Every year we look forward to our trip to visit my Mum in France. Getting there is never wonderful and this year was no different. We landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport and took the TGV from Paris to Dijon. My little girls are brilliant travelers with their own little cases and backpacks full of books and crayons to keep them amused en route, but its still a big trip for kids. Finally we arrived in Dijon, famous for its mustard, cathedral and intricately tiled roofs. The capital of Burgundy is full of wonderful churches and cobbled streets, but eager to finish our journey we took a cab to my parents boat moored in St Jean de Losne, on the River Soane, where 5 canals join up. Family reunions on the rivers of France have become a way of life since my parents took their boat there several years ago. This year my brother Ali joins us from Australia and the girls can’t wait to get to know their Uncle during our week with him.
This area is rich with boating history from the days when peniches (working canal boats) were towed by horses and hauled grain and supplies throughout France. We saw beautiful restored peniches, today used as floating homes for the growing number of expats who tour the canals and rivers during the summer. The other boats we admired were Dutch barges also restored as holiday homes.
We made ourselves well known at a rather rumpty little riverside cafe where the Austrian chef (once head chef at The Ritz in Austria), created wonders in the tiny kitchen bringing us fresh pate and delicacies like fragrant rabbit stew washed down with local red wine. I managed to talk my way into the kitchen and got to see the chef at work first hand. Market fresh is the staple in these little fench towns and the food is extrodinarily delicious.
We girls took bike rides through fields of sunflowers and along the river path where the riverbanks were a riot of incredible wild flowers, making flower crowns and picking flowers for jam jar vases back on the boat.
Every year we look forward to the special flavors of France. Mum’s special is her homemade and most delicious Sloe gin, which she steeps for years in a dark place on the boat. When poured it’s incredibly potent and moorish! For those moments when alcholic beverages are not appropriate she serves homemade elderflower juice.We all sample local champagne and wines each day on our forays away from the river and just can’t get enough of the local fare. Favorite sweet things are the gelato colored macaroons, (pictured below) the very french sweet cookie found in every good patisserie along the way. Our lunch of choice is a baguette, local cheese, fois gras, local sausage with a glass of wine, even my girls devour the stinkyest cheeses with gusto! Each day we had long lazy lunches sprawled on the river bank. Then the girls swam in the river and swung out over the water on a rope tied high up in a tree.
We took a day trip to Louhans via train with its incredible market, loud and alive with livestock. Vendors display over 40 kinds of chickens, ducks, rabbits all sold live for the pot. Great stands of local veggies, cheeses and meats line the cobbled streets. A highlight was the visit to the Hotel Dieu. This grand old Hotel or hospital was run by nuns. The nuns were only allowed to bring one piece of furniture when they entered the orders, today these intricate and beautiful armours line the halls. I was enchanted by the woodpaneled medicine room lined with exquisite stone and glass apothecary jars. Back home we can only dream about french antiques like these, yet they are everywhere in these crumbling old towns.
Its never easy leaving my Mum and this year my brother too, but our two weeks passes far to swiftly. All too soon we are back at home where summer has arrived, if rather damply and we look forward to our stint at the Shore while Mac is busy with his Meet Us At The Beach sessions.