Saturday, September 13, 2014

Living in the French Countryside

We've been doing our sightseeing in the mornings, eating a leisurely lunch, napping and reading in the afternoons.  Yesterday we decided on a walk in the forest at about 3:30, so out the door we went.

Craig had waved vaguely in the direction of the forest telling us there are trails and the trees have been trimmed back to make it feel very open inside.  We walked down our road a bit then stepped off into the forest on a wide trail sometimes used by agricultural equipment.  And walked.  And walked.  I had a silly idea that we would come out of the forest just about at our place or across the fields from it.  Nope.  It was cool in the forest but now quite warm in the sun as we followed a trail next to a plowed field.  We saw some men working with their big farm equipment (whatever it was) waved and headed on down an asphalt road that looked promising.  Until we realized nothing looked familiar and it was curving off into the wrong direction.  We were pretty sure that was the D62 up ahead.  An occasional car would drive by in the distance.  We came to some cornfields, something that we both remembered on the side of the road on the way to our place, although I thought it was on the right and Chuck thought it was on the left.  Hmmm.  We cut through on a faint trail between the corn rows and another plowed field.  It was definitely getting hot now.

Finally, a house looked familiar and then it didn't and we went back and forth about whether we had ever actually driven by it.  Was the road really this narrow?  We were optimistic and just kept walking, not even wanting to think about having to retrace our steps, when we finally did recognize a building and could see ours at the end of the road.  Sweet.  An hour and a half later, we were home.  I guzzled down a small bottle of orange juice--what were we thinking?  We didn't even bring any water!

Later that evening we set an alarm to remind us it was dark enough to go out and view the stars.  We haven't been able to stay awake much later than 9 and sleep snuggled under a mountain of comforters.  Heaven.

The stars cooperated and it was fun to see them with no lights from the ground.  In fact, it was pretty difficult to walk out into the grassy field in total darkness.  Maybe a flashlight would have been wise.
We're happy.

Today's choice was an under appreciated, less touristy chateau in the town of the same name only 15 km away.  We got there a bit after 10, following a leisurely morning, and seemed to beat whatever crowds this place gets.  We loved it.

Entrance to 15th century Chateau de Chaumont

Catherine de Medici's chapel.  It was part of her apartment and allowed her to view the service from a gallery just outside her bedroom door.

Catherine's room, which was quite flexible by changing from bedroom to washroom to receiving room.  We had most of the rooms to ourselves.

Dining room decorated by later owners in 19th century

The well.  We saw many photos from the 19th century with groups posed here in the courtyard of the Chateau.

We had decided to buy the combo ticket that included the garden tour, an annual, international event, and were quite happy we did.  Along the way we stopped for a nice goat cheese and vegetable sandwich that we shared, along with cappuccinos and incredible ice cream for dessert.  We both had caramel salle (salted caramel) and cafe, chocolate and pecans.  Revived, we set off for our tour.

This fog exhibit turned out to be my favorite.  Fujiko Nakaya expresses her fascination for the natural phenomena that are constantly forming and deforming through her ephemeral creations, and endeavors to rekindle dialogue between the public and nature.  Showing the inside of a cloud and reproducing the sensation of the droplets making it up on the skin are the aim of this inspired creator of imaginary fogs.  "I create a stage for nature to express itself freely.  I am a fog sculptor, but I do not try to shape it.  The atmosphere is the mold and the wind is the chisel."

There were so many exhibits and so many plants and flowers I can't possibly show them all here.  The garden and exhibit area is 22 acres; we really enjoyed wandering around and taking it all in.

Another fog exhibit reached by climbing down stone stairs and then wooden stairs to be enveloped in the experience.

We spent 5-1/2 hours at Chateau de Chaumont and truly loved it.  We've seen a nice mix of styles and size, all of them uniquely beautiful.

Arriving home, we found a bowl of cherry tomatoes from the garden on our porch.  Perfect for tonight's salad.


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