Welcome to my blog, The French Countryside Companion.
I am Shannon “Elisabeth*” Grochowski.
My love of the countryside began as a small girl walking the fields of my Granddad’s farm. The smell of hay, hens and hunting dogs filled my nose, and the freedom stirred something deep inside. Later, I spent most of my weekends on my big sister's farm. I help her with chores: fed the pig, looked after the flock of chickens, picked buckets of blueberries, and galloped on quarter horses with my little brother.
At eighteen, I moved to the rugged mountains of Montana for university. I spent time hiking and horseback riding on the trails in Yellowstone National Park and cross country skiing through long winters. The landscape is full of sagebrush, Douglas fir covered mountains, sweet-grass prairies, and rivers that cut through the valleys.
I married a Frenchman along the way and even became a dual citizen of France. We opened a french chocolaterie together and began spending each summer in Paris along with our four boys and daughter. Although I loved the City of Light, my heart was besotted the moment I set foot on the soil of the French countryside. The landscape was gentle. Climbing pink roses and purple wisteria flowers scramble upwards along crumbling medieval villages. Fields of red poppies and lanky sunflowers dot the land. The aromatic scent of rosemary and lavender in Provence seduced and lifted me out of myself and meet this indescribable longing.
After my belle-mère sold the family's large country house south of Paris, my husband and I began looking for a small dwelling to restore and call our own and offer culinary retreats. We discovered and bought a little river house in Mailly-le-Château, Bourgogne, a short train ride to Grand-mère's Parisian apartment.
Our house is nestled along the Yonne river and Nivernais canal. The sound of water rushing is ever present. Perched on a cliff side in the upper village, above is a striking 14th-century château. A 13th-century église and fabulous boulangerie is a stone's throw from the château.
On the weekends, I make jam from fruits like Mirabelles, quetsche plums and red currants. My terrier and I take long walks in the countryside. I grow scented marigolds, heirloom tomatoes and read everything from Montaigne to Maurier. Writing in a nature journal and observe butterflies, birds, trees, and flowers fill the long summer days. Scouring the countryside for antiques has helped me get a lay of the land.
I believe that the countryside can lift us out of ourselves and turn the fast-spinning world into a sanctuary. Follow along with me as I show you how.
*(My Mother didn’t give me a middle name. Heartbroken as a child, I took the name Elisabeth and began writing it on all documents in school at the confusion of my teachers. It stuck)