Archive for October, 2022

Bands & Birthdays & Bouchées à la Reine, OhMy!

My singer/songwriter son Sam (aka Samjo). Photo by Diane de Vignemont.

What a fun month this has been! Never mind all the highlights, I’ll share just a few of them today.

I got to go to Paris twice in one week this month–and in my mind nothing is much more wonderful than that, other than maybe spending the whole week, or whole month, there.

The first trip was a one-day trip to celebrate my friend Adrian’s 70th (!) birthday, along with a packed house of her friends and fans, at her monthly Après-Midi meet-up. Here’s a picture of me with Adrian (center) and Cara Black (left). Cara is the author of the bestselling Aimée LeDuc series of mysteries set in Paris–and now also the author of two books with an American sharpshooter heroine named Kate Rees, who is helping to fight bad guys in Europe during World War II.

I was up nice and early to catch a train from Vendeuvre-sur-Barse to Paris, a very pleasant, less-than-two-hour ride. I met Adrian for lunch at the Café de la Mairie in the Marais, where she has held this monthly event for more than 20 years. Then, after lunch, she kept us all entertained (and feeling young!) with her stories of ups and downs (and ups and downs again!) during her 28 years in Paris. Someone asked her toward the end of the session what the one thing is that she regrets the most, the one thing she would have done differently if she could have. She thought about that for a moment, then gave an answer that was worthy both of her favorite inspirational writer, Eckhart Tolle, and Edith Piaf. (“I don’t really regret anything,” she said.) 🙂

After the event it was time for me to begin the trip back to Champagne. I regretted having to leave so soon as I strolled through the Square du Temple, which was filled with children playing, young and old people alike enjoying a lovely warm, sunny afternoon. But I needed to catch my train, and so I walked back to Place de la République, where I took the Metro to Gare de l’Est.

I love taking trains in France, I really never get enough of it, and this time was no different. I enjoyed the ride back, looking out the window at recently tilled fields, graceful windmills sweeping their giant arms against the sky, as the sun set.

By the time I got to Vendeuvre again it was dark. It was a full moon that night, and as the moon rose against the horizon, the fields I drove through between Vendeuvre and Essoyes were bathed in moonlight: it looked almost as if they were covered in frost, but I knew it was too warm for that.

Just a few days later it was time to return to Paris so that I could see (and listen to) my son Sam (aka Samjo, pictured above) warm up the crowd with his lovely, lyrical songs before performing with Solomon Pico at Les Disquaires. They had packed the house and were rockin’ the crowd that night, what fun!

One week later a friend and I were invited to join friends formerly of Essoyes, who are now living a couple of hours away from here in the Pays d’Othe. The drive there was lovely, and when we arrived we were treated to a “real French meal” prepared by our friend Pascale. The entrée she had prepared for us was so beautiful I had to take a picture of it. (This concoction is apparently called a bouchée à la Reine, and it was every bit as good as it looks.)

Next Tuesday is Toussaint, and today the excitement is mounting in Essoyes, you can feel it everywhere. Toussaint is a major holiday in France in which the dead are remembered and honored, their graves groomed and decorated by their families, and everyone gathers for long, drawn-out, wonderful, delicious meals. Already you can feel the bustle and stir before such a holiday (kind of like Thanksgiving in the US). People are coming and going, preparations are being made, pots of chrysanthemums are being sold in the stores and carried about in the streets, to decorate the graves of loved ones. And although the custom of children dressing in Halloween costumes and trick-or-treating is fairly new in France, it is already a much loved tradition in Essoyes. (The children don’t go door to door from house to house, but they do visit all the shops in town, and the mairie, and hold out their little plastic pumpkins, or bags, hoping for treats.)

There will be more to come later: for now here’s wishing you a safe, happy Halloween. Keep wearing masks!

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the US and France. She is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You and will soon publish her next book, A Long Way from Iowa, a literary memoir.

October 28, 2022 at 3:47 pm Leave a comment

The Story of a Dream Come True…

A man and his roulotte: almost finished at last!

This is the story of a beautiful little gypsy caravan that an American artist bought and lived in on the banks of the Marne River outside of Paris for several years in the late 1970s.

Much of the story you can learn here, through the artist’s own words and pictures. (You should look around the rest of his website also: his work is awesome!)

The link above brings the story through last summer (2021). This summer has been very exciting around here because this summer the dream of restoring the roulotte (that is the French word for it)–a dream that has taken the artist 15 years to complete–came true. The roulotte is now more beautiful than ever, and is positioned in our garden; and the artist, who is also a musician enamored of gypsy jazz guitar–is my nearest neighbor.

Our son is a musician too–a singer/songwriter who also plays pretty much any instrument he decides to pick up. One night in August he played his songs for a very intimate audience–just his immediate family–thus bringing the lovely music that filled the roulotte once upon a time by his dad, and who-knows-who before that back within her wonderfully acoustic walls. That was a very special occasion.

Now that the roulotte is ready to be truly enjoyed in the way it should be once again, I’m looking forward to hearing much more music coming from within, and to having that music shared with others as well. Stay tuned for more of the story!

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the US and France. She is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You and will soon publish her next book, A Long Way from Iowa, a literary memoir.

October 3, 2022 at 1:00 pm 1 comment

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