The Easels of Renoir and Essoyes, Plus Troyes
Paris Plage opened Saturday, but I wasn’t there to put my toes in the Seine-side sand. Instead, writer/teacher/editor Janet Hulstrand and I rented a car from the Gare de Lyon and got on the road in the direction of her summer home in the town of Essoyes, Champagne.
Essoyes, is a quiet village southeast of Troyes on the banks of the Ource River (a tributary of the Seine), where Impressionist artist Auguste Renoir lived and loved and where he is buried. It was the home town of his wife Aline and model and governess of his children, Gabrielle Renard, all represented in many of his paintings. The village is as old as are the Celts of the 9th-century, but the wood houses with thatched roofs were destroyed by fire in 1763, leaving only a few of the stone homes. One old château, purchased and expanded by Olympe Heriot (son of a wine merchant and brother of the founder of Grands Magasins du Louvre) at the end of the 19th-century, was bought back by the town in 1836. In the buildings now are a school and a tax office.
Dotted around town are corners offering large reproductions of paintings done by Renoir while he was living in Essoyes, enhanced by pretty flower planters. His atelier and home are open for visits as is his grave. In addition, there is a special cultural center devoted to his life and work (renoir-essoyes.com/).
Janet and her family have a chalet-style home with a pool on a beautiful triangular-shaped wooded property just on the edge of the town. Over the years, they have come to know the locals well and Janet has hosted many “Writing from the Heart” workshops in this beautiful corner of “La France Profonde.”
As luck would have it, the weekend was punctuated by “Les Chevalets d’Essoyes (The Easels of Essoyes) — festivities and entertainment celebrating the artists of the village. About 20 artists who live and work in Essoyes opened their doors in and around the town to exhibit their works in conjunction with children’s workshops, concerts and even fireworks!
As we wandered from one atelier or studio to another, Janet met up with friends to whom I was introduced… One was not representing her paintings, but instead was offering her syrups, jams and preserves. I came home with “Menthe” and “Framboise” syrups and “Confiture de Champagne” — a pale champagne-based jelly.
Among the trees on the lawn in front of the château were a group of local residents picnicking at a folding table in elegant aristocratic style. They spotted me taking their photo and rather than be annoyed, welcomed the attention of an American like me congratulating them for their ingenuity and style.
Behind one artist’s exhibition space existed a private garden to a house made up of several structures, held together by a glass-walled atelier, owned by one of the city’s most illustrious residents. Around a long oval table were many of the town’s artists indulging themselves with champagne, coffee, chocolates and afternoon tea-type snacks. We were invited to join them and I felt like one of the privileged few to be let into their world…if only for a few moments.
On our way back to Paris Sunday we detoured through the town of Troyes to have lunch and explore the medieval city made up of some of the most beautiful half-timbered (“colambage”) 16th-century structures in France. Troyes is as old as the Roman era and was a hub of numerous ‘highways’ leading to Reims, Milan, Orléans and other metropolises. It became an important trading town during the middle ages (the name “troy weight” for gold derives from the standard of measurement evolving here) and is known as having been recovered in 1429 by Joan of Arc. The architecture is what is most impressive about Troyes, of course, and it is sure to charm you as it did us wandering among the tiny medieval streets.
For more information on Champagne, Troyes and Essoyes, compliments of Janet Hulstrand, visit these links:
A la prochaine,
Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, Inc
P.S.There is lots of property for sale in Essoyes, among them Janet’s comfortable and beautiful house, now that her family is grown and going their own ways. If you are interested in learning more about it, contact me at [email protected].
P.P.S. The air date has changed for the newest HGTV House Hunter’s International episode “Finding Happiness in Paris” — it’s now August 7, 2014 at 10:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. E/P so mark your calendar and plan to tune it! Visit our HHI Facebook page and let us know what you think of the latest episode.
P.P.P.S. You can still take advantage of this special offer: Book “Le Provençal” studio apartment for stays in July 2014 and you’ll receive the low season rate — that’s a discount of 25 euros per night! Le Provençal is a cheerful and charming apartment located on the quiet courtyard of a traditional 18th-century building in the heart of Le Marais. For more information visit Parler Paris Apartments or email [email protected]
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