France is just a “hop-skip-and-a-jump” from Stuttgart with so many options it is really hard to nail down “where to go” in this incredible country. Most people say… “oh, la, la Paris!” I think Paris is cool but I LOVE the french countryside, especially the the petite citie of character, or Le Petite Cités de Carachtère.
I jumped over to this site to explore some more and I found a few places to explore. I sent off a few emails and immediately heard back from my new friend, Isabella. She lives in the precious town of Ervy-le-Chatel. With her help, I knew I was on my way to building an incredible itinerary and adventure.
Isabella owns L’Aquarelle B&B , an enchanting and precious B&B on the border of Burgundy and Champagne-Ardenne and she is gifted with great taste in design, cuisine and wine. I think she was probably born with style and grace, I’m sure this comes in handy with her small business. It style looks natural in her 18th & 19th century mansion too.
I really wanted to visit soon so I booked a tour for this past September. So Jon, Chris and I decided to visit in August and scout things out. I know, any excuse for a trip. Today’s blog highlights both of my adventures and the five cities we discovered while relaxing and enjoying pastoral, peasant France.
Chambre d’hotes – when you are booking a trip to France you might want to take a look at Chambre d’hotes. These adorable B&B do a lot more than just provide a warm breakfast and room for the night but they also will prepare dinner meals as well. As a matter of fact, I used the website chambredehotes.fr and found Isabelle here.
Write an email~ after a few emails and making a connection with Isabella I knew we were kindred spirits, enjoyed culture, meeting new people and loved sharing experiences with the world. Her precious B&B was a perfect fit for my upcoming adventure to the Champagne-Ardenne region. She had wonderful ideas of how to show my crew a true French experience. Our itinerary was AWESOME ~ filled with shopping, markets, cooking and of course, champagne tastings.
The B&B is a noble home built in the 1700’s and was rebuilt over the years and is a typical chateau of the region. Our large bedroom windows opened up onto the landscape of pastoral fields of gold this summer making me feel like I had just stepped into a watercolor painting.
Cooking with Isabella
Fresh bread, cheese, butter and jams for breakfast greeted us daily. Isabelle’s decorative display made me feel like Julia Childs was going to pop around the corner any minute. When I brought the group in September she also incorporated cooking demonstrations in her small kitchen. She’ll have her workshop opened up soon. Then more French cooking experiences, I CAN NOT wait! We enjoyed preparing Beef Bourguignon and Chicken in wine tarragon sauce both were paired perfectly with the local wine she chose as well.
Isabelle concentrates on using locally grown produce from the weekly market and supporting local food producers in her B&B bringing the quality of her meals to the next level. You can taste it in every bite.
Walking around town
I’m a small town girl so discovering small towns around Europe are my thing! These petite towns are packed with historical gems worth visiting as well as discovering.
Because of its position in history – Ervy-le-Chatel was right on the border between Burgundy and Champagne so the power struggles were between the Dukes of Burgundy and the nobles of Champagne they really didn’t have much of a chance.
Isabelle helped me work the Friday Weekly Market in town into the itinerary and we were happy to see meats, cheeses, seasonal vegetables, fresh bakery items, and some flea market finds. One vendor was selling all kinds of socks and stockings, which was a major score. He also sold the fluffy socks with rubber stoppers, you know the ones. But also electrical cords, pillow cases, just a little bit of everything. Hey, they don’t have a huge department store on every corner in rural France. Thank God!
Today, her town is a small town with working class citizens who value family, history and quiet living. This peaceful and quiet place in the French countryside is inspirational and I know why the painters of Paris decided to come here to get away from the hub-bub of the city.
Another “Petite City of Character” is Chaource. This little town is known for their famouscheese. Their cheese can be found all the way to Paris. A local favorite for sure, but I found this cheese in Strasbourg, Colmar and my little town of Obernai at the weekly market as well.
Cheese Factory – if you are a French cheese lover and would like to see the “makings of” you might want to add this factory and store into your itinerary. It is literally a hop, skip and jump from Isabella’s and also a sweet little town to visit.
Big Chess set
Jon and Chris really enjoyed playing with the town’s BIG CHESS SET in the center of town. The playing parts are located in the sitting bench right on the town square also next to the Information Center. Chaource is also one of the main stops on the cycling trail of the region. In the summer, you’ll see lots of bike traffic. Pretty cool ~
I have been to the Petite city of Essoyes so many times now I feel like it is “my” town. However, the French would remind me, it is not mine, but Renoir’s. Yes, Pierre-August Renoir the impressionist painter called Essoyes his summer home for the latter part of his life.
I love promoting this town, they do such a great job on promoting tourism. They are classy and informative without being cheesy. I love that when I walk the streets of the town buildings adorn the full-size replicas of his most famous paintings. They are so town-proud as a visitor it is super cool to experience. I’m not sure how the locals feel about it BUT their incredible museums are informative and interesting with lots of information for the price.
Flea Market & town Market
This fountain of natural springs was the center of the town during the Roman Empire and is still quite beautiful to see. The water levels were low all around Europe this summer. I’m sure having to do with our climate change and we still were able to ge a few really nice pictures.
The Sunday Market in Chabis is really a lively event. I was so glad we went, I have been to probably a hundred different weekly markets around Europe. I was amazed at the variety of products you could buy here. From home goods to fresh sausage, made right in front of you. WOW! Plus of course, they had lovely breads, cheeses, scarves, and much, much more ~
Of course we couldn’t be visiting wine country in France without stopping into for a tasting here and there. We really enjoyed our private wine tasting at Champagne Paul Marie Bertrand and meeting Etienne. Our informative tour included a winery visit and a tasting. One of the best I’ve been to in the region. Etienne was able to answer a lot of questions about growing and harvesting and we really enjoyed the Champagne.
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