27 May 2013

Chatenet - Cœur De La Campagne Français

I'm a city boy but now and again I love to being in the countryside, making the most of the greener pastures. France has some beautiful countryside, I have been to this region of France three times to be a part of the countryside vibe! When life gets a bit too much we all need a some time relax? Why not try the French hamlet of Chatenet to get your countryside fix?!

Chatenet is a small French hamlet that is tucked away in South-West of France. Chatenet stands by itself as a pocket of calm, away from the city of Bordeaux that is only a 90 minute drive away. I have been to Chatenet twice before on family visits as my paternal grandparents have lived in this picturesque area of France for a number of years. This last semester at University has been quite trying so I thought about taking a short trip to this serene and uncomplicated part of France to recharge my batteries before my dreaded Human Resources Management exam on the 30th of May 2013. Sacrificing the chance to have a constant internet connection was tough but being in the middle of nowhere for few days was the perfect tonic, city life can become to concrete sometimes! It didn't take long until I could see the rolling hills of Chatenet after leaving the motorway from Bordeaux Airport! Yes, I had finally arrived C!

There’s just something about this part of France, because both times before I have visited this area it has always been peacefully quiet! Chatenet is part of the ‘La Charente Maritime’ commune, which is a part of the wider ‘Poitou-Charentes’ region. This charming hamlet doesn't have any public transport or even street lights, so if the country-life is for you then you’ll be very happy! Close to Chatenet are a number of small villages which go by the names of Cheveanceaux, Montguyon and Baignes. In Montguyon you can find a small supermarket which serves basic food shopping needs. If you want to take the train to discover Bordeaux then a 20 minute car journey to the nearby market town of Montendre has to be considered. Reconnecting with family gave me the opportunity to visit France for the again in 2010, I have since been to Chatenet three times over the last four years to enjoy the calm. I admit that the green hills and fields start to look the same after a while! 

France does things differently, so listen carefully! Business and community matters are dealt with differently by our French counterparts, but when you live in the middle of the countryside daily duties go through the Mairie. Captured to the right is the ‘Chatenet Mairie’ the office of the mayor of the district. People can air their grievances, get married and deal with all things they usually would at any other governing body. The building of the ‘Chatenet Mairie used to be a school as the carving about the front door reads ‘Ecole Communiale’ there’s a brief history lesson for you. in the middle of nowhere its key to be connected with whats going on in the community, overall I suppose its more of a European thing that us Brits have lost? Nevertheless, I made the best of my surroundings for it was nice to see my paternal grandparents since my year in Newark, NJ. Oh, Sacre Bleu! 

I've been staying the ‘old school’ for the past five days as my paternal grandparents are currently living in the converted buildings. The views from my room are idyllic, it’s a welcome change compared to seeing the ‘Student’s Union’ from my window at halls. France is a very beautiful country, but life could become a little challenging if you wanted to have a walk to Tesco’s for some bits! I love the French countryside so I don't really mind being in the middle of nowhere for a few days, I just need the internet to keep up with my blogging! I'm looking to publish at least four French blogs over the week, so watch this space! The converted school oozed French country charm with its different quirks from it former school days. The large kitchen is the best to eat breakfast around and I managed to spend some family time around the table at dinner time to catch up, my family is strange because we don't speak for prolonged periods of time but we reunite. Oui, l'école est cool! 

When I think about France, the first thing that springs to my mind is red wine! Chatenet and the surrounding areas have an abundance of vineyards, which produce a healthy crop year on year. I do love a glass of Bordeaux red wine, mind you it has to be at room temperature! The vineyards of Chatenet, France evidently produce the well known red, wine and rose wines that we are familiar with, its not just wine that's cultivated from these juicy crops. Locally produced from the vines of Chatenet is 'Pineau des Charentes' a sweet fortified wine which is a local favourite, something which I tried during my first visit to the region. Pineau is like a cheeky Ribena with a twist! I left the converted school when the rain stopped to see the neighbouring vineyard, seeing for myself what the good stuff starts off as! The saying goes 'you can have too much of a good thing!' Vous savez que le vin est la boisson de la vie! 

If you prefer something a bit stronger then try a shot of 'Eau de Vie' its a high volume alcoholic spirit that's produced from the vine, some batches can be up to 90% proof so this after dinner drink definitely packs a punch! The water of life is sort of like a French moonshine! I never said that! Little did I know that 'Brandy' originates from the vines of Chatenet, especially from the town of Cognac which is a one hour drive away from the fields of Chatenet. As I have said before things operate differently in Chatenet, so local farmers give their friends wine and other grape based products within the community for their own consumption. It's certainly a different way of life that I'm now used to, but for a short holiday every now and again I appreciate the beverages that I can drink to enjoy. Spending time in the French countryside got me ready for the stress of my future exam so that's cool! From the rolling hills and vineyards to the urban craze of Birmingham! Merci de bien vouloir! 

J'adore Le Vin Rouge! 

Joseph Harrison

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