Posts tagged France

A weekend spent near Poitiers in a dreamy chateau thanks to G&T Weekends.

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Sometimes what can do the soul some good is a weekend trip to a castle. Not even kidding. There’s something magical about waking up in a castle. Not having to worry about anything, not having to cook or clean… just a good time with good people. It’s quite simple, you get some snazzy people in one place and magic can be made. This is what G&T Weekends does. This particular G&T weekend organized by the charming duo Gillian and Tess took place in a castle near the town of Poitiers, about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Paris. I had found out about the Easter weekend extravaganza through my girlfriends Haleigh and Lou, and totally knew that I wanted to be a part of it, eep!

The Chateau St. Julien truly was a little treasure in the French countryside, so charming, tucked next to the church of a small town called Saint-Julien-l’Ars with camellias and daffodils everywhere. Its pastel towers are the perfect contrast with any color sky, but preferably baby blue. It has medieval towers with beautiful hallways and secret rooms, a rad spiral staircase, an estate with perfectly lined trees, clawfoot bathtubs, a cozy fireplace and beautiful tiles… the works. 33 young professionals (and good-time cravers) came together that weekend, and we had delicious meals at one long table and our hearts were filled with joy. Between prepared rosé-filled feasts, strolls outdoors with champagne flutes in hand and fireside chats into the wee hours of the morning, there was laughing and even more dancing. We even went horseback riding one morning, took a cooking class and had a French-themed champagne tasting. Everything was prepared for us, and the only thing guests have to do at G&T weekends is have a good time, they sure know how to pamper! There were even snacks!

As busy humans it’s so easy to get caught up in routine and work and work and work, let’s just say a long weekend away with bottomless wine was much needed, and the people there were just sublime.

More about G&T Weekends and their upcoming trips planned in Europe on their site and of course with #gandtwknds.

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Ile Tudy, a tiny port town filled with memories of my mother-in-law’s childhood and adulthood, where she would spend every summer in their family home right on the ocean. A magical place that I just love going to when we have the opportunity. This time ’round we came for Christmas with Louis, absolute perfection with the fireplace, good movies and baths in the enamel clawfoot tub. I was very grateful to be able to share this place with good friends post-Christmas, it was truly a pleasure. Here we indulged in delicious local seafood, good wine… we played games, strolled on the beach, ran into the wind. My in-law’s, my lover, Rachel, Haleigh and Anne were the perfect company to long late lunches.

It’s a special place, right on the sea, where you can actually give yourself time to relax and breathe in the fresh air. Sometimes you just need to hear the waves crashing as you’re falling asleep to re-emphasize how small we humans are in this world, eh?

The funny thing about Bretagne – like all seaside climates – is the weather can be just as nice in the winter as it can in the summer. No joke, this Christmas at Ile Tudy we had afternoons far nicer (& warmer!) than last August. It’s a crazy world. Thank goodness in this crazy world there are such beautiful quaint places to make memories in.

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3 and a half hours from Paris’s Gare de Lyon. I had seen so many pictures of Provence on fellow expat’s Instagram’s accounts, visits to see the lavender fields. It seemed like the “to do” thing this spring and summer. We didn’t make it to the Provence lavender fields given the autumnal season that had arrived every so justly, BUT we did get to discover Aix-en-Provence for a weekend away with my lovely aunt who was in town. The tones of the city are different from Paris, a different kind of magic. I could literally feel how much more relaxing the lifestyle there must be as soon as I took in a breath of the mediterranean air.

Provence is known globally also for their food. I remember even the French restaurant I worked at in Denver when I was 16, the sadly no longer Le Central, it was a “Provencal French Restaurant”. Even then I didn’t really realize where Provence was, or what its specialities was, anything French seemed exotic for a Denverite! Ratatouille, stuffed vegetables, aioli, pesto soup, fig tarts, calissons… it’s all just so good an world renowned.

The city itself deserves a good old fashion stroll, mainly because it is just so adorable: pastel colors, little balconies, tiny pedestrian streets and warn down old advertisements on the sides of buildings…

If you’re in Aix for a quick trip like we were, I suggest giving lunch a try up at the Place des Cardeurs, then stroll down through the adorably tiny and pastel streets to pop in for a caffeine recharge at Mana Espresso (ex-baristas from Paris’s Loustic!). After more wandering and buying things like herbs and soap, sit on a terrace and try a glass of Pastis, the local apéritif, paired with some people watching. I obviously wanted to make the mini detour to see that big Petit Prince book statue that has been all over social media, and I found out it’s actually the entrance to a library called La Cité du Livre, how cute is that? You’ll have to try to local sweet confection, le calisson (pssst Pâtisserie Béchard makes a darn good one!) Dinner is a must at Les Deux Garçons, the staple brasserie du coin that sits on the main drag, if the weather permits, reserve a table on the terrace. Paradise.

Quick side note—- if you take the TGV you’ll arrive at a train station about 20 minutes from the center of Aix. We didn’t know that until AFTERWARDS. There are busses that go to the city center, and also taxis which run for about 20-30 euros. Bref, to keep in mind more precisely for your departure!

AIX EN PROVENCE PLACES:
Cité du Livre // Library, Oversized Book Statues
Chez Féraud // French Restaurant
La Compagnie des Savons // Soap Shop
La Route des Bières // Beer Shop
Les Deux Garçons // French Restaurant
Mana Espresso // Coffee Shop
Pâtisserie Béchard // Candy Shop, Calisson masterminds
Place des Cardeurs // Place with heaps of restaurants
Santons Girault // Santons Boutique

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I’m not yet at the age where heaps of my friends are getting married. It’s starting. For example, this is only the second wedding I’ve ever been to! (The first one was also documented on here). That said, I’m eternally bummed about missing two dear friend’s wedding last summer due to distance and a new job, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to be a part of more celebrations for dear ones in the future. Because quite simply, seeing people so so happy and being a part of such a celebration is one of the most magical things.

This September someone I really care about got hitched, my fromager friend Romain. We met in our Master’s program here in Paris, and he’s probably one of the sweetest humans I’ve ever met, so to head down to the Aquitaine with the other two members of our quartet, Coline and Mohamed, was just the best way to finish off the summer season. The simplicity and beauty of their wedding was beyond rad, full of brocante-themed details, bubbly and dancing. The adorable little Mairie was in a small town north of Bordeaux, near the newlywed’s new home, and the reception was in a beautifully modest local castle (to which I unfortunately did not bring my camera, cos boy was it beautifully decorated a rustic-vintage charm, streamers and table decor galore!).

Last but not least, a little side note on how epic French celebration meals are— they start so late after already stuffing one’s face in amuse-bouche and hors-d’oeuvres, and so they finish so late but it’s all just so wonderful and because of all the happiness in celebration of love, no one even realizes they’re tired! Leaving the dinner table at 3am isn’t always a bad thing, especially if it’s to get up and boogie to Claude-François and Jean-Jacques Goldman (Google both of these people now if you haven’t heard of them, and yes, you will probably hear their songs at any type of huge French gathering, notably weddings).

It was a very happy weekend, so much love to the newlyweds. And total props to Romain on the cheese course, he knows his stuff.

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Visiting Granville and Christian Dior’s childhood home, which opened as the Musée Christian Dior in 1997, has been on my epic weekend getaway TO DO since I started working for Dior early last year. Most of my colleagues have been to the dreamy pink house and man, I was a bit jealous! I knew I’d have get some travel-hungry pals to join me on the little journey to the Manche to visit it. After discussing it last summer repetedly, and then all winter and then spring being like, “oh yeah, we should go to Granville…”, we enfin locked in and I was so completely and ridiculously excited. Anne, Ylenia, Lauren and I hit the road one Saturday morning in my pretty old but powerful used car and headed northwest towards the sea. The cherry on top was that the family with whom I lived when I was 16 for a year came over from Caen to discover Villa Rhumbs with us.

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Despite the fact that we’ve had a sunny and hot summer – one that actually exists this year – we did have a few cloud and rain scares that particular weekend according to la météo… OF ALL OF THE WEEKENDS, ugh. Lucky enough, the clouds cleared the sky as we got closer and closer to Granville, and gosh we had the best of luck that day. Pure sunshine! As we got even closer we rolled the windows down as we passed through little towns adorned with hydrangeas, we could actually smell the seaside air. Granville itself is a little port town, with one main street and a big-ass cliffside that wraps upward along the coast with a few cute streets filled with cafés and shops (check out rue des Juifs if you’re visiting). In the town center, we popped in for a quick and delicious lunch at Picorette before heading up the hill to CD’s childhood pad.

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That house though… It’s painted such a dreamy peachy pink, and surrounded by the greenest freshly cut grass and flower-filled gardens in every direction. Fun fact: Christian Dior actually aspired to be an architect when he was younger, but now that I’ve seen these gardens I am totally not surprised by the fact that when he ended up becoming a couturier his love for flowers is so obvious (the names and shapes of dresses or looks, perfumes… The love he had for flowers certainly made of them a key part of Dior’s world. Oh, and here’s a little photo souvenir of petit CD.

The museum fills up the whole house, there aren’t like the original rooms or anything. The current exhibition is The New Look Revolution, a focus on Dior’s iconic silhouette, notably the iconic Bar jacket and the Corolle skirt. This feminine style with a cinched waist and full bust set the pace of fashion in post-war 1947. Amongst the photographs, video clips and magazine clippings on the three floors of this precious pink house, were the actual pieces: those by Monsieur Dior himself as well as silhouettes inspired by his New Look by the House’s current and previous designers. Quite a small exhibition, but filled with momentos of Monsieur Dior’s first collection where the New Look was unveiled, the impact his vision had on fashion at the time, and how deeply engraved this silhouette is in the House’s DNA, even today.

Behind the house is a little outdoor Salon de Thé with pink metal chairs where you can enjoy a high teadiorisé (note: the salon de thé is only open in the summer months). Bref, we spent the afternoon in this lovely place, frolicking on the grass (technically we weren’t supposed to, but ended up doing cartwheels, oops), and taking one million pictures of flowers and all things pink. I think I could go on and on about how lovely this little visit was, but I’ll leave that here. Oh, and yes that’s kale outside in front of the exhibition poster.