It seems almost impossible that our adventure to France has come and gone. While my body may need some time adjusting to life back on Canadian soil (I think if I go more than a few hours without charcuterie, I may get the shakes), it won’t matter if I am tired, jetlagged or detoxing: I will think of every moment with the biggest grin on my face.
Assuming you read my initial #soarthissummer post, you know that my friend Whitney and I were awarded the trip of a lifetime thanks to Grey Goose and Soho House: an invitation to stay at Le Logis Grey Goose, in the region of Cognac, France, ending with a night in Paris. I want to recount our time there now, not only because I worry the memories will fade, but also because I want to share our unique adventure with our friends, family, and the blogosphere.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Jumping on the Tuesday night red-eye, Whitney and I were off to a chaotic start with separated seats, and a severely long line at the Toronto airport. Let’s just say that a few cocktails at the airport lounge were required. The overnight flight wasn’t too bad, and while we didn’t sleep much on the flight, we knew we weren’t going to let that affect our energy levels upon arriving in France. We were instructed by our Grey Goose representative, Sumer, to meet at a designated area in the train station, so Whitney and I grabbed lattes and croissants and made our way over to the meeting point.
One by one, the other competition winners from across North America arrived to meet us before we boarded the train. (There were a pair of winners from each North American Soho House). I rapidly tapped my foot, anxious to meet each person I would be living with for the next few days. From Soho House New York (Meatpacking) were the fun brunette best friends Steph and Cami, from Soho House New York (Ludlow) was the well-matched buddies Stylish Tyler and Director Simon, from Soho House Chicago were the fashion-forward ‘super cousins’ Destiny and Asia, from Soho House Miami (Beachhouse) was the entertaining couple named Steve (‘with a V’) and Channing, from Soho House West Hollywood, was Ad Sales Aussie Neild and his sidekick Aussie musician and actor, Timmy. And finally, from Soho House Malibu were the earthy and spiritual Jobi and Mel. There were also a select group of Soho House employees on the trip as well: Outgoing Aussie Libby, Trendy Brand Partnerships Guru Tricia, Beautiful Event planner Yasmin, Sweet and Stylish bar manager Christine, hip bar managers Ben and Spence, and Jenal, who wore the best lipstick colors all week. It was a mixed bag of fun, adventurous personalities, and Whitney and I couldn’t wait to see how we would all interact, living together at the French Chateau for the next few days.
As it turns out, meshing with everyone was easy. We were all like-minded in some ways; we all had challenged ourselves to win the incredible trip, believed winning was a possibility, and there we were. We made fast friends on the train ride over with those sitting close to us. Everyone was eager to get to know one another, and talk about how insane the upcoming few days were going to be. To be honest, as we sped past the French countryside, I think all of us were still in disbelief about what was about to take place. As tired as we were, the group of us sitting together on the train ride over didn’t sleep much, if at all. We were too excited.
The anticipation around arriving at Le Logis continued after our three-hour train ride, when we were taken to a French fine dining restaurant, close to the train station. We were served melon gazpacho, local fish, vegetables and an amazing molten lava chocolate cake for dessert. We read through Jobi’s spirit animal cards at the table (I’m a Deer) and got to know one another better. We were then shuffled onto mini buses where we were driven to Le Logis.
I’ll never forget the awe I felt driving up to the estate. Our eyes wide, our jaws dropped: pictures of Le Logis have nothing on actually seeing it in person. Immediately erased from my memory were the countless Google images I had researched of Le Logis prior to the trip. I was speechless… Le Logis is impossibly perfect.
The History & Our Experience at Le Logis
The 17th century French manor was once home to the Lords of the Cognac region. It was purchased by Grey Goose in 2012 and restored, and in 2014 Le Logis opened its doors to those lucky enough to be invited to stay. Grey Goose Creator and Master François Thibeau wanted to hold a meeting place for friends of Grey Goose, and send exclusive invitations to them to learn more about the culture, history and passion behind the brand. The outside of the home looks similar to a French Chateau you may have seen in books or movies, off-white with several windows brimming with character, tall, heavy doors and rustic-capped towers. The property walls encase a courtyard, an exquisite pool, patio, a poolside bar and BBQ area, a hand-carved well, a 300-year-old berry tree, a petanque boules court, and 9 acres of vineyards.
The grounds have been carefully planted and landscaped, and include an airy greenhouse. The greenhouse offers a variety of herbs and fruits from the local countryside, and provides further inspiration to François. The inside of the contemporary chic home offers a cognac cellar, a tasting room, François’ office, a baking facility, a kitchen for the staff, an impressive bar, 14 elegantly appointed guestrooms, an expansive open house kitchen, wood burning fireplaces, a saloon, and a parlor. We didn’t bother with room keys and were immediately instructed to make ourselves at home.
And that we did.
The weather Mother Nature sent our way wasn’t ideal, but we didn’t let it dampen our spirits. Besides, how could our spirits be soured at a place like Le Logis? We had a packed agenda laid out for us that included a tour of the Grey Goose blending and bottling facility in Gensac-la-Pallue (roughly 20 minutes from Le Logis), bread making classes with our fabulous instructor Nadia, incredible meals in the dining room and kitchen (if you follow me on social media, you will have seen some examples), Mixology 101 with Head Mixologist Barbara (we learned to make a Le Grand Fizz), tours of the property, and of course, our intimate Grey Goose education and tasting session with François himself. Our spare time included walking the grounds, bike rides through vineyards to old churches, reading in the parlor, gathering around Timmy on the piano in the saloon in the evening, taking a dip in the pool, photo shoots, throwing rocks into the well (Neild! Tim!), raiding the fridge for charcuterie snacks, and of course, drinking many, many Le Grand Fizz.
François Thibault is a charming man, and I think it is fair to say that we were all enchanted by him. He spoke so passionately about how the Grey Goose brand came to be (his family has been in the business of making cognac for generations before he created the science behind making Grey Goose) and when he was approached by American Sidney Frank to create the world’s first premium vodka, he took the challenge in stride by creating a recipe different from any other vodka. Since François feels passionately about the cognac region and Grey Goose, we had a cognac tasting in the tasting cellar, before we started discussing the world’s most famous, delicious vodka.
It takes 80 people to make one bottle of Grey Goose, from the workers in the Picardy wheat fields, to the last person who touches each bottle at the distillery. We were lucky enough to get a tour of the Grey Goose bottling and blending facility, and to see how the efficient process worked was mind blowing. Back at Le Logis, François then took us through the type of wheat used for Grey Goose, and the milling process. He walked us though a menu of 6 Grey Goose vodka tasters, including one not yet available in North America (Grey Goose Ducasse).
François then took us back into the tasting cellar for a special treat: he wanted to show us a new spirit he has been working on, aged over four years, and we were the first to try it. The spirit draws notes smoky, floral and sweet by using a variety of wood barrels to create the perfect sweet spot. Lucky for us, we all got to bring home a rare bottle, personalized, with our name and bottle number on each beautifully packaged gift. It was incredibly special and we were quite stunned as he handed them out.
During our last morning at Le Logis, all of the competition winners presented our campaigns to one another, along with Sumer and the Soho House employees in attendance. It was great to see all the other presentations, and why everyone won. I think it is fair to say that all of our presentations must have had that extra special je ne c’est quoi that led to us all be at Le Logis in that moment. We even viewed the one-pagers that the Grey Goose brand team made on all of the winning campaign ideas from each House, and it as interesting for me to see what stuck out to them from each presentation. Everyone’s campaign ideas were different; well-thought-out, inspired, creative. Some were more detailed, some offered live music, some utilized multimedia in interesting ways, some campaigns focused on tons of great summer event details, others included social media campaigns and meditation, and one offered the promise of video recaps post-our Le Logis stay. I didn’t have a favorite, but I will say that everyone I met on this trip was driven and creative. I was so happy to have met these strangers-turned-friends, and watching their presentations made me feel a deeper bond with them; we all went through this crazy process with our partners and now we get to enjoy the reward all together.
As our departure time approached, saying goodbye to the incredible staff at Le Logis was difficult; teary hugs were given to these wonderful people we had only known for a short time. They made our experience a relaxed, elegant, special one, and oddly enough, we really did feel at home while we were there.
The Food at Le Logis
From smoked duck to tartar to caviar, the food exceeded my expectations. Breakfast was my favorite meal every day, with fresh-made croissants, cheese-stuffed prosciutto, homemade breads, baguette, brioche, and pastries. Every morning we were offered a selection of cheeses and cured meats, pickles, and fresh-made jams, made from the berry trees in the courtyard. The chefs would also serve us eggs done a variety of ways, and of course, bacon. There was also hand mixed granola, fresh yogurt, and an array of fruit on each table.
Our multi-course lunches and dinners often included salads with tasty champagne vinaigrette, soufflés, polenta, egg concoctions and spices. Our dinners were much more elaborate: charcuterie, several local wines and house-made Grey Goose spirits, dry martinis, fresh bread, decadent desserts, steak, red millet, carpaccio, and much more.
One of my favorite activities at Le Logis was the bread-making class. We stood in a kitchen with our instructor, Nadia, donned in Le Logis blue aprons and white baking caps. We weighed and measured out the ingredients to make fresh French bread at our own baking stations, and worked with the dough until it was perfected for the oven. We laughed at our results (I made bread in the shape of lips, and designed another baguette with X’s in honor of my son, Xavier), and eventually consumed our hard work.
Our time in Paris was short and oh-so-sweet. After taking the twenty-minute bus ride to the train station, then jumping off the three-hour train ride from Cognac, we headed to the chic Hotel Bachaumont to check in. With its style moderne aesthetic and Juliet balconies off the bedrooms, this hotel was as trendy as the neighborhood it was situated in.
Upon arrival, the weather brightened up for us, so Whitney and I decided to take full advantage. We put on (what we hoped were) Paris-chic outfits and hit the cafes and macaroon shops. Never complaining of too much cheese, we ordered a few local cheese dishes and rosé champagne, while we sat at a little bistro table street side and people-watched. We headed to multiple macaroons shops, and stopped to grab a bottle of —guess what— to drink back in our robes in our bedroom. (We decided on macaroons from A La Mere De Famille, and we pleased! The macaroons tasted like a mix between a cookie base and a macaroon base, and the packaging was cute too).
Our night out in Paris was one for the books. We dressed up and went to an incredible restaurant called Bonhomie. All 22 of us sat at long harvest tables and were enamored with the set menu, which included octopus, beet tartar, charcuterie (you can never have enough!), champagne salad, prawn ravioli, cream sauce with octopus and cinnamon sprinkled rice pudding. It was both mine and Whitney’s first time trying rice pudding, and Tyler and Tricia were floored. (They, both living in New York, suggested we go to Rice to Riches next time we are in NY was the best fro-yo style rice pudding bar). The courses were complemented with a variety of pre-selected Grey Goose cocktails, with an inclusion of our personal favorite, Grey Goose Cherry Noir. (Stay tuned for my Write.Eat.Drink.Repeat series- I will be featuring some of these amazing Grey Goose cocktails!)
Not wanting the evening to end, a bunch of the group then headed to Danico, a chic cocktail bar. We took over the back bar, which housed an impressive cocktail menu and liquor selection (we of course had more Grey Goose infused cocktails!). Still not ready for the night to end, some of us then headed to a retro underground bar called Le Ballroom Du Beefclub. At around 2:30, Whitney and I decided to call it a night and head to the Eiffel Tower. It wasn’t lit up since it was 3AM when we got there, but it didn’t matter, as we reveled in the lack of tourists around us. It was so nice to be standing on a platform, overlooking one of the most iconic structures in the world, and be the only ones experiencing that moment. I hadn’t been to Paris since I went with Ian on our first European backpacking trip in 2008, and I had forgotten the beauty and superb urban planning of Paris, and the feeling in the air when you walk around and simply enjoy the cafes, shops and food. It’s truly a wonderful city.
The next morning we ordered breakfast in bed and I packed up my bags. I headed out this morning, and Whitney’s boyfriend arrived shortly before I left. They started their romantic getaway in Paris and then Bordeaux, while I headed home to see my little family in Canada’s capital for our nations special birthday.
Whit and I are looking forward to seeing the Le Logis-inspired events executed, and we are excited to host a Bastille Day party at Soho House Toronto this upcoming Friday. It’s another way for our trip to live on, and we hope it inspires all invitees to #livetheirbestsummer and #soarthissummer.
The Fine (But Important) Print: Thank You
It’s hard to believe this experience has come and gone, living as a vivid, magical memory embedded in my mind. There aren’t enough adjectives worthy of describing my experience overall. The word ‘epic’ is overused these days, but if it wasn’t, that’s what I would say the trip was. Truly epic on every level.
Thank you to Soho House and Soho House Toronto (Katie, Justin) for this incredible opportunity. The House offers so many unique, inspired events, and this trip is an example of what it means to be an active participant, and a part of an artistic, adventuring, motivating, welcoming community.
Thank you to Grey Goose (Specifically Grey Goose International, Michael from Grey Goose Canada and Sumer, our amazing trip coordinator, from Miami). Partnering with Soho House is obviously a perfect fit for the brand, but leveraging the House to push members to put their creativity to good use for the brand? Brilliant. Working on our pitch required innovation, determination and fun. Thank you for inviting us to one of the most special places I have ever experienced.
Thank you to the Le Logis Grey Goose team (Everyone from Barbara, Nadia, Francesco, the chefs and staff, and of course, François. We left inspired, exhilarated and full of Grey Goose, delicious food, and wonderful memories. You treated us like family, and I can’t put into words our thanks.
Thank you to my supportive family and friends, especially my hubby, for being dad of the year and driving our little one all the way to Ottawa on his one, and for encouraging me to always go for it (even when my ideas seem utterly outrageous). ❤
And of course, to Whitney, a truly amazing travel partner, campaign strategist, fellow explorer, cocktail buddy, calming force and perfect roomie: it was your idea to take a stab at this crazy competition and I will hold these memories with me forever, and I still can’t believe we did it. I am so grateful to have experienced this with you.
When Tyler asked François Thibault a question about a complicated way to mix certain cognac’s, and why it couldn’t be done an easier way, François initially laughed politely and explained that the style of mixing was impossible, and proceeded to explain the science as to why it could not be done. But after a moment, he hesitated before looking at all of us calmly and making us a promise: “I will look into the impossible.” Wow.
I left France feeling charmed, inspired, and delightfully happy. I’ll never stick my nose into the air at the impossible and always promise to ‘look into it’ no matter how impossible it may seem. I hope you do the same.