“For a long time, I didn’t like the countryside; I loved cities and the seaside. But now we have our house in Normandy – 75km from Paris, in three hectares of woodland – and I love the silence and enveloping nature of the place. In Paris, we live on the Boulevard Saint-Germain and it is like the jungle. My wife Véronique is from Switzerland and used to living close to nature, so whenever we can, we like to come here.
We try to leave Paris in time to start the weekend with supper at the Hôtel Bel Ami restaurant at Pacy-sur-Eure. They make an excellent pissaladière, a pizza-like tart made with caramelised onions, olives and anchovies. They also do very good beef.
On Saturday morning, while my children, Louis, Gabriel and Eloise, play tennis, my wife and I go to the market in Vernon, one of the best in the region – friends come here from miles away. We stock up on food for the weekend: the coquilles St Jacques are really great and we might buy some local cheeses such as Pont l’Evêque or Camembert at Fromages et Détail. We go home to make lunch. The house is an 18th-century mill building (the river no longer runs through the house, but in front of it), and very idiosyncratic. It was completely done up about 50 years ago but has not been touched since. We are renovating it, so at the moment we eat in the kitchen or outside. By Christmas the dining room and guest rooms should be ready and we can have people to stay.
While I am here I like to read a lot. I have a library with a lot of art books and I keep in touch by email and phone with any sales taking place at Artcurial in Paris. I’ll also play records. I have a lot of old vinyl – David Bowie, Patti Smith and Lou Reed. Even my daughter likes The Clash – the children have no choice! For a little bit of history on a Saturday afternoon, we’ll take them to the romantic Renaissance castle Château de Gaillon.
I spend many a weekday evening in Paris restaurants, so on Saturdays we’ll often cook at home. But if we are feeling gastronomically adventurous, we’ll eat at the Michelin-star Domaine de la Corniche in Rolleboise, with its stunning views of the Seine. One of its specialities is our family favourite, noix de St Jacques, in an elegant combination of flavours.
On Sunday morning, we focus on our chickens and ducks, collecting their delicious eggs for breakfast. My son has around 20 birds and has recently ordered two peacocks as well. Then we take our Labrador for a walk in the woods – the area is quite wild with lots of tracks.
Recently, we have spent a lot of time browsing in the local antiques shop Jeufosse, near Bonnières-sur-Seine and most of the things we have bought for the house are from there or from the great online furniture store Selency.
We’ll have friends around for lunch, which might well be duck or chicken sourced in Vernon – there is no difficulty getting good ingredients here. And then we’ll visit the Fondation Claude Monet in Giverny, which is nearby. It is always fantastic – each time I visit I see it in a new way. Sometimes, we’ll eat at the Jardin des Plumes, which serves modern French food with simple elegance, or, if we’ve stayed late at the Fondation, we might eat dinner close by at the charming bed and breakfast Etxeaona, in Blaru.
When we leave depends upon what’s on the next day. We stay as long as possible. And we are only an hour from Paris, so we return refreshed.”
This story was originally posted on August 8 2019.