The Grape Years – La Maison des Deux Clochers

This is an excerpt from my first book project about our adventures buying, renovating, and renting out our four homes in Burgundy. I’m currently searching for a publisher and / or agent, so if anyone knows of anyone who would be a good fit s.v.p. send them vers moi!

This excerpt of “The Grape Years – La Maison des Deux Clochers” picks up as Franck and I think we have found the perfect house in Burgundy – an absolute steal.  After hiding out in the village washing house (so the other villagers won’t see us) the realtor finally arrives and we begin the tour…


Magny-Les-Villers, Burgundy, France


As we approached the black Citroen that had pulled up in front of the gate, a sweaty man stumbled out of the driver’s seat. A flurry of papers slid out of a file he clutched in his hand and scattered over the dusty ground. Franck collected them swiftly, passed them back to the realtor, and herded us towards the shady patch in front of the house gate.

Once we were safely away from the village’s main thoroughfare, Franck stuck out his hand. “Bonjour.”

The real estate agent was still muttering vague mercis and merdes and fais-chiers but managed to shake it.

Vous êtes Franck Germain?”

Oui. And this is ma femme, Laura.”

Being introduced as Franck’s wife was only a year old and still gave me a shiver of delight. There was a cave-man possessiveness about the word “wife” in French; “femme” meant both “my wife” and “my woman” at the same time.

The agent clasped my hand briefly in his moist paw and then began to forage in his pocket for the key to the front gate.

Franck was quivering with the need to get us out of the villagers’ sight. He sighed in relief when the realtor finally extracted the key and opened the creaking barrier.

“So you’re from Châlon,” Franck said, his voice low as we walked into the grassy yard between the two houses. “This is a bit far away for you. Do you represent a lot of sellers in this area?”

The agent shook his head. “Almost never. Completely out of my secteur, this is, but it is being sold by some old ladies who are friends of my mothers. I’m doing it as a favour but to tell you the truth it’s become excessively inconvenient.”

He led us, or rather was hustled onwards by Franck, into the first house that ran low-slung across the back of the yard.

I stepped inside and looked down. My feet stood on huge flagstones – perfectly polished with time and wear. The room was beautifully cool. From what I knew of these old Burgundian houses, the walls were made with stones equally as thick and massive. The kitchen was sparse and simple but I loved everything about it; the scratched wooden cabinets, the huge double sink, even the spiral fly tape that was dotted with several large and expired victims. The back of my neck prickled; I swear I could almost feel the sweet breath of Franck’s guardian angels behind us.

We continued on to the other rooms. The house was small but oozing with potential. There was the fabulous kitchen, bien sûr, and then a bedroom graced with wooden floors with deep patina. I looked right on past the mustard and green velvet wallpaper, the cross complete with an impaled Jesus over the headboard, and the dried and very dusty bridal bouquet under an even dustier glass dome on the bedside table. Take all that away and this room would ooze with charm. Next to the bedroom was a small WC with a sink but no other bathroom (I wondered where the previous occupants had washed – in the well?). Next was a separate living area with more glorious flagstones and a massive stone fireplace.

Franck didn’t say a word but from the flash of his hazel eyes I knew he wasn’t missing a thing.


A suivre…

La Maison des Chaumes Reviewed!

Because we are hardly objective, here is a a lovely email and photo (of our clematis in France!) received over the weekend from our most recent guests at La Maison des Chaumes – Thank you Peter and Carole.  A bientôt on espère!

Bonsoir, Laura et Franck,

Needless to say – we’ve so enjoyed la Bourgogne – as shared earlier – very new to us and really a treasure, just as Laura has noted in much of her writing. As much as our trip really was planned to center around the joyous occasion of a marriage – I said to Carol today that regardless of the absolutely surreal experience we’ve had as guests at the wedding – attending the civil ceremony, being with the extended family for many days prior to the wedding – we would have very much enjoyed being here on ANY occasion!

Your home has been such a solid nest for us – as, I’m sure it has been for others, but – as you may have noted – we’re pretty particular with our vacation rentals here in France and yours was undoubtedly among the best we’ve encountered. Really, Laura and Franck you must be commended for you extreme attention to the details we Americans and Canadians appreciate in a vacation rental. But, really – this is a HOME and we very much appreciate that aspect – it is beyond what one would hope for – and has all the amenities that we expect in our own homes!

Thank you – thank you!

The roses are just getting to bloom at the end of the front terrace – and the rosemary is green and bright along the walk way. The peonies in the back garden – is that your neighbor’s????- should bloom next week – as is their lilac – white and purple.

As shared, the shower is the best on the continent!!! The kitchen is superb – enjoy the oven and stove immensely! The washer and dryer also deserve commendation as the best in France! Not typical in our experience! We could actually dry clothes without burning them – ha!

So enjoyed the wine here – particularly, Chateau Meursault, Savigny les Beaune, Pommard and so many others – really enjoyed the Musee de Vin –

We’ll keep in touch and hope to hear from you soon – we DO hope to return here!

Regards – Peter

The Grape Years – La Maison des Deux Clochers

This is an excerpt from my first book project about our adventures buying, renovating, and renting out our four homes in Burgundy.  I’m currently searching for a publisher and / or agent, so if anyone knows of anyone who would be a good fit  s.v.p. send them vers moi!

This excerpt of “The Grape Years – La Maison des Deux Clochers” picks up after Franck and I have arrived back at his family home in Burgundy to try and recover from two exhausting years in Oxford where I worked day and night completing my law degree.  I’m teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown which isn’t helped by the fact that we’re still in limbo – awaiting my final exam marks which will dictate our future.  After I receive a small and unexpected inheritance from my grandfather we try to distract ourselves by looking for a little pied-à-terre of our own near Franck’s village…



If an amazing property for sale at a bargain price in the charming village where Franck and I were married was a sign, what was the meaning of a wasp getting stuck in my sandal?

We visited the property in Marey-les-Fussey the next morning.  The realtor was driving in from Châlon-sur-Saone, about half an hour South, and the only free slot he could give us was eleven o’clock.  Right away would have suited us much better, but we reminded ourselves that it wouldn’t do to appear desperate.

We walked to Marey-les-Fussey, only a leisurely ten minute stroll through the vineyards from Villers-la-Faye.  We arrived half and hour early, of course, and there was no chance of getting lost.  We had only driven by the sprawling property about a dozen times or so the day before.

I crossed the street and walked right up to the front gate of the property.  It looked deserted.  The agent had told Franck that the sellers, two elderly sisters, had already moved into a nursing home.  The red tiled roofs and the old stone well in the courtyard beckoned.  Franck tugged at my arm and pulled me back into the shadows on the other side of the street.

“Everyone in the village will be watching,” he hissed.  I surveyed the empty cobblestone thoroughfare.  A vineyard tractor rumbled in the far off distance, but that was the only sign of human life.

“In here!” Franck ducked under the thick stone walls of the village washing house and pulled me in behind him.

“What’s wrong with just walking around the yard of the house?” I asked, blinking as my eyes adjusted to the dark.  “Nobody’s there.”

“We mustn’t be seen,” he answered in a furtive whisper.  “Or overheard.”

There was a little round window looking out to the street.  I stood on my tiptoes and peered out.  Still no sign of life except a few chickens clucking their merry way around a grassy patch two houses down.

“There’s nobody out there,” I said.  “Unless you’re worried the chickens are spying on us.”

“They’re there even if you can’t see them.”


“The villagers.  They’ll be watching us.  That’s how it is in ces villages.”

Franck was always full of tales of the mysterious workings of ces villages, but I was skeptical.

I looked out the window again.  It was just past ten thirty, but the day was already so hot that waves of heat shimmered over the cobblestones and seemed to slide down the slopes of the vineyards which dropped from the village on either side.  There were worse places to wait than under the cool of the ancient lavoir, to be sure, but I still couldn’t believe there was any real need for the cloak and dagger furtiveness.

“Even if the villagers are watching us,” I countered, though I was far from convinced, “Surely we’re allowed to visit a house that’s for sale, aren’t we?  Or is there a law against that that I wasn’t aware of?”

He reached over and pulled me to him.  “It’s not that.” He nipped my earlobe.  “The fact is that if they see us visiting the property they will start to think they  should take more interest in it.  They’ll steal it from under our noses.”

“Why would they want another huge property when they all own a house in the village already?”

“To keep an outsider from buying in their village.”

“An outsider? You’re from one village over.”

Franck’s teeth flashed in the dim light.  “I might as well be from outer Siberia.  Don’t forget that I also married an etrangère.”

The roar of a car engine drowned out the chickens’ clucks.  Franck used one strong arm to pin me against the wall while he peeked out.  Cool humidity seeped through my T-shirt and a pointed rock edge poked into my back.

“It’s him,”  Franck informed me and let me free.  We emerged from our hiding spot and tried to walk as nonchalantly as we could across the blistering road.


A suivre…

The Tour de France in Burgundy this Summer

Bike crazy? Fan of the Tour de France? Here are some tips on combining the world-famous bike race and your Burgundian vacation this summer.

The Tour de France will run from Saturday June 30th to Sunday July 22th 2012. The 99th Tour de France (big anniversary coming up in 2013!) will be made up of 1 prologue and 20 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,479 kilometres.

Here are the 2012 stages that are an easy driving distance from our Grape Rentals in Burgundy:

  • Monday July, 9 – Stage 9 – Arc-et-Senans to Besançon – Individual time-trial / 38 km
  •  Tuesday July, 10 – Stage 10 – Mâcon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine / 194 km
The official map of the tour France 2012
 Here is some more background on the cities close by our vacations rentals on the 2012 Tour de France route. This Information is provided by the Official Tour de France website.

“Arc-et-Senans was chosen by Louis XV to house the Royal Salt works in 1771, but it waited until 1996 to see the Tour’s peloton. It was during a stage which set off from there, in Doubs, which finished in Aix-les-Bains. A novice called Michael Boogerd was the winner and this was the first of two victories in the Tour de France for the Dutch rider.”


“The prefecture city of Doubs was already on the 1905 Tour map, which makes it the oldest city associated with the race, after Paris, on the 2012 route. The first finish in Besançon is one of the race’s historical stages as the riders, who had set off from Nancy, went over the Ballon of Alsace, a difficulty which symbolized the future ascents in the mountains, for the first time.

In 2009, Russia’s Sergei Ivanov was the winner there, by shaking off the other breakaway riders not long before the citadel came into sight. And on the subject of time-trials, Lance Armstrong won the last one organised in Besançon in 2004.”


“The two time-trials that the Tour has held in Maçon have crowned two of the speciality’s champions. In 1991, Miguel Indurain secured the first of his five titles by beating Gianni Bugno and Greg LeMond. And in 2002, Lance Armstrong also maintained his advantage in the last time-trial.

During the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné, the stage in Maçon provided an opportunity for the young German rider, John Degenkolb, to confirm his entry in the club of highly regarded sprinters, by winning on the banks of the River Saône, at the foot of Lamartine’s statue.”




Tour de France:     !!The 2012 Map!!




Pre-order the map T-shirt 2012:

Out My French Window

 I am yearning for France at the moment.  Maybe it is the fact that we have had a grueling long, gray winter here on the West Coast, or maybe because we have now bought our plane tickets and are counting the days until we return to Burgundy.  Mostly, though, it is because my sister Jayne, her husband Mark, and their daughter Anna have taken up residence in La Maison des Chaumes for the past week while they are on vacation in France.

The weather has been stupendous – today apparently the thermometer got as high as 30 degrees.   In Victoria today the high was 8 degrees.  Aie aie aie.   

And then there is this photo Jayne sent me of our cherry tree in the backyard in full bloom.  During the five years we lived in Burgundy looking out my kitchen or bedroom window to this profusion of white blossoms meant that Winter was truly over and Spring had officially arrived.

And then there was Jayne’s second photo – a shot snapped from our wrap around deck of the village houses and the fields beyond. 

The Burgundian Spring turns the fields and vineyards such a bright green that you have to blink a few times before it sinks in that such a colour truly exists.  As a backdrop to the stone village houses, there is nothing more stunning. 

Long, leisurely meals out on our deck,  waking up in the morning to warm air and cool tile floors…I may be typing this up in my parents’ playroom, but in fact I am in our house in France, looking out the window.

Saint Vincent Wine Festival this Weekend in Corgoloin!

Very important news for anyone is Burgundy this weekend.  The amazing Saint Vincent Wine Festival is being kicked off tomorrow morning in the nearby village of Corgoloin.

Even more amazing, this year they have actually managed to translate the festival website into English

I wish I could be there.  If you can be, please drink lots of good local wine and sing a “Ban Bourgingon” for me.