, write another chapter.

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Once back in Kaysersberg at our little apartment, I grabbed my notebook, ordered a cup of hot chocolate from Jean Jacques and put pen to paper. It has been a year since that day at Lac Blanc. The scenes are finally where they belong, in chapter form. And, I continue to listen as my characters reveal what happens next. I promise you it is as much a surprise to me as it will be to you, someday, when you read the novel.

 

Skye Book Tour: Day Two

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Good morning! I hope your sleep was wonderful. Step outside now that it’s daylight. This was Kathryn’s view, and it’s ours as well. Veiled in the mist are the Hills of Knoydart just across the Sound of Sleat. Isn’t it lovely? A wee bit of heather here and there. By the way, someone left their sunglasses in the rover. You’ll not find a lot of need for them here.

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Here’s a magical bit of information. First one of the day. When my husband, Jim, and I first came to Skye this is where we stayed as well. I chose it from the internet solely based on the names of the proprietors being Macdonald and the fact, he was a top tour guide. When we awoke, and I saw the view my first morning here I squealed (ever so softly as not to terrify Jim or the Macdonalds). This was the view I had written into my novel for Kathryn to see when she rented her very own cottage. I know! Magic.

Enough about the view, let’s head to Armandale Castle, home of the Lord of the Isles, the MacDonalds.

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Failte! Welcome to my ancestral home! Of course, I’ve been unable to locate just exactly where my Skye MacDonald ancestors lived. But, I think this might have been a nice spot. So why not?

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Much of the castle was burned in 1855, but it is formidable. In the 15th century, the Clan Donald was established on the Isle of Skye. From the 1650s, the MacDonald chiefs began to stay at Armandale in addition to their other castles around the island. In 1925, the MacDonald family moved to a smaller house, abandoning Armandale to the elements.

25 Sound of Sleat from Armandale

The gardens surrounding the castle and the wild woods adjacent to it are wonderful. The plantings seen around the castle grounds were started around 1790. The view from the front lawn is breathtaking when the mist chooses to lift. I’ve seen pictures of lovely weddings here.

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Let’s take a walk through the woods. But beware. We will have to pass the guardian of the wood. Prepare yourselves. First, we’ll pass through the Dreamcatcher. Watch your heads . . . and well, just watch it.

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Here we are. The guardian of the woods. You’re welcome to take photos while I speak with her. There now. All are welcome to pass. What did I say to her? That would be between me and the guardian. Wee bit of magic and all.

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The forest path is lined with wild flowers and ferns. Can you detect the scent that hangs heavy in the air? Yes, you’re right. Wild garlic. And there are orchids and blue bells of Scotland aplenty. Giant fir, beech, and birch trees fill the woods.

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The Clan Donald estate is home to red deer and golden eagles. And if we’re lucky we might spot a sea eagle. Oh look! A Viking boat in the middle of the woods. I’d say this is a good time to leave in case there are any lurking in forest. On to the gardens.

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The gardens are filled with beautiful Rhododendrun bushes in full bloom. What a sight! In East Texas we have Azalea gardens that are beautiful, but these plants are fantastic. There are many exotic plants from around the world planted in the castle grounds, as is only right for the home to the Lord of the Isles.

A visit to the Donald Library on our way out is always a good idea. My family tree is housed in this library. My actual personal family tree with the names of my children and grandchildren included This makes me so happy.  After we take a quick look in the library, we will tour the Museum of the Isles. It’s fascinating! We’re sure to be ready for a bite of something chocolate and a cup of coffee after the museum. The former stables of the castle are now a gift shop and restaurant. All the tartans of the MacDonald Clan hang on the walls around the dinning hall. I’ll be sure to point mine out!

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I hope you enjoyed the visit to Armandale. It’s a short drive along the Sound to the end of Sleat. There’s a story to be told along the way. I promised you yesterday. Are you ready?

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Local legend says there were three young men swimming in the small bay on the southern shore of Sleat. Three seals were watching them and magically transformed into three beautiful young women. They swam over to the young men, who had no idea they were Selkies, and instantly the boys fell in love with the young women. Once they all reached shore, the young men saw the seal skins on the beach and realized who these girls were. Two of the boys told the third to take the skins and hide them while they distracted the girls. Reluctantly, he did this. They all three married the girls soon after their meeting. A year passed and one of the wives tricked her husband into showing her where the skins were hidden. She took them, and the three wives returned to the sea with their skins and became seals again. The three young husbands were heartbroken and followed them into the sea. The young men turned to stone. If you sit along the hillside to this day you might catch a glimpse of three seals sitting on the three rocks. There’s the final bit of magic for today’s tour.

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We’ve had a full day. With the sun setting, let’s stop at the Ardvasar Restaurant for dinner. It was one of Kathryn’s favorites. Who knows? Sarah might be working. If so, she’ll be happy to see us. Haggis anyone?