End-of-Autumn Thoughts…

November 26, 2018 at 2:23 pm Leave a comment


Essoyes on a misty morning. Photo by Janet Hulstrand

One of the things I love the most about Essoyes is its relative proximity to Paris. At just two and a half hours away, one can do a round trip in a day, which I do from time to time. The last time I went to Paris, I stayed for five days, and that was pretty nice too! I was grateful to be able to talk about downsizing the family home, the subject of my first book, at my friend Adrian Leeds’s Apres-Midi meet-up in the Marais on November 13. After that I was able to stay on in Paris for a few days, which allowed me to spend some time with my son, and attend a very interesting discussion at the American Library in Paris. I was also really happy to be able to visit the newly reopened Red Wheelbarrow bookstore, on the rue de Medicis, just across from the Luxembourg Gardens, and to meet Penelope Fletcher, a wonderful, and much beloved member of the Anglophone literary community. I had interviewed Penelope a few weeks earlier for Bonjour Paris: that interview is here.

While I was in Paris, the palette changed from late Indian summer to early winterish tones. The change of season and of colors was noticeable too, on my ride back home from Troyes to Essoyes; and when I walked up the path from our driveway to the house the abundance of leaves on the ground announced the approach of winter.

One of the things I learned upon my return to Essoyes was the sad news that Bernard Pharisien, our beloved local historian and Renoir scholar, had passed away. His burial was last Thursday in the village cemetery, and a large crowd gathered to pay him their respects. He will be sorely missed!

It is an interesting thing about Thanksgiving. Americans abroad cling to it, and take it with them wherever they go. My Facebook feed was full of excited sharing of recipes and pictures of beautifully set tables, desperate questions about substitute ingredients, cooking instructions and the like, from American friends in Europe. Perhaps this is because Thanksgiving is one of our best national holidays. It is certainly my favorite: it is spiritual without being specific to any one religion; it is noncommercial in the main (especially if one chooses to ignore or reject the attempts to commercialize it); it is fundamentally about simple gratitude and being together with family and friends, giving thanks for all our blessings, and sharing them with others.

I was lucky to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving this year with a wonderfully mixed group of American, French, and British friends at the home of the one other American in Essoyes this weekend. (Most Americans in France celebrate the holiday on the weekend following Thanksgiving, since the fourth Thursday in November is simply the fourth Thursday in November here.) For several of the guests it was their first experience of an American Thanksgiving, and part of the fun for the Americans was explaining what the holiday means to us, how it came about, how it is celebrated, and so on. My friends allowed me to read aloud to them one of my favorite Thanksgiving poems, and gave the cardboard pilgrims that have been with me at so many Thanksgivings, from Brooklyn to Washington DC, to Silver Spring, a place from which they could overlook the celebration, which made it complete for me. (It was the cardboard pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving in Essoyes 🙂 )


The table was elegantly set (the napkins were folded so beautifully by the young daughter of our hosts, who is both American AND French, that we were a bit reluctant to unfold them and place them in our laps); the food, which included turkey with cranberry gravy, and both mashed and sweet potatoes, was excellent; and this being Champagne, and our hosts being vignerons, the champagne flowed freely. And–this being France, and a special occasion–there was foie gras before the meal, and a cheese course between the main course and the dessert of pumpkin and pecan pies.

I found myself being spontaneously moved to write to several of my closest friends in the U.S. in the days prior to Thanksgiving; some of whom I have spent many Thanksgivings with, others who are just close enough for me to think of them at Thanksgiving. I am grateful for all of them, for the blessings of health and home, for the opportunity to live in this wonderful little village, and to share another Thanksgiving with new friends. Among so many other things…

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 writing workshops in Essoyes, a village in the Champagne region, and teaches “Paris: A Literary Adventure” for the City University of New York each summer. Her next book, Demystifying the French, a cultural guide to living and traveling in France, will be published in 2019. She is currently working on a literary memoir, A Long Way from Iowa.


Entry filed under: About Essoyes. Tags: , , , .

A Fond and Sad Farewell to Bernard Pharisien, Beloved Son of Essoyes Bonne Nouvelle Année d’Essoyes (2019)

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