France is definitely my favourite country in the world. There’s something magical that just draws me to this place and I can’t seem to get enough, in fact the more I see, the more I fall in love. The amount of times I have visited France versus any other country in the world is proof of that, including 5 separate trips in the last 12 months alone (yep, I counted).
My history with France stems back to my early university years when I was toying with the idea of spending a semester abroad in the beautiful city of Paris. I didn’t have any logistics sorted for moving to France – money, accommodation, friends or even a clue how to speak French, so after getting all the paperwork done, I freaked out and never ended up going and this is something that I’ve regretted since. I’m determined not to let history repeat itself and I do have plans to spend some significant time in France in the future, whether it be a year, a month, or a summer, I haven’t decided yet, but I know that I’ll make it happen at some point. In the meantime, I just need to keep visiting 🙂
Claire, one of my best friends from London, invited me to stay at her family home the other weekend and along with two other close friends, we made a girls’ trip out of it. She’s from a quaint little village just outside of Châlons-en-Champagne in the north-east of France, situated amongst some of the most famous vineyards in the world in the Champagne region. The village itself is tiny and even getting to the nearest store is a 15 minute drive, but that’s what made it so amazing and unique.
One friend came from Holland, the other two from Geneva, and I caught the Eurostar from London to Paris where we all met (right in the middle of our 3 countries) on Thursday midday. The Eurostar is such a great way to travel as it takes you from central London to central Paris in only 2.5 hours, in total comfort and style. If you buy tickets in advance, you can pay as little as £69 return.
We had a few hours to kill before needing to catch our onward train, so we went to St Paul in the 4th arrondissement de l’Hôtel-de-Ville for a delicious Parisian lunch in a lovely French bistro, suitcases in tow.
La Chaise au Plafond bistro was typically French in both appearance and menu selection. It was busy during peak lunch hour but not a single tourist was to be seen (except us, of course). There was no English menu but despite all three of my friends ready to translate for me, the waiter enthusiastically insisted on reading out the board of specials and translating all the meals to me (I suspect he was happy to show off his English skills to four giggling girls), taking care to point out the vegetarian options which mostly consisted of fish (I didn’t want to break his spirits by telling him vegetarian generally means no ‘poisson’!).
I ended up ordering a delicious goats cheese salad with avocado, melon, tomatoes and a creamy dressing. It was ‘parfait’ with a glass of rosé and of course, the standard basket of incredibly delicate yet crispy French bread.
After lunch we went for a walk towards the Centre Pompidou in an attempt to visit our friend who works in the area, however, we soon realised that we were running out of time and had to hurry to Gare de l’Est to catch our SNCF train to Châlons-en-Champagne, a 1 hour 20 minute journey away.
Waiting for us on the platform when we arrived was Claire’s mum, who warmly greeted us all and drove us to their house in a gorgeous little countryside village. We arrived at a stunning, French family home, beautiful on the outside and so warm and homely on the inside with that classic, tasteful French touch. I loved it straight away!
We didn’t waste any time and jumped straight into the Jacuzzi to relax and catch up on life 🙂
Dinners are a much later affair in France than what I’m used to in London and we started just after 9pm with a glass of incredible Baffard-Ortillon Beaulieu Brut Champagne (my favourite of the whole trip), before moving on to an indulgent main course of poulet aux maroilles. This popular regional dish consisted of grilled chicken breast strips coated with a melted maroilles cheese sauce, which is a specialty cheese from the north of France. It was absolutely delicious and I honestly could have gone back for thirds and fourths but really had to restrain myself.
Next it was time for dessert – more cheese! This time in the form of a cheese platter, with a selection of local cheeses so that we could try a bit of everything.
On day 1 I’d travelled from London to Paris to the Champagne province, where Claire’s family had officially taken me to champagne and cheese heaven!