We left Paris on Saturday morning loaded up with all our suitcases PLUS a whole heap of groceries. Ben and I had decided to take snacks, lunches etc with us on our drive from Paris to Bragny so we wouldn’t have to spend so much money buying lunches (which quite often end up being junk food due to the lack of Marks & Spencers in France). BIG mistake. Trying to carry all our stuff PLUS bags/esky’s of groceries through busy Paris and then catch two trains was a nightmare.
By the time we reached the car hire place no one was happy. Least of all the American woman in the queue in front of us at Avis who was screaming at the staff to upgrade her car because she didn’t like the one she had booked. She ended up insulting the staff when they refused her request for a free upgrade and stomped off to see what kind of car their competitors would offer. Ben walked up to the counter looking frazzled. He had just spent the last hour carrying everyones stuff and had to listen to them whinge about the few items they had been left to carry. Good old Avis, I think in part to stick it to the American woman, loudly offered him a free upgrade and gave him brand new automatic car (we had only booked manual).
When we got to our car it was in fact brand spanking new and only had 7km on the odometer. I have never been so grateful for loud, demanding American’s in all my life. We squished in all our suitcases and children and when it came time for me to hop in, I realised that there was no room for the groceries, which ended up being placed at my feet and on my lap.
The drive out of Paris was a nightmare. There does not seem to be any road rules at all. It really is “every man for himself”. Ben had spent hours studying up on French road rules only to have them being completely disregarded by every other French driver right in front of his eyes. At every opportunity he would give me a commentary on what road rule this or that driver was breaking with the assumption that I gave a shit. I offered him the rude words I had memorised for him but he looked at me in horror and said that he had been joking and would never participate in road rage.
We finally got out of Paris city only to be stuck for 1 hour 30 minutes on the highway. There had been a couple of accidents and also there were army trucks everywhere. I was slightly worried that there may have been a terrorist attack but then remembered that it was Bastille Day and they were probably there for that.
One of my children enquired “What is Bastille Day?” I replied “I think it is like Australia Day except instead of celebrating wiping out thousands of Indigenous Australians with smallpox and guns AND also finding a suitable place for all of Britain’s pick pockets, they are celebrating killing an over indulged Royal Family with a ridiculously lavish castle and liberating all the poor French people from having to pay for all the luxuriant castle renovations.” Not quite sure my explanation is correct but I’m having trouble discovering much about French History when most things are written in French.
I wish I could tell you about about the beautiful countryside I witnessed on our 4 hour journey to Bragny but truthfully I stuck headphones on (to drown out the whinging kids who were squished) and my luxury travel neck cushion and dozed off to sleep, leaving Ben and the navigator to themselves.
Our accomodation wasn’t booked after having done extensive research on certain areas but instead was chosen with the same strategy we applied for choosing Rohan’s name. Random selection (true story – when I was pregnant with Rohan I told Ben, who was being un-decisively dismissive about baby name choosing to “pick a fu@king name!! He opened the baby book with his eyes closed and pointed at a name which just so happened to be Rohan”).
Luckily these random selection seem to work out for us as Rohan’s name has grown on me over time (except when people pronounce the H as in Roe-Hahn – that drives me crazy) and Bragny turned out to be spectacular. We stayed in a picturesque little cottage right on the Sarone river. The cottage itself has a funny history. Our hosts Clement and his father, said that their Grandfather had found the land on the river and purchased it some 50 years ago. The grandfather, who was very attached to his current home some many miles away, decided to pull it apart piece by piece and move it to his new land where it was put back together. No one knows how old the original house was but estimated it was at least a couple of hundred of years old.
The house was full of charm and antiques which no one seemed to know much about. It was incredulous to me. People over here have items in their houses that were made in the middle ages and they are so blasé about them. Clement even referred to some of these antiques as “junk”. Beautiful, ornate furniture hand carved out of amazingly solid wood is viewed as pesty because people cant’ move it (due to it’s weight) and they want to upgrade to nice new Ikea stuff. I literally nearly fell over when I heard this.
Coming from Australia, where our furniture (or at least Ben and my furniture) is nothing short of disposable this furniture which has stood the test of time for hundreds of years is like a dream to us. We feel very blessed and fortunate if our Ikea furniture passes the 5 year mark.
Clement and his father made us a delicious French dinner and we ate it by the river and had lively conversations. They were so welcoming and went above and beyond to make us feel right at home in their lovely secluded property surrounded by forests, the river and birds. After spending 5 nights in Paris, where we were surrounded by lots of people and lots of noise this was absolute bliss.
Ben slept so well that night in his country retreat that he woke up feeling extremely happy and energised.
He decided to take the kids kayaking and swimming in the river while I went to an antique market with Clement and his dad.
The antique market was nothing short of mind blowing. I felt like I was in the middle of an episode of Antiques Road show. There were literally items there that were from the middle ages that NOBODY wanted!!! People had tables full of stuff that they knew was old, but had no idea what it had originally been used for or any kind of story behind it. I ended up buying an 18th century jewel box that French hunters would keep their jewels or treasures in for their wives. They were also used as a display of wealth. The box is made of some kind of metal and is so intricately engraved with pictures of French hunters and animals.
The beautiful, antique furniture was almost being given away. I had tears in my eyes while viewing these pieces of furniture which I would love to adorn my house with. Such a world of difference from the Ikea crap I am used to.
Whilst we were antique market shopping Rohan managed to destroy an antique of his own. We often jokingly refer to him as “a walking disaster” and this is an example of why. While he was kayaking on the Sarone river he managed to fall out and flip his boat he was trapped underneath it for a while and inhaled some water in a panic before popping back up. Due to the holes in the kayak it began to sink immediately and went down like the titanic. Poor old Rowie tried desperately to cling on to the titanic so it would not sink but unfortunately the current was working against him. Ben was faced with “Sophie’s choice”. Save Rohan or save the kayak. He chose Rohan. Ben said that the whole sinking of the titanic debacle was hilarious (once it was over) but poor Rowie was traumatised and so upset that he had lost the boat.
We were then faced with the task of deciding how on Earth do you financially replace kayak that has sentimental value to people who had so graciously hosted you. We finally came to an amount and said farewell. Clement and his father invited us to come back any time we liked so we mustn’t have upset them too much.
We hurriedly ate our lunch and embarked on our journey to our next destination… which I will blog about very soon.
Thanks for reading!!