Posts filed under ‘About Essoyes’

Summer in Essoyes

Essoyes on a summer evening. Photo by Phineas Rueckert.

I don’t really think of Essoyes as a tourist town, but it is, among other things, a wonderful place for tourists to visit. This is partly the legacy of Alain Cintrat, who has just ended 20 years of public service as our mayor, and partly the legacy of his mother. Of course there were many other people involved in making their dream of memorializing the history of the Renoir family in Essoyes come true; but if not for their dedication and determination over a period of many years, it would probably not have happened.

In any case, it did happen, and as a result Essoyes has become a lovely and very interesting place for tourists to visit, along with the many other lovely villages in this part of southern Champagne, very near the Burgundian border.

So it was that, just before the quatorze juillet, I noticed that the village square was suddenly full of cars, the physically distanced lines outside the bakery and in our little grocery store were longer, and there were lots of tourists strolling through the town. (You can tell which ones are the tourists: they are the ones wearing sporty casual vacation wear, walking at a very leisurely pace through the streets of the town, rather than on the sidewalks. This is irritating only when you are trying to drive a car through those narrow streets, but it is irritation tempered by the knowledge that having tourists come here is a good thing for Essoyes. It is…)

The rate of COVID cases has begun to tick up in France again, and France is responding. Everywhere you go there are signs reminding people what they can, and in some cases must, do to help protect themselves and others, and slow the rate of infection. In Essoyes, starting in August there will be testing available once a week in the community center. And everyone is hoping that, if everyone continues (or begins!) to follow the recommended guidelines for containing the virus, we can avoid a second wave that would be worse than the first. I suspect health care workers are hoping that more than anyone, let’s try to help them out with that, everyone, shall we?

And so, life has returned more or less to normal–well, to the “new normal”–at least for now. For our family that means raspberry tartes for July birthdays–and we celebrated two of them in our home this month.

Happy Birthday, Phineas!

The tartes at lunch were followed by a delicious meal at La Guingette des Arts, on the banks of the Ource River, which flows through the center of Essoyes. (The photo at the top of this post, by the way, taken by “the birthday boy” that night, is not retouched. Believe it or not!) And here’s a photo of him enjoying his escargots at La Guingette.

There will be an organ concert in the church in Essoyes this weekend. How exciting is that? (After nothing happening in the churches for such a long time? Very!)

Wishing everyone a safe, happy continuation. Stay well. Stay safe. Prenez soin de vous.

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 is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and is currently working on her next book, a literary memoir entitled “
A Long Way from Iowa.”

July 29, 2020 at 6:01 pm 2 comments

Merci, M. le Maire d’Essoyes

Maire d’Essoyes depuis 2001, M. Alain CINTRAT ne s’est pas présenté à la mairie en 2020. Il a ensuite été élu conseiller municipale dans la liste électorale de notre nouveau maire, M. Thierry MERCUZOT, et continuera de s’engager au service du commune d’Essoyes dans ce role — celui aussi important. 
Son service en tant que maire désormais achevé, j’ai pensé que ce serait un bon moment de réfléchir sur son mandat, et de lui remercier de tout ce qu’il a fait pour notre commune. Alors, en janvier, je lui ai envoyé plusieurs questions, et il m’a répondu par mail. J’ai pensé de publier ce poste juste après les élections municipales, au mois de mars, mais à cause de la crise sanitaire, le deuxième tour a été reporté et son mandat prolongé pendant quelques mois. Enfin, voila ses réponses à mes questions envoyées en hiver :
(An English-language version follows the original, which was conducted in French.) Janet Hulstrand  
Parisien de naissance, j’ai grandi à Essoyes, qui est mon village même si j’aime Paris ou je vais toujours avec grand plaisir; c’est le berceau d’une partie de ma famille qui y réside encore en partie.
J’ai grandi à Essoyes, j’y ai travaillé, je m’y suis marié, et j’en suis devenu le maire en 2001. Mes parents m’avaient ouvert la voie: mon père en plus d’un travail très prenant s’était engagé dans les pompiers, il en est devenu le chef, j’ai suivi sa trace en étant moi même pompier, et je lui ai succédé comme chef du centre de secours.
Ma mère a toujours été portée vers les autres, c’était naturel chez elle, la maison était ouverte à ceux qui en avait besoin pour remplir des papiers, pour des aides diverses, ou pour se faire faire une piqûre à une époque ou il n’y avait pas d’infirmières. Elle a été conseillère municipale, je pense qu’un de ses regrets a été de ne pas être maire. Elle a compensé en créant avec quelques passionnés l’association Renoir, elle s’est investie avec toute la fougue qui la caractérisait. Aujourd’hui ce qui existe autour de Renoir c’est en grande partie grâce à elle.
M. le maire Alain CINTRAT (a gauche) et sa mere (a droit)
J’ai suivi la trace peut-être inconsciemment, c’était naturel; quand on m’a proposé d’intégrer le conseil municipal je n’ai pas hésité. C’était mon devoir de travailler pour ce village qui a accueilli ma famille et ou nous nous sentons bien; j’ai la chance que mes enfants puissent y vivre. Je n’avais pas d’idées préconçues, je n’avais pas de plan, j’apportais ma pierre à l’édifice sans ambition autre que celle de participer activement à la vie d’Essoyes.
Je suis devenu maire naturellement; j’étais passé de conseiller municipal à adjoint, puis 1er adjoint. Maire était la suite logique, c’est une fonction lourde, prenante, qui demande beaucoup de disponibilité; c’est surtout une fonction passionnante au service des habitants. Je crois qu’il faut aimer les gens pour exercer cette fonction, car c’est parfois (meme souvent) ingrat; il faut savoir faire abstraction des critiques, il ne faut pas attendre de remerciements, ce qui va bien aux yeux des habitants c’est normal, par contre dès que quelque chose ne plaît pas, la critique est là. Il faut être fort pour être maire.
Le quotidien est relativement simple: c’est de la gestion, il faut gérer le personnel, animer l’équipe municipale. La plus grande qualité pour être maire est à mes yeux d’être visionnaire: il faut savoir ce que l’on veut pour Essoyes dans les années futures, préparer des dossiers, lancer les études, demander les subventions demandent beaucoup de temps. Il ne peut pas y avoir d’improvisation, un mandat de six ans peut paraître long mais c’est très court pour des dossiers de plus en plus complexes à monter.
Un village qui perd des habitants est un village qui meurt à petit feu, c’est le constat que j’ai fait quand j’ai été élu maire, j’ai mis toute mon énergie à inverser cette spirale négative et si je dois aujourd’hui être fier d’une action que j’ai mené c’est celle ci. Essoyes gagne des habitants c’est suffisamment rare pour être signalé.
C’est une fonction enrichissante que j’ai exercé avec passion mais qui demande un engagement personnel important, il faut parfois être fort c’est le maire qui annonce les mauvaises nouvelles (par exemple les décès), et qui gère les situations difficiles–incendies, accidents…
Le conjoint doit accepter cet engagement permanent au service des administrés.
Je m’apprête à quitter cette fonction sans regret: il faut que des idées nouvelles émergent, c’est nécessaire pour continuer à progresser.
ENGLISH-LANGUAGE VERSION (translated by Janet Hulstrand)
Mayor of Essoyes since 2001, M. Alain CINTRAT did not run for mayor this year. He was recently elected as a member of the municipal council, along with the team of our new mayor, M. Thierry MERCUZOT. So he will continue to be involved in serving the commune of Essoyes in this also quite important role.
But, since his term of service as mayor is now over, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on his years of leadership, and to thank him for all he has done for our community. So, last winter, I sent him some questions, and he responded to me via email. I had thought to publish this post just after the municipal elections in March, but the pandemic caused everything to be prolonged, including the mayor’s term of service. Now, at last, here are the answers he wrote in response to my questions back in January.
I was born in Paris, but I grew up in Essoyes, which is my home, even though I love Paris, and I always love going there; it’s the home of some members of my family, who still live there.
I grew up in Essoyes, it is here that I worked, I was married, and where I became mayor in 2001. My parents prepared the way for me: my father, on top of a very demanding job, was a volunteer firefighter, and he became the chief. I followed in his footsteps, becoming a firefighter myself; and I also followed him as chief of the centre de secours.
My mother was always engaged with others, it was natural for her: our home was open to those who needed help filling out paperwork, or various other things, even to have a shot given in a period where there were no nurses in town. She was a member of the municipal council; I think that one of her regrets was to never have been mayor. She made up for it by creating, along with several other enthusiasts, the Renoir Association, and she gave to it all the energy that was characteristic of her. What exists today in Essoyes about the Renoirs is in large part thanks to her efforts.
I followed a path more or less subconsciously, it was just natural: when it was proposed that I run for municipal council, I didn’t hesitate to do so. I felt it was my duty to work for this village that had welcomed my family, and where we had done so well. I’m fortunate that my children can live here. I didn’t have any preconceived notions, I didn’t have a plan, I just added my stone to the building, without any ambition other than to participate actively in the life of Essoyes.
I became mayor also quite naturally: I went from municipal council member to deputy, then first deputy. Mayor was a logical next step. It’s a heavy responsibility, very demanding, and it requires a lot of availability; above all it’s passionate service to the residents of a village. I think you have to like people to do this job, because it is sometimes (even often) thankless: you have to know how to take criticism, you can’t expect thanks, when things go well, the people accept it as a matter of course; on the other hand, as soon as they don’t like something, they’re critical. It takes a strong person to be mayor.
The daily duties are relatively simple: it’s a question of management, you have to manage staff, and inspire the municipal team. The most important quality in a mayor in my opinion is to be visionary. You have to know what will be good for Essoyes in the coming years, prepare documents, launch studies, request grants. It all takes a lot of time. It can’t be improvised: a term of six years may seem long, but it’s actually very short given the more and more complex dossiers that must be prepared.
A village that is losing inhabitants is a village that is dying bit by bit. That’s what was happening when I became mayor. I have put all my energy into reversing this downward spiral, and if I can be proud of anything it is that. Essoyes is gaining inhabitants, which is rare enough to be noteworthy. It’s been rewarding work that I have done with passionate engagement; it requires significant personal dedication. Sometimes you have to announce bad news, or manage difficult situations: fires, accidents.
The mayor’s spouse also has to accept this constant personal engagement in the service of the town. I’m ready to leave this position without regret; it’s important for new ideas to emerge: that is necessary for things to continue to progress.

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 is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and is currently working on her next book, a literary memoir entitled “
A Long Way from Iowa.”

July 22, 2020 at 8:16 am 2 comments

Bastille Day in Essoyes 2020

…In France this holiday is called “la fête nationale” or, more commonly, le quatorze juillet. This year, as usual it started on the evening of the 13th of July…

Continue Reading July 15, 2020 at 9:14 am 1 comment

Déconfinement Day 17: France Slowly Reopens

In a small rural village, like where I live now, at this time of year crops become a matter of general interest. Even if you’re not personally involved in agriculture, you can’t help but notice the growing and thriving of things….

Continue Reading May 28, 2020 at 8:15 pm Leave a comment

Lockdown in Essoyes: Day 49

…May 1 was a national holiday in France, as it in many countries, as a day of international honoring of workers. But of course, with everyone still confined to their homes it was a pretty quiet celebration this year…

Continue Reading May 5, 2020 at 11:01 am Leave a comment

Lockdown in France, Day 35

Masks being made by volunteer members of the community are becoming available in our village. Isn’t this a pretty one?

Last week I was gathering dandelions in our yard, which is wonderfully full of dandelions. Because (did you know this?) dandelions are NOT weeds, they are very useful plants with a host of healthful options to offer us, everything from salad, to tea, to dandelion wine. They also are very important for bees, and bees are important for US. (So, not to go off on this tangent: but if you are still killing dandelions, please STOP KILLING DANDELIONS!!!!)

This week was different: a couple of projects had me busy at my computer. And then, toward the end of the week, everything got a bit complicated. First, I fell (on my face–again!) on my nightly .5 kilometer walk across the field.

I say “again” because I pulled a similar trick about a year ago in Paris. I am tempted to call this my annual “spring fall” except I am really hoping it is not an annual thing. (That time in Paris I landed on asphalt. This time I landed on gravel. There are interesting differences to note, but I will spare you the details…)

Anyway, I was pretty sure that I had also fractured my ankle again. But, hallelujah, and long story short, I did not! It is getting better WAY too fast for that to have been the case, and today our village doctor confirmed that it is not broken, not even fractured, pshew. And, in general, this was a much less serious fall for a number of reasons I won’t go into either…

Then my chest started to hurt. Oh, for goodness sake, now what? Do I call the doctor? thought I. Surely he has more urgent cases on his hand; surely I should wait at least a few days and see if it gets better.

Which I did. But then it didn’t get better, it got worse. And it kept kind of getting worse and worse…So I started doing the required internet research, and read enough to think that probably it was prudent to at least call him, describe my concern, and see what he said.

Another long story short, he came here, checked all my vital signs (and my ankle), gave me a couple of prescriptions to ease the pain in my chest, and ordered a COVID test. (Which the village nurse came and performed here in our home.)

I’m not the first one to say it, but these people are heroes. They are. Let’s all remember that “when this is over…” and make sure they are appropriately rewarded for their brave, humanitarian service. And I mean really rewarded. More than just heartfelt thank-yous, nice as those are…

So, we shall see what we shall see. The test has been taken, the verdict is out. The medicine is making me feel a little bit better and I am forcing myself to take it easier, and rest more than I accustomed to doing.

My younger son is here with me, he is a wonderful musician, a wonderful young man, and a much better cook than I am. And he is taking such good care of me.

Spring has sprung in Essoyes…Photo by Janet Hulstrand

And so, that is my report for this week. Very personal, very self-centered I suppose. Except I want to note that the heroes of this post are, once again, those health care workers (and others) who are out there every day helping us get through this.

All the rest of us have to do is PLEASE just do what they say. Which is mainly: STAY HOME! (And enjoy it…why not?) 🙂

Take care of yourselves, and stay home for the sake of OTHERS as well. as yourselves..and be well…until next week…

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 is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and is currently working on her next book, a literary memoir entitled “A Long Way from Iowa.”

April 21, 2020 at 7:52 pm 5 comments

Lockdown in France, Continued…

The colza is in bloom…Photo by Janet Hulstrand

I love our home in Champagne, and I love living in our quiet, but busy, little village, Essoyes, here in the Côte des Bars.

And it’s a good thing that I love spending time here: because I will not be going anywhere except to the village and back on my daily walks until at least May 11.

I feel so lucky, and so grateful, to be here during this time.

Last week was Holy Week. And although there could be no church services this year, on Palm Sunday at noon the bells in our church rang out joyfully.

On Maundy Thursday at 7:00 in the evening they rang again, this time solemnly.

And on Easter Sunday they rang joyfully again at noon.

Every night the citizens of Essoyes continue to flood the town with music at 8:00 pm as their way of thanking those who are continuing to provide essential services during the lockdown. They are beginning to vary the song: last night this song was played, in homage to a family member of several Essoyens who died yesterday, and whose funeral mass could not be largely attended because of the confinement.

The night before this was the song selected for sharing in the streets of Essoyes.

Crayons and line drawings were distributed to the children of the village the week before last, and last week the resulting artwork was displayed around town in the windows and on the walls of the businesses that remain open, and at the mairie. A nice (and appropriately educational) activity for the children, and a cheering sight indeed for all.

The mairie and some of the businesses in the village are displaying artwork celebrating “nos heroes quotidiennes” created by the children of the village…

Last night my son and I, along with millions of Frenchmen and women, watched and listened carefully to President Emmanuel Macron as he outlined the steps ahead for France as the country attempts to gain control of the coronovirus epidemic, and slowly begin a return to normalcy.

The main points were: France will continue to remain on strict lockdown until at least May 11. The borders will be closed to entry from non-EU countries until further notice. The French government is doing, and will continue to do everything it can to preserve both the lives and health of its citizens, and to find ways to address the inevitable economic consequences of this situation, and help those who need help.

Like his previous speeches during this crisis, Macron was calm, clear, and very candid (“…we still have several months of living with this virus..”). He started by praising all those who have worked tirelessly, unselfishly, bravely to attempt to defeat this thing. He urged everyone to continue to take the rules of confinement very seriously. He emphasized that although the period of confinement has been moderately successful in slowing down the advance of the disease, the epidemic is not under control, and that the continued vigilance of everyone is essential in order for this goal to be achieved. He explained some of the concrete actions the extended period of confinement will allow the government to put into place in preparation for a slow return to normalcy, including the provision of masks to all who want them and the amassing of a sufficient number of tests, so that after May 11 those who show symptoms of the disease can be tested. He stressed that both public and private resources have been aggressively mobilized to work together to adequately address this crisis.

And he said that as of May 11 there will be an attempt to begin to return to normalcy, step by step.  Progressively reopening the schools, beginning in the primary and secondary levels, will be among the first steps, as he explained, because “…there is an inequality in that there are those who don’t have access to the internet and can’t be helped by their parents.” This is only a tiny step toward addressing all of the many inequalities that really need to be made, of course. But it is a step in the right direction. One can only hope (and work together to demand) that this priority does not get lost sight of once things are more or less back to normal again.

I hope I have more or less accurately summarized what he said. Here is the video of the speech, and the entire speech in French, along with a summary of the highlights.

What was most comforting about this speech in addition to the calm intelligence throughout was the humility, the transparency, in other words the honesty of the president as he spoke to the nation. He who has been criticized for having a “Jupiter” complex was also uncharacteristically humble last night. (“We have to reinvent ourselves, and me first of all … We are vulnerable. I understand you have many questions and I would like to answer all of them. But I say in all humility, we don’t have definitive answers today.”)

I hope with all my heart and soul every day, along with many millions of my fellow Americans both at home and abroad, that something similar can begin to happen in the United States as soon as possible. I know that millions of U.S. citizens, and many of the state’s governors are doing all they can to prevent an even greater tragic loss of life than has already been suffered there. I hope that those leaders who have not yet joined them will do so soon. As soon as possible. It is hard to imagine what they are waiting for…

Meanwhile, in Essoyes, as elsewhere around the world, the coming of spring gives reason for hope.

Stay well, everyone. I’ll be back next week with another report. Until then, as they are saying here these days…Prenez soin de vous…

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 is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and is currently working on her next book, a literary memoir entitled “A Long Way from Iowa.”


April 14, 2020 at 9:10 am Leave a comment

Lockdown, Day 21: The Everyday Heroes of Essoyes


Essoyes in Champagne. Photo by Janet Hulstrand.

I thought it would be nice this week to talk about what everyday life is like in Essoyes these days, beginning with talking about those who have been continuing to work, every day, while the rest of us do our best to stay home as much as possible.

I’d like to first of all thank the people here in Essoyes who are doing such a great job of helping keep us informed of all the things we need to know–from which businesses will be open each and every day, to updated information about the ever-evolving rules of confinement as they are distributed by the government, to warnings about some of those unkind people who are unfortunately taking advantage of the situation to steal, rob, or otherwise trick the innocent and unsuspecting.  😦

But never mind them: forewarned is forearmed. Most people, not just here, but around the world, are discovering how much good we all have to share with each other. For one local example, both Essoyes and our neighboring village of Mussy sur Seine were featured yesterday in an article in the regional newspaper about community involvement in making masks. And through our mairie, volunteers have been bringing groceries, medicines and other necessary items to those who for whom it is difficult to get out, or who should not be going out.

These wonderful volunteers are helping to keep spirits and morale high also, in various ways. One way is by establishing our own local version of a nightly thanks to all the essential workers who are keeping us fed, caring for the sick, delivering the mail, picking up the garbage, and helping us in various other ways. Here is a link to the song Essoyens are blasting out their windows every night at 8 pm. The first few days, there were only a few people doing it and it was a bit hard to hear from where we are on the edge of town. But it seems to me that it grows a bit louder every night, so that now I can hear it better and better, drifting across the fields. It is indeed an encouraging sound, and a great way to remind us all that though we’re supposed to be keeping a good distance from each other these days, we can find new ways to be a community.


Spring Wheat in Essoyes. Photo by Janet Hulstrand.

Of course the farmers and vignerons continue their work. I often hear the enjambeurs heading out to the vineyards early in the morning. In the field next to our house the colza is beginning to blossom, and the wheat is that pure shade of green that you see only in spring; and it is a lovely sight to see when I take my daily walks, attestation de déplacement and identification safely stored in my pocket.

Our community Facebook page is also taking the time every day to salute all the other “everyday heroes” who are continuing to serve the community through this difficult period. The bakers. The traiteurs. Our grocer and his wife. The pharmacists, and nurses, the tabac (which does far more than sell cigarettes in France).  For the most part, in short, everyone is demonstrating just how well people in France, generally speaking, understand the meaning of solidarité. 

For example, I had arranged with the local taxi company to pick my son up for me at the train station in Vendeuvre, about half an hour away from here, right before this period of confinement began. Originally he was supposed to arrive conveniently at around 5:30 p.m.; but because of one cancelled train and another delayed one, it was 8:00 pm by the time he got there (which is dinner time in France, do you know what that means?!)

Nonetheless, the taxi company shifted; they were there waiting for him; they brought him to me safely and cheerfully, and when I called to thank the manager the following morning for helping us out, he used that phrase I hear so often in France. “C’est normal…” he said.

Well, it wasn’t really “normal” in this case: it was exceptional service, graciously and willingly offered because they knew we were in a pinch.

That is what solidarity is like: millions of relatively small, kind, gracious acts that we perform for each other to help us get through rough times, and easier ones too. I am grateful for the spirit of solidarity that surrounds me every day here in Essoyes, even when my daily walks there have been curtailed. And I am reminded of it every day, when I hear that music come floating across the fields…

Stay safe. Stay happy if you can. And stay well…until next week…

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 is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and is currently working on her next book, a literary memoir entitled “A Long Way from Iowa.”



April 7, 2020 at 4:57 pm 6 comments

Lockdown in France, Day 14

Well, we are going to be confined to our homes here in France for at least another two weeks. Nobody likes this idea: but all of us, especially those of us who are lucky enough to still be well (knock wood) also know that it is a shameful thing to complain about it…

Continue Reading March 30, 2020 at 11:20 am 4 comments

Lockdown Day 7: France Fights to Flatten the Curve

As I reported in my post last week, halfway measures were not working to keep people in their homes and at least a meter away from each other in France, and so on Monday night President Macron addressed the French nation again…

Continue Reading March 23, 2020 at 8:41 am 6 comments

Older Posts Newer Posts

Twitter Updates


Recent Posts

Want to follow this blog? Just enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,869 other subscribers