Archive for the ‘…et les Chambres d'hôtes’ Category



July 20, 2010

A moment of peace before the day begins.


I sit in the wooden lounge chair in the early morning hours, a hot mug (the French drink their coffee from a cereal bowl but I always feel like I’m going to spill half of it on myself) of café au lait warming my hands and my body.  This mornings air is brisk – a welcome change from the constant heat of the last few weeks.  Although the temperature promises to rise into the mid 30’s again today.   

Soon the girls will awaken, always up with the sun, never letting us forget that we told them one winter morning when the sun rises around 7:30 am that they were not allowed to wake us until they see the sun.  We forgot that the sun rises at 5:30am in the summer months.  We’ve regretted that rule for a few summers now. 

The guests will arrive shortly after expecting breakfast and conversation which we are happy to provide.  Everything is ready on the stone tables in the garden overlooking the vines.  The coffee is hot.  My mother-in-law’s homemade apricot and cherry preserves await the hot bread and croissants that Raphael went to fetch from our favorite bakery in town.  

This is my moment.  The water, which flows from a Roman source deep beneath the earth, trickles over the tiny fall at the base of the garden wall.  I never noticed its music before, covered by the daily noise of playing children and the rumble of the tractor as it makes its way up and down the fields.  

I watch a lizard scurry along the wall and remember something one of our guests said in parting the other day.  Clasping my hand and wishing me a good day, she said that I complete the place.  Raphael said later that it was the highest compliment.  It meant that without me, this place doesn’t work.  I wonder though, if I, like Raphael’s mother, will ever feel that this is truly my home.   

Raphael comes up behind me and runs his hands through my hair.  As if reading my thoughts, he says, “Without you, I don’t work.”  And I know that my home is with him.


Music to work by…

July 12, 2010

The soft sound of violin breaks through the heavy afternoon heat which seems to blanket the entire region deafening out all noise except the cicadas.   It accompanies me as I clean a bedroom in preparation for this evenings guests.  Through the end of this week we have various classical musicians, all part of the Cordes En Ballade, a festival of classical music in the Ardèche.  Each year we host musicians from the festival here at La Source de Cousignac.  It’s our treat to have ‘free concerts’ in our salon when they join to practice for the evenings show.  The girls are fascinated by the speed at which they play their instruments.  We’re not a musical family although Raphael did play the alto as a child.  I’m told he wasn’t extraordinary.  We still have the ancient instrument in the attic.  Ancient because it was old fashioned when he learned on it. 

 I wanted to publish a video of them playing but can’t seem to make it work.  With any luck, I’ll figure it out soon.


The good luck bird…

May 11, 2010

We have a new guest at the bed & breakfast.  Thankfully this guest doesn’t need a bed, towels, a mirror or a clean bathroom. Since this bedroom is currently being tiled and repainted, none of these things are available.  This guest sleeps on the chandelier or perched on the curtain rod.  Our guest is a hirondelle or a swallow. 

For the past few days the bird has circled around the cave, flying in and out evaluating places to build her nest.  When Raphael first saw her he was thrilled saying that a hirondelle is a sign of life, a good omen for the house.  The myth behind the swallow says that she arrives for the day of the Annunciation in March and stays until the nativity of the Virgin Mary on September 8th bringing happiness to the house in which she chooses to make her nest.  For Raphael, a believer in signs and possessing a stong faith with a special sentiment for the Virgin Mary, our new resident is a sign of good things to come. 

While I’m not too keen on this bird building a nest in a bedroom, I’m okay if she relocates to the old cave.  The problem I think is Kitty, who has discovered the bird and makes an odd mewing sound while jumping from one place to another in an effort to catch it.  My father-in-law is certain that if we let the bird stay and make her nest, the cat will soon have a meal out of her.  Raphael disagrees insisting that the swallow is too intelligent to get caught.  It’s true, she seems unaffected by the cat, perched, as she is, on the light fixture, looking from side to side, her long forked tail pointing down between the lightbulbs.  I opened the window last nigh hoping she would fly out.  But the girls, excited with this new toy, kept closing the window when I left the room.  Raphael assured them the swallow was not going anywhere last night.  She feels safer in the house with us than out in the dark and rain.  He was right.  This morning she was still there when we woke, flying out the still open window around 8am, most likely off to search for breakfast. 

The window has been closed most of the day and the old cave as well.  I did see her sitting with another swallow, her mate perhaps, near the cave when I returned home from the school run.  She flew off shortly after.  As evening falls, and with the bedroom window once again open to allow the paint to dry, I’m wondering if she’ll return for the night.


We have a name…

April 20, 2010


The water source flows from deep under ground, to the water bassin, along this canal past the house to a creek in the woods and finally to the Rhone river.


I’m excited to announce that we’ve finally decided on a name for the bed & breakfast, La Source de Cousignac.  For the past three years, we’ve been using the name of the winery, Notre Dame de Cousignac which was fine at the beginning when we were just renting a few rooms in my in-law’s house, the family house.  But as the business grew and continues to grow and change, we need to define it separately from the winery.   

Our new name was chosen at the perfect moment as this weekend we welcomed our first guests of the season.  They were in the area to celebrate a 60th wedding anniversary.  They chose us as their lodging because they were here 10 years ago, when the same couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the winery.  At that time, the caveau was not the wine store, it was a large room empty of wine which was rented out for events such as weddings and their anniversaries.  The three couples who stayed with us last weekend had fond memories of the event and upon discovering that we now run a bed & breakfast were pleased to stay with us.   

La Source de Cousignac came out of the idea that we wanted the name to 1:  tie into the winery and location which is Cousignac, our quartier, or neighborhood.  When locals think of Cousignac, one of the first places that come to mind is the winery.  We want the bed & breakfast to be the second thing they think of.  It’s also a way to link the bed & breakfast with the winery.  As a seventh generation vigneron, winemaking is in my husbands blood and a vital part of the history of the family and the land.  It is impossible to completely separate wine from the house and the people who live in it.  And why would we want to do that anyway?  We want to b & b to have a distinct personality without forgetting that it is part of a working winery.   

The point of entry for the water source.


The 2nd reason for La Source de Cousignac is that we wanted to link the bed and breakfast to the environment.  Our water source begins deep under ground.  It was used by the Romans who first accessed it deep underground and this access exists today blocked by a wooden door and hidden behind overgrowth.  The source is never ending supplying fresh, cool water even on the hottest, dryest days.  On summer mornings, when I awake early to prepare breakfast for our guests, I like to take a cup of coffee to the front garden and in the silence of daybreak, listen to the trickle of water as it tumbles down the tiny fall before crossing the path.  It is a relaxing moment to pray or reflect before the rush of the day and the responsibilities of work and children.   

Thirdly, we are obviously a source of wine.  Our guests come to stay for any number of reasons but they almost always join us in the garden of an apéritif of our wine.  We are one of those rare people who like having strangers come to visit.  We enjoy meeting new people and providing them with a relaxing visit and a taste of Provence and the wine it creates.  In fact, many of our guests become, if not friends, acquaintances who return regularly for a stay and often our wine.   

Which brings me to the final reason we chose this name.  We are a spiritual place, with God and Notre Dame or Our Lady of Cousignac in our presence.  We think of our place, our home as a source of welcome and maybe an escape for our guests.  A place to relax, to feel free, to do as I said above, reflect.  A source of renewal.  It’s for all these reasons that we finally decided on the name La Source de Cousignac for the chambre d’hôtes.