Happy New Year ~ Bonne Année 2014! Tuesday, Dec 31 2013 

Bonjour, friends! As 2013 draws to a close and 2014 unfolds, I want to thank you for being a part of French Affaires this year. Whether you have joined us for French language classes or the French Cookbook Club or French travel and culture seminars or trips to France or personalized French travel planning or a little armchair travel via ‘French Affaires Weekly’ articles, your participation and enthusiasm mean a lot. I invite you to rester en ligne – “to stay tuned” as the French say - as there are even more wonderful things planned for the coming year. 

On that note, je vous souhaite tous une très bonne année 2014 pleine d’amour, de joie, de paix et de bonheur – I wish you all a very Happy New Year 2014, full of love, joy, peace and happiness!

P2100781

Love Paris-style at Ladurée on the Left Bank 

Merci et à bientôt (thanks and see you soon)!

Elizabeth New Seitz

French Affaires ~ www.frenchaffaires.com

A French Winter Garden Sunday, Dec 8 2013 

With the winter storm currently blanketing the U.S., I was reminded of an extraordinary cold and misty December day my husband and I spent at the gardens of Eyrignac in southwest France four years ago. For this week’s post, I pulled the following article from the French Affaires’ archives describing this magical, though chilly winter adventure. Enjoy – and stay warm!

PC270588

Wherever I am in France, I never pass up the chance to visit a garden. Even in winter, I find French landscapes and gardenscapes enchanting on many levels.

The Sunday after Christmas, my husband and I set out to experience the gardens of the Manoir d’Eyrignac (Eyrignac Manor) which boasts of le plus beau jardin du Périgord, or the most beautiful garden in Périgord. Located in southwest France, Périgord is the land of truffles, foie gras, walnuts, prehistoric sites, medieval villages, cliff-top castles, and the Dordogne and Lot rivers. Although the privately-held manor and its 18th century gardens are located on a back country road, numerous signs point the way to this verdant extravaganza near the picturesque town of Sarlat.

I had the Eyrignac gardens on my agenda as they are renowned for some of the finest topiary art in Europe. Various shades of green are highlighted throughout the four seasons with the artfully trimmed bushes and trees. It takes a team five full time gardeners to maintain the various ‘outdoor rooms’ on the grounds.

PC270624

PC270591

Not a soul was at the Manoir d’Eyrignac when we arrived. Even the woman selling entrance tickets had to hike over from the business office to open up as she didn’t expect any visitors on this frosty, misty morning. We decided the 9,50 euros per person to get in was worth it to have the 4 hectare (10 acre) gardens to ourselves, cold or no cold.

The exquisite jardin français lies in front of the 17th century manor house. It was originally designed to be best seen from the second floor of the dwelling. Since I don’t know the owners and couldn’t see it from the house (!), my view is from the gardens back towards manor. Still, I think this was my favorite ‘room’ of the gardens.

PC270626

PC270628

The gardens are accented by other old buildings on the property. The anciennes écuries (former stables) are situated next to the spring fed pond which provided water for the horses once upon a time…

PC270625

Two pavillons flank the courtyard in front of the manor house. There is the romanesque chapel which is still consecrated and where all the family members have been baptized…

PC270616

And the former dovecote was a sign of nobility in olden times…

PC270603

Another ‘outdoor room’ is the Allée des vases which is named for the Italian ceramic vases that line the grassy “path.” At this time of year, the bases are wrapped in black plastic to protect them and the plant roots from the cold. The tall evergreens lining the allée give a secret air to this part of the gardens.

PC270594

Next to the Allée des vases is a wide lawn with topiary bushes and fancy arabesques. I wonder if creating these shapes is a bit like painting or embroidering with plants??

PC270598

In other parts of the gardens, Asian-inspired elements complement the classical French garden designs. Several red lacquer archways provide eye-catching perspective points in the rose garden…

PC270638

And the red lacquer pagoda at the end of this trimmed garden path gives a touch of the exotic to les jardins. But the winter mist has toned down the red this particular morning…

PC270585

Even though the weather was a bit nippy and damp, we loved our ‘private visit’ to the jardins d’Eyrignac. We found it hauntingly beautiful on this winter’s day…and I think we will be spoiled when we go back in warm weather and have to share it with other garden lovers. But of course, there is more than enough beauty to go around in this lovely spot in France. Just to be sure to mind the signs to stay off the grass!

PC270587

The Jardins du manoir d’Eyrignac are open every day of the year. You can visit the web site for specific hours and directions: www.eyrignac.com.

This post originally appeared on January 8, 2010.