Monday, July 9, 2007

Weekend Wedding Away

Oh, thank goodness for our brief weekend away to attend a friend's wedding! I seriously didn't think I would ever get myself out of the doldrums, and if it weren't for this little trip, I may have spent the better part of the weekend in the apartment AGAIN, feeling sorry for myself... *Ahem* And thank goodness that the weather gods finally decided to cooperate and grace us with some sunshine -- I have a feeling that les mariés were pretty relieved about that too! ('Course, some other "famous" weddings most likely benefited from this gracious interlude of heavenly weather as well...)

We actually left la région parisienne on Friday evening, after having a quick dinner at home and throwing our things together in a couple of overnight bags. We hit the road kinda late, though, and didn't arrive in Argenton-sur-Creuse until almost 2:00 in the morning, believe it or not. (I originally thought the wedding was closer to Paris, but it was actually about a 3 1/2 hour drive, in the Centre region of France, in the département called Indre, as seen in the map to the right.) My boy likes to take his time on the road (which is a rarity and a blessing in this country, trust me!) which I definitely don't mind, especially in the dark. But as I've mentioned before, I have a heck of a time keeping my eyes open, so after we arrived at the hotel, called Le Cheval noir, I groggily tumbled out of the car and up the stairs to our tiny but very practical room.

After giving my boy a hard time about throwing together the weekend details at the last minute, I now have to give him credit for pulling it together marvelously. He got us a room for 2 nights, miraculously, when I was convinced there might not be anything available at such a late date. And Friday evening, before leaving, we also both put our heads together and chose a nice gift at a Culinarion shop near my work: a lovely wine carafe and a set of expresso cups. His friend has actually been married before, so we knew that the couple wasn't going to need a lot of basic essentials, but we figured that these gifts would pretty much make anyone happy. His friend Bernard is quite the wine afficionado (of course, what Frenchman isn't, you might ask?!) and he also likes a good café serré -- so we thought this would work well. We were at a bit of a loss, both of us, because we haven't been to any weddings in quite some time, and as they didn't have a liste de mariage, we didn't know where to begin. Turns out we weren't the only ones who found this to be a challenge: the marié's other témoin didn't know what to get either and actually ended up writing them a check. Money is always acceptable, apparently!

We woke up fairly early Saturday morning, after a short night's sleep, had breakfast at the hotel and rushed down the road to Orsennes, where the wedding was to take place. Or shall I say that my boy rushed me down the road?! We left with what seemed like plenty of time, but for some reason he was convinced we were going to be late, so he was furious at me for not being ready exactly when he wanted to leave, at 10:15. But the wedding was at 11:30, and he had told me the night before that the town was only about 20 minutes away from our hotel... If he wanted me to be ready sooner, why didn't he fib about the delay or the amount of time it would take? I figured allowing for an hour was plenty of time, but on this point we wholeheartedly disagreed. So I was a bit befuddled, to say the least. Granted, there was some traffic with the Saturday morning markets, but once we hit the backroads outside of Argenton, we were fine. We made it to Orsennes in just under a half an hour, at 11:00, with a half hour to spare. Of course, if catastrophe had struck and we had found ourselves stuck in traffic, there would have been hell to pay -- and I would have never heard the end of it! But thank goodness that wasn't the case...
He was in such a hurry that morning that I don't even think he shaved. Luckily for my boy, you can't really tell! That's the German blood in him, I think... As we climbed out of the car in Orsennes, I wondered if I shouldn't talk him into slipping into a nearby salle de bains to do a quick shave. But then I came to my senses. Heureusement. We didn't need any more quibbling. Details, details. When will I learn?

The typical French civil ceremony was brief but quite nice, nothing in particular to note. As my boy was a témoin, he played a central role in the process. And I don't think he's done this in a long time -- if ever -- so that was probably one of the reasons he was so nervous. But all went well, and the mariés came outside in a tiny shower of rice. We took our cars down the road to a picturesque point where everyone took photos overlooking the river Creuse. Afterwards we headed to a local hotel-restaurant where the reception was to be held, and the next few hours were spent gorging ourselves on wonderful food, wine and champagne. The restaurant overlooked La Creuse, and with the fabulous weather things just couldn't get any better. After a lovely salad with goat's cheese as our entrée, we savored our beef filet and then dug into an incredible dessert, a pavé au chocolat avec coulis à l'orange, as you can see above. This was incredible -- probably one of the best chocolate desserts I've had in a long time. And I can be pretty picky! If a fondant is too rich, or the texture isn't right, I'm often disappointed. But the texture of this delicacy was smooth, onctueux, chocolatey without being too rich. The perfect ending to the meal.

We lingered a bit and enjoyed the moment, the sunlight washing through the windows, and then rushed out to the waiting boat to take a tour of La Creuse... A really nice way to wrap up the festivities! Most of us were ready for a nap by then, so I dozed quite a bit while we made our way down the river, with fortifications on the banks, some rocky cliffs, and riverside campsites where families were settling in for their summer vacations. We saw a few boats, but not a whole lot -- maybe the bad weather of the previous weeks had scared people away. Either that or summer just hasn't fully set in yet.

But I spoke too soon with regard to the end of festivities -- in fact after the hour-and-a-half promenade, we got into our cars once again and drove around the area, briefly stopping to take in some local sites, including this castle, called the Château de Breuil-Yvain, as I later found out.

I took some exterior photos around the site; apparently the castle is privately owned, and people actually live there, so we couldn't visit the interior. We saw a young gal driving an impressive lawnmower around the grounds, and although I thought she might shoo us off the property, she didn't say anything. When we returned to Orsennes for the cocktail hour around 7:00, I noticed a poster in one of the local cafés and realized that it was indeed the same castle -- apparently they have plays, spectacles and other forms of entertainment there throughout the year. I wonder if they rent it out? Perhaps one can still attempt to rival the Parker-Longoria nuptials at Vaux-le-Vicomte...

The cocktail hour extended into a full-fledged dinner, to our surprise... Two wedding meals? Well, why not? We knew we were staying the night in the region, but this was still unexpected... More champagne, and then some of my favorite wine, an ice-cold Riesling -- I even asked Bernard if he had me in mind when he chose it! He knows full well how much I enjoy Alsacian whites. He winked and said bien sûr -- anything to make me happy! And what goes better with a dry Alsacian white but a stunning plateau de fruits de mer...? I focused on the shrimp at first, but then soon realized I had lost time and only managed to sneak in one langoustine, before devouring a few raw oysters (which my boy cracked open with a knife; I kept expecting oyster to splatter across the table) -- something I never enjoyed before living in France. The only disappointment I find in seafood platters here are those horrendous tourteaux -- what's the point? They look huge, but then when you break open the shell there's practically no "meat" inside... I don't know how those poor crabs carry around all that shell weight! Give me a Chesapeake Bay crab any day. I guess I really am a Maryland girl at heart.

Something that I really loved about the café-restaurant where we had dinner was the unique artwork on the walls, all pieces most likely donated by local artists. There were also murals on the walls themselves, and some great quotes, scribbled in large handwriting. It was a tiny, intimate, convivial setting, and if you ask me, there's no better way to enjoy a wedding meal and to share the moment with friends and family.** The quote above is from Paul Eluard, a late 19th-century, early 20th-century French poet, in his "Capitale de la douleur". Roughly translated: "The curve of your eyes embraces my heart..."

19 comments:

parisian cowboy said...

Nice :)

ColourMeCrazy said...

A weekend full of food and festivities! Can you send that sunshine my way please?

The Late Bloomer said...

Yeah, Parisian Cowboy, it was definitely a nice break. I almost wish I could have stayed there, down in that region, for a LOOOOONG time. I think I just need a break from Paris and our life here in general. And even though it was the "deep" countryside, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, it was so calming and relaxing for a change. I felt like I was in another world. (Maybe there's some country girl inside of this citadine?!)

Oh, and CMC -- since I got back there hasn't been a single ray of sunshine all week... I'm holding out for some more myself! I know we were blessed last Saturday, but can't we have just a WEE bit more, pretty-please?

And I sure could use me some more of that seafood... I'm still regretting not grabbing more langoustines on that platter -- at the time, I had already eaten so much, I could hardly squeeze in any more!

Poppy Fields said...

Oh, how you make me wish for a wedding to go to!

avec amy said...

The dessert looks great, as does the shellfish, the weather, the chateau, etc. And it all sounds wonderful. I love little weekends away. It's a nice was to recharge and remind yourself why living in this country is so great!

little fugitive said...

I enjoyed the chance to experience a weekend wedding trip through you, more visits to the countryside are a must! And I totally share your enthusiasm for Alsatian white wines.

Then I caught up with the prior post and felt like a bad blogging friend, for not keeping more in touch...it may seem corny but have you ever tried Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way? A few years back it really helped me.

This weather can't be helping - we need some consistent sunshine, now.

Scribbit said...

Well my French is a bit rusty, I was thinking it said, "The curve of your eyes makes my heart turn."

But I can still quote "Le Pont Mirabeau" leftovers :)

That dessert was luscious-looking. I'm so jealous of your weekend.

Anonymous said...

I am a latecomer to the latebloomer, and perhaps I am all the more impressed for that, for this is a beautifully written and illustrated blog.
Your writing is engaging, interesting and vivid. Your personality and humor shine through.
Congratulations from Claire

The Late Bloomer said...

Meredith, it was my first wedding to attend in a LOOOONG time! I almost wish I had more to attend myself, because I love to have the opportunity to dress up, enjoy wonderful food, and share in great memories. I missed a good friend's wedding in Avignon last summer because I simply couldn't make it down for the weekend; budget wouldn't allow for the trip, and I felt terrible about it, especially since I introduced the bride and groom to each other almost 8 years ago! But she totally understood.

And Amy, trips like this are so eye-opening: like I said, they do me a world of good, both me and my boy actually, so I do hope we'll be able to make them more often in the future.

Oh Little Fugitive, no worries! I have my ups and downs like everyone, and last week, for some reason, was particularly tough. But I've been a bit inconsistent about my blogging myself, so trust me, I'm always making personal promises to keep up on things more -- but it's tough with all the things that fill our lives!

And Claire, as always, thank you for your generous comments -- far too generous, really! I try to share a bit of myself here, and it does feel good to know that part of my personality comes through. That's reassuring somehow. I guess that is one of our goals in blogging.

sfgirl said...

that shellfish plate looks so.good. sounds like a really nice getaway for a last minute job!

Scribbit said...

Those pictures are STILL pretty--I'm living vicariously through you, you know :)

The Late Bloomer said...

Michelle, you're so funny! Nice subtle way of letting me know that maybe I need to blog something new! ;) Thanks for sticking by me and believing in me, though -- I'll get a routine going one of these days.

Mike said...

Those shrimps looks tasty. Shrimps, my favorite.


Mike
http://somethingaboutparenting.typepad.com/

http://www.mikeleonen.com/

Betty C. said...

Aren't French weddings elaborate beyond belief? I'm hoping my girls will opt, when the time comes, for something simple...or maybe just a PACS...I'm not sure we could ever afford to go all out like some families do!

Day Dreamer said...

Oh, that sounded just wonderful.

Glad you had a good time! What a wonderful wedding that was, eh? Nice!

The Late Bloomer said...

Mike, thanks for stopping by! Yeah, I love me some shrimp, and I get that from growing up in Maryland -- not quite as good as the Chesapeake Bay crab, but shrimp is a close second, especially when steamed in Old Bay seasoning!

You've got a great blog, and I'm having a heck of a time keeping up on everyone's blogs out there these days -- I just wanted you to know that it doesn't go unnoticed!

And Betty, like I said on your blog, I don't know how I've missed it all this time... And you've been blogging for a while! You know, this wedding was actually not all that fancy; it was just in the tiny town hall... It was in fact 2 meals, it's true, but there weren't that many guests (maybe something like 30?) so it was fairly small. But lovely nonetheless. I understand what you mean, though; I've been down the fancy wedding road, and if I marry again someday, I don't need it to be anywhere near that big of a deal. Immediate family and perhaps the closest of friends would be enough.

Day Dreamer, thanks for stopping by as well. It was a great day.

Day Dreamer said...

Oh, by the way, I LOVE your format!

IslandGirl4Ever2 said...

Must have been AMAZING!!! Looks like an incredible wedding celebration..

Julia said...

Oh that is a beautiful quote! Thank you for sharing!