La Rentrée, Essoyes

A wonderful new use of the Chateau Herriot d’Essoyes: the Academie Musicale de l’Aube en Champagne opened its doors this week.

What a busy week it has been in Essoyes! As if from Sleepytown to Busytown, France–overnight!

First of all, last week there was the inauguration of the Academie Musicale de l’Aube en Champagne (AMAC), an exciting new presence here in our village. This new school will be using the space previously occupied by the village’s elementary school, in our chateau. Even though la rentrée (which is “the return,” meaning the return home to work and school in early September) had not yet arrived, a nice crowd had gathered for the opening ceremony, which included welcoming remarks by Mayor Alain Cintrat and Pierre-Emmanuel Fischer, director of the school. There were also (of course!) a few songs performed by the school’s instructors. And (as always, here in Champagne), afterward tasty hors d’oeuvres and champagne were served. The school is now accepting students of any age who wish to learn a wide variety of musical styles and genres: so anyone interested should contact them. The spirit of the school is very welcoming and relaxed, so no one should hesitate to contact the directors and ask any questions you may have. I will be interviewing them soon as well, so stay tuned for that.

I have always thought that there is something quite nice about starting one’s education in such a beautiful building, and generations of villagers who started their schooling there have felt the same. (There is quite an interesting history of this building, material for another post, when I’ve had a chance to do the research.) Yet I can also understand the many reasons that teachers in 2019 would want to be able to teach their students in a more modern building. And so, despite the inevitable (and understandable) grumbling about the downside of “progress,” on Monday the children of Essoyes (and a few of the surrounding villages) returned to elementary school in a brand-new building. I don’t have a picture of that to post but I’ve seen pictures of it: and I can tell you there were many smiling faces. I also learned from AMAC’s Facebook page that the directors of the new music school performed for the students in their new elementary school building this week. What a beautiful way to bridge the transition between the old and the new!

On Tuesday the empty field just outside of town was suddenly filled with caravans as workers for the vendange (the grape harvest) began to arrive. We were having American guests join us for lunch that day and they asked if there was “some kind of festival or something” happening in town. “No, it is that the vendange is about to begin,” I explained.  When I had gone into town earlier that day to pick up food for our lunch from our wonderful traiteur, the parking lot in the center of town was almost completely full (from having been nearly empty a few days earlier); negotiating the narrow main street of the town was more challenging than usual with a heavier flow of traffic in two directions; and as I headed down the road toward our home on my return I saw women heading into town carrying large empty baskets which (I assume) they would be carrying back to their camping site full of bread.

And it’s not just the vendange, though that would make plenty of activity in and of itself. There are trucks carrying huge containers of water to the campsites of the vendengeurs; trucks carrying empty crates up into the vineyards, and coming back down with crates full of grapes; truckloads of wood coming into (or passing through) town with their loads of wood; and the pièce de resistance of all this sudden flurry of activity, at least during my little foray, was that as I approached our driveway I had to make room for a huge truck loaded high with stacks of hay to go trundling by.

In between all of these new beginnings, and the seasonal return of agricultural activities, time was taken to remember important events of the past. In Chaource, not far from here, and now mainly known for its wonderful cheese, 79 years ago, in 1940, on the same day Paris was occupied by the Germans, the town was brutally bombed. The town chose to commemorate instead the anniversary of the liberation of the town in 1944, giving full credit to the American involvement in that liberation. And in Bar sur Aube, friends who have recently moved there from the U.S. were personally invited by the mayor to attend a special commemoration of the liberation of the town 75 years ago, led by General Patton. I’ve written about this before, but it bears saying again: it is not true that the French have forgotten, or never appreciated, our help in liberating them from their Nazi occupiers. It is just not true.

So that is just a small sampling of what has been happening in Essoyes this week. Stay tuned for more, coming soon…

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.” 

September 7, 2019 at 9:48 am 6 comments

Book Review: The Existential Englishman: Paris Among the Artists

…It seems to me that The Existential Englishman is first and foremost a love letter to Paris, and it is an extraordinarily rich, complex, substantive, and thoughtful love letter to the city indeed…

Continue Reading August 30, 2019 at 7:43 am Leave a comment

Bonjour, Arras!

I often tell people that one of the best things about France is the incredibly rich array of choices there is in terms of places to go, and things to see and do in this relatively small country. The diversity of landscapes, types of architecture, cuisines, local languages and dialects, and local and regional history, not to mention climate and geography, is quite simply amazing…

Continue Reading August 23, 2019 at 8:18 pm 4 comments

Au revoir encore, Paris…

My heart breaks a little bit each time I have to leave Paris…

Continue Reading August 10, 2019 at 12:18 pm 6 comments

A Place to Be Alone, with Others

I wrote this piece as a contributor to a new initiative seeking to Save the Paris Café. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you will “like” and follow Save the Paris Cafe also. It’s a good thing to do…


by Janet Hulstrand

When people ask me what they should be sure to do while they’re in Paris, I always say the same thing: “Just be sure you leave some time to simply wander—walk, sit in a park or café, and take some time to just watch the world go by.”

I say this even if the person asking me is only going to be in Paris for a day or two. It seems to me to be even more important if you only have a little bit of time in Paris to have this very Parisian, and most wonderful experience—that is, to take the time to do “nothing” and just enjoy the beauty and the inherent interest of the world surrounding you.

The French have a word for this kind of thing: flâner is the verb, and it is variously translated. Most often it is translated as “to stroll,”…

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July 31, 2019 at 6:22 pm Leave a comment

Edith’s Cafe Spotlight: Les Deux Magots

Save the Paris Cafe is a wonderful new initiative launched by the energetic, imaginative, healthy-community-minded Lisa Anselmo. And this is the first essay in a series that will be presented on this website by the inimitable, knowledgeable, and witty Edith de Belleville. Take a look everyone, and join in this effort–we’re all needed to help keep Paris’s wonderful cafe culture alive and well! Janet Hulstrand


Parisian storyteller, historian, and licensed tour guide Edith de Belleville shares the history behind her favorite places around Paris to sip a coffee or glass of wine and watch Paris go by. We’re launching the series with the venerable Les Deux Magots in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
[La v
ersion française ci-dessous.]

There are cafés in Paris where you can’t just do whatever you want. There are rules. Les Deux Magots is one of these. But do not be put off by this. As soon as you pass through the majestic revolving door of this mythical café, you’ll understand what I mean. You are now in the hallowed halls of the Parisian Intelligensia.

On the wall are black and white photographs of the famous artists and writers who came before, and sat in the same comfortable banquettes where you are now sitting: Ernest Hemingway with Janet Flanner; the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire; the…

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July 12, 2019 at 11:00 am 2 comments

Summer in Essoyes: Vernissage a la Maison Renoir

An exhibition entitled “Evocation de l’exposition Renoir de 1934 par Paul Rosenberg” is on display at the Maison Renoir in Essoyes through October 30…

Continue Reading June 26, 2019 at 1:53 pm Leave a comment

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