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  • Writer's pictureMme Vanessa Williamson

Lives lived are endlessly fascinating

Updated: Jun 29

6 Feb 2020

This winter we welcomed the quiet months, with their opportunity to recommence work renovating our wonderful first-floor salon and take time to help plan wonderful holidays for our guest's enquiries for the coming year. We also loved having time to catch up with friends, something as simple and pleasurable as sharing a meal with them. Yet we are discovering at least twice a week the phone rings or a booking notification pings on my phone. We rush about making sure everything is perfect for the arrival of our next guests. Living in Europe our guests can arrive from anywhere in the world. It’s a constant surprise of fascinating people who find their way to our B&B door. Most are intrigued to stay in a 17thc historic home & are even more surprised to discover Australians as their hosts. Easy conversations flow as we talk about how we all find ourselves in rural France in the quiet lovely town of Mayenne. We have had a guest from India, who stayed with us for over two weeks. Moving to Paris to undertake a Master’s degree, having just graduated was looking for work. A native Hindi speaker, who learnt English, and now French. He started in a local Mayenne company for two weeks on a cyber security project. The result is a brilliant year-long job offer, and an opportunity to transition to a Working Visa. Then the rush was on to assist him find him an apartment to live in and a bed to sleep on by the following week. He has now moved to live in Mayenne and is hoping to play for a nearby town cricket team over the summer, & we see him at the markets on Saturdays.

Our delightful guests from China arrived with an hour's notice at midday one sleepy Sunday morning. I opened our gates to meet a stunning lady who spoke no less than 5 languages with her male colleague, assisting the business transactions in translating. They travel to Europe seeking new business for their company. Following up on a local business suggestion from Matt they returned 4 months later to their “home in France” for a meeting with that new company. We are expecting them back again in March. This week a businessman from Israel checked in, and after breakfast, we shared a great conversation comparing life and cultures of our home countries. He also travels regularly across Europe for work visiting Auction Houses. The regular Deceased Estate sales of country ancient noble families, selling the ancestral Chateau contents are fascinating to attend. Often an opportunity to explore and very old maisons, the houses is temptation enough to attend. The reality is I cannot trust myself not to bid. So, I troll the online catalogues absorbing in the ephemera furniture, endless vast dinner services and glasses, damask & monogrammed table lines that once dressed tables in fine homes if fashion and style, now echos of a style of living long gone.

Having bid farewell to our Israeli guest, we picked up young Lachlan from the Laval train arriving from Paris. He flew in earlier in the day for his first-ever trip to Europe. With only a few precious hours to spare in Paris before his train, he caught a bus to see the majesty of the Hausmanns city of light for the first time. For a young man from a small country town in Australia, taking in the vast expanse of the Louvre and walking along the Seine, was a life-changing experience, he talked with the passion of the possibilities of his life in the future. He said those few hours were life-transforming, he spoke passionately of wanting to pack up his life and move immediately to Europe. This was exactly how I felt on my first visit at 21 years old in 1984. A family connection brought him to our door in Mayenne. An aspiring portrait painter, he has worked hard to save up for his first European trip of a lifetime. In a few days, we take him back to the trains and bid him farewell on his journey to Florence. He has been accepted into a prestigious 6-week intensive art school, studying painting-drawing techniques for portraiture & life studies. His dream come true and I couldn’t imagine a more wonderful introduction to Europe and the possibilities for his life ahead.

I have always found the lives people lead endlessly fascinating. I think perhaps that curiosity makes me well suited to being a B&B owner in France.

Thank you for reading

Vanessa Williamson

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