Weekend à la Campagne

To truly understand French culture, there are two key concepts to grasp: bureaucracy and holiday. I’ve gotten the bureaucracy part down pat, and while I know how to travel, taking holiday feels a bit different. The summer I worked as a nanny I started to really understand the French ability to unplug – no one checked their email or phones, nor seemed to leave the house much (not that you need to with beautiful views and a great yard). In fact, now that I think about it, my French clients didn’t even bother to put up an “out of office” email while they were away for three weeks – clearly nothing is all that pressing. Last weekend I was invited to house sit for one of my adoptive families in France and felt like a step closer to being French myself. The great thing about taking “holiday” is that you need not go far to truly appreciate it; basically you just need to get out of Paris. Picardie is a region of France less than an hour north of Paris (not far from CDG airport), but feels a world away, full of old stone villages and tons of charm.
The weekend consisted of wrangling a grand menagerie. Not one, not two, but three dogs, and two cats. My hands were full, so thankfully I brought my friend Tiffany along to help keep the troops in order. (That’s Cookie and Pepper, the two puppies above).

Here’s all but one of the animal family: Cookie, Pepper, Charlie, and Nino (cat). Not pictured: Matisse, the cat.

The weather was so nice, we had to venture out. Driving into town looked something like this.

And then we saw a sign for Chantilly. On our way to the house, Catherine had told us about the chateau (and the famous thick whipped cream). We didn’t have a map, but followed the signs. We could see it from the road. Seriously, how could you not stop?

And if you stop, of course you have to go in.

From every angle the chateau comes alive.

The library full of beautiful books.

The grand hall. (The table blends with the floor in this picture).

Just another ceiling.

Our favorite room with the wall of portraits. While not meant to be comedic, many made us chuckle.

This is the view from the portrait room. The crazy thing is they were setting up for a Chateau Triathlon the next day. Yes, you swim in that pool on the right side of the image!

So then we explored the grounds/park.

And saw a family of swans.

We wandered to this mini “village” in the park of the chateau. There was a little restaurant…

So of course we had to try the famous “crème chantilly” (whipped cream). Far thicker than what we’re used to, but oh so good!

A field of wild flowers. And then we laid in the grass and watched clouds. Key to a French holiday is not exerting yourself too much.

And then on Sunday, my friends may have still been away at a wedding, but their lovely aunt adopted us for lunch, showing us around her village and garden. (That’s Tiffany and me in front of Thérèse’s home. Photo by Thérèse.)

Inside Thérèse’s garden. No, you sure don’t see this in Paris… And I concur with the French, it is healthy to get away from Paris from time to time. Wouldn’t you agree?

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