22. Chaufour-lès-Bonnières and Paris

My dear travelling buddies

Here we are in Paris! Paris! On the dining room table when we walked into our apartment:

and the view... (it was too foggy today to see it but apparently if you crane your neck around a 90 degree angle you can also see the Eiffel Tower if you don't fall out first)

But more of the apartment later. I have to tell you about Jean-Claude and Monique and the country house! And getting there.

We picked up our hire car, a little A-class Mercedes, at Terminal 2F at Charles de Gaulle airport. I must admit I was very nervous and I drew this little plan for Cally to look at when we were coming to roundabouts so that she could say no no go right if I looked like doing a left turn. And I had to confess to her that I once knocked a side mirror off on a guide post when driving with daughter Ange in Italy. She didn’t turn a hair.

Both phone and GPS were indicating 1 hour 15 minutes or thereabouts to Chaufour-lès-Bonnières.

One small problem. The GPS wouldn’t talk. We consulted one passerby and one Europcar employee in the carpark, plus Cally went back to their office to a disinterested response (it will work Madame when you start off) Finally we decided to use my phone as well because at least it talks. The car remained mute.

Off we set. With a big bus tooting us to get out of the way, up the ramp we went to the departures level, round a huge oval motorway between two terminals, and suddenly on a down ramp back down into the europcar park again. You can imagine how we were laughing. And how my heart was thumping. (Cally still not showing any fear)

Off we went again. Up and around the huge oval but this time we managed to exit the airport. But we took another wrong turn and after several kilometres came to a roundabout where we could correct the error. First time, wrong exit, and had to make a quick u-turn over a solid line. Second time, next exit, also wrong, ended up in the big empty carpark below:

We sat for a while, collected our scattered nerves, and set off again, this time without incident. We arrived only an hour late.

Monique and JC (as he is called) both came out with open arms. They are the warmest, most welcoming, generous and wonderful people. Better hosts or nicer people there never were. (and they've kindly allowed me to post them and their home for you - I think they feel safe they won't achieve overnight rockstar status)

The household revolves around food - the planning, the buying, the preparation, the cooking, all done with care and love. And lots of laughter. Market in the morning to buy ingredients for lunch and dinner. Drinks at 7pm, dinner at 8. I adore them.

And Monique's fabulous open-shelf crockery display shelves, bought at a flea market.

And there is nothing like a French baguette.

I think I told you that JC is my son-in-law’s father, so we share 2 grand-daughters, Albertine and Gardenia. He is originally from Mauritius, and Monique is Swiss. They actually live in Paris but often come here to their country house.

We spent 2 very happy nights with them in the white-shuttered stone house, covered with virginia creeper, potato vine, wisteria and climbing roses.

It’s a beautiful garden, at this time of year lit up by white Annabelle hydrangeas and self-seeded perennial asters. Monique said the temperature that morning had been 2 degrees celsius.

The house is centrally heated, with an open fire, a cosy place to sit and chat. Cally volunteered to fetch a load of wood from the barn:

We visited Pacy where Monique buys fruit and vegetables from the market, baguettes from a particular boulangerie, croissants from another, and we passed several butchers before we came to her favourite, where we bought ham cooked by the butcher himself, and Jean-Claude’s request for pâté en croute.

The fishmonger's wares:

I admired these tomatoes, and so did JC when he was looking through my photos. He asked Monique why she had not bought them. No she said, I know for certain they wouldn't be good. I love her insistence on absolutely top quality.

Along small country roads

We slid so thankfully into the smoothest most deliciously ironed white sheets that night. What luxury.

I thought you might like to share some drawings that JC did for his grand-daughters, after they last visited Paris in January. How beautiful are they? - 'the old man was up to his eyebrows in sadness'

We were sad to say goodbye this morning when we left for Paris. But we’re having lunch with them at their Neuilly flat on Sunday. They’re beggars for punishment. We were glad it was au revoir and not goodbye.

We’re delighted with our apartment in St Sulpice. Fourth floor, very nicely decorated, pink roses and wine on the dining table. Gables with geranium window boxes across the way.

We spent a happy couple of hours wandering around our neighbourhood, buying wine, baguettes, brie, pâté de foie gras and grapes for our drinks with Helena (Instagram @paris_scribe). For those of you not on Instagram, she is an Australian who now lives in Paris, she posts the most beautiful photos, and has incredible depth of knowledge on many subjects. She is just as beautiful in spirit in real life as she is on Instagram.

Great shops all along this street. And we have the MOST fabulous ice-cream shop very close by; we sat inside to eat our icecream. Mine, a scoop of pistachio, nearly half the ingredients the actual nut. Cally’s was praline, two scoops in a cone. Merveilleux!

Such kindness, once again. When I was buying the grapes, I pointed out to Cally the ones I thought looked best. A woman beside me said confidentially, “No, not those ones. They are imported. The better ones are those…” and indicated some pearly white grapes. She also told me where to buy the wine, and the foie gras. We were re-routed by another girl in a shop selling Astier de Villatte ware - oh no she said, not that wine shop. This one is much better. It’s so nice to be helped.

I'm enjoying practising my French. A demain, mes amis.

ps. in case you are wondering, I'll give you details of hotels, this apartment, shops etc in the e-book when I'm home again.