Travel Diaries: A Fairy-tale Weekend in the French Countryside
13 Monday Aug 2012
By Abby Rodgers
I love Paris. I have spent several summers in the City of Love and have become accustomed to its swelteringly sticky Julys and Augusts. In fact, this is the first summer I have spent home in two years. As I write from my bed in sunny New York, I am grateful to be soaking in the summer rays instead of sulking under my umbrella by the Paris Plage. Paris has suffered unfortunately gray conditions, overcast with temperatures more suited for sweaters and trench coats than bathing suits.
August tends to be a ghost month in Paris. The streets are littered with tourists and empty of Parisians. Before I left for New York I had made a promise to myself to go on at least one vacation in Europe. Since moving to France two years ago, I have visited Spain, Greece, and Great Britain, but lately I have harbored a strong desire to travel within France.
As a student, my budget is limited, so I was looking for something relatively inexpensive. Trips on the TGV, France’s train system, are a cost- and time-efficient means of travel, and students are eligible for a discounted fee. I had already visited Normandy and Bordeaux as well as several small towns within France, so I was searching for a new place to explore. In a serendipitous fashion the family I work for was planning a party for the couple’s 20th wedding anniversary in the picturesque town of Sologne and wanted me to come along for the weekend. Amazing!
They bought me a ticket for the TGV and were kind enough to let me bring my friend. The weeks leading up to the weekend getaway were rainy and grey, so we prayed for sun. As the weekend rolled around the sun miraculously appeared. I met my friend Emunah at the Gare de Bercy and we hopped on the train headed for our weekend oasis. When we arrived it was like a breath of fresh air. It was the first time in months my lungs had tasted air not infused with Parisian smoke. We were met at the station and drove for about 30 minutes to Les Vieux Guays. A bed and breakfast tucked away in the woods. It was paradise.
The set-up was perfect. Like something out of a fairy-tale or movie. The bed and breakfast was in fact a luxury cottage equipped with several bedrooms furnished in French country style décor. It had a heated swimming pool, tennis courts and was set on a beautiful lake. Friday we decorated the tent and tables for Saturday’s white party. We lined the venue with tea lights and decorated tables with pink tulle and potted flowers. The Mrs. had made her own dress—a beautiful classic swing design with a sweet tulle lining to match the theme of the fete. She also hand-decorated the menus and seating charts with dainty pen-drawn flowers. You could sense the excitement and anticipation in the air.
The morning of the party had finally arrived. Cars rolled in with eager partygoers. Piece by piece everything came together: first the DJ arrived, then the caterer. It felt like the longest day ever. Finally night fell and candles were lit. Guests suited up in white and began to take their seats inside the tent. First there was an aperitif (a serving of wine, cocktails and snacks). The menu for the evening was presented beautifully. The appetizer was a fois gras patty atop a thin melba toast with a peach confit for an appetizer, steak and arugula salad as an entrée, and a small cheese plate followed by the most divine choux pastry (cream puffs) tower, which they presented with sparklers. I was busy with the children but not too busy to sample the desserts. Following dinner a magician performed, much to the delight of the children. The DJ played till dawn as we danced in celebration.
We awoke to buffet of croissants, pain aux raisin, chausson aux pommes and pancakes. As I hopped in a car headed for Paris, I couldn’t help but smile. My weekend away was exactly what I needed.
Abby Rodgers was born in South Korea, raised in Rochester, New York and is currently living in Paris, France. She is a student of International Relations at Schiller International University in Paris and works at Art Galleries Europe/London and Paris. Abby lives in the bustling 6ème arrondissement near the famed Café Flore and Luxembourg Gardens, providing the ideal landscape for creativity. She is a self-proclaimed Francophile and dessert connoisseur.
You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, Cognac, castles, and courtyards in the southwest of France, by Parisian Anne Pawle who writes about the area of southwest France known as the Charente and about the cultural identity and history of this region.
Les grandes vacances: The grand getaway to summer’s beaches, mountains and countryside, by French woman Bénédicte Mahé who explains the importance of vacation breaks to the French and why they are truly “les grandes vacances” (the big vacation). Including some of Bénédicte’s film suggestions that capture the essesnce of the French vacances.
La rentrée: The September return to studies from les grandes vacances, by French woman Bénédicte Mahé who shares her perspective concerning the French custom of la rentrée (the first day of school, the return to school in the fall) and the excitement as everyone returned from their grandes vacances of summer to begin a whole new chapter. Bénédicte looks back with nostalgia as she has now left school and now longer gets to experience the rentrée.
The Stones of Carnac, by award-winning travel writer and photographer, Catherine Watson. Catherine’s career has taken her around the world three times, to all seven continents, and into 115 countries. Writing about this prehistoric site in northwestern France, she describes the giant stones that linger there and stand in rows across the French landscape, shouldering their way over rises, past houses, through farm fields—a granite army, 3,000 strong.
Automobile road rallies in France: Women in the drivers seat (Camille du Gast Crespin, Michèle Mouton and Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles, Moroccan desert), by Barbara Redmond who writes about the women who compete in a nine-day, off-road adventure in the sandy dunes of the Moroccan desert. She also looks at the “Coeur des Gazelles,” where the money generated from the race helps finance doctors providing medical care for people in the remote areas of Morocco.
Text copyright ©2012 Abby Rodgers. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.