Autumn in Essoyes


It’s still pretty green here (on some days I wonder, could Ireland be any more green than this?) but the vines on the hills surrounding Essoyes are beginning to turn various shades of red and gold.

In Essoyes, the vendange began on September 15 this year, and all the grapes–well, all the grapes there were in this year that was not very successful–had been picked by September 25 or so. As always, the vendange brought new faces and a new bustling energy to the town for those 10 days. Rain or shine, cool, misty mornings, blazingly hot afternoons, students, gypsy families, and of course many townspeople pitched in to bring in the grapes.

And then one day, just like that, all the “extra” people were gone!

For the vignerons the work goes on, of course…as everyone else goes back to their normal activities, and the gypsy families on to the next harvest, I guess?

Just after the grape harvest, I had a very special visitor, who came here all the way from Colorado for a one-on-one writing-from-the-heart “workshop.” Like everyone else who has come here to work on their writing with me, my solo writing-from-the-hearter was charmed by Essoyes:  by the beauty of the village, the friendliness of the people, the politeness of the children, the deliciousness of the food prepared by our local traiteur, and the cheese! (She was particularly fond of a local source of pride, chaource, and of the tarte tiède au chaource she had at the excellent meal we shared in nearby Loches, at the hotel Au Coeur des Bulles.)  And of course with the champagne, which we tasted one beautiful autumn afternoon at Champagne Senez , in nearby Fontette.

After the session was over she took my suggestion to stay in beautiful Troyes for a few days before returning to Paris, and I decided to go with her to Paris, for a one-day round-trip (Paris is only an hour and a half away from Troyes, a very pleasant train ride) so I could hear my friend Gary Lee Kraut speak at Adrian Leeds’s Apres-Midi gathering. Here I am with Fran from Colorado, after Gary’s very interesting talk about “Travel Therapy and the Rewards of Travel Beyond the Clichés.”


Meanwhile the very ambitious project  of restoring the Maison Renoir–the family home in which Pierre-Auguste Renoir and his wife, Essoyenne Aline Charigot Renoir, spent some of their happiest years–is well underway. The house is scheduled to open to the public in June, and many exciting activities are being planned in connection with that major event in the life of this little town. Stay tuned for more, in my forthcoming interview with Mayor Alain Cintrat.


This week we said a sad farewell to local artists Anne de Champagne and Denis Herbillon, who are on to their next home, and future adventures in Saint-Calais, in the Pays de la Loire. Our loss, their gain! I wish them all the best in their new home, and hope to see them now and then!

And now, with plenty of wood stored up for the winter, it’s time for me to get back to doing what I know how to do: write!

So..stay tuned for more, coming soon!

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature. She divides her time between the U.S. and France, where she offers writing workshops in Essoyes, a beautiful little village in the Champagne region. She is currently leading a book group at the American Library in Paris, and in January will be teaching “Paris: A Literary Adventure” for the Queens College (CUNY) Education Abroad Program.

October 23, 2016 at 6:54 pm Leave a comment

Storing Up Wood for the Winter–in Champagne

The first problem was that I knew basically none of the things one would need to know in order to get wood for the winter. Here is an almost verbatim transcript of the first conversation I had with a friend who was trying to help me figure it out…

Continue Reading October 14, 2016 at 7:28 pm 4 comments

Q & A with Harriet Welty Rochefort, Author of “Joie de Vivre” and other books about the French

The author of “Joie de Vivre” and “French Toast: An American in Paris Celebrates the Maddening Mysteries of the French” talks about misconceptions on both sides of the Atlantic, what she loves about the French (and about the U.S.) and her new novel…

Continue Reading October 1, 2016 at 1:53 pm Leave a comment

And then they were gone…

Les gens de voyage came here to pick grapes during the harvest…and then they were gone again…

Continue Reading September 27, 2016 at 1:44 pm Leave a comment

September in Essoyes…

It has not been an easy year for the vignerons in this area, whose year-round, painstaking, exacting work brings the world one of life’s greatest pleasures…champagne…

Continue Reading September 18, 2016 at 5:02 pm 2 comments

August in Essoyes

…some people leave to go to the South of France on vacation, and others come here to vacation, mostly from Paris, but also from Belgium and other places. You can tell the tourists from the townspeople (or the summer people) by the little maps they clutch in their hands as they walk the streets, following the trail of Renoir in Essoyes…

Continue Reading August 16, 2016 at 9:44 am Leave a comment

Bastille Day in Essoyes

Bastille Day did not end peacefully in France this year, but it did begin that way, at least in “my” little village of Essoyes…

Continue Reading July 16, 2016 at 9:38 am 4 comments

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