SCHLOSS WOLFSEGG—I was watching two very old men slowly approaching the open doors of the Pilatus airplane I was leaning up against when it dawned on me that they were the pilots who were about to fly me to my daughter's wedding. The one called Willy extended his hand; so did Alex, a short little guy who looked in his 90s. "Ah, Herr tennis man," he said, and then mentioned a match I had won more than fifty years ago when on the tennis circuit, "wie geht es?" Willy then told me that Alex had retired from flying Airbuses thirty years before and now flew as insurance in case the pilot dropped dead en route. I could not care less. Pilatus is my favorite airplane, with six wide seats and one just behind the two pilots. With a Pratt & Whitney engine of 1,700 horsepower, it cruises silently at 250 knots and can fly without refueling for close to 2,000 klicks. It can land on a postage stamp, and there are 1,500 of them buzzing around the globe.
We left Saanen, a private airport near Gstaad, and arrived in Salzburg one hour and fifteen minutes later. Alexandra (the mother of my children) had brought all sorts of goodies along, but so had the two pilots, so by the time we landed, the champagne was starting to take effect. My beautiful daughter, the future Gräfin Saint Julien, was waiting for us on her last day as plain Miss Taki.
My first thought at seeing the white 1,000-year-old castle that will be her home from now on was a simple one: At least she won't be mugged by some thug called Muhammad as she was in London, in SW10, and where her local MP, one Greg Hands, showed as much interest in her case as I do when local Burundi elections are mentioned. (The fuzz were polite but understaffed, and there was nothing they could do; the area continues to be terrorized by council estate tenants.) So, there was this huge white castle on a hill surrounded by thick woods and overlooking a hamlet by the same name; the castle makes Badminton House look like a semidetached near Reading. (More about Badminton in two weeks, if I survive the upcoming party.)
My son-in-law, Count Edouardo Saint Julien-Wallsee, is an Austrian nobleman whose family and title go back close to 900 years. (Louis IX rewarded the family after the Second Crusade.) He and his family and I get along like a house on fire, and on the night of the wedding we stayed up far too late and got stinko. Edo is the head of the household, and I met all his close friends the first night at the schloss. Although I hate to sound corny, I have never met such really old-fashioned gentlemen in all my years of traveling the globe. They were all young, all titled, with beautiful wives and beautiful blond children, and beautiful manners. In fact, the setting and the place were straight out of The Sound of Music, without the vulgarity of the von Trapps.