The first thing that strikes you when you wander through the empty rooms of this Château are the enormous fireplaces. There were 20 at one time and the ones that are left are in various stages of decay. Very old and faded tapestries hang on the walls in some small semblance of what it was like to live there in the early 1600’s. This was an aristocratic house hosting kings and queens from around Europe. In the 19th century, it was modified to serve as a women’s prison with a dismal record for death and harsh treatment. Over 400 women were held captive here with only five toilets, four of which were generally off limits in the infirmary. Clothes were laundered once a week and bed linens once a month. Two meals were served at 9 and 3 each day interspersed with work periods beginning as early as 5 in the morning. Many women drowned themselves in the courtyard well to free their suffering. Following that came a stint as a girl’s reform school until 1952, when it became one of the Gironde’s national monuments. I visited on a sunny autumn day after a bus journey through vineyards and medieval villages. It was pleasant to be in the countryside where tree leaves were multi-colored and grape harvests were in progress. I imagine people felt the same 400 years ago as they traveled to the luxurious estate of the Duke of Épernon.