My Week in France

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Lately, I've been missing France. In the past week I have watched Amelie and The Red Balloon in hopes of an antidote and still my gypsy soul aches for adventure. Or maybe it's because I have two close friends traveling abroad right now (one in Italy and one in Germany), whatever the case may be, and forgive me for being nostalgic, today we're going to rewind to exactly one year ago. A place that now resides pocketed away as a beautiful cherished memory.  

It started the summer of 2011, when I decided to gather a band of traveling companions to visit the South of France for an extended Thanksgiving holiday. True, when you find a place as lovely as La Maisonette du Coteau, owned by Stephanie of stephmodo, it's hard to resist the urge to drop everything and pack your bags. Which is pretty much exactly what I did.

But life happens and a few months later I was engaged. Consternation ensued and I felt uncertain about taking such a big international trip with other things on the horizon. I hummed and hawed about being practical, at the same time knowing that France would likely be my last single-gal-hurrah. In the end, I made the decision to go. A wise one. (To this day I am profoundly grateful for the support I received from GH. He never pressured me one way or the other and I think that made the experience all the more enjoyable.)

Going to France was a dream. We left with stacks of tourist books, but a nearly nonexistent itinerary. Which was perfect. I was there to relax. To soak in the countryside and indulge in afternoon naps. To savor food that danced in my mouth and spend time in the fine art of doing absolutely nothing. Soon enough though, as foreign places tend to do, France bewitched me, and I discovered something I'd never anticipated. The light. It was unlike anything I've ever experienced. I kept thinking the light in France is so different. I remember asking my fellow travelers Have you noticed how the light in France is so different? Indescribable really. I tried to capture it with long walks and a fancy camera, but those warm tones, hues that enveloped my entire being and heighten my other senses, couldn't be contained. Beauty that brought tears to my eyes and left me speechless on numerous occasions. 

The Dordogne region of south-west France is a five hour drive from Paris. It is a small hilly community that thrives in the summer and becomes curiously quiet during the off-season. Which meant, apart from the locals, we had free reign of this charming town. Our cottage was located at the top of the hill next door to a 12th century castle. Many afternoons were spent exploring the grounds and inventing stories about the people that once walked those halls. We also spend a fair amount of time at local markets; gathering fresh produce, bread, and meat for our evening meals. Since the area specializes in walnuts and foie gras we incorporated that whenever possible. And somehow I became the house chef. Which, of course, delighted me to no end. If Audrey Hepburn can commend that Paris is always a good idea, I'd amend that to unequivocally say France is always a good idea. 

From the opening scene of the movie Chocolat. Our little village. 

Market lunch complete with varieties of fromage. 

At the top of the hill and next to the church sits this vibrant cemetery. 

The Dordogne River. 

Picnicking along the river. 
Entrance to the castle grounds. 

Peeping through keyholes. 

All images by me. 


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