Our Little ‘Chateaux’ in St. Fréchoux

Thursday, September 2nd, 2004: St Jean de la blaquiere, France

We set out around 11 this morning to run some errands in the closest “big” town of Clermont l’Herault about a 10 minute drive away.

The market is on today and there is a gentle and pleasant ambiance about the town and its people. An organ grinder plays at one end of the square while a jazz singer serenades at the other. People are coming and going in the dappled mid-day sunlight, baguettes in hand. No rushing or pushing; a calm but purposeful attitude prevails on this market day.

Also on our itinerary today is a drive to see Monika and Ditmar’s house that we have rented in the very, very small hamlet of St Fréchoux for two weeks upon our return at the end of September. We have instructions from various emails from Monika and we head out. We cross the autoroute and double back along the side road, following the signs for St Fréchoux. Vast fields of grapevine stretch out to gently rolling mountains. We pass some out buildings down by a gentle bend in the river and another sign post for St Fréchoux but no town on the horizon. We continue the drive to the next roundabout and see a sign for St. Fréchoux heading back in the direction we just came from. So we turn around and follow the side road back along to where we have just driven and of course the directional sign for St. Frechoux had been turned the wrong way and indeed those few buildings by the gentle bend in the river, all 11 of them, are St Fréchoux. We park on the side of the field and find our small house with the white shutters. It is quintessentially French; a small outside patio that greets you first, wooden shutters on squeaky hinges, low-beamed ceilings and well loved and lived in furniture. It is very charming.

We find the keys and open the door, finding the fuse box to turn the electricity on. We throw open some shutters and get our bearings. I open a window on the second floor and am greeted by an elderly woman across the road standing on her balcony and sternly staring me down. Strangers, it seems are an unusual occurrence in St Fréchoux. I say “Bonjour” and explain to her who we are and that we have rented the house from Monika and Ditmar and she immediately changes her demeanour and wishes us “une bonne vacance” but reminds us before she turns and leaves that “this is a very quiet place”.

Monika tells us later that this is Mme Gaujoux, the monarch of St Fréchoux, and she lives with her four grown children who are viticulteurs. Monika tells us that Mme Gaujoux would be more than happy to show us the chapel and probably happier to keep tabs on the comings and goings of the new strangers in town.

We finish our brief tour; making mental notes about what we’ll need and what we’ll buy, drop some of the wine that we purchased and head back to the guest house and the pool.

We expect to have a lovely and very quiet time in the hamlet of St Fréchoux.

Festive France Day One: Bienvenu!
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Across the Normandy Countryside to Vimy
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