It was a hot and muggy summer day late in the month of August. The white wine was on ice. The defrosted shrimp ( Trader Joes) looked limp and unappetizing. The cheeses, fontina, gouda, and cheddar tasted pretty bor…ring on those multi grain crackers with sesame seeds.
My love of France and its beautiful countryside lingers still.
I jumped on the Internet. Headed straight to Burgundy France via Vacation Rentals Buy Owner. I must have perused over 100 french farmhouse jpegs before I found the stone cottage and beautiful farm belonging to Frances and Benjamin Haas. And their magnificent Manor House which was designed and built to perfection.
And then a moment of inspiration. To travel to Burgundy and discover the place that had inspired Colette, the French novelist and performer best known for her novel Gigi.
Colette was born in Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye, Yonne, in the Burgundy Region of France. Upon her death in Paris in 1954, she left 50 published novels. I had always wanted to visit her home town village having read the Claudine series.
Claudine still has the power to charm in belle époque France. And to discover Colette’s true essence as a writer was part of my dream.
“What a beautiful life I’ve had”
Maurice Goudeket published a book, Close to Colette: An Intimate Portrait of a Woman of Genius about Colette, his wife, in which she remarked about her own life.
When she died in Paris on 3 August 1954, she was the first woman given a state funeral in France, although she was refused Roman Catholic rites because of her divorces. Colette is interred in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
“France was the perfect place for a honeymoon. We had wanted desperately to find a quiet corner of the world in which we could speak our dreams for the future. I had always wanted to be dropped into the French countryside. Just like the postcards I had received from my parent’s excursions, I envisioned beautiful rolling green hills, dotted with fruit trees and vines laden with grapes.”
While traveling by car we found a magnificent place to stay. A small chateau in Varetz called, Chateau de Castel Novel. A place I later learned had been visited by Colette. The concierge was kind enough to offer us her special room. The winding staircase led to her tower suite, the one where she was said to have penned one of her books from the series Claudine.
My premonition then was to someday name my daughter Colette with the hopes that she would inspire me to write about our lives.
“I awoke after several hours. Jim was fast asleep. I quietly stepped across the floor and sat in front of the small writing table. Colette’s. Throughout the vast darkness hundreds of stars filled the sky. A fingernail moon seemed to blend into the atmosphere of an endless galaxy and appeared as if it were not more than a few stars away.
I closed my eyes and reached inside the drawer. My hands searching for paper and a pen. I felt a deep inner connection to someone I would someday discover when I composed this letter to my unborn child.
I will know you when you appear. We will have journeyed as mother and child many times together. You were my mother and I was your child.
You have come to me through the universe just like the myriad of stars before me we have made the connection.
I will know your special ways. Your laugh, the lightness and halo that covers your blonde curls. Speak to me of your genuine nature and I will find you in the forest of my dreams. Speak to me of your wisdom and I will strive to learn the lessons I have been placed on this earth to be taught. Speak to me of your love and I will learn compassion for all of life. Let me know of your life so I can find greater meaning for mine.”
It didn’t take us very long to connect. The pictures of her farm were so inviting but were amplified by our fascination with each others lives. We had so much in common as parents; concern for the environment and the health and safety of children.
Finding Frances Haas
Frances and her husband Benjamin are both from Holland but their love of horses created a desire to design, develop and restore the great stone ruins of abandoned farms houses. Some had great promise and others not.
It took tireless hours and tremendous skill sets. Working with craftsmen whose opinions would often be undone… by Benjamin. Finding the people to rebuild meant seasons would pass with little effort to boast words, “almost done.”
But when it was finally done the Haas’s could boast with great pride. Their French country farmhouse would eventually attract me and Jim.
We booked our flights on Virgin Atlantic using miles and upgraded to Business Class. Having the extra leg room and special meal service was truly worth it. To save money, we booked our one night stay at The Holiday Inn located in Bastille and then spent it on a magnificent meal at Le Train Bleu, one of the most beautiful restaurants in all of Paris.
Our hotel choice was very convenient, comfortable and well priced. Best perk, a short walk across the street saving time for a quick coffee and cheese croissant.
Our first meeting took place after a sublime train ride aboard the TGV from Gare De Lyon station to Le Creusot.
The kindness of strangers
Benjamin had purchased our tickets a head of time. It’s all french to me. Navigating from one location to another, not speaking the language, but wanting to connect. Can you imagine? I even saved the receipt as a memento.
Dear Frances and Benjamin,
We can never repay you for the incredible hospitality and heartfelt experiences you provided. If we could have one wish it would be to share our experience with the world. Maybe we should call it, Vacation Rentals for Friends.
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Do not miss this experience! You can book either the Stone Cottage or the entire Haas farmhouse. Bring the whole family! But check time zones first before you call to book your Burgundy4U dream vacation. Part 3 of my series will highlight the farmhouse.
Frances and Benjamin Haas
71490 st jean trezy
+ 33 385 98 96 20