P’tit Weekend in the Loire Valley

France, Photography, Travel

“Parisians all get sick of Paris after a while. So they regularly choose to leave the city for a few days. Those expeditions are called p’tits weekends…

It is important to realize that in the Parisian’s mind, le p’tit weekend is not a luxury or treat. It is a necessity. A need he feels deep inside his body. A sound door to escape momentarily the oppression of the big, fast, and loud city: J’en peux plus, faut que je parte m’aérer. Tu veux pas qu’on se fasse un p’tit weekend? (‘I’ve had enough, I need to leave the city to get some air. You want to go on a p’tit weekend?’)”

Olivier Magny, Stuff Parisians Like: Discovering the Quoi in the Je Ne Sais Quoi

The idea of a p’tit weekend is a universal one. A long weekend, quick escape, weekend getaway, short vacation… whatever you call it, the idea behind it is the same.

Jacob and I know all too well the importance of a p’tit weekend. When we first moved to Boston back in 2011, as excited as we were to be there, it didn’t take long for us to desperately crave a weekend away. We were newlyweds, newly employed, newly in graduate school, and biggest of all, newly living in a big city. After just the first few weeks of settling into our new routines, we needed some time away. A time to rest. A time to reset. A time to step away from our new norm, and as Magny says, “to leave the city to get some air.”

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Though city life quickly grew on us, we still deeply valued those long weekends each time we were able to sneak away. We’d leave Friday after work or bright and early Saturday morning, and head back to the city late Sunday night. Every chance we got we were leaving the city. Not because we hated where we lived, but instead, because we understood just how much of a necessity those weekends away truly were.

Now, living in a new, and even bigger city, we value p’tits weekends all the same, if not even just a little bit more.

I think this time around we handled the transition into city life a bit more easily, however, I will say that our first p’tit weekend in Normandy, taken shortly after we arrived in France, was just as refreshing as that first trip we took out of Boston quickly after rolling into town. Arriving in Paris was exciting, yes, but after a summer full of stressful planning to get us here, and then an overwhelming first few weeks once we finally arrived, a relaxing weekend away was called for. (Belated blog post about Normandy coming soon…)

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Having traveled back to the states early October, then fighting jet lag and a nasty cold for the week or so after I returned, by the end of the month, I was eager to get out and explore somewhere new. Not wanting to throw off Heidi’s routine now that she finally seemed settled, we decided on an easy dog friendly destination that could quickly(ish) be reached by car so that we didn’t have to introduce her to another new and potentially scary mode of transportation, the train, so soon after flying.

Jacob and I had already spent some time in the eastern portion of the Loire Valley on our last trip to France, but being a large area, we figured there was still plenty left to discover. This time around we headed to the western side of the region which was just as lovely as the area we had already explored.  It was geographically similar with the Loire River gracefully meandering through the region and a number of stunning châteaux littering the countryside, but what was different this time were all of the golden vineyards decorating the hillsides.

Following a quick trip into town to pick up provisions for lunch, our weekend kicked off with a visit to one of these beautiful vineyards, where we were able to take a peaceful, self guided tour around the property, and walk through the rows of vines. Being the only two on the tour, we took our time, enjoying the lovely, cool morning and stunning views, while Heidi sniffed around for the cat. After the tour we enjoyed a generous tasting and left with three bottles of organic wine. It’s easy to do when the wine is delicious, and incredibly cheap… (Or at least comparatively. One bottle we bought, a nice 2011 Cabernet Franc, was only €15, or about $18. Maybe we should have purchased a few more… 😉

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After our winery tour we enjoyed one of our new bottles of wine and a simple picnic lunch on the banks of the River Cher, a tributary of the Loire. It was slightly chilly, but sunny, and really such a perfect day to be outdoors. From lunch we headed to the nearby town of Villandry, where we spent the rest of our afternoon walking through the impressive château gardens.

Finally, after a long day of exploring, we headed back to our Airbnb to finish off our lunch wine and watch the sunset from our balcony. Heidi, exhausted from such a big day, quickly fell asleep while Jacob and I snuck away to a local farm for dinner where we enjoyed more local wine, wild boar, venison, and cheese from the goats next door. Eaten in a lovely old farmhouse warmed by a crackling fire in the fireplace, this meal was the perfect way to end our relaxing, yet busy day.

On Sunday, we got an early start and drove 45 minutes west to tour a monastery. It wouldn’t be a weekend away with Jacob if we didn’t do such a thing… After a few hours at Fontevraud we headed back to our Airbnb to pick up Heidi and our bags, and moved on to the final stop of our weekend getaway, the lovely town of Chartres, where we toured the massive Chartres Cathedral. We had to tour it in turns since we had Heidi, and the stained glass wasn’t at its best since we arrived after dark thanks to daylight savings (which comes earlier here than in the states), but still, we were both blown away by this Gothic masterpiece.

After some annoyingly heavy traffic, we returned home late Sunday night a bit tired but also so glad for a nice weekend away. I love living in Paris, but Magny says it best when he says “Le p’tit weekend is not a luxury or a treat. It is a necessity. A need he feels deep inside his body.”

Two p’tit weekends down for us, one for Heidi. We look forward to where our next journey will take us next!

Until next time!

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Je T’aime, Paris

Culture, Food, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

IMG_1948For as long as I can remember, I have loved all things Paris. I can’t recall what started this obsession, but when I was 13 years old, I decided to paint my room hot pink, decorating my walls with Parisian icons. During holidays, I’d always receive French-related gifts, and I started studying the language in junior high. I’d often stay after class, learning from my teacher how to travel abroad. She taught me about the art of overnight trains, and how to choose a good hostel. All tips which came in handy this summer.

When we first decided that we were to visit Europe, there was no question about adding Paris to our itinerary. In fact, it was the first guidebook that I bought, and the first place that I planned. The hubs and I spent many nights dining on cheese, baguettes, and bottles of wine, watching favorite French films, looking forward to the arrival of our trip.

Arriving in Paris, I was a bit nervous. What if this city that I had perfected in my mind, failed to meet my standards? What if the people really were as rude as I had heard they were? What if the Eiffel Tower wasn’t really all that magical? Or if the the Louvre was just another tourist trap? I was terrified of disappointment…

When we arrived, I cried. A lot. I cried after eating lunch that our host family so beautifully prepared. I cried because their house was so perfectly French. I cried when I first spotted the Eiffel Tower. I cried during our picnic on the Champs de Mars. I cried when I drank too much wine, and I nearly cried when I ate my first chocolate croissant. Paris was everything that I had ever hoped it would be, and so much more.

Each day started with fresh bread from the local bakery, and a mean shot of espresso. We’d walk to the train in the morning, passing locals on their way to work. We’d wait on the platform for the subway, next to French lovers always in a tight embrace. I’d try to read a bit of the morning paper, and study our itinerary preparing for our day to come. We filled our time with museums and markets, and almost always stopped in the park for an afternoon nap.

We hung out with Monet at the Musée d’Orsay and the Gargoyles at Notre Dame. We strolled the Champs-Élysées and dined at the foot at the Arc de Triomphe. We walked along the Seine, shopping for antique books. We scaled the Eiffiel Tower, all 674 steps. We imagined that we were royalty in the halls of Versailles, and explored the king’s chapel, La Sainte-Chapelle.

The people were lovely, despite what I’ve always heard. A simple, “Bonjour! Comment allez-vous?,” to start a conversation always seemed to do the trick. I was obsessed with the Haussmann architecture that dominated the streets, and even more obsessed with the food, or at least the passion that went into each meal. I looked forward to meal times and the events that they were. We ate duck, and quiche, and full sticks of butter. We had stinky cheese, and souffles, and the most perfect of tarts. We sipped French wines and a green chartreuse, and fell in love with the French way of life.

Our three days there were much too short. Even my skeptical hubs fell for this romantic city that I’ve long lusted for. It’s nice to know that my French obsession wasn’t just a phase. I loved it when I was 13, and I love it even more today. I spend meal times scouring through my French cookbooks and swooning over my new Flame Le Creuset. At night, I study the language and plot how to one day live in France. I’m constantly listening to “I Love Paris! Classic Gypsy Swing and French Accordion Jazz” on repeat and longing for the day that I can return to find my own favorite little French cafe.

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IMG_7076 collage2IMG_2538jacobIMG_2079 versaillesIMG_2407 IMG_2427 eiffeltower jacobjennparis collageeiffelnightWhere is it that you dream to go?