Friday, August 16, 2013

The Art Set: My family in France

My friend Jean-Michel's produce stand at the entrance of the Bric à Brac brocante in Molineuf.
The Art Set: My family in France.
by Charlie Scheips

If you are lucky enough to spend more than a couple weeks in France, you find a different rhythm than a typical tourist. My brother came to France more than 20 years ago simply because he fell in love with a French girl. Teddy (I’m one of the only people that still call him that) met Sophie, by chance in Maine when her uncle, Michel, invited Teddy over for lunch.

The graffiti of my nephew's bedroom door.
It was love at first sight, and within four months my brother was off to France. Teddy is a jazz guitarist and Sophie is a pharmacist near Blois. They have one son, Pierre Elliot Scheips, who is my only nephew and now aged 12.

My brother was working as a luthier in Maine when he met his future wife. A luthier is a restorer or builder of musical instruments. Sophie’s uncle Michel had worked for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in his youth, and later became the chef for the William Burden family.

He had fallen in love with an American girl named Patsy while working for the family in Maine, and never left. Michel was a lover of American jazz and had met Teddy when he started to play music during the cocktail hour for a hotel there. The rest, is — well, history.

So on Tuesday, my brother came by car up to Paris to install a trellis that he had built for my friend Susan Train’s apartment on the rue de Grenelle. He was a bit late due to traffic and complications mounting the two panels of trellis atop his car, arriving around 7 pm. After spending a couple hours installing the trellis on Susan’s terrace, we drove across Paris to the 11 arrondissement to the apartment in which I am staying.
The trellis ready for paint.
The Eiffel Tower from La Tour Maubourg and rue St. Dominique.
Rollerbladers in Paris every friday night!
It was already a little too late to go out for dinner and the entrecote de boeuf I had bought was too much of a production to prepare for the grill — so we made do with what we had — melon and prosciutto, pasta with tomatoes from Teddy’s garden, cheese and baguette, and some nice vin rouge.

The next day was a national holiday in France — Assumption — or absorption if you know what I mean — not to be sacrilegious. So Teddy proposed that I should come down to the Loire for a visit with his family including Sophie’s parents Hubert and Monique who came to stay over night. Although Sophie, Teddy and Pierre see them with great regularity, I hadn’t seen them in about a decade.
William Foucault at La Rotonde, my personal French genealogist.
Earlier in the week I was having dinner with my friend William Foucault at La Rontonde when I casually mentioned I had distant French relatives. The next day I gave him a little genealogical summary I made a few years ago about what I knew about my mother’s mother’s French family.

Felix Vallotton, self portrait, 1885.
They were called Boulineau — French Huguenots who went to South Carolina and Georgia via the West Indies. I knew that my grandmother’s name was Savannah Anne Boulineau — although she had died before I was born.

Well, William, a genealogy addict of the first order, took this information and went to town with it. By the next morning he had emailed me several connections via a French genealogical web site about the Boulineau family and its various genetic branches.

It turned out that I have the wonderful artist Felix Vallotton as an ancestor as well as a Jewish side of my family that I had no idea about before.

There was one Rachel Nowland who married a Boulineau around the end of the 18th century, and she was the niece of the first Jewish governor in the United States — David Emmanuel who served as governor of Georgia for several months in 1801.

Who would have known?
Letter Signed from Samuel Coleman, Virginia clerk, to Georgia Governor David Emanuel, 1801.
So the next day, I decided to drive back to the Loire with Teddy. We arrived around 8 p.m. to a lovely dinner of quiche Lorraine, salad, cheese and peaches with Sophie’s parents Monique and Hubert, and my nephew Pierre (who preferred ham and baguette). After dinner, I was taken next door to the house of Teddy's neighbor Chita, who kindly offered to let me stay there.

I arose early the next day to a thermos of coffee from Teddy and a plan to make an early start for the brocante (flea market) at the nearby village of Molineuf. It's officially called “Bric à Brac” but the quality is superior to most brocante — in the region.
We arrive at Molineuf.
“Bric à Brac.”
We arrived a little after 9:30 a.m. and there were already scores of cars in the parking field nearby. At the fair, we ran into Teddy’s neighbor Claude Hubert le Carpentier who used to be an antiques dealer in California. He invited us over for a drink later in the afternoon at the Chateau Le Portail — the beautiful bed and a breakfast inn that he created over a decade ago just a few steps across the river from where Sophie and Ted live.
The path to the Brocante.
Sophie, Pierre, and Teddy Scheips at the Brocante of Molineuf.
The "pub" at the brocante at Molineuf.
"Une pression" for breakfast.
After about an hour of rummaging around, we stopped for a beer at a concession stand that offered delicious mussels in garlic, pommes frites and local wine. All the workers were volunteers as the proceeds of the brocante go to support local schools and care for the elderly of the village. 

I collect papier maché from the period of Napoleon III. I found six very rare orange-red little plates that only cost me 10 euros! A few stands down the way, we came upon the most amazing giant sculptures of wooden mushrooms. We were marveling about how insane they were when a nice couple passing by commented to us — “we were poisoned even before we heard the price!” They were about 450 euros each.
Poisioness mushrooms for sale!
If I had more money I would have bought every one of these!
The good old days.
There are always anglophiles in France!
View of the fair.
So after three hours at the fair we met Sophie’s parents and drove back home for a lunch in the garden.

Sophie prepared tomates farcies stuffed with delicious sausage meat prepared the day before by the local butcher, and coulomier (like a larger camembert), chèvre and apricots, and peaches we had bought that morning at the stand just outside the flea market.
Les Tomates Farcies de Sophie.
After lunch, I had a rare nap and slept like a baby. Then we walked over to Claude Hubert’s Chateau for a glass of wine and tour of the Chateau. Claude Hubert was preparing a dinner for a dozen guests that evening that would feature a leg of lamb with a tomato Provencal sauce — the aroma of fennel permeated the kitchen.
Teddy Scheips in his driveway.
My little cottage next to Teddy and Sophie.
 Teddy with his in-laws Monique and Hubert.
A small part of Teddy's huge garden.
Teddy and Sophie's turkey, chickens, and "Bloopsie" the goose.
The path to the Chateau Le Portail.
My editor "blackie."
Claude Hubert has decided to sell the Chateau to the next lucky customer.  I’d love to buy it myself! 

Below are a few photos of the fab Chateau, and here's the link to its website.
Tomorrow, back to Paris — Poor me!