Catriona Rowntree’s European Fling

by Saturday, July 20, 2019

As you may have seen from my Instagram: I’ve run away, with my fella in tow, on a European Fling.

Follow our adventures on Instagram or check back here for regular updates! Plus I’m filling my bag with tips and interviews to share with you on Journeys to Come as soon as I’m back!

First post-children holiday, without children!

We’re a bit giddy in this photo, it feels like our smiles will split our dials. We are about to embark on our first holiday since having children…with no children and of course all we can talk about is…yep, you know it.


Welcome to Lake Como

What better way to beat the jet lag then to stroll through the gardens around Lake Como! Then it’s off to dinner! Can you tell I’m excited? We are here to celebrate love, the marriage of Jess and Maurice (who’s Milanese) and it’s totally infectious. Last night we gathered for cocktails in the park, before setting off in Riva’s to take a squizz at the heavenly homes that surround the lake (the gardens, they actually have manicured trees!) Finally disembarking for dinner and dancing on the waterfront of The Grand Hotel Tremezzo, which has a floating pool on the lake. As you do.


On the lake, literally!

A little memory from a lovely night, on Lake Como, thank you Susan Banks for capturing this moment in time.


Let the fairytale wedding begin

Yes, I’m taking notes! We’ll be bringing you information on this amazing destination wedding, to inspire your next holiday or perhaps your own wedding! This villa has belonged to the same family for centuries, the Serbelloni family and is where Napoleon and Josephine lived for several months, I believe in the suite, top right of this pic.

Truffles anyone?

We’re going on a truffle hunt! A treat for my Fresh Farmer who’s only wish in Italy was to venture into the countryside, Marco of Landmade Experiences organised for us to join a truffle hunter, Luca, whose family has been in the Piedmont region since the 16th Century and his dog Willy for the most amazing experience. Luca then took us home to have a feast with his family, eating truffles every which way. Grazie Marco and Luca! Fun Fact: truffle oil is placed on the nipple of the Puppies mama as the first step in their truffle training. PS if you can now smell truffle, it’s me after our feast!


Ciao Italy

Colour me happy Lake Como, time to say ciao and grazie from this magical place. Jess and Maurice thankyou so much for inviting us to share this fairytale with you. It’s the best feeling to see two people so in love and how that makes all around you beam with joy too.


Which is my room?

Time now for my holiday treat, in my birthday week, spending time with this one, mon amis in Normandy – hello Jane Webster!



One day, you will be mine

There once was a boy named Jacques, each day he’d ride his bicycle past a derelict chateau in Normandy and would declare ‘one day, you will be mine!’ (Which I think I said when I first saw my now husband, so it must work). Little Jacques grew up to be one of the world’s greatest architects and interior designers (ever heard of Hôtel Costes or La Mamounia? Yep, big) and really, really rich, go Jacques. He went to the French Government to ask if he could buy the rundown chateau that had NO garden and they made a deal. ‘You can buy it for 1euro, BUT you must bring to life the garden plan that was designed for the chateau by La Notre’. The man who created Versailles no less. Here is the result, but Jacques kept going and with his partner (a landscape designer) continued to expand room after dreamy garden room. Needless to say, Jacques is still working and we are in awe of his energy, talent and vision. Repeat after me ‘One day you will be mine!’ And so it is.


Birthday dream

Love, laughter and loads of carbs on my birthday. Could not be happier. A big cuddle to those sending wishes from far away. Feeling the love here in France xxx


Monet’s passion for gardens

It’s funny taking a farmer to the world’s most beautiful garden, Monet’s Giverny. Him: ‘Check out that irrigation system’. Me: ‘Do you think we could do that?’. Him: “You’re dreaming!”. Quick tip, avoid the queues by taking the side entrance, oh and if you buy a seed pack you can’t take them home! But you can take the garden shots with you. And Normandy seems to be putting their gardens on steroids.

Monet spotted Giverny when he was on the train, (going to ask his dad to lend him some money, again) and knew he had to live there. He rented the house for 10 years, putting everything into the garden that so richly rewarded him, and in turn us, ultimately allowing him to be one of the few artists who could appreciate his wealth in his lifetime. And it ALL went into those paintings. He left Giverny to his son, who sadly died in a car accident and had no heir. In time the garden fell into total disrepair and it wasn’t until the 80s, through the love of donors, that the garden was resurrected. I went in the high season, my third visit, (gates shut at 5.30pm, so arriving at 5.15pm means twilight and less tourists) and it’s still inspiring. I do love the tourists: one lady nearly fell into the waterlilies as she was trying to pose seductively on the green bridge, you could hear girls yelling orders to their friends to get their pictures right and I’ll admit our selfies were pathetic in comparison.

Discovering the real French Ties

I’ve loved meeting some of the faces that appear in Jane Webster’s second book, French Ties (which remains my bible for home), and seeing how she applies everything. I now put a few drops of lavender into the water when I clean the floor or benches, I serve her chive-dipped chicken sandwiches for guests at our farm and in fact that’s how we met. I emailed her a question about the recipe and off our friendship flew. Janes’ home really is filled with music, which she often sings along loudly too, there’s always the scent of something delicious in the oven or bubbling away on the stove, and each morning Jane heads to the local boulangerie to buy croissants, baguettes and escargot pastries smothered in her homemade jam. In France, cuisine really is at the heart of this ‘beautiful and prized culture’. Just as it is at Chateau Bosgouet.


Arrivederci et a tout a l’heure

Arrivederci et a tout a l’heure to this wonderful trip. Who would have thought saying ‘yes!’ to a cherished ‘destination wedding’ invite last year would lead to such an adventure, including swimming IN Lake Como! Thank you Piedmont for helping us embrace the slow food movement; every meal we’ve eaten has been truly delicious. Thank you Marco of Landmade Experiences and Federica of Italian Dream Incorporate for introducing my Fresh Farmer to the Italian countryside and me to Agritourism. And, of course, mercy to Jane and her family at Chateau Bosgouet; ‘oh my Lord you’re beautiful’.

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