From Paris to Bear Country – A series – Part 1

From Paris to Bear Country – A series – Part 1




Our story begins in Paris, France, fifteen years ago. This is when a city girl in her early thirties, a newlywed, followed her husband to Seattle, WA, in one swift lateral move. [Paris latitude: 48 degrees 52’ N. Seattle latitude: 47 degrees 36’ N.]

As a result, she traded Parisian grey skies (“la grisaille”) for the Pacific Northwest’s ever-changing, and unpredictable, (but mostly grey) weather. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Today, this city girl lives in the Pacific Northwest in a town that, according to the local chamber of commerce website, “[offers] rural living in an urban setting.”

We need to travel back in time and go through local archives to introduce the real star of our story: Woodinville, WA.

Woodinville, population 11,000 (give or take a few souls,) is part of the Seattle metropolitan area. The first inhabitants were the native Sammamish people. They are long gone, but are remembered fondly, (mainly in the summer,) since a local lake popular with boaters is named after them. Woodinville is also nestled in the Sammamish river valley.

The first known settler was Ira Woodin. He and his wife Susan arrived from Seattle in 1871. Ira built a cabin, raised cattle, and logged timber while raising a family. Other settlers soon joined them and the town developed quickly after the railroad reached the area in 1888. For a long time, Ira’s house served as the town’s first school and post office. I imagine Ira and Susan’s house was a fraction of the size of the average Woodinville château today, so things must have been cozy chez les Woodin.


From then on, Woodinville (Woodin’s town) continued growing as a logging community. It became a farming center in the early 20th century, and eventually a Seattle suburb after World War II. The city was incorporated in 1993.


The Hollywood School House, built in 1912,
is one of the oldest buildings in Woodinville


Let’s fast forward to 2011 Woodinville. “Rural living in an urban setting,” the Chamber of Commerce says.

Rural living. Check. This French girl does not have a long way to go to realize she lives “à la campagne” (in the country.) As soon as she drives out of the area commonly referred to as the town center, past the last sign of urban life [Tully’s coffee house] and comes back to her very hilly neighborhood, she finds herself surrounded by nature and pastoral scenery.



The area (like much of the Pacific Northwest) is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. A favorite location of mine is the Tolt Pipeline trail, 12 miles long, built in 1964 to bring water to the Seattle area from the Tolt River Reservoir, located in the foothills of the Cascade mountains East of Woodinville.

Tolt Pipeline trail and the Cascade mountain range to the East

Tolt Pipeline trail and the Olympic mountains to the West


The trail is safe, scenic, quiet (at least on weekdays) and it’s a wonderful place to run, hike, ride horses, or mountain bike. Le Yellow Dog and I have been hiking the Pipeline trail together for over 8 years and enjoy our daily hour-long walks, rain or shine (rain, more often than shine.) We have our favorite routes, and after so many years, I could probably get home with my eyes closed. I know each house, each property, each dog, each fence along the way.

Hailey le Yellow Dog, my faithful walking companion


Dogs are not the only animals we encounter on our outings. This is la campagne after all. We meet sheep, horses (Woodinville is horse property Heaven,) rabbits, goats, and chicken. A lot of people have chicken. In fact, there seems to be a poulet (chicken) craze these days. Friends and neighbors collect chicken. Said poulets are pretty tame and follow people around like friendly dogs.

C’est la Campagne: The sign says it all!

Bonjour le mouton!

Des chevaux at every street corner

Des lapins (the real ones are harder to capture on camera)
Bonjour, Miss Piggy le cochon

Woodinville: land of fancy chicken coops
(notice the flowers at the window sill)

Happy poulets…

I have a couple of friends who would enjoy this cool sign! 


A popular thing to do around here is to own “a farm”.  Even though there are commercial farms in Woodinville specializing in organic produce (these use heavy machinery to grow and harvest crops in gigantic fields,) most of the properties in my neighborhood are different. Let’s call them les petites farms. 

They are homes, mostly, sitting on an acreage, with animals (a horse, a dog, some chicken,) and a few raised beds to grow herbs and vegetables in the summer. Heavy machinery? Check. That shiny sit-down mower counts, doesn’t it?

This one earns point for the most creative sign


When I see these properties I am inevitably reminded of Marie-Antoinette, the French queen. While her husband King Louis XVI was at work, she loved spending time with her entourage in the private hamlet the king had built for her in the gardens of the magnificent château de Versailles (1785-1792.) The hamlet is a beautiful property complete with a farmhouse, a barn, a mill, a pond, a pigeon coop, an aviary, orchards and gardens. The hamlet was a working farm: Eggs and milk were produced daily for the queen. It has been said that in the pre-Revolutionary days, the young queen sought refuge in country life, milking cows and sheep, dressed as a peasant, and living a farmer’s life for a few hours each day.

Marie-Antoinette’s hamlet, Versailles,  France

Marie-Antoinette, courted by a young man,
is dressed as a shepherdess

Marie-Antoinette and her entourage in the hamlet


While in the Versailles hamlet, Marie-Antoinette used to retire alone in her boudoir (small private apartment) after an invigorating day spent outdoors. In modern day Woodinville, boudoirs have been replaced by artists’ (or teaching) studios.

Miss Piggy immortalized by a local artist

Ouila vie est [souvent] belle (life is [often] beautiful) in Woodinville.



To be continued. Stay tuned.

16 Responses to From Paris to Bear Country – A series – Part 1

  1. Love it Love it Love it!!! I don’t generally appreciate living under the “grey lid of Seattle/Woodinville/Bothell etc… but when you put it in such beautiful terms and photos!! I remember why I love it and continue to return, even from France. 🙂

  2. Love this! I learned so much about where I live! “Miss Piggy”: so clever! Gorgeous photo coming leaving the Farm- great perspective on that shot.

  3. your posts never fail to please and educate…i really do enjoy reading them!! i hope as time goes on we’ll get to hear the story of you, your husband and the first days in your new home -here in the USA.

  4. Coucou Véronique,
    … Your area is phenomenal and stunning. What a breathtaking beauty ! I would love so much riding there !!!
    I am definitely packing and moving 😉
    Bisous à toi et au yellow dog,
    Anne Touraine (Playing with Scarves)
    PS. You should tell the local artist about “Le Père Noël est une ordure” (remember the lovely portrait of Thérèse)? LOL!

    • Bonjour Anne. Yes, this the Pacific Northwest in all of its sunny glory. This does not happen as often as we would all like. It looks a tad different under grey skies, trust 🙂 Beautiful area, I agree. Pastoral, and peaceful most of the time.

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