We make it to Pierrefonds just in time to check-in with our hosts before they finish lunch and return to work.
I’ve booked our accommodation through Airbnb, so I am a little nervous about what we will get on arrival (due to past experiences) and particularly as this will be Jane’s first destination.
As we arrive, I’m confident the town is a good choice; the village of Pierrefonds sits in the shadow of one of the most striking Châteaux. We pull-up outside the address and the Château is looming in the background.
The location is great and our hosts have recently renovated a 15th Century cottage on their property, our home for 3 nights. Phew, we’ve chosen well!
Friday morning we drive the 60km to Charles de Gaulle to collect Jane. It was touch and go whether she would make it, so I am relieved to see her come out through those airport doors, a little tired but excited to be in France!
The last time Jane was in Europe is in the 70’s, doing the typical right-of-passage as a young 20-something, backpacking around Europe and working in London. Her adventures took her to Russia and Afghanistan back then. This trip will be a little less adventurous.
After being in Europe for nearly 6 months, it’s refreshing to have someone onboard who is seeing things for the first time.
We’ve become a bit blaze about staying in 15th Century dwellings, but Jane is in awe and you do have to remind yourself to put things into perspective; when this place was built, Captain Cook wouldn’t discover Australia for another 300 years!
Pierrefonds is a lovely village, one of the best preserved we have been to (and we’ve seen a few). A perfect first destination for anyone looking for quintessential France. The Château of Pierrefonds, dates back to the 12th Century.
It’s had a turbulent history and was partly demolished in the early 1600’s, remaining in ruins for nearly 2 Centuries. It was rescued by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (later Napoleon III of France) and restoration began in the 1850’s.
Inside the Château there is a collection of larger-than-life figurines, know as the Collection Monduit, these lead castings were made by the same company that made the Statue of Liberty.
Down in the crypt is a collection of tombs with plaster casts representing Noblemen and Women, Emperors, Countesses and other important figures in history, dating back to the 12th century.
In recent times, the Château has featured as a location for films such as Highlander and Joan of Arc, as well as the BBC series Merlin.
There is a superb bakery and deli in the village and Jane’s first meal is a feast of french baguette, cheese and foie gras, washed down with a bottle of french bubbly – of course!
We thought there had been a mistake when we paid €22 for a small 100 gm slice of foie gras. Don went back to question it, only to discover it was €240 per kg! It was superb and we savoured every mouthful.
We ease Jane into Europe time, exploring the surrounding villages of Compiègne (not much to say about it) and Chantilly, visiting the Château de Chantilly which is impressively grand.
The grounds, which include a racecourse, cover over 115 acres. The current Château was completed in 1881 and is home to the Musée Condé, one of the finest collections of paintings in France and an impressive library full of rare historic manuscripts and first editions.
So, Jane has quickly settled into our casual touring routine; it generally starts with a coffee and croissant for breakfast, then take in a few sites, find a lunch destination, enjoy the plat-du-jour with a glass of red, a few more sites for the afternoon, or an afternoon nap perhaps!
Dinner is usually a lesser event consisting of some nibbles, maybe a salad and some more french red.
Next stop Paris.