When we were originally scheduling our trip, it turned out that buying flights from Rome to Paris was significantly less expensive (about 120-150 EUR) on Wednesday than Thursday. Also, I had always wanted to stay in a treehouse in France, but when I lived there I didn’t have a car or enough time off to get to one. So when I looked at a map and saw that there were several national park areas in between Orly and our B&B in Normandy, we decided to book the earlier tickets and spend a night in a treehouse in the Perche area at the Chateau de La Grande Noë.
The Chateau has 6 treehouses on the property and all of them looked amazing, but I wrote to the manager, Agnès, to ask her which one would be best for our family (a 2 year old and a very tall husband). While she said La Fermette would be lovely, L’Echaugette (the Watch Tower) had a larger bed, so that made it my first choice.
We had the GPS navigate us to the property and it was a pretty easy and lovely drive. We arrived a little before 4 p.m. and Agnès met us with a map and gave us a little rucksack with water and flashlights and a rundown of the key features of the property before letting us loose. I think our treehouse might have been the shortest walk from the welcome area, but it still felt like we were in the middle of nowhere (in a good way).
Julia loved climbing up all those stairs, and I loved that they felt sturdy and had solid handrails (and a gate at the top to prevent accidental exits). Julia played with the box of toys that had kindly been left for her while we explored the interior. It is honestly the most beautiful space – a fairly large bed (probably an American queen) underneath a loft area that had two single beds, with a day bed across from the door. There was a small table indoors, a sawdust toilet, and a large deck with a table that seats 4 outside.
Peter felt tired after the flight and the 2 hour drive (EasyJet had utterly failed us and the ground crew didn’t push our stroller all the way through onto the oversize baggage conveyor, so we spent an extra hour trying to get it back since everyone was at lunch), so I took Julia out to see the farm. There are a couple of horses, guinea pigs and rabbits, a pony, goats, and chickens, as well as a parcours course for kids over 5 (Julia was too small to even try it), some yard toys, bicycles, and a kids tricycle. It would really be such a paradise to grow up there if you were a kid.
A dinner aside: While we were sitting on the shaded grass and talking to the pony and goats, I did some quick research on places we might eat (no WiFi, so plan on having a French SIM card and some data) and came up with Les Pieds dans l’Eau (translates to Feet In The Water). We made a reservation for when they open at 7:30 (might not have needed it, but always a safe bet since some places were closed out of high season) and drove about 20-30 minutes to get there. The restaurant was in the most beautiful location – the sun was starting to set on a gorgeous day and the restaurant is located on a pond in what looks like an old house with a beautiful terrace out front that has rocks and flowers. Even more magical – we started down the stairs and another toddler girl waved to us saying “Coucou” (French familiar for “hello!”). Julia was so excited to see another child that she ran right up and said “Hi!” and waved. She had been shy around other kids for a large part of our stay in Rome, and is generally cautious, so this melted my little mother’s heart. The little girl was named Juliette and she’s the owners’ 20 month old daughter. What?! This place was perfect! The girls loved playing together (although sharing Julia’s toys was hard for both of them) and it gave Peter and me a chance to sip an apéritif with pear liqueur that the owner recommended, which was the perfect recipe for relaxation.
I told Julia that my foie gras appetizer was special butter and she ate it with relish, and enjoyed Peter’s sweetbreads (fun fact that I had completely forgotten: riz de veau has nothing to do with rice). She got a little antsy in between appetizers and dinner, so we took turns hanging out with her while she threw rocks in the pond and the other person sipped wine. For dinner, they very sweetly made her a child-sized portion of brandade (like a fish purée) that was beautifully presented even for a toddler, because this was France. I had a crab parmentier and Peter had a steak with a delicious wine sauce. Dessert was a large macaron with a chocolate filling and a quadruplet of strawberry/pineapple mini items. We loved the ambiance here so much and it was everything I imagined eating in the French countryside to be.
Back to the treehouse: we arrived back and Julia wanted to sleep in the loft, so I did her whole bedtime routine up there, but then when I climbed down, she was really upset. We tried putting her down on the day bed, but she changed her mind again (#toddlers) and wanted back in the loft, where she tucked herself in and promptly went to sleep for her first night in a big girl bed. Peter and I sat on the deck for an hour, chatting and sipping cider while we planned for the next day. I slept in the other single bed to make sure Julia wouldn’t climb out of the loft and had the best sleep of the whole trip. Most of our other apartments felt hot, but the treehouse was the perfect temperature (since we didn’t turn any heat on and it wasn’t too cold out) and the quiet peacefulness lulled me right to sleep.
The next morning, I woke up just a few minutes before our breakfast arrived on a golf cart, which Agnès hooked to a rope so we could pull it up. Peter and Julia woke up shortly thereafter and we enjoyed fresh coffee, tea and hot chocolate with croissants, baguette, local honey, butter and jam. It was delicious!
We had originally planned to leave soon after breakfast to get to Mont Saint Michel as soon as possible, but when Peter went to take a shower and Julia and I were walking to the car with our bags, two of the little girls who live in the caretaker’s house were waiting for us on the path. We couldn’t resist a chance for Julia to play with other kids, so we stayed for another 2 hours while the girls (who were 5 and 8 and mostly only spoke French, so I translated back and forth because my French is about a 1st grade level…) played together. They picked bouquets of dandelions, imitated the chickens and horses, and ran together and I nearly died of the cuteness. We finally went to check out close to 11 a.m. and I felt sorry to leave the beautiful property and the lovely people who manage it.
Have you ever stayed in a treehouse? Would you bring your kids along?