Photography by C. Whitney-Ward

 A  C H A R M I N G  F R E N C H  F A R M H O U S E


A N D  E X T R A O R D I N A R Y  F O O D

Who could resist?  I hopped on a plane, landed in Paris and was whisked off to SOLOGNE in the French countryside about an hour and a half southwest of Paris. An old friend, who is very French and an extraordinary photographer, invited me to spend two weeks in his renovated farmhouse - the oldest building on the property dates to 1792; the newest to the turn of the century. It was total immersion into French culture and an unexpected bonus was that my friend  turned out to be a wonderful cook. 

I've been to Paris a number of times and the grandeur always sweeps me away; but the tiny picturesque villages and  the bucolic fields with giant rolls of hay and crops of asparagus that we passed, exude its own rustic charm and French allure.  

Each morning there would be a chorus of ducks pontificating on the pond and a handsome pheasant or two meandering the perimeter of the property. And signs along the tree-lined roads warn drivers to be alert to crossing deer and wild boar. It's a hunter's paradise.

But my 'game' was photographing castles, exploring a Brocante or two (flea market), eating amazing food, and generally living French for two weeks. I did all of that and here are my photographs to prove it!


 C H A T E A U   D E  C H A M B O R D

Located in the Loire Valley, CHAMBORD was envisioned and built by King Francois I  (1544-1547) at the tender age of 25. Intended as a hunting lodge, it evolved into an extravagant chateau boasting 426 rooms, 282 fireplaces and 77 staircases, including the famous three-story, double-helix staircase, rumored to have been designed/inspired by Leonardo da Vinci.

But, I fell in love with the roofscape commissioned by the young King to look like the skyline of 16th century Constantinople. 

A walk along the upper terraces afforded a perfect view of this flamboyant and elegant rooftop.




This 500-year old castle, built on the site of an old mill in the Loire Valley, has had a series of illustrious owners including Henry II's widow Catherine de Medici (1519-1589).

She designed a beautiful garden of five lawns positioned around an elegant circular pool. Spherical boxwood bushes, rose bushes and lavender hedges give the garden its harmonious lines.

She also installed an Italian maze planted with 2000 yews.

In 1576 she had a magnificent gallery built and a year later this elegant ballroom was officially opened in honor of her son King Henry III.  

I can only imagine the elegant fetes that took place here and the elaborate banquets prepared in the chateau's kitchen, one of my favorite rooms on the tour.

Each room of the Chateau is filled with magnificent period pieces - canopied beds, tapestries, handsome furniture, 17th & 18th century paintings, gorgeous fireplaces, and magnificent ceilings. 


E X T R A O R D I N A R Y   F O O D

Staying in a French home is a delicious experience.  Every meal is an event and you soon slip into the rhythm of thinking about food as a natural and integral part of your day. At breakfast my friend Jean-Michel would tell me what he was planning to cook for lunch - the big meal of the day. Each evening he would bake bread for the next morning's breakfast...

Lunch - the big meal of the day - was always a treat.  One day a gorgeous roast chicken...

Another steak and French fries.

The next, baked cod...

And lots and lots of cheese...

During the day he would whip up a gorgeous fresh pear or plum clafouti. 

Dinners were light - my favorite was French yellow beans, cheese and bread. Simple and simply delicious.

And, what would two weeks in France be without indulging in a beautiful FARMERS MARKET.