"The reluctant Francophile..."
My husband Jack has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I thought it would be good for him to achieve his life time dream. Hence, we moved to Paris in 2008. My first year was difficult. I started "missives" to relieve some stress and chronicle my life so friends back in the US could read what I am experiencing. I currently write about my food and travel experiences, which is my passion.
It is definitely a challenge to live here, but each year it gets easier, and quite enjoyable, in large part because I value friendships over locale. I have a love/hate relationship with Paris as do most Parisians, mais La vie est belle (but life is good)!
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
August 17-24, 2008
Monday: We’re getting prepared to take the “mustard” train to Dijon today (lol). Got a call from Howard, Stephen’s partner that he arrived early and is with Michael at the hotel. They cancelled his flight in the US but rerouted him so he could get into Paris. Unfortunately, they lost his luggage in the process. What a surprise. Since Howard knows his way around Paris, we told him to take Michael to Gare de Lyon and we’d meet him there rather then picking them both up.
We went to the Train station, and we were a bit early. So, I told Jack to stay by the train while I search for Michael and Howard. Someone came close behind me and pushed me, I thought my worst nightmare came true, I’m going to be mugged and robbed, turned out it was Howard playing a trick on me since he knows I’m paranoid about being pick pocketed.
Jack got us special tickets in First class on the TGV (France fast train). Not a whole lot of difference except there are 3 seats across (1 single, and 2-together), whereas 2nd class are 2-together on either side, so 4-across, go 2nd class to save money unless you get a special deal like we did.
The ride took us about 1 hour and 30 minutes. When we got to Dijon Stephen (he had gone down the night before to get the car) picked us up. Stephen spent many a summers in this area in his youth. His father owned “Chaudenay”, a Chateau (French for Castle), and we’re actually going to be staying in a chateau of a family friend. We drove to Antigny. As we drove through the gates, I thought, I must be dreaming. It was a real castle. There use to be a dry moat around the castle. So, this is how the other half lived in the 1600’s and this is also how the other half lives today. It’s a vacation home for an American couple, wow, I’ve seen some vacation homes, but this takes the cake.
As you drive in there’s a huge courtyard (see above pictures). When you enter, as you turn left there are 2-separated sitting rooms. One I’ll call the yellow room, where as the other is more like a library. As you go further down that wing, there’s a bedroom with an ensuite bathroom. Now going towards the right wing of the castle, there’s a huge formal dining room. Beyond that is the family room connected to a large kitchen. We went upstairs on this incredible staircase where horses use to climb to take the nobility, go figure. The left wing had 3-bedrooms, each with their own sitting or private parlor area. Ours was a cute blue parlor and beyond that was our bedroom with an ensuite bathroom. The windows looked out into a manicured lawn (see garden picture below). The other 2 bedrooms were just as unique. At the other wing were 2 other bedrooms, again with their own private sitting areas. On the 3rd floor, yes there was a floor above us even though the ceilings had to have been 15 feet high, if not higher; there was a playroom and another bedroom with a private sitting room, bedroom and ensuite bathroom.
Also, there are several guest houses and apartments surrounding the Chateau, not to mention the gardens and surrounding land, horse included, and his name is Napoleon. My pictures do not do justice to the Chateau. You have to see the chateau in person to get the full effect. Unbelievable, I definitely felt like a “Queen” for the day, excuse the expression.
Across the main living quarters was a chapel, and to the right of that was a huge library. Keep in mind all the furniture and books are all antiques. Our bedroom was filled with antique silver, Meissen, Herend, and you name it. I was so afraid of breaking something; I decided not to touch anything. So, my ass could have literally been sitting where royalty once sat, imagine that.
After getting over the shock of where we were going to stay for the next couple of days, we had a cocktail and went and had dinner at a local restaurant, actually it was the only one open, called Auberge du Val d’Ouche in Bligny sur Ouche. As I mentioned, Stephen spent many a summers there as a youth and also has been going there every year for the past couple of years, so the whole area knows Stephen and of his family. As we walked in we were greeted very warmly by the owners. A woman by the name of Sabine, her husband, and her brother Michel, who spoke really good English, since he just got off a cruise ship where he was the Sommelier. It was like homecoming for Stephen, lucky him.
Had a great time. Michel is a frustrated comedian, that on top of his over the top flamboyant behavior made us all have so much fun. Oh by the way, I had beef Bourguignon; I mean we are in the Burgundy region of France. We had so much fun; we invited Michel and his sister to the Chateau for cocktails Tuesday afternoon.
Got home, had a night cap and called it a day. I have to mention the sheets on our bed, ‘cause pictures can’t do it justice. It was so white; I’d never seen anything so white. It was bordered with lace and must’ve been 1000 count Egyptian cotton. After getting used to the quiet and the fear of possibly ghosts in the castle, a few drinks didn’t hurt either, I slept real well.
Monday: Sylvie, the caretaker came in early and got us croissants, coffee, and brioche to start the day. How lovely. After breakfast, Stephen gave us a great tour of the area.
First we went to Beaune. Cute little town. In that town was the Hospices de Beaune Hôtel-Dieu which was the very first hospital ever built in the world, imagine that. As in most of these areas, the roofs are tiled with colorful patterned tiles as you can see from the pictures. The boys had already taken a tour of the hospital years before, so Jack and I decided to take a tour. Very interesting as you can see from the pictures. I can just picture Louis Pastuer doing his thing…
After Beaune, Stephen took us to all the outlying towns and vineyards. I wish I could remember all the names, but I can barely remember how to speak English anymore. One town was cuter than the other.
Then Stephen took us to his vineyards that he and his cousin recently purchased. It will be supplying wine very soon, and you may soon find it at your local wine store in the states.
Afterwards, we went to a grocery store and I bought some food to cook for dinner that evening. Made a simple dinner of Turkey kabobs, Marguez sausages (very popular in France), with potatoes, later a salad and some wonderful cheeses and wines of the areas. AND, of course, “Dijon” mustard.
Another wonderful day. Plus the weather was fabulous.
Tuesday: Wet day. We were all praying that it would clear up, but unfortunately, it did not. But that didn’t deter Stephen or the others from showing us around. First we went to Chateau Neuf. A castle that sits atop a hill and surrounded by cute little homes, stores and cafes. Did I mention that in smaller towns stores typically close between 12 noon and 2 pm for lunch, and this goes for the larger supermarkets as well as department stores. Well when we got to the hilltop the Chateau was closed for lunch, none-the-less we had a great time walking around the cute little town.
Then Stephen took us to his father’s Chateau, and gave us an interesting history and overview of the Chateau Chaudenay. As we were touring, the Mayor saw Stephen, he stopped and chatted with him for awhile. Like I said, everyone there knows Stephen and his family.
We went to a few other towns and we decided to head back to the Chateau, since Michel and Sabine would be there around 4 for cocktails. I made a bunch of pupus, you name it, I made it. Michel and Sabine showed up and Stephen gave them a little tour of the Chateau. They looked a little stunned as well, like we did. Anyway, they had just eaten and were preparing for the dinner shift, so I made all this food and they didn’t eat it, oh well, it will keep. We had a lovely visit, and I told them if they’re ever in the US to look us up.
We rested for a while, and Stephen told me the night before that they had a restaurant in the town that specialized in making frog legs, grenouilles made anyway way you wanted. So we decided to go out there for dinner around 8 p.m. Jack and I were the only ones that ordered the frog legs. Hmmm, me wonders why? They were very rich with crème etc, it was good, but you couldn’t actually taste the frog legs, oh well.
After dinner we took a little walk over the canal, and then headed home. Another wonderful day filled with memories.
Wednesday: We leave today to go back to Paris. Stephen, Michael and Howard will stay at the chateau til the end of the month since they have other family and friends visiting as well.
Left a little early to take a walking tour of Dijon. We walked through the town center and different little side streets. It seemed there was a church on every corner, and we went to a few of them. There was one with a huge marble carving. To get a perspective I took a picture of Jack in front of it. It was huge. Cute town, but definitely not Paris. Very clean, not polluted and not at all crowded.
We decided since it was getting close to catching our train, we’d better head back to the terminal. Got to the terminal, the train ride to Paris was a non-event. Paris was not very crowded today. We whizzed right on home. Very tired today, so we’re going to stay in and have a quiet evening.
Thursday: Got up late. Had to do some errands. We had no food in the house. Had a low-key day, went to the groceries, did laundry and stayed home for a quiet evening. It started raining later in the evening, so just as well we stayed home.
Friday: Woke up and it’s still raining. It’s cold, cloudy and wet. Yuck! It went from light rain to heavy rain ALL day. We decided since it was so ugly out, we’d stay in.
Saturday: It stopped raining, YIPEE! We decided to go out, just to go out since the sun was out and it was a really nice day. A friend’s birthday is coming up so we went to the Les Halles to a pretty well known yarn shop. As some of you know, I’m a big knitter. So we went to La Droguerie, beautiful store. Lots of hand spinned and dyed yarn. Bought some nice yarn to make a scarf for a birthday gift.
Afterwards we went into the Saint Eustache. We see the church all the time when we’re in the Les Halles area, but have never walked in. Boy, talk about looks can be deceiving. It’s nothing to look at on the outside, but when you get in, it looks really beautiful with the stained glass and all the mahogany carvings. Well worth seeing it if you’re in the area, who knew?
Then we went walked to Galeries Lafayette via Rue Montmarte, and then Montmarte Blvd. These roads do not lead to the Montmarte, but are cute walking streets with lots of shops and cafes. We went to the Galeries Lafayette to do a bit of shopping, and of course our proverbial afternoon pastries. Our friend Tracy called, and she’s leaving for Geneva to visit her sister, so we decided to meet for dinner tonight in the Le Marais.
Met Tracy near the Metro stop, and then we headed off to a pretty well known Couscous restaurant called Chez Omar. What a disappointment, the food was so bland, thank God for harissa (middle Eastern spicy salsa); otherwise it would have been awful.
We took the metro home from a stop that I really like; it’s called “Arts et Métiers.” It looks like a submarine inside (see picture below).
Had an early evening and went home and called it a day.
Sunday: What a surprise it’s raining! Got a call from friends of friends Karen and her partner Laura who are in Paris. Karen’s father recently passed away and she’s in the process of selling his Marais apartment. We decided, despite the awful weather, we’d meet them at their apartment and go out to dinner! So, we pretty much stayed in until it was time for dinner.
We got to their apartment about 8 pm, really close by the Place de Vosges, one of the prettiest small parks in Paris. The apartment was 2-stories, quite lovely and HUGE for Paris. I’m so jealous. Oh well.
We had wine and chatted for a while then went out to a restaurant recommended by Zagat called Chez Janou. Walked there, and wouldn’t you know it, the restaurant was closed, so we went to a nearby restaurant called Café Hugo. It was more of a bar/café place than a restaurant. The food was just so-so, but the company was better. We actually got seated outside, but it was covered so the rain didn’t get us wet.
Had a great time, and headed home to an eerily quiet Montmarte. A lot of the cafes on Rue des Abbesses were closed, go figure? Well it is August.
This has been a really good week of visits and excursions. No complaints, just one the weather! Oh well, all-in-all, La vie est bonne!!!