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Posts tagged ‘Château’

No. 356: à faire une pause

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The packers were more than two hours early this morning, and the day quickly spun out of control. I’ve been chasing my tail since 6 AM, so all I have for you this evening are some happy pictures of a lovely day we recently spent at Vaux le Vicomte–a peaceful alternative to Versailles–and a LINK for you to see what makes it so interesting and special. Every Saturday night until October 4, more than 2,000 candles light up this stunning château and the magnificent gardens, and at 23h a magical fireworks display fills the sky and lights up the estate with a shower of gold and silver. It is also gorgeous in the sunshine.

Vocabulaire

à faire une pause: to take a break

 

 

No. 301: Crème Chantilly

chantilly_cream_France.jpgAs if there weren’t enough lip-smacking things to gobble up in France, along comes the tried-and-true crème Chantilly fresh from the town of Chantilly in Picardy. This is not what you would call delicate whipped cream. It is a hardy, stand-alone dessert topper whose snowy peaks and designs hold their shapes after a good whisking, like a 60s beehive-hairdo shellacked with VO5 spray.

As the story goes, French Chef Vatel first came up with the recipe to help “stretch out” his short supply of cream during a banquet given by Fouquet honoring the Sun King. (Supposedly he never lived to taste the cream because he committed suicide during the banquet when he found out there was also a shortage of fish for the diners.)

His one-time secret recipe is now a standard in French cooking, and the essential ingredient for a perfect Chantilly cream is top-quality whole crème fraîche (fresh cream),  with a bit of icing sugar, and pod of vanilla mixed in; But beware, precise whisking is a must as too many strokes will turn the cream to butter…not necessarily the worst outcome, mais probably not the best consistency for embellishing desserts.

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When visiting Chantilly, be sure to order a big bowl of the delicious cream to share.

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No. 207-209: A Château, Playing Dress up, and the Best Picnic Spot Ever

After living in France for a while, you sometimes begin to take for granted certain things that, to short-term visitors, seem exceptional. Warm crusty baguettes around every corner? Bien sûr! Stunning architecture? Tout à fait. World-class museums? Naturellement. Fairytale châteaux? Toutes sont les mêmes.

En fait, I started this blog to help me avoid becoming one of those jaded expat, and to instead, find the extraordinary every single day.

I was reminded of the crazy wonderfulness of this country yesterday as we got turned around on our drive through Aquitaine and strayed into the Limousin region. In France, one wrong turn, and the next thing you know, you may find yourself standing in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

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Château Rochefoucauld, une petite maison, is easily the most fun and friendly château we have ever stumbled across. As I mentioned, from the outside, it is all Disney, but on the inside, it is like an Italian palazzo with a magnificent courtyard that evokes Renaissance Italy. It is a château that has been in the family for over 1,000 years, and its spiral staircases, elegant rooms, and bursting libraries are still used by the 19th Duke Rochefoucauld and his young family. Not only are there family portraits painted by French masters lining the walls, there are also black and white photographs, glossy Polaroid’s and normal Kodak moment framed and displayed for all to see. It’s like the modern regal family went out for a stroll and left the doors unlocked to (un)wanted guests.

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There are lots of things to see and do at Château Rochefoucauld, from snaking through the strange cave in the basement, to touching the real roche, to pretending to cook up a royal feast in the original kitchens, to resting your weary head on the beds in the servants’ chilly rooms. But most fun of all, is an entire room dedicated to dress up clothes for all aspiring royals, the young and the old included. Think medieval kings and queens, wenches and jesters, mad hatters and knights. Once dressed, you are free to roam the entire castle, ramparts and all.

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After satisfying your theatrical bent and maybe, say, acting out a scene or two from the new princess movie Frozen, the caretakers are happy to let you picnic on the daisy-filled lawn just beyond the castle doors…with your dog!

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C’est bien extraordinaire…even for France.

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Vocabulaire

Bien sûr! Of course!

C’est bien extraordinaire: it’s (very) extraordinary

En fait: in fact

Naturellement: Naturally

Tout à fait: quite, absolutely

Toutes sont les mêmes. They’re all the same.

une petite maison: a small house