Who doesn’t like going to grandma’s house for dinner? She’s the best cook you know and you’re never disappointed by your visits with her. Well if grandma's house is too far away, fear not for you can simply take a stroll on over to Mamie Bigoude! The creperie itself is extremely hard to miss with its bright red facade, and sunflowers all around. The rest may look like your average rectangular building but once you step inside, you’ve officially made it to grandma’s, complete with a funky couch and turn dial phone (unfortunately you can’t make call on it, this is only a restaurant after all)! While the entrance of the restaurant is amazing in itself, there’s still more to come. Not only does it look like the inside of grandma’s house, but you can eat anywhere inside the house; even the bathroom, equipped with tub and all.
Saturday night, a large number of our J-term group and I went to this lovely place. We were seated in the bedroom where you could see tables surrounded but headboards and pillows just like a real bed would have. When it was time to order, or menus looked like magazines and the meals had fun names like F. Roosevelt, Pot Tata Bigoude, and Galette Marco Polo. The food we ordered was delicious and the dessert crepes looked beautiful. What better way to spend the night than at a restaurant that looks like grandma’s with a bunch of wonderful people!
The castle at Chenonceau is the quintessential “French Castle” for Americans traveling abroad– situated on the Cher River which acts as a mirror to reflect the modest estate’s form skyward, it is still quite lovely in the wintertime.
We took the train to Chenonceau on a Saturday afternoon; everyone was relatively subdued and quiet after a long week at internships with the faintest bit of homesickness beginning to set in. Twenty minutes later, we stepped out of the train and found ourselves maybe a quarter mile from the historic estate. With its parallel lines of trees leading to the castle and its courtyard, the barren vineyards to your right looking by all accounts quite similar to a cemetery, it is easy to feel the Gothic influence in the architecture and grounds. Very beautiful and slightly foreboding– like a Guillermo del Toro film, or extremely cheap designer handbags from a van’s trunk, available only after dark.
Audio guides were distributed as we waited in the foyer, and then we were off: I found the painting of Ganymede in the green room especially captivating– especially since the constellation of my sign (Aquarius) pertains to the myth of that rather ill-fated waterbearer. Every part of Chenonceau feels light and warm– there are far more windows there than at Chateau Amboise, or Clos-Lucé. The narrators inform us that the castle was notorious for being where mistresses would be taken, and seeing the captivating beauty of the staircases and vestibules, the tapestries and white-washed stone, it is obvious why.
What pleased me the most was the abundance of flowers. I was once very heartbroken over a rosebush my mother planted for me that became sick with fungus before I ever saw the orange blush of its blooms. Taking photos of every arrangement helped alleviate some of that trepidation. The scent of them was incredible. French gardens, of all the structured forms, are most lovely to me for a very simple reason: when an arrangement is being made, or a form modified, it is important in the French manner to retain the integrity of the object. Form and vessel should prove so in sync with the plant’s natural inclination that one can forget the form is not natural and must be maintained.
We also really enjoyed the labyrinth; while it was a little too easy to get through (since it is winter and the shrubs are not full of foliage) it felt like being in a Jane Austen film adaptation to shriek and laugh while winding through greenery to reach a lattice-cum-gazebo.
As we boarded the train to return home to Tours, the wind became bitterly cold. This made us think of our families in the States and how could they must be, which made us somber. We decided to go to McDonalds when we got back to the train station to have a little taste of home and feel, for a few minutes, like we weren’t completely out of our depth– young, starry eyed kids in a country so much older than the U.S. that it was laughable to think we understood the passage of time at all.