Gerberoy, France and Jardins Henri le Sidaner
In Amiens we rented a car and began our tour de countryside. It was one of my favorite parts of our trip to France. First stop was Gerberoy, one of the plus beaux villages de France (most beautiful villages in France). This is a designation given to about 100 French villages, and it does cost money and effort to earn, but in this case, well deserved. It's pronounced jehr-behr-WAH.
I feel like I need to warn you at the beginning of this post that there are so many pictures, and not a lot of text. There isn't much to say because it's all so beautiful that words can't add a lot. Second warning: you are desperately going to want to pack your bags and move here immediately. I've seriously considered taking a job as a gardener so I can live out the rest of my days here. Will garden for room and board. I'm pretty great at it, so it seems like a fair trade. Between the beautiful buildings, the glorious gardens and the incredible food, I would want for nothing.
Gerberoy. Was. Beautiful. You know how sometimes you go places that you've seen a picture of and you think, “Wow, they got just the right shot from just the right angle because this place is nothing special.” This is not one of those places. I just want to live there now. It didn’t help that my absolute favorite color (that would be turquoise) was everywhere. Around every corner was a scene that was even more breathtaking than the last. Don’t you want to lock yourself behind those gates? They are B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.
In the 1800s, Auguste Rodin encouraged his artist friend, Henri Le Sidaner, to find a village, make his home there and build a place that could be his inspiration to paint. Claude Monet had done the same thing in Giverny. Sidaner began to plant roses and hydrangeas all over his estate and the village of Gerberoy, and the villagers loved the effect so much they began to plant more and help him create the beauty of this village. One person's vision of beauty affected an entire village, which has trickled down through several generations. I just love that!
We stopped here for a delicious lunch (part deux because Delissimo in Amiens just didn’t do it for us. And lunch part deux is always a good idea). The owner makes a variety delicious tortes, quiches, pies and salads. They were fantastic, and the ambience was so lovely. There are a couple of places like this that offer lunch in the village, but there are no places to eat dinner unless you are staying at one of the few bed and breakfasts in the area. The village is in the middle of nowhere, so plan accordingly if you're like me and get super cranky when you're hungry. The little cafes close around 4:00. We had quiches, salad with dijon dressing and tomatoes with mixed greens and dessert of fruit tartes with raspberry sorbet and chocolate cake with ice cream. Seriously, right? Why can’t we eat like that at cafes in the U.S.?
TRAVEL TIP: I never go anywhere, especially on a trip, without some kind of food in my purse. We knew before going to Gerberoy that there were no dinner options, so we planned for that, but if we hadn't, I could have had a big problem when my blood sugar plummeted. I like to carry meal replacement bars because they need no refrigeration, taste pretty good (if you get the right ones) and are very filling. They have come in so handy on airplanes when I'm stuck on the tarmac, long train or car rides when there is no food in site, long appointments that leave no time to grab something before I run to my next obligation, and when life doesn't go according to plan. When my blood sugar drops, I'm in trouble, so I try to always be prepared. I have two brands I especially like. One favorite is these. They have only natural ingredients and work for just about any diet you're on. I went to my local health foods store and tried one of each flavor to see what I like, and now we order in bulk on amazon. My favorite is the chocolate sea salt, but they are all pretty good. The only problem with these is my oldest daughter is allergic to tree nuts and two of my boys are allergic to peanuts, so I can't eat them around my kids. My youngest, however, is crazy about the bars. She's only 3, so we are together all day every day while the older kids are at school, and if we are out running errands, I'd rather give her one of these bars than some drive-thru garbage. She begs for them. The other brand I really like is this one. The ingredients are also pretty virtuous. Each bar has 15 grams of fiber, 20 grams of protein and is pretty low in carbs. I've tried the cookies and cream, cookie dough, chocolate brownie, double chocolate chunk, and mint chocolate. I liked all of them, but my favorite is the double chocolate chunk. Most of these don't have the nuts problem, but I still wouldn't give a whole bar to a young child without asking your doctor because of all the fiber and the erythritol. When I pack for my trips, I take enough bars to have 1 a day if I need to.
At lunch, I overheard two French women discussing the area and trying to figure out how to get to the estate, and since I understood their whole French conversation, I took a picture of my map and directions and offered them the paper copy. I included it here to give you an idea of the layout of the village.
I imagined a door and wall just like this when I read The Secret Garden (all one thousand times), and now I have something like this in my yard. The blue one pictured above is mine. It's a genuine 100+ year old barn door that I painted. I've since planted a climbing rose in the right corner and a fig tree and some flowers in the larger bed. I'll show another picture at the end of the summer so you can see the plantings, but I love this little corner of my large yard. In fact, because of Gerberoy, I've planted an addition 6 climbing roses in my yard. I already had two. Hydrangeas don't do well in my climate, but I think I've found one spot in my yard that might do the trick, and I'm going to try it out this spring.
I took this picture because it is a reminder of the reality that beautiful hedges don’t just happen. Someone has to get up there and trim them. All of this beauty takes effort, but it’s worth it.
The courtyard of this school house is above the courtyard of the place we ate lunch. Don’t you want to live behind these blue doors? I do.
This is the entrance to Jardins Henri Le Sidaner. I love these terraced hydrangeas. Actually, I love hydrangeas. The end. And this greenhouse! The garden was built on 3 levels in an Italian style. He built three monochromatic gardens: a white garden, a rose garden and the yellow and blue garden, which is where the temple of love is.
We spent time wandering around the rest of the grounds, admiring the landscapes, gardens and buildings. It was all so beautiful and inspiring. I know I'm sharing a ton of pictures, but it was SO BEAUTIFUL. Really. If you can go, do it! It was worth it.
TRAVEL TIP: To get to Gerberoy, you really need to rent a car, but it is so worth it! It's not accessible by public transportation. From Paris you could rent a car and see Giverny, the home of Monet (and our next stop!) and Gerberoy as a day trip.
I could eat breakfast, lunch and dinner here every day. The canopy of trees was trained and supported by this metal scaffolding. Trees don’t just grow like this. It takes years of growing and training the trees.
TRAVEL TIP: The village is always open and there is no fee to walk around. The gardens are open from the end of April to the end of September from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and costs 5 euros. There is no need to buy advance tickets unless you come with a group of 15 or more. When we were there the house wasn't available to tour, and I don't know if it ever is. We were there at the end of July, but there is a rose festival in mid-June. We spent all afternoon there, and it was delightful.
We climbed the hill to the temple of love, which is probably its most famous feature. This one is based on the one at Versailles at the Petit Trianon, although much smaller (and we saw the real one later on this trip). It was built on the ruins of an old castle. Gerberoy was founded in 1078 and has seen many battles and wars fought on its lands, including the Hundred Years War, which is when the chateau was destroyed for good. It sat right ont he line of the Duchy of Normandy and France, and was always caught in the middle. AFter the Hundred Years War, the city was further ruined by fire and plague and remained mostly ruined for centuries. The city was once one of the most powerful in France, and is now the smallest. Sidaner revived it with his love and attentions.
We continued on our tour of the village, and it was just amazingly beautiful. I've said that already, haven't I? Did I mention I want to live here? One of the things that makes this village so beautiful, and a step back in time, is the lack of evidence of modern life. No electrical wires, light posts, telephone poles, neon signs, billboards or anything else connected with our current life. It's easy to imagine this is how it looked 100 years ago when Sidaner was capturing the wonderful light in his paintings.
We left Gerberoy and headed to the chateau where we were staying near Giverny. We used Google Maps the whole time and it took us through so many charming, beautiful towns. None of them were tourist destinations. They were real villages where people work, live and love. At one point, in the middle of nowhere we lost our satellite connection. We stopped on a small road and a man came out of his house asking if we were lost. I said something about Giverny and he nearly passed out. “Mais Giverny is 2 hours away. 120 km! You are very lost!!” I finally communicated (poorly) that we had been at Gerberoy and were on our way to Giverny. He told us how to get to the next village where the satellite connection was excellent.
TRAVEL TIP: You can download Google Maps on your phone, and won't need to worry about satellite connections of data.
One of the things I noticed as we drove through these small little towns is that no matter how small or humble the home and yard, it was well cared for, clean, had flowers growing and the gardens were maintained. There were no stacks of old tires, junk, broken refrigerators, ruined couches on the porches or overgrown grass. The French love beautiful things, and see beauty in everything.
We loved our time in Gerberoy and Jardins Henry le Sidaner (in case I haven't made that abundantly clear). Have you been? What did you think?
Only two days left for the giveaway! Have you entered? Have your friends, sisters, moms, cousins and in-laws! It's going to be such a great weekend, you won't want to miss it!