A Taste Of Le Terroir
While some of France was casting their votes for the European Parliament Sunday (a record low voting turnout of 44.2 percent), I spent a delightful afternoon picnicking with dozens of friends at a Parisian friend’s weekend cottage at the edge of the Bois Bouleaux. It’s such a small part of the world that even an Internet search has difficulty finding it…but it’s a spot in the department of Yvelines (78) on route to Rambouillet not far from Versailles. Within just 45 minutes from Paris you can be transported into the woods lush with ferns, deer and wild boar.
Almost all the French I know who live in Paris have a country home they escape to on weekends and holidays…their own or their family’s. Most often, their country retreats are within an easy drive so they can take advantage of them as often as possible. The French have a very serious attachment to the land and “cling to their rural identity.” In fact, there are now 2.4 million second homes in France. “France is the only developed country where the term ‘peasant’ isn’t pejorative” (from “Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t be Wrong” by Jean-Benoît and Julie Barlow).
As both an urbanite and an American who has lived in suburbia where it’s not unusual to have an acre around a home even in the middle of the city, I don’t have the same longing to escape to the countryside, but I’m learning that’s more the exception than the rule. In reflection, it may be why I’ve become so enthralled with geraniums outside my windows that are blooming like crazy after having been “hermetically sealed” in bubble wrap all winter!
Visiting friends only here for three days quickly asked what could they do within an easy drive from Paris, already itching for an escape. Annabel Simms’ “An Hour From Paris” sits on my bookshelf for a fast response (a great book on excursions you might not have thought of yourself), but my first thoughts were to head first for Giverny and if there was time, to Auvers-sur-Oise, where one can lavish in the floral extravaganza at Monet’s garden, visit the Musée d’Art Americain and see the exhibit “Edward Hopper: The Paris Years, 1906-1910” before it closes July 4th then pay tribute to Van Gogh at his last humble residence and visit his grave next to his brother Theo’s. Both are about one hour’s drive from Paris and will place you smack dab in the middle of beautiful countryside. Even if you don’t have a car and/or prefer taking the train, they are simple to reach for a little taste of “le terroir.”
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
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