Monday, September 17, 2007

flashback: chez Caroline

A Dutch lady I met last july while on vacation in the French Alps recommended a book to me, which was available at the tiny local bookstore. A fascinating story written by an English woman who went skiing to the Alps, fell madly in love with a local taxi driver ... and left her city life as a stockbroker in London and settled in the mountains with the man of her life. I can't get enough of romantic stories like this one!

Savoie Fair - Dropping out and Fitting in is the real-life story of Caroline Guigonnet 's life over the last 11 years in the Belleville valley - dropping out of the City of London and fitting in to a village in the French Alps. It leads you through setting up her various businesses, from a restaurant to a taxi service, the good and bad experiences encountered on the way, and the subsequent ups and downs that have followed.

An insider's, view of local life in the mountains with the choir, village theatre group and the fun of building a house from scratch.

A poignant insight into the differences between France and England, the French and the English. Only the Channel separates them, but they are miles apart !

It's a fun book to read and re-read to me because I know the area where it takes place. And her small restaurant, which only opens in the summer for luncheons and afternoon cake, wasn't far away from the condo so we decided we would visit sometime.

We booked a guided tour one day, it was a short hike with a tarte aux myrtilles (blueberry tart, our very favorite pastry!) as final . To our wonderful surprise it was Chez Caroline's!!

We have heard her restaurant is a friendly place but it is truly beyond words. The lunch crowd was gone as we arrived at about 3pm. Seating accommodations were organized, tarte delivered and after a little while (allowing the guests to enjoy the pastry) Caroline, wearing her apron, got out her accordion and started playing and singing (she participates in the local choir and she has a trained voice!) , all tables had the printed lyrics next to the menu so there was no excuse not to sing. Even I started singing although the traditional folk songs were all new to me ( and I am usually off key!).
It was such a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, the scenery was beautiful and a guest stood up and started playing as well:

Find some pictures below, hope the pictured guests won't sue me for posting their pics!! You can click to enlarge to admire the scenery below:

Did I mention there was some dancing of the French chansons as well?? it was such a fun afternoon! Our guides took us back through the forest to our village again. I think every neighborhood needs a Chez Caroline !

The flattering surprise for me this morning is this name plate made by our wonderful Barbara. Isn't it just great? Thanks so much, Barbara, I love it!


  1. I am sitting in the mountains too, lol ! Weather is wonderful and I have one hour Internet per day for 5 €. So I can publish my junk !

  2. What a wonderful thing to happen Mar...This book sounds quite delightful and then to have been to her restaurant and actually met the woman herself....Just Truly Wonderful!

    I love that plaque that Barbara made for you...! Very Very Pretty, my dear.

  3. French Alps ::sigh:: I need to get out more! we saw some nice enough scenery driving 101 East from Keene this weekend. but the Alps... ::sigh::

  4. What an adventure - for her and for you!
    I've tagged you - do it if you want to!

  5. Now I want to go to Caroline's! It's so cool that Caroline sings for her guests.

    I couldn't have timed my mini-review of your blog any better than this. It matches this post quite well. I'm glad you like your name plate.

  6. Really great post! Loved this one. Of course, it is involved with Love :-)
    Must have been great to get to meet her after reading about her life!!!

    Really beautiful scenery. Magnificent is a more proper word!

    I'll link to this post as a Lifecruiser tips in my Tuesday post.

  7. oh, my, your tales make me insanely jealous. and yes Barbara is the best techie/blogfriend in this cyber universe

  8. Wow - that sounds a magical place :-)

    Definitely a place to keep in your heart...

    and speaking of keeping things in your heart, what a fabulous nameplate from Barbara. I do think this e-scrapping is clever, I just have no eye for colour or shape - but mine would have to be purple, I think...


  9. What a lovely place. Great photos to show us what we are missing out on. ;)

  10. I told Barbara ... I DO love that name plate! Fits you to a T! And I agree... I could reallllllllly use a Chez Caroline right around the corner! (especially if it included YOU sitting at one of the tables!)

  11. Lovely photos Mar - ir makes me want to the summer back sooner rather than later.

  12. Mar
    Great name plate! Lucky you!
    Haa the Alps. I am soo green with envy!!!
    Your pictures make me miss it soo much! Just lovely! And what an adventure!
    Also, the roller (from your comment on my blog) looks like fun!
    The Skuut, I have seen in Germany, England and Switzerland (but not to say it is no where else)

  13. Moi Again!
    I tried to order this book! NO where to be found in the American online Book shops!
    I will keep looking. It sounds so interesting. Plus I practically grew up in Savoie, as half of my family lives there.

  14. Mar, dear... coffee is at MY house this morning. I need your opinion on something!

  15. that book sounds very cool and your pictures are fantastic! thanks for sharing! michele sent me

  16. What a charming story - reading the book and suddenly - you are there in the wonderful Savoie. Tarte the Myrtille and Truits Vivande aux Amandes - ca c'est Savoie + white wine and liquers.
    My first time in Savoie was back in 1964. Many things have changed since then.

    PS. I went to India on My WW this week.

  17. What a wonderful place. Beautiful scenery, and cake - I can think of nothing better :)

  18. Have just seen this "article" and am very touched. Summer 2007 was that last year that I opened Chez Caroline .... it was a pleasure to me to give pleasure to others, but after 13 years I have a need to spend time with my family in the summer.. a 6 year old boy and a not quite so young husband ! Thank you for the lovely photos and I'm glad you enjoyed the book.

  19. Dear Anonymous, dear Caroline,

    after having heard positive feedback from our parents (in law) and after having read the book we visited 'Chez Caroline' today with our three children. Onfortunately it was closed (we understand now why) but the outlook was more than open!
    We were obviously one season too late while we have been visiting Saint Martin de Belleville now since 6 years in a row! both in winter and summer (lucky to have appartment in family). We should have gone earlier!
    Anyhow it was a nice trip today. Maybe we will meet once in the village close to the 'pink'house.

    Regards and enjoy your own holidays,
    Family Zaaijer-van Muiswinkel from Middelburg, The Netherlands


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