Friday, October 2, 2015

My Ancestors, the Percherons

Amongst my ancestors from France, are the ones that come from Perche in Lower Normandy.  I also have ancestors from Upper Normandy, Paris, Poitou-Charentes and Brittany.

On this trip, we visited the region where several of my 11th generation grandfathers and some grandmothers, come from.

Le Perche is only about two hours west of Paris.

This plaque commemorates the Tourouviens who immigrated to Canada.  Mine are the Gagnons.
This is the Gagnonnière, the original Gagnon farm with outbuildings

 The three buildings today are inhabited by Parisians who seek the quiet and natural beauty of the countryside.  While we were there, the owner of the original house above welcomed us with great patience.  There are many, many Gagnon descendants who visit La Gagnonnière.

Indeed the Perche is perfectly pastoral and will soften the heart of the most hardened city dweller in less than half a day. We were immediately taken as well with the kind-hearted, Canadian-loving Percherons who have long been aware of the close ties that unite us.



Thursday, October 1, 2015

Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Story

My friend Rose is the one who introduced me to Vaux-le-Vicomte via a beautiful coffee table cookbook she had at her store, Wellington.  A couple of years later, I picked it up at a used bookstore online and wrote about it here.

Rose also told me about a writer Ina Caro, who had a novel approach to visiting monuments and castles and the like in France, by century.  I discussed this book here.

We have just now returned from our annual triplet as described here.  We went to Vaux-le-Vicomte and had a blast whizzing around the huge gardens in a golf cart as proposed by Caro in her book.

Vaux is owned by the comte de Vogüé and his wife.  His mother was a Sommier and the chateau has been in the Sommier family since 1875.

For the sake of the story, notice the dépendances (outbuildings) on  either side of the castle.

After Vaux, we headed to Perche country, where many of my French ancestors come from.  We had a reservation at a 17th century B & B run single handedly by the lovely Jackie. 

Before we left her house after our second day there, we talked of Vaux and what a beautiful place it is.  Jackie then said that she had never been there but her uncle Emile lived in the chateau's dépendances because his father was a coachman for the Sommier family.   She then recounted that old madame Sommier had a liking for Emile and kept in touch with him until her death.  Jackie said: "As a matter of fact, when he did his first communion, she gave him a missal that she had specially engraved.  I think I have it around here somewhere..."

Loosely translated, the message inscribed says that she will never forget him and she hopes that the missal will help him remember her.

How's that for a (his) story?


Thursday, September 24, 2015


 My friend Nelly is an antiques dealer.  Yesterday, we went over late afternoon to chat over tea and cookies and for me to look over some of her stash to see what I could see...

 I bought some ribbon, a couple hats to put up on the wall by the staircase and a black-beaded necklace.  And then, we stayed for supper...

Nelly's daughter and her husband were visiting and were supposed to leave before supper but they stayed to contribute their particular specialties to the dinner fare.  Valerie made Socca, Renaud made Pistou for the pâtes au pistou and Nelly made a roasted vegetable salad.  Alain purchased bread and a fantastic head cheese which was free of the offensive bits you can sometimes find in head cheese.

The ambiance, as you can see, was magical but best of all were the hosts.  Kindness, a passion for life and a love of people and beauty were in abundance...

Nelly's house is, I'm guessing, 17th century. A maison de ville (town house) with garage on the street level, kitchen and living room next up followed by bedroom and bath and lastly, a studio with terrace at the top.  The tile on the first floor is original and gorgeous.  Visiting Nelly's is pure eye candy.

We will meet again in October when her town hosts a vide-grenier, a community-wide garage sale.

I. can't. wait.