November 15 2009
“A few years ago we (me and my partner Hervé van der Straeten, a furniture and jewellery designer) were spending the weekend at a friend’s place in Burgundy – actually Colette, of the Paris store – and we fell in love with the area. We started driving around and ended up buying a place in a village called St Sauveur. At first, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about moving to the country, but now I come almost every weekend. It’s very green, quiet, accessible, and a great place to do absolutely nothing that involves work. I’m a pretty nervous personality, and it really helps me to be calm.
We usually leave Paris on Friday evening and then stay through until Monday. In our village there’s literally nothing except a church, so in the morning it’s completely quiet; the only noise you hear is the cock crowing and the cows. Our house is not too big, but we’re still working on it four years after buying it. It had to be completely renovated inside and we’ve tried to restore it to its original style, so we replaced tiles with stone, opened a boarded-up window, and so on. It has a little barn, too, and a lovely garden with lots of fruit trees.
In spring, summer and early autumn we try to have breakfast in the garden (pictured) both Saturday and Sunday – coffee, tea and fresh marmalade that Hervé makes from fruit from our trees. He likes to experiment. I have a 1972 TR6 Roadster I keep at the house, and often I’ll drive into St Sauveur to the local baker and get croissants and bread. I buy extra and take it to Paris for the week.
After breakfast on Saturday we may go to one of the flea markets around us, which are full of old stuff. We pick up sets of knives and forks to be silvered again, old porcelain, magazines or lamps – you never know when they are or what you’ll find. There’s also a very good farmers’ market in St Sauveur, where we get fresh produce and fish. I like to eat seasonally, and it’s all organic. Then, if we have friends to stay – we never have too many, because the house is small, but we have lots of friends with houses in the area – we might go to one of the beautiful cathedrals in the area, such as Auxerre or Vézelay, and then to one of the wonderful little restaurants on the River Yonne, which is a large river where you can swim. It’s very deep, and clean. To have lunch by the river, perhaps some local fish of the day, is one of the best ways to experience country life. We like La Côte Saint Jacques in Joigny, Les Tilleuls in Vincelottes, or Le Jardin Gourmand and Le Barnabet in Auxerre.
Then I like to drive into Chablis to buy wine; it’s only 30 minutes from our house. I might stop at the antiques dealer Michel Matériaux Anciens in Auxerre, where we got our chimney and our baths. In Chablis, all the white wines are good, though I really like Chassagne-Montrachet, which can be found at Domaine Laroche. My favourite vintner was an old “proper” woman named Madame Colinot, who would receive you in her cave as if it were the 1940s, dressed in a beautiful little black dress. Now she’s retired, and her daughter runs the business.
For dinner, we like to have friends over. We’ll set the table in the garden and Hervé will cook whatever we got at the market (I don’t really cook) and we’ll just talk and play cards until midnight when everyone goes.
On Sunday, I get woken by the church bells at 7am – I listen for a while and then go back to sleep. After breakfast, Hervé will work in the garden, planting; I read and dream. Sometimes we’ll go to a medieval château called Ratilly that’s about 15km away in Treigny, run by a family that makes terrific pottery and hosts music events and art exhibits; or we’ll walk in the forest.
We try to stay over Sunday night, and go back to Paris on Monday. I get up early and can be at the office by 10 or 11am. When I’m in Paris, I’m always very active, working, going to museums, going out. Here, even if I try to work, I can’t. I’ll be sitting under a tree, and the breeze will distract me, and the next thing I know…”