Sorry for the lateness of this post. I have so many excuses. I’m painting my apartment between shifts and it’s taking way longer than expected. I’ve adopted an intensive new fitness regime that sees me sweating it out six days a week and spending a lot of time grocery shopping and cooking. Add in one veeeeery slow computer and the need for a hefty new external drive, and you’ll understand why I’ve been avoiding editing, uploading and sharing my 3,000+ Europe photos.
Just thinking about sitting down to blog for an hour makes me feel tired, which is a shame because I really am so excited to share all the details from our Euro trip! It’s taken me way too long to sit down and dive into this incredible trip, but I’m hoping once I order my new drive it will speed things up and help me get back on track.
When I told friends and coworkers about our upcoming trip to France, everyone wanted to know how long we were staying in Paris. Not if we were staying in Paris, but when. I can’t say I blame them. I’m that girl who listens to French music at work, plasters photos of Notre Dame all over my belongings, and constantly dreams of running off to live in France’s capital city. When I told them we’d be flying first to a little place called Chaumont, they were full of questions. What is it called again? How do you say it? Is that close to Paris? Add in the fact that we weren’t technically staying in Chaumont, but rather the neighboring commune of Chamarandes-Choignes, and you’ll begin to understand why I eventually just told people we were staying with my grandparents before spending some time in Paris.
So to quickly explain: France is broken up into several departments, or zones, and each is further broken down into dozens if not hundreds of communes. There are 429 communes in the Haute-Marne department alone, and Chaumont is the department’s capital city. Even so, it’s small, at just over 21 square miles. Neighboring Chamarandes-Choignes is even tinier, at just over 7 square miles. My grandparents’ home is so close to downtown Chaumont, the difference in names seems like a minor technicality.
Both communes, as well as the surrounding areas, are gorgeous, stuffed full of old-world charm. From the narrow streets of downtown Chaumont, to the red iron gate of my grandparents’ home, it’s hard not to be enchanted by the place.
And to answer that oft-repeated question, no, it’s not exactly close to Paris. In fact, it’s about three hours East, a journey we made in the backseat of a cousin’s car.
Tired after watching the sun creep over the clouds from our airplane window, Dan and I retrieved our luggage and made our great escape, too exhausted to notice or even care that we hadn’t gone through customs at Charles de Gaulle.
The thought crept up on me as we drew closer to Chaumont, and lingered in the back of my mind for the next week. What if we were detained on our journey back home!? And was it really such a bad thing to be stuck in France for a few more days? This is how I became familiar with the concept of “Schengen Countries.” The Schengen agreement allows travelers to skip customs when traveling from one opted-in country to another. (You can see the list of countries included here.) Since Dan and I had changed planes in Iceland and gone through the briefest of security checks before making our way to Charles de Gaulle, we wouldn’t have to go through customs again until we left Paris and returned to the United States. Over the course of our two-week tour of France and Italy, the only new stamps added to our passports were from Iceland and the U.S. Odd, no? Guess I will just have to return to Iceland and justify that stamp in the future!
What was I talking about? Oh yes, Chaumont. Lovely, charming Chaumont, and the grandparents who call it home. The grandparents who planted the seed for our visit when they offered to pay for our airfare, bring me “home,” and meet the boyfriend who’ll one day be part of their family.
Meet Marie and Roger…or as I know them, Mamie and Papy. They’ve lived at the same house since my mother was young. Maybe its the childhood visits to France or the two weeks spent here in 2014, but returning with Dan really did feel a bit like coming home.
A home where we didn’t speak the language, and Mamie and Papy didn’t speak ours, but a home nonetheless. I have to admit, the foreign language element was a lot trickier than I had anticipated. Dan and I both took several years of French language classes in high school and college, but that didn’t stop us from sitting mute at the dinner table on the first night, exchanging helpless glances and trying our best to understand what was being said.
I thought I would be okay; that the language would come back naturally once I was surrounded by native speakers. And while I did eventually get the gist of most conversations, that first night in my grandparents’ home was a little tense. I did understand my grandparents and their friends chuckling “Elle a peur!” She is afraid. Thus began our European adventure.
While in Chaumont, our time was divided between long meals, time spent drinking or playing games around the dining table, and taking short trips to neighboring communes. And champagne. Lots of champagne!
Dan and I toured downtown Chaumont and started to break that language barrier over a fantastic lunch with Mamie and Papy.
Another day, we piled in the car, revisited Restaurant Le Petit Charme, the tasty roadside eatery from our previous trip, and took in the winding medieval streets and breathtaking views from the walled city of Langres.
Then of course there was the day when Dan woke up deathly ill, and spent the morning recovering in bed while Mamie and Papy picked up supplies from the pharmacy. Once Dan felt better, this turned into one of the most memorable days of our trip, complete with aperitifs, silly photos with Viking hats, and a fantastic meal of roasted potatoes, duck, chicken and steak which I am still dying to replicate here in Florida. The day even ended with some sweet gifts, including a delicate pearl bracelet that has since become a mainstay on my wrist.
We only stayed in Chaumont for three or four days, but that turned out to be plenty of time to get to know my grandparents better, introduce Dan to my home away from home, and gorge ourselves on all the delicious food and wine. We literally started to plan our return trip on the train into Paris, and I know it won’t be too long before we’re back! Before I get swept up in Paris, however, I have a couple more posts to come, stuffed with photos of Chaumont and Langres.
A huge thank you to Mamie and Papy! Without your support, this trip could not have happened so soon. Dan and I loved staying with you and touring your home, and we hope we can come back soon! Bisous!