My French Heaven

FOOD, PHOTOGRAPHY & JOIE DE VIVRE IN BORDEAUX, FRANCE

To Papy Choux with love!

World War 1

On November 11th we celebrate the lives of the 18.5 million brave souls who fought for our freedom in the tranches of WW1.

For our family, it is also a special opportunity to remember our dear “Papy Choux” (grandpa cabbage). He was my great-grandfather. We gave him his nickname because he was an avid gardener and planted more cabbage than anyone else in town.

World War 1

Papy Choux was one of the Lucky” ones, as he lost his leg quite early in the war and was sent home in the Summer of 1915. He was a farmer in the Dordogne before the conflict started. He obviously couldn’t keep on working on the farm with his injury. That’s when he decided to move his family to the Bordeaux area and started the wine trading business we still run today.

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Papy Choux lived a long and happy life and died of old age at 98 in 1981. I feel so lucky to have known him. He told me so many amazing stories…

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Here are a few pictures of the old farm (and the lady who rented it from us after the war), Papy Choux himself and the 15th Dragon Company on the eve of their departure posing in front of one of my grandfather’s mercantiles. The hospital pictures are of him between the time he was injured and the time he actually came home. I also took a few shots this morning at the remembrance ceremony of some local men who participated in full uniform. They looked very smart indeed. Some of them were smiling which was quite fitting as people thought the war would only last a few weeks and left with high spirits…

World War 1

Thank you Papy Choux for your courage and all your love. We think of you often and we miss you…

When a grand castle becomes a home

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

My friend Corinne and her husband André are what we call in French “des amoureux des belles pierres”, which kind of translate like “lovers of beautiful stones”. But “belle pierres” means more than just pretty stones, it means an old home that has soul and a history. It is about “cachet” and class and history and authenticity. That’s it! Authenticity!

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

And so Corinne and André bought a château near mine a few years back. It is called Château Latour Ségur. It is almost a thousand years old and is nested in a large park with magnificent old trees. Oaks, Lebanese cedars, linden trees… It has a large pond in the back, a rose garden up front and an amazing vegetable garden and orchard at the end of the grand alley. Then there are grand stables and barns and so on and so forth.

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As all great people, Corinne and André are animal lovers. There are many dogs running around the château. And chickens and geese and…

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A place like this, so large, lost in the trees at the end of a vineyard could look quite bleak and feel oppressive. It takes a lot of love and talent to make it all look as colorful and bright and full of life as it is. These people are madly in love with their home and they have renovated it with so much care and taste.

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Many wealthy people from all over the world buy their dream home in France. They invest in a grand castle and strip it bare. What they’ll typically do is a complete overhaul rather than careful renovation. They end up stripping the soul away. They don’t understand that these stones have memories. They don’t get that old sometimes is SEXY. They do a complete face lift when all the place really needs it a good glass of wine a pretty scarf and a night out with the girls… You see, I, for one, like a woman with wrinkles. It tells me she’s laughed a lot and i’ll probably have a blast with her around…

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At Latour Ségur you will find beautiful accommodations and a state of the art spa. This place is truly magical and the couple who brought it back to life are very special indeed!

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

Oh! And André, although he’s pent most of his adult life in the States, is from Belgium! Needless to say he always has the best beer in the fridge and makes “French” fries like noone else!!!

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Latour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

Beloved tree resurrected…

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As many of you know, I live in my grandmother’s townhouse now. The property was bought right after the war by my grandfather and took half a city block. He needed lots of grounds and buildings to store his wine (note: he was a wine merchant, not the world’s biggest alcoholic). In the black and white photos from my archives, you’ll see the family having coffee (and wine of course) in the garden with part of the orchard in the back, my sister (who is now 58) watering the plants and my grandfather and grandmother on the very month they bought the house in 1947.

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The house was also the company’s headquarters. As time went by, the company evolved and the processes were streamlined. My sister, the latest CEO, decided to keep less stock. Most of the wine we sell now stays on property at the châteaux she buys it from. Long story short: we didn’t need the warehouse side of the property and all the buildings were converted into condominiums. As a result, half the garden was converted into a parking lot. I didn’t really mind, as the garden was much too large for me to take care of. The only thing I really missed was a HUGE fig tree we had there. I spent most of my childhood playing around that tree. And, once a year, Paulette, my grandmother’s cook, would use its figs to make the most wonderful jam.

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Now back to 2013. As I was cleaning my garden last year, I noticed a tiny fig tree growing on a rock in the middle of my herb garden. You see, Paulette couldn’t pick all the figs for jam, my grandma and I also raided the tree regularly. We would pick the darkest fruits and bring them back to the house for everybody to enjoy. So I guess one of the figs fell from our basket and landed on that rock in the herb garden. Nature did the rest.

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I will never see my grandmother again and I miss her every day, but my beloved fig tree is coming back to me…

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It will be years before I see fruit again. So I went to the market and got the sweetest figs I could find. Today I decided to enjoy them with a few slices of Camembert on tasted walnut bread…

 

Call me the bliss catcher…

Rallye des remparts 2014

You see, at the end of the day, it’s not food or wine or cars that interest me the most. It’s the people who know how to really enjoy these things who really fascinate me. My nephew Geoffrey and my friend Jame are such people. They are true petrol heads. I joined them both last weekend at the Angoulème Rallye. Le Rallye des Remparts. At least half the participants were British and I must say this: thank god for the Brits and their love of cars…

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Anyhow, I know most of you couldn’t care less about cars, but I know that every single one of you, like me, admire passion and pure beauty….

This gathering is one of the largest in Europe. More than 1200 cars from all over the continent were listed. I think my favorite was a little old MG with a silver hare on the hood.

Here is to bliss! Here is to “joie de vivre”!!!

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