French Property Shares   
Lily of the Valley
  Le Muguet porte la bonheur
 Lily of the Valley is a symbol of love & joy

 Mention May 1st in France and people will automatically think of two things: (1) Great, no work today and (2) Let's go buy some muguet! Muguet is the French word for lily of the valley, a white flower that is closely associated to the French Labor Day holiday or Fête du Travail.  Growing up in Renaison, a small village in the Roannais (an agricultural region about two hours from Lyon), my father would return from his morning errands on May 1 with un brin de muguet (a small bunch of lily of the valley) tied with a ribbon for my mother, brother, grandmother, and me.  Muguet is found everywhere that day as vendors set up shop on street corners throughout France. (article from a French blog)

On the night of April 30th to May 1st, there is a local custom called passer le mai (passing into May).  Late into the night, young people go from house to house singing joyful songs about the renewal of spring, similar to how some Americans sing carols at Christmas.  People used to invite the carolers into their homes and offer them eggs and coins, but nowadays this custom is less prevalent.Oddly enough, the May 1st holiday originated in the United States when large groups of workers protested in 1886 to shorten the work day to eight hours.  French unions followed suit, and May  

1st became a day for workers to schedule protests in favor of a shorter work day.  Workers would wear a red triangle to symbolize the division of the day into work, sleep and leisure.  May 1st officially became a paid bank holiday in France in the 1940s.  Although the holiday was once celebrated with a red flower, a color associated with France's Socialist Party, the more neutral muguet eventually took its place. The muguet is a symbol of happiness and joy, so don't forget to buy one if you happen to be in France that day!
Houses which speak to us- le Muguet at Vers Pont du Gard 
 by Francesco Bianchini

Houses talk to us. It might take time to hear their voice, to adjust to their symbols. They tell us about previous lives, different occupants. Decorators are often chatty people, full of their ideas, who might fail to catch what the house is trying to say. 

Dan and I always try to imagine and interpret a house's multilayered stories. Our aim is to minimize the decorator's presence while enhancing the potential for the house - to show what it was like for generation after generation to live in it.  Le Muguet was a relatively easy job. The charm of it was all there to be seen, and Ginny has been the easiest commissioner.  

CamargueThere is often a serendipitous event - call it the intervention of a patron saint, or the deus ex machina - that starts it off. We were discussing creating an opening through a plain partition wall between the salon and the kitchen. We knew that wall was a problem, just because it lacked color and movement in a context rich with period details. Yet cutting through it didn't seem the best solution either. Then a set of eight engravings caught our eyes at a large brocante (flea market) in the nearby town of Carpentras. If the subject - portraits of courtiers from the reign of Henry II of France (1519-1559) - was in line with the origin of the house (a section of the castellated wall of old Vers Pont du Gard, with its vaulted stone salon, its plafond à la after salon le Mfrançaise, or beamed ceiling, its spiral staircase and fenêtre à meneau, or mullioned window) the wooden frames painted in black and yellow were going to lead the way for many of our choices. It reminded us of our visit many years ago to the chateau de Bussy-Rabutin where the owner, disgraced from the court of Louis XIV, surrounded himself with the most incredible gallery of portraits of men and women of his time on a whim of both nostalgia and humour.  

How to describe the beautiful yellow, so sunny and hearty, that you see so often in Provence on market stalls? Or those vibrant fabrics, mounds of spices, and warm ceramics of Marseilles, Anduze and Montpellier? It is a textured deep yellow, with a hint of burnt sienna, that reminds you of the robust soul of the land, the cheerful approach of its people. The massive fireplace at Le Muguet lost its sombre allure and found a domestic contentment with the mantel adorned with yellow platters and hearth screened with a new ochre curtain. And an Anduze enamelled vase is softening a sharp stone corner, red and yellow toile hangs from the windows, yellow lampshades top old petrol lamps. 
View from le Muguet terrace
When you see Le Muguet for the first time you'll be enchanted by its quintessentially French surroundings. The square it overlooks is planted with ubiquitous plane trees, the men in the village linger all year on sunny days to play endless games of petanque under the trees next to a 19th century covered fountain. The vans from the vendors of fish or vegetable stop regularly during the week. And when April rolls around, and the asparagus fete takes place, everyone in the village sits at long tables covered with white linen, eating, drinking, and joking to the sound of the accordion.  

'French' and 'domestic' have become les mots d'ordre (watchwords) for all our picking. A 'comptoise' - the French country version of a grandfather clock - was found at a local dealer, adorned with naïf decoration on the pine case. Every house, every kitchen, would invariably resound with the ticking and chiming of a similar clock: part of the French provincial DNA, just as is the case with the old-fashioned petrol lamp, with the porcelain cloche, now hanging from the salon ceiling. It bespeaks an era not too distant from us, especially in terms of comfort and cosiness. Yes, it is still possible to live our modern lives surrounded by objects from the past that speak of functionality, dignity, and pleasant design. A 'Voltaire' chair, still upholstered in its rich green linen velvet, can be as comfortable to snuggle in with a book than anything manufactured today - and the curves of a Louis XV caned chair have no rival in the history of furniture making for simple elegance.  

Another happy 'trouvaille' (find) at a flea market made our day: a huge wooden panel with a central diamond motif also a suggestion of French renaissance, that found its perfect place on the hood of the main bedroom fireplace. 



 To follow our progress, travails and triumphs, visit Magical Medieval Makeover blog: CLICK HERE FOR BLOG 


We welcome THREE new le Muguet owners. Care to join us? 

There are TWO RESALE OWNERSHIPs of Catalonia SCI and Maison Bleue LLC now available.  With the best of France and  Spain on your doorstep, this is a slice of heaven!
Catalonia SCI-  1/8th share - $64700 
Maison Bleue LLC- 1/10th share- $62900 


Ginny- Maison Bleue 2008
MB Ginny front door
View from Cerbere terrace
View from Cerbere terrace

French Property Shares
36 Howell St
Canandaigua, New York 14424
(001) 585 905-0849