Bonne Nouvelle Année from Essoyes

January 9, 2018 at 5:14 pm 1 comment

DSC07171 (2).jpgWell–to paraphrase Garrison Keillor–it has NOT been a quiet week in “Lake” Essoyes, my part-time, adopted French home town.

Not quiet at all, no. On the third day of the New Year, Tempête Eleanor blew into town, with high winds followed by rain, lots and lots of rain.

And Essoyes for the past few days at least has had a kind of a lake where usually it has a soccer field.

I was not there when Storm Eleanor came through and showed her stuff, I was on my way back  to Champagne after celebrating the New Year with friends in Provence. But there was plenty of drama surrounding Eleanor’s arrival by the time I got to Gare de l’Est in Paris to catch my train to Vendeuvre-sur-Barse.

My train, which had Mulhouse as its original destination, was delayed, and in the delay it was announced that no trains would be going to Mulhouse, because Mulhouse was flooded. This necessitated rerouting plans for anyone planning to go there, including two French couples who were sitting next to me on the train, and who had somehow failed to hear the announcement in Gare de l’Est informing them that they should change their tickets for tickets to Lyon and hie themselves to Gare de Lyon to get on that train. They thus found themselves on a train that was no longer going where they thought it was.

I had a slightly different problem. In the flurry of boarding the train when it finally announced departure and everyone rushed to get on, because none of the cars were marked with their car numbers, I just jumped on anywhere I could.

So I was on the right train, kind of, but in the wrong half of it, the half that in Troyes would be disconnected from the right half, which would be going one stop beyond Troyes, to Vendeuvre, where my friends would be waiting to pick me up, and on to, well not Mulhouse, but at least to Chaumont.

My first clue was when the canned voice announced that this train would be going to Troyes, and read out the stops.

My stop was not included in that announcement. Damn.

Fortunately a very nice woman of indeterminate nationality who spoke very good English was seated across from me and when I started to explain my concern to her in French she quickly offered to find out what I needed to do to get myself into the right half of the train, so that I would not be left stranded in Troyes.

As I had surmised, what I had to do, basically, was get off of the train at the first stop, and quickly scurry out of the car I was in, and into the next  one.

But. In the meantime someone (no doubt someone who had a similar problem to mine) pulled the emergency brake on the train, causing further delay.

We were now stopped all right, but in a very small station in the middle of who-knows-where. I was all ready to jump off the train, but I hesitated to do so because I knew that if I jumped off and for some reason couldn’t jump on again, I would be in a worse situation than I already was. I went so far as to open the door and peer out, and try to catch the attention of a conductor hurrying past (M’sieur! M’sieur!) but I was not successful in doing so.

So I just sat there. The next part of this story is frankly just too complicated to try to tell in a blog post. It really should be in a script, for it is a perfect scene for a movie, a French comedy of the madcap, farcical variety.

Suffice it to say that with additional help from the nice English-speaking woman, a couple of railroad employees, and after some very comical moments, I did manage to take advantage of the unplanned stop to get myself onto the right part of the train.


I had been forewarned in voicemails left by the friends looking after our place while I was gone that there had been “un petit souci” (a little problem) at our house. (That was one message.) The other message I received I thought said there had been a theft. But it turned out that what had actually happened is that part of the roof of our artists’ atelier had flown away. (Well, we would say it had “blown off.” But the French say that it flew away.)

Did you know that the French word for “to fly” is the same as the word for “to steal”? Isn’t that interesting?

So anyway, here is what I found when I got back home.


Because of the rain, the New Years cérémonie des voeux to which all villagers are invited every year by the Mayor was cancelled, because the day it was supposed to happen (January 6) the town was obliged to activate its emergency response protocol to flooding in some parts of the village.

I think it is such a charming tradition that every year, all over France, French citizens  gather, welcomed by their mayors, to mark together the end of the holidays, and the beginning of the New Year. Last year I was really looking forward to going to the voeux, which I had never been to before. But it was a very cold night that night: and when I had the car warmed up and tried to open the iron gate that encloses our driveway, I found that it was frozen shut. And so I passed the evening quietly at home instead.

Introvert that I am, I must admit that a cancelled social outing is never really exactly a tragedy for me. It’s really more of a wonderful excuse to get into bed early and read.  🙂

Anyway. This year the whole thing was cancelled because of the flooding. (I guess the moral of the story is that January weather is often not very cooperative.)

But it has been rescheduled. See?

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So. I will tell you about the cérémonie des voeux later.

In the meantime, Christmas has gotten sort of short shrift in this report, hasn’t it?

Well, the highlights of Christmas this year were: my sons were both here with me, and my son’s girlfriend too (it has become a new part of our Christmas tradition that at some point she makes latkes for us, that was nice!) Christmas Eve mass was held in the church right here in Essoyes this year, and as usual it is was so touching to see the little children help tell the Christmas story to a packed church (how often does that happen?!) Afterward there was good food, a wonderful escalope de poulet farci aux asperges, and champagne (of course), and a to-die-for buche de Noel featuring raspberries and creme anglaise,  prepared by our masterful local pastry chef.

A couple of days after Christmas, we had our first Christmas party in Essoyes, which gave us the chance to begin to pay back friends old and new for their wonderful welcoming of us to Essoyes, and their many warm offerings of hospitality, from 1978 on…

And we had music, live music! Some beautiful jamming between two young men who had never played together before. And of course I got to play some Christmas songs at the piano, accompanied by my son Sam on guitar, and with some wonderful clapping in time to the music and even some shaking of jingle bells. (If every year I at least get to play “Jingle Bell Rock” and “White Christmas” and “Silent Night” just once, along with someone singing or playing, or clapping along with me, that is enough to carry me through for another year…)

In a word, it was wonderful.

Well, I hope your holidays were warm and wonderful too. And I am wishing you all the best for 2018.

And don’t forget, whenever and wherever possible…

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Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the U.S. and France. She leads book groups at the American Library in Paris, writing workshops in Essoyes, a village in the Champagne region, and teaches “Paris: A Literary Adventure” each summer, in Paris, for Queens College, CUNY.



Entry filed under: About Essoyes.

Our Little Bibliothèque Interview with Our Forestière (Bilingual post)

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. sara somers  |  January 10, 2018 at 8:13 am

    Happy New Year, Janet. I want to say it can only get better now but….the world being the way it is, who knows. At least you are home safe and sound but my crystal ball sees a new roof in your future!
    Bises, Sara


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