My brother in law, Brian and I have always been the assigned family chefs, we both shared a passion for good food, wines and home cooked meals. We were eager to redirect everyone’s attention towards cocktails and apéritifs. After situating the kids in their rooms, the grown ups walked into town to plan our highly anticipated, homemade meal. Our first stop was the Boucher, for an assortment of fresh pate, sausages, tenderloins and hens to grill. We then made our way to the open farmer’s market and picked up freshly grown tomatoes, onions, bay leaves, cucumbers, cheeses, apples and baby lettuces. Our final destination brought us to the boulangerie. There, we purchased several loaves of warm, crispy baguettes and a dozen flaky croissants and pastries for the following day’s breakfast. The six of us, wandered around town with parcels of local staples, flowers and bottles of Cote de Rhones, giggling in between our si vous plait’s, merci beacoup’s and bonjour’s. We couldn’t wait to get back to our make believe castle and prepare our version of Babette’s Feast.
I added Normandy, France at the bottom of the unfathomable list of future travel destinations, I honestly never gave France much thought beyond Paris. Surprisingly, due to cheap airline tickets and the angst for an adventurous summer, I and my colorful array of extended family members, embarked in a trip that truly was a once in a lifetime experience.
Our itinerary started with a flight into Zurich and a high speed train ride into Paris. We spent three amazing days in a beautifully authentic apartment, overlooking a quaint and idealistic Parisienne view right in the heart of the 15th arrondissement. We mastered the Metro, explored the Catacombs, lingered in Versaille and the Louvre and soaked in the Eiffel Tower, all while drinking and eating the most decadent of delights. Paris truly exceeded my expectations.
On the fourth day of our 14-day stretch through Europe, we rented a car and road tripped our way out of Paris, into the western countryside. I sat back and took in the fields of red and orange poppies, swaying along both sides of the highway. It was the most relaxed I had been since our arrival and I was looking forward to the retreat ahead.
As we approached the iron gates of Chateau de’Hambye, an Airbnb gem that served as our home for the next three nights, the butterflies tickled my core with such exhilarance, my face hurt from smiling. The pebble driveway led towards the 280 year old structure built of large greystones and adorned with medieval charm. We were greeted by the property owners, a hippy styled pair of married Brits, eager to share the history and landscape of their newly renovated heart and sole.
We impetuously pushed through a massive, dense door, creaking from a centuries old wooden frame. Every step in brought us a little step back in time to an era defined through romanticized decor, elegance and culture. There were a total of seven bedrooms, connected through secret hallways, each with its own modern bathroom. Every room housed queen sized poster beds with elaborately laced chandeliers and a faint musty odor, seeping through the large casement style windows. At the side of the house was an indoor jacuzzi which led to a flagstoned path towards the outdoor pool. The large farmhouse kitchen opened to the patio, which served as our nightly dining room.
The backdrop to our first meal included a freshly lawned pasture, circling around a humongous, sweet smelling fruit tree and the golden warmth of glowing candles. We spread chairs throughout the backyard, while our kids showed up one by one, freshly showered from their afternoon at the pool. After laying out morsels of appetizers, salads and the main course, everyone grabbed what they wanted and gently settled into their own snug, designated spot. I sighed into a lightened state of euphoria while sipping wine, staring up at the early amber sky and the single bright star hovering above fourteen content and motionless bodies. We were surrounded by everyone and everything that mattered, it was a moment in time that we will treasure forever.