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Dear friends,

First, let me answer the question that’s on the tip of everyone’s tongue at the moment.

Yes, I am safe. No, Paris is neither burning nor buried in stinking trash. The demonstrations are large and loud, but they are not riots. The transit strikes mean double-checking before I head to the Métro station, and sometimes walking to my evening French class in Montmartre. On the whole, however, daily life continues more or less as usual, and life is good.

Enough of that. Now let me tell you about what I got up to this weekend.

Last May I wrote about visiting an exhibit at the National Archives about France’s national flock of prize merinos. Their history is wildly dramatic, beginning with the espionage and diplomacy that led to the importation of the first breeding stock from Spain. For more on that, you can read Carol Sulcoski’s A Sheep of One’s Own: A Brief History of the Rambouillet.

La Bergerie Nationale (National Sheepfold) that was established at Rambouillet under Louis XVI in 1783 is still there, and still cares for the direct descendants of that original flock. The merinos are considered a living treasure, and the Bergerie itself is no mere museum. It remains a working farm, as well as a center for agricultural research and training.

In addition, pains are taken to make sure that the French know about, and have access to, this important part of their heritage. The farm is regularly open to visitors, but last weekend it offered something extra special: La Fête de la Tonte–the sheep shearing festival.

I hadn’t visited Rambouillet before, so when I heard about the festival just two days in advance I rearranged my calendar to be there. There are hints of spring in the city, but we’re still mired in the grisaille (greyness) of March and I liked the idea of fresh air, green grass, and sheep.

Rambouillet is an easy trip from Paris. There are frequent regional trains from the Gare Montparnasse, and it takes about an hour (if you catch the train that stops a lot) to reach the town of Rambouillet. The town itself is well worth a look. It has a château set by a lake in a pretty park, and it’s a dead ringer for the quintessential ville française pictured in my high school French book. 

You can take a local bus or taxi from the train station to the farm. Or, if you don’t mind walking, it’s a very pleasant thirty-minute stroll past the château, through the park, and across the fields. 

The oldest parts of the farm–the original Cour Royale (Royal Court, built in the last days of the Bourbons) and Cour Imperiale (Imperial Court, an expansion under Napoleon), look decidedly regal.

The arched gateway into the Cour Royale bears an apt inscription lifted from Vergil’s Eclogues, CURAT OVES OVIUM QUE MAGISTROS: “He looks after the sheep and the teachers.”

And the original barns are kinda fancy. Suitable residences, I suppose, for the king’s own sheep.

The Sheep

Most of the farm’s animals now live in newer, more modern accommodations; but some of the prize rams (béliers) continue to occupy the Imperial Court, so they can greet you when you arrive.

They are handsome animals, awfully friendly for a bunch of pedigreed aristocrats. This fellow got up and strolled right over to investigate me and my camera.

“Bonjour. Et qui-êtes vous, monsieur?”

Feeding the sheep is, of course, strictly forbidden; but even the youngest visitors are permitted to get very close and offer a gentle pat, with the firm reminder that “Ce ne sont pas des peluches”—these are not stuffed animals.

Showers kept passing through, with brilliant bursts of warm sun in between. Some of the ewes (brébis) had taken advantage of this and were lolling outside on the grass.

The Real Housewives of LA Bergerie

They weren’t interested in chatting with me, so I walked a little further and spotted a barn labeled NURSERIE DES AGNEAUX. The lamb nursery.

I have to warn you, it’s about to get awfully cute in here. Brace yourself.

As advertised, this barn was chockablock with lambs and their moms doing the things lambs and moms do.

 Like napping …

… and eating …

… and chatting with Americans visiting from Paris …


While the kids were otherwise engaged, this mother seemed especially delighted to have a chance to talk to me at length about the latest trends in the big city, and asked me to give her regards to a cousin who lives in the Jardin des Plantes.

And over in a very quiet corner, reserved for the newest of the new, was an itty bitty lamb enjoying sole use of the heat lamp. Elle se bronze, said one of the visiting children. “She’s getting a sun tan.”

It was so peaceful in the sheep barns.

Don’t try to count them or you’ll fall asleep.

But I had to drag myself away after about an hour, because it was time for the main event of the day

The Shearing

This took place in one of the barns on a temporary stage, so that the crowd could get a nice view of the process while a member of the Bergerie staff explained key points. For example, that sheep are no more harmed in shearing than you are harmed by a haircut …

… and that the order of shearing is not catch-as-catch-can, but a series of carefully arranged postures that help to keep both the shearer and the sheep calm and comfortable.

All parties involved certainly looked at peace with the process.

After the freshly shorn fleeces had been checked over on the sorting table to make sure they were safe to handle, bits and pieces were put right into the hands of the crowd.

The goal everywhere seemed to be to create direct connections between the people, the sheep, and the wool. 

Lovely stuff it is, too. Even before it’s been washed, Rambouillet wool is gorgeous–long, buttery soft locks with a crimp that will help to make a bouncy, springy yarn.

The shearing was the centerpiece of the festival, but not the end of it. The Bergerie is well outfitted with classrooms devoted to teaching what happens to wool after it leaves the sheep, and on this weekend it was also hosting fiber artists demonstrating and teaching spinning …

… weaving …

… and weaving.

Even the littlest visitors were taught to make something with wool.

The Knitters and the Yarn

And there were knitters! Although my French still wobbles–especially when I am meeting new people–I was warmly welcomed into the circle of Rambouillet’s knitting group, Les Ramboulaines.

Of course, when you’re a knitter among knitters, language barriers don’t matter much because yarn is a universal language.

Chères Rambolaines, je vous remercie mille fois pour votre accueil gracieuse.

After a bit of convivial work on my traveling sock, it was time to head back to Paris. But not without a stop at the Bergerie’s gift shop. Because I know you’re wondering … do they sell yarn made from the merinos?

Yes. Oh my, yes.

Next time I’ll be visiting with a bigger shopping bag.



PS For more information on La Bergerie Nationale, visit here. Follow them on Instagram here and on YouTube here. Just don’t blame me if you get an attack of the cutes and make a spectacle of yourself.

About The Author

Franklin Habit has been sharing his brainy and hilarious writing and illustrations with the knitting world since 2005.


  • Thank you for letting us know you are safe and for taking us on such a beautiful and educational journey! Hearing from you is always a delight & “seeing” through your eyes a treasure.

    • Thank you for sharing a wonderful travel story. I am currently reading Peggy Orenstien’s book, Unraveling, and the shearing photos helped me “see” the shearing process that she learned. All the photos were lovely.

      • Me, too, on Peggy Orenstein’s book (recommended) , so this “visit” was so interesting and timely. I am also reading the first volume of Shetland Wool Adventures, so I think the universe is telling me something! Franklin, you are an observant visitor and a gifted story-teller, thanks so much for sharing your adventures.

  • I love these letters from Paris. Just seeing Franklin’s pictures and following along in the barn and seeing the ewes out in the field sleeping and the lambs made my day. He is totally right about most knitters. We all speak the common language of knitting. I could feel the peace in the barns as well. Thank you for bringing these notes of wisdom and sharing and thoughts on the world of wood and sheep and people and knitting.

    • It is so good to hear from you again and to know that you are safe.

    • I like so much these glimpses of my country I did not even know about

      • I enjoy Franklin’s letters from Paris so much. They always give the feel of being there with him (*SIGH*). The pictures of the little lambs make me recall my visits of wool festivals in the USA. The memory of plunging my hands deep into the fleeces and coming out with lanolin on my fingers … and the smell of the wool clinging to my hands. I am jealous of his journey to the National Sheepfold. Thank you, Franklin, for sharing your trip.

  • Merci pour ce bel article. Ce sera assurément une visite lors de mon prochain séjour à Paris!

  • I so enjoy these letters from Paris. Franklin’s charm and wit are evident all the way through and I get to travel vicariously!

  • Once again, thank you Franklin for a wonderful description of your adventures in France and all things wooly.

  • Thank you! Loved it!

    • I am so glad to hear that you are well, Franklin, and the virtual visit to those little sheep was wonderful!!!

  • Love the letters from Paris, especially this one. I shared it with my knitting class in Kokomo Indiana USA

  • Franklin, thank you.

    • Such cuteness! I can almost smell the wool!

  • Thank you for taking us along. So great that places like this exist so people can learn where wool comes from and why it is important to so many

  • Thank you for this. I have reasons to be sad this morning but this letter made me feel warm and safe. And great photos!

  • I so enjoy “Letters From Paris,” and this one is especially delightful! Those little lamb bottoms at the feeding trough, and the mom with her head on the fence are frame-worthy. Thanks to Franklin for enabling me to see Paris through his eyes and experiences!

  • I loved this – every bit of it.

  • Loved this ! Mercie!

  • Thank you for this bit of joy!

    • I so look forward to these Letters from Paris. I hope to one day go, but for now I get to travel through your eyes, words, and camera lens. I had no idea there were national sheep in France. Now I need to find some Rambouillet yarn.

      • MDK’s Atlas yarn is Rambouillet (and very lovely to work with).

  • That green sweater! I love the stitch pattern. I may have to try something like.

  • What an incredibly delightful day! This is truly a special place, and I love that the government wants to share this living history with the people of France. Those sheep look so clean! Thank you for sharing this experience with us!

  • What a fun trip! I’m glad to see the sheep treated well and that you got to spend time with their knitting group.

  • I love reading about your Paris (and Paris adjacent) adventures. I could practically smell and hear and see your experiences. Thanks for taking us along!

  • what a delight!

  • Loved your letter!

  • I’d be pointing at that green wool too, and telling it to get in my bag! ❤️

  • Thanks for taking us along.

    • I can almost smell those adorable babies.

  • This was a wonderful “trip” to take while I ate my breakfast this morning. Thank you for the delightful travelogue! Please write to us again soon!

  • Makes me want to move to Paris

  • Oh my! Thank you so much for the vicarious fun!

  • Lordy, I love Franklin’s posts❤️

  • I love hearing from Franklin! He makes me smile because he is living a dream!

  • Super cute- I especially loved the little lamb basking in the “sun” ❤️

  • Ces agneaux, qu’ils sont mignons!

    What a beautiful outing, thank you for sharing!

  • Love all the photos of the sheep and their lambs. Takes me back to living next door to a sheep farm in my youth. Rambouillet is such wonderful wool to knit. I love the springy yarn it produces. Thank you, Franklin, for another exciting adventure in France. Maintenant, je dit au revoir!

  • I really enjoy all of your letters from Paris and their wonderful plethora of pictures. They are even better than the visits I’ve made to Paris in person because they show me things there that I never would have seen any other way.

  • Delighted to see and to learn about this! So happy you were able to go to this, and so enjoy sharing in what you saw, and in your enjoyment! Thank you!

  • Swooning here! What a delight to be taken along!

  • Thank you for that visit! The photos are wonderful and your sense of humor! I miss France!

  • We are leaving in Paris through the eyes of Franklin and to make thing even better, look at those cute sheep’s, you can almost touch their fleeces

  • A lovely story! Merci beaucoup!

  • Wonderful event! Thanks so much for taking us along. I love how they take pains to connect every one to the sheep and wool and making in one way or another

  • “Attack of the cutes” sounds like the best pop band name ever! Thank you for sharing this. Going to look at the row of lambs again.

  • Wow! Thank you for this wonderful glimpse into your part of the world. Having been off of IG since early this year I miss your updates of life in France. Glad to get a dose of Franklin via MDK. I take it you got an attack of the cutes and made a slight spectacle of yourself. We should all allow ourselves moments like these.

  • I thoroughly enjoy all your writings

  • This makes me swoon. I love that the Rambouillaines and you got to spend time together. The photos are exquisite. I know there is a lot of work behind your photos. Thank you for creating moods with them.

  • I love Franklin’s letters, and this one is especially charming and heartwarming. Rambouillet is now at the top of my list of places to visit on my next trip to France.

  • I’ve been waiting for this since you hinted about the topic of this letter. That has to be a highlight of this year for you!

  • I never knew of such a place… thank you for bringing us along with you vicariously!

  • Thank you for sharing this joyful experience!

  • What a wonderful story! It made my day!

  • You are living this French major’s and knitters dream. Love your posts.

    • This French major seconds that émotion!

      • This second French major thirds that émotion!

  • Thank you for this letter from Paris. I really enjoyed it.

  • Really enjoyed this letter! Your pictures were great as always.

  • Beautiful photos and a wonderful description of a grand day out amongst amazing creatures. Thank you!

  • This is a wonderful article! So well written and the photos are amazing. Thank you, Franklin.

  • What a delightful trip you have shared with us! Thank you!

  • Oh Sir Franklin…this is a wonderful post. When I (someday) get to France, the farm will definitely be on my itinerary. I love your letters from France; this one is extra special!

  • What a lovely place to visit!

  • I join the delighted for these lettres de Paris et France. Not only do they show the universality of yarn and fiber arts, but Franklin’s writing and photography is charming and informative in even this brief space. It does add frightfully to me “wish to see” list for when I get to France, and I am making many notes about needing an additional suitcase!

    Thank goodness he warned us about the cuteness level – I have no imagining how one survives it in person, and I am sure the scent of wool on the hoof does terrible things to one’s brain. And I confess to doing close examination of several of the knitted items in the hopes of deciphering the patterns.

  • Ooo ooo Were the knitters all using the lovely wool from those sheep? What effective advertising!

  • What a glorious outing, with convivial conversations both sheep and human. I’m extremely envious. You can only blame yourself if you find an entire bus load of your followers stalking you, on your way to your next adventure

  • What an awesome post! As the proud new owner of a previously well loved lendrum spinning wheel, I’d be curious to know if the national sheep also sell roving? (Dyed or undyed) It’s awesome to read about you living your best life, Franklin!

  • Thank you for the wonderful article, Franklin! From walking to French class in Montmartre to strolls through sheep barns, I loved it all.

  • Your words and photographs make the reader completely engaged with your experiences in Paris and beyond. This segment was a delightful read, and I’m looking forward to the next installment.

  • Beautiful pictures as always ❣️ thank you for taking us along on your journey

  • Loved the article and the photos. Thank you!

  • Great visit to France’s sheep spot! I learned a lot. Found their website. I’ll look more. Franklin, you need to do some fun research next in New Zealand!

  • How wonderful to take this trip with you! I feel like I was there; I can almost smell the wool.

  • What a wonderful day, thanks so much for taking us along! I knew some of the history but you bring it alive for me. Ohhhhhh those lamby faces!

  • Oh, a wonderful story and beautiful photos! Can’t wait to share with my Mama, a huge fan of Franklin and sheep.

  • The lambs are adorable

  • What a lovely day out!

  • Oh, I loved this so much! Merci beaucoup, Monsieur Habit for sharing another glimpse of your fancy French life with us. I love that once again, there’s proof that wool & fiber arts create a bridge between geographical distances to bring us humans closer.

  • Thanks for the wonderful tour!

  • What a delight!! Thank you for sharing your day!

  • Wow, Franklin! I feel like I had a chance to visit France this morning. Raining in Michigan and last day of lazy from break with my teens. I need to get them started knitting… Maybe this tale will help inspire!
    Be well

  • Cuteness overload on the wee ones!! Thanks so much for the continued sharing of your adventures and life!

  • Oh my what a lovely trip you had! The pictures and descriptions make me decidedly jealous! What a treasure the French have in preserving this but of history.

  • I wish there was an audio track to go with this post! I want to hear those cute lambs. Now I’m off to find a pattern for that scalloped-stripe sweater pictured below the shearer…

  • What a delightful excursion! Of course the lambs kill you with cute. Those rams were gorgeous with their mighty horns!

  • A joy to read on a grey, windy morning waiting for spring to get started here

  • Thank you, Franklin!

  • What a wonderful trip! I can close my eyes and smell the delicious sheepiness of fresh fleeces!

  • Thank you so much! I love your observations.

  • Thanks so very much for this wonderful piece to read this morning! Thoroughly enjoyable writing and the pictures… Bravo!

  • Always love getting a letter from Franklin! Makes my day every time.

  • I love reading your letters from Paris. This one was especially nice. I do miss my sheep, especially during lambing. Your comment about the barn being so peaceful – while I sometimes hated donning my winter gear and going out to the barn for late night maternity checks, once I got out there it was heaven. Warm, quiet, ewes sleeping or quietly chewing their cuds. Thank you for sharing your trip. Beautiful.

  • Thank you for your tour! This sounds wonderful & glad to know the sheep & their products are well-loved.

  • If all cultural envoys were as knowledgeable, curious, enthusiastic, and articulate as Franklin Habit, there would be more knitters and other creative types, and no war.

    (Bonus squee for the wool puppies!)

  • I love that they have a national herd. That’s amazing. From a historical and communal perspective this is such a cool event, thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  • Thanks for taking us with you on the trip, makes me want to knit with Rambouillet, of course …

  • Lovely sheep

  • Thank you, Franklin. A delightful read and a nice warm up to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival (MDSW) coming up the first weekend in May. I shall keep an eye out for local Rambouillets. I know there’ll be some there – among the Jacob sheep and the Valais blacknose – you know, the ones that yodel at me when I pass by.

  • As always, I am delighted by your “letter”. It’s like walking through the event by your side, with you pointing out some delight that I might have missed. Merci!

  • Thank you! so wonderful to read your letters from Paris.

  • That sounds like it was a perfect day!

  • I love this so much! What a wonderful day you must have had. I look forward to your letters from Paris. Or the lamb barn.

  • Thank you for taking us along with you!

  • Thank you for another wonderful travelogue!

  • Indeed, this was a good one. I forwarded it to my daughter, for whom I knit Old Friend in teal Atlas, to show her why it was such springy yarn. You can even see the crimp on them before they are sheared, like curly hair. Thank you, Franklin.

  • Oh. MY! SUCH a delightful Letter!
    How blessed are we, to be able to enjoy, vicariously, the adventures of Franklin, an American in Paris (and environs)!?!
    Merci, Franklin – and MDK – this has made my day/week!!

  • What fun. Who knew???

  • Oh Franklin, this is another great adventure for both armchair travelers and knitters.
    Merci beaucoup!

  • Thanks for bringing us along on this outing! It is so nice to see the history, the sheep, and their wool celebrated like this. Amazing!

  • How delightful, thank you for sharing this experience

  • What a wonderful article! I did study quite a bit about Rambouillet, I have never heard of the museum. And thanks too for the link to Carol’s article. I had a lovely vicarious visit!

  • Merci! I love Franklin’s stories!

  • As always, your writing is wonderful & now I have a new trip to plan with my Aunt Margaret. Thank you!

  • As we enter lambing and shearing season here in Wyoming with snow on the ground, I love the images of royal sheep indeed! Thank you for the lovely images in picture and word form!

  • What a wonderful show & tell – the history was very enlightening and the pictures were great! You must be having a wonderful time living in paris

  • Love hearing about your trip. Thanks for sharing!

  • I stayed on the farm about 15 years ago for a volunteer program. The lodging rooms were above academic buildings, one of which was labeled (in large letters) INSÉMINATION. (It is a working farm and school, so these things are important.)

    • That would have been an appropriate inscription on my freshman dorm in college.

  • Oh fabulous! And all train accessible too. The envy is strong over here in your former country.

  • This makes me misty eyed in my snow covered north! Thank you.

  • I’d rearrange my schedule for that too!

  • That was a delightful read. I look forward to your articles. I always feel like I have personally participated when I read them.

  • This looks absolutely delightful. My favorite part of our State Fair is the animal barns, a quiet retreat from the noise and bustle of the midway. And at our flock and fiber shows, walking among the sheep, goats, llamas, and alpacas is a nice rest from all the shopping.

  • Franklin, I enjoyed every bit of this report on the sheep. No kidding.

  • Ooh, ah! Thank you. I hope you brought a little some home with you.

  • Ahhh. The real life in Paris check in. Good to hear

  • Thank you MDK & Franklin! What a great treat to visit France while not leaving your living room. This was a great article.

  • Oh my goodness! I love your descriptions and getting to visit through your eyes. Thank you!!!

  • What a lovely day! Thank you for sharing the details.

  • I love your letters!

  • Thank you thank you thank Franklin Habit for sharing this most splendid day….the curly horns….the hairstyles on the ewes…and the babies, oh my the babies! I want some of that yarn!!!!

  • Wonderful report! I could feel my heart slow down as I went through the pictures of the lambs. And yes. definitely a larger shopping bag on your next trip there.

  • What a lovely sheep farm. Those lambs are adorable! Thank you for another wonderful letter from Paris (and environs), it is always so fun to get a glimpse into your yarn and fiber adventures.

  • So muyh cuteness (and information)!

  • What a lovely day! Thank you, Franklin, for takin us along.

  • Love seeing a glimpse of how they do it in France!

  • How exciting to see real rambouillet sheep! I hope you got at least one ball of wool.

  • What a great visit. I’m so jealous!

  • Those lambs are soooooo cute! What a fun time.

  • Franklin,
    I do hope Delores and Harry were with you! Actually….I suspect they would have been naughty but I would love to have known their impressions of how the sheep royalty lived ❤️

  • I am delighted to meet the lambs!

  • I’m dead of little lamb cuteness 🙂

  • Such a clever, sweet story! I thoroughly enjoy every one of your “Letters From Paris!”

  • Wonderful article! I feel I’ve been on Franklin’s journey with him!

  • What a joy to read Franklin’s witty insights!

  • Every time we get a letter from Franklin, it makes my whole day and brings a smile to my face. Love you Franklin

  • What a wonderful event and you made it come alive with this piece. The pictures are especially excellent. Thank you!

  • Thank you, Franklin for your wonderful report. I have become obsessed with sheep lately and this filled me with glee!

  • What a treat. Young lambs are just the cutest!!

  • Thank you for sharing your trip. I have been wanting to see some of the places where sheep are raised and the process of making the beautiful yarn we enjoy.

  • But… but… they LOOK like stuffed animals!

  • You are an excellent tour guide sir.
    That was wonderful.
    Please share what you make with your new acquisitions!

  • Delightful, as always, Franklin you are such a treasure.

  • Thank you for taking us along! I felt I could feel and smell the fleece. Great photos and amusing as ever.

  • Delightful visit, thank you for sharing and inducing more Parisian-life envy ; ).

  • Franklin you made the best decision ever in moving (forward) when you left the US and I adore the little sheep faces

  • Thank you Franklin for sharing another great adventure in France. Enjoyed seeing a prized family of sheep. When I see their yarn on line , I’ll keep in mind the wonderful pictures you shared.

  • That was a very fun travelogue to read at breakfast!

  • Fleece on earth, good wool to all! Lovely letter, Franklin.

  • C’était un plaisir Franklin de vous entendre parler dimanche de votre passion du tricot et de votre amour de la France, dans un excellent francais!. Maintenant je suis fan, je pense mettre un de vos pulls dans ma ( longue )to do liste! Pour Noël mon gendre devrait apprecier.
    Sylvie( le pull vert)

  • A wonderfully written article with exquisite photos. Thank you Dolores

  • My favorite read is everything by Franklin!!

  • Thank you Franklin for this super and ‘extra ordinaire’ accounting of your visit to the Bergerie Nationale. I always love reading what you write, but this one was particularly wonderful, especially with the addition of your photography. Merci bien!

  • What a wonderful post! Between the photos and your descriptions, I’m getting to visit along with you!

  • Your photos are always so lovely! Am loving following your French adventures. Thank you for bringing Paris to me. You make me want to travel there.

  • Wow Franklin, this looks like such a brilliant day out. Thanks so much for taking us along with you <3

  • Thanks for taking us with you on your field trip! History, knitting, and lambs, what’s not to love?

  • Wonderful post, thank you!

  • Adorable sheep! I can almost feel how squishy that yarn must be.

  • It is a cornucopia of cute! Such fun to see this in another place.

  • I want to join that knit group!

  • Loved the photos! My favorite was the sheep with her head between the shearer’s legs.

  • OH! I love this letter! I fell in love with the sheep in Ireland and now feel like I need to get acquainted with their French brethren!

  • Thanks so much for sharing your story of the sheep!

  • Thank you, Franklin! I love Letters from Paris.

  • I have lost you for some time. So great to read about your French life. Thankyou. Linda

  • Thank you so much for these.

  • A very enjoyable and informative read; thank you, Franklin!

  • As always, my vicarious way to learn about another country and culture. Thank you!

  • Wait a minute, you’re in Rambouillet but the shop sells yarn from merinos?

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