Courgeoût: A Glorious French Countryside Weekend
With Claire in Paris and Amy now living in Madrid, we’ve made a conscious effort to see each other the past few years. Especially this year, spending the summer in Europe. Although we’ve recently met up in various countries, Claire graciously invited us to her family’s country house in Courgeoût.
We all ventured to the house the previous summer for Claire and Aymeric’s wedding. But this time it would be just us, an allotted time to truly catch up. It was nothing short of my dream.
Will and I flew from Barcelona to Paris in mid-September. From there, we would rent a car with Amy, Claire, and Aymeric to head to the country. However beforehand, Will and I had one more full, sunny Friday in Paris, just the two of us.
We did all of our favorite things. Got baguettes au brie et au beurre (essentially brei and butter sandwiches), and sat on the steps of Musée d'Orsay, listening to violinists.
We found a beautiful festival of sorts, Les Marchés Flottants du Sud-Ouest à Paris (the Southwest Floating Markets in Paris). The market stretched along the Quai de la Tournelle, a path along the Seine.
The 42 stalls primarily sold delicacies from the southwest of France including foie gras, dried fruits, baked goods. I bought a bottle of rosé for the weekend.
Since we were near Notre Dame, we had to go to my absolute favorite ice cream shop in Paris: Berthillon Glacier. It’s most definitely lives up to the hype, and always worth the inevitable line.
By evening, we met up with Amy, Claire, and Aymeric and we were off! Their house about a two hour drive west of Paris. Claire told us we’d stop at McDonald's along the way. As someone who deeply appreciates food culture, Amy thought she was joking until we literally pulled into the parking lot at 10 p.m. However, as Claire explained, McDonald's in France is different. And if we wanted the true French weekend experience, this was it. I will admit, my side of fromage chèvre (breaded goat cheese nuggets) were not something you find on the menu Stateside.
On Saturday we woke up to a more idyllic French fare: warm croissants fresh out of the oven.
They were accompanied by an array on wonderful jams and marmalades made by Claire’s mom with local fruits from her garden.
The house is in Courgeoût, located in the Orne department in the Normandy region.
With about only about 450 people living in the village, the spacious, quiet fields are a worlds away from Paris.
When I think of Normandy, I think of the rolling countryside and pastures for dairy cattle. Courgeoût exemplified all preconceived notions.
The region is also known for it’s apple orchards, as Normandy is renowned for producing cider. But it’s not only apples. The fertile soil is prime for growing some of the most flavorful produce in the world.
We picked some plums, which were in extreme abundance.
It was quite a successful haul.
Later, Claire’s mom made a beautifully simple plum tart with puffed pastry.
Nearly all of the fruits and vegetables in the kitchen were picked locally, in their garden. You could certainly taste the difference, sweet and bursting with flavor.
After our foraging adventure, we headed to the market in Mortagne-au-Perche, the market-town capital of the region.
Every Saturday in the village center, stalls of fresh produce and specialty items surround the Nôtre-Dame church, rebuilt during the 15th century.
We collected supplies for lunch. Aymeric and Will stopped by the butcher for a roast chicken and a few sausages while we went to the bakery for fresh bread.
We reconvened for the most important decision: the cheese.
Even more pressing, the wine! But we left both selections up to the professionals.
Why does everything taste so significantly better in Normandy? Sure, the fresh produce and locally sourced dairy helps. But to succinctly sum it up, it’s the butter. If I could ever recreate what we had that weekend, I would absolutely need this butter.
Our last stop was at the main store, since old habits die hard.
We were finally ready to head back to the house to prepare our Saturday lunch.
We were having roast chicken with roasted potatoes, sausages and a salad. Cheese for dessert. We poured ourselves a glass of wine and got started
The boys kinda helped too.
If anything, Claire has taught me the elegant ease of entertaining. Pick your battles. Buy the roast chicken that’s already prepared, as long as it’s from a good local butcher. Roast your own potatoes, tear lettuce leaves, make a simple vinaigrette.
It felt like a stark contrast from our Treasure Island days together, the year after I graduated college.
It was uncharacteristically sunny for September, so we took full advantage.
So much so, we migrated to the pool.
Some of us were even brave enough to jump in.
After, we took a gorgeous walk in the countryside around the home. At dusk, it had a mystical feel.
And did some more needed foraging, cutting down grapes and gathering supplies for dinner.
There was an inherent comfort in staying at Claire’s home. The company, the surroundings. It’s a feeling that nothing is too much, too elaborate, too simple. It was that bittersweet notion that I was feeling nostalgic for a moment I was presently experiencing.
We knew the weekend would fly, as all good ones do, so I really did try to savor it.
We toasted to Aymeric’s upcoming birthday.
And yet, I felt a pang of sadness when it was already time for dinner, signifying the end of such a stellar day.
Claire’s mom made dinner, and she is a spectacular cook. Modest for sure, but really, really good. We started with a simple caprese salad, followed by seared scallops in a saffron cream sauce.
And an apple birthday tart for dessert.
We played a very aggressive game of ping pong before calling it a night.
On Sunday morning, it was our turn to prepare brunch. The sweetest tomatoes I’ve tasted in my entire life were a highlight.
And fair is fair, I must give credit where credit is due.
The weekend was filled with so many laughs and so many tarts.
Claire and Amy had such an impact on me during a pivotal era, navigating DC for the first time. And to share this weekend with them years later. Simply stated, it was super meaningful.
Fortunately, there was one more treat on Sunday evening. Staying with Caitlin! We had a lovely, cozy night in her now very familiar apartment.
And were even able to grab café au laits the following morning before we set off to fly to Greece. Seeing my people, well, it just fills my heart.