In almost every place you can live, there are places you go to escape for the weekends and holidays. In Iowa, lots of people would go boating, heading to the lake areas are far south as the Ozarks. In Florida, you might have a place on the beach. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, people have lake homes or cabins in the north. And in Paris, people go to the country.
We were lucky enough to enjoy this past weekend in the country home of our friends, Philippe and Stefan. Their “regular” home is in Versailles, not too far from us. But their country home is in Burgundy, about two hours southeast of the city.
We were up early Saturday morning, purchasing bread from the bakery and walking Chili, before they picked us up to be on our way. Now, I would have been content to just sit in front of the huge fireplace all day long munching on cheese and bread with my book. But we filled the weekend with other activities, too, that made the time even more enjoyable.
Their home is everything you would want from a country farmhouse: exposed beams, stone walls, a large fireplace in the kitchen where everyone gathered, all sorts of bedrooms with brightly colored, mismatched quilts, candles everywhere and jazz music playing in he background all weekend. Yes, they know how to make you comfortable! The kids pulled out puzzles which Sarah tackled in front of the fire and Julian set up a large train set in the loft. There were old tree stumps just perfect for playing “King of the Mountain” (I have a charlie-horse bruise courtesy of Tom to prove my demise), lots of wildflowers for Elizabeth to pick and old bicycles which made us yearn for our bikes at home and the space to ride them.
Back inside, activity centered in the kitchen. Soon after arriving Saturday morning, we went into the closest village and market to get lots of vegetables, fresh bread, a roast for Sunday dinner, chicken from the chicken man, amazing cheese, some fruit, and croissants for the breakfast the next morning. I’m not sure how to best articulate the meals: Simple, yet elegant? Provencal, yet sophisticated? I guess the recipes would suggest simplicity. Yet, when pulled together you had three-course meals beautifully prepared and so greedily eaten. How can you go wrong with fresh vegetable soup, zucchini gratin, cheese platters, fresh salads, baked pears, roasts, all accompanied by baskets of bread and wine, champagne, and juices. Lovely. Truly lovely. If I was smart, I would turn them into Better Homes & Gardens or Country Living for a featured piece. I took lots of mental notes on simple things to improve my hosting once I return home. I have a long way to go, I think.
In between cooking and eating, we enjoyed Burgundy. On Saturday, we had our morning at the Toucy markets and, after lunch, drove into Chablis for a wine-tasting in a wine cave with a private owner as a walk around the village of Chablis. Such a small area that produces such a large amount of wine! Philippe stumbled upon side-by-side merchants specializing in andouillette, a course sausage made with pork (or veal) intestines. It is one of his favorites. Everyone (except Stefan and me) tried some at lunch on Sunday. The surprise fan? Sarah! Philippe told her she is truly French.
On Sunday, after a French breakfast of croissants, pain au chocolats, yogurts, juices, tea, coffee, and toast with homemade jams (and the girls’ introduction to milk jam), we were off to Guedelon: a castle in the making. Since 1997, they have been building a castle from scratch, using the methods of the Middle Ages. When it is completed in 2025, it was be an authentic recreation of a 13th century medieval castle. In the Midwest, we how to work at a farm from the turn-of-the-(last) century. In France, learn how to build a castle! It was a great visit and a chance to the kids to enjoy more “space”. Us, too, I guess. Being in the city all the time can make you a little antsy for the great outdoors, without even knowing it.
We returned to the smells of a another meal on the table and had enough time for some bike riding before we needed to head back to Paris. And, just like home, we were caught in the traffic of all the others that were returning on an early Sunday evening, but rested and ready for another week of our Parisian life.