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.

 

Beautiful Landscapes: A Vine for All Seasons

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I have come to love vineyards. Not growing up around them, I had no idea how beautiful they truly are. The Alsatian landscape in France is breathtaking. You cross the Rhine River from Germany, et voilà! You find yourself in the Plain of Alsace. As you travel west you come to the Valley of Kaysersberg. It is the gateway to the Vosges Mountains. Vineyards and orchards cover the hillsides and the valleys. Medieval villages are nestled at the base of the mountains. Everywhere you look is lovely.

Let’s take a visual tour of the seasons of a vineyard.

Nov

 

The vines can be found sleeping during November and the winter months. Not the vineyard owners, there is still tending to be done. I will admit the landscape takes on a harsher look this time of year. But then, don’t we all.

April

It’s early April, and not much has changed. But the wild flowers are coming up in the grass between the rows. Color is coming to the vineyard.

May

What a difference a month makes. It’s late May, and the storks have returned to Alsace, all the way from Africa, and are enjoying a stroll through the vineyard. Everyone in the valley hopes they’ve brought good luck with them. So the legend goes.

June

It is mid-June and the vines have finished blooming, three weeks early this year, and the grapes are beginning to form. Now is the time to start watching for the wild boar that room the woods. And hey, it’s not their fault. They’ve just been in the forest digging for truffles all day and stuffing themselves. Now there’re thirsty.  So, of course, they need to wander down the hillside into the vineyards for a drink. And what a drink! These aren’t just any grapes. These are the famous Grand Cru variety. Not what you think of as pig food. But then again, these are French pigs.

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It’s fall, and harvest is upon us! The vines are full and the grapes are ready. There are normally three weeks of harvest. The final week will be the Verdange Tardive, late harvest grapes . . . sweeeeeeet. Mmm.

So here is where it’s about to get fun. I’d love for you to join me as I learn to harvest grapes. Who wants to help? Just show up with a pair of gloves, rubber are better because the grapes are tender, and by the end of the day you’re hands will be soaked in grape juices. You’ll also need a pair of Wellies (a.k.a. rain boots). Not because it’s going to rain, but because we’ll be walking up and down the aisles of vines, and invariably grapes will fall, and you will step on them. THIS IS WHERE I NEED TO TELL YOU, YOU WILL BE VERY STICKY BY THE END OF THE DAY. GOOD STICKY. And finally, you will need to get you a really cute head band/ribbon to tie back your hair if it’s long. There’s a shop here in the village with a great selection.

So get yourself ready! I’ll see you tomorrow.