Every day, Vanessa and Matthew Williamson post a video on social media to show off the city's heritage. A challenge they want to take on throughout the lockdown.
Everyone has their own ritual during confinement and for Vanessa and Matthew Williamson, it's the ride around 1 p.m. A schedule that is not chosen by chance: "There is less noise related to road traffic," comments Vanessa.
If the couple escapes the hubbub of engines, it is because their daily walk is part of a mission.
Every day, on Facebook,Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube, Vanessa and William post a video of their release, where they discover the heritage of Mayenne.
On Friday, November 6, 2020, Vanessa and Matthew headed for the MacCracken Bridge. "Today, Matthew is going to talk to Mayenne about World War II while I'm filming," says Vanessa. Just enough time to take a picture at the plaque paying tribute to the American soldier who sacrificed himself to save the bridge over the river, then the couple walks away from the traffic to film his presentation.
“It's time for me to talk nonsense," Matthew says with a loud laugh. Improvisation is not on the couple's agenda: before each video, the owners of the Bed and Breakfast L’Hotel de Hercé do their research. A return to the roots for Matthew, a history graduate and specialist in French military history, and Vanessa, an archaeologist, but also a medievalist.
When they came up with this idea, Vanessa and Matthew didn't expect these short videos to take them that long. "We had to find the right format, the right software, do the research. We need five hours for each video. In addition to heritage, these Australians will be looking at Mayenne architecture and cuisine.
The couple gives their presentations in English. "At the moment, we don't speak fluent French, and the internet does not have many resources in English on Mayenne. Their viewers from the United States, Australia, New Zealand or Canada, thank them, and so are the Mayennais, Vanessa noted with a smile "the other day we were recognized on the towpath walk."
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Vanessa Williamson owner of the L'Hotel de Hercé in Mayenne, also felt the same initial seismic impact. Like many, from march onwards, a constant stream of cancellations ensured. Fortunately, like a lot of business also reported, many clients opyed to delay rather than cancel their plans and by intelligently opening up her 2021 diary early, vanessa was able to capitalise on a strong desire by tourists to remain positive about the future.
Her bookings for the autumn still remain boyant and she is conscious that her small, but high quality offering will continue to be attractive in the future. vanessa can palpably and tangibly sense the demand and eagerness to travel, especially to France, providing any future travel restrictions allow people to do so.
Living France Dec 2019-by Catherine Cooper
Vanessa Williamson, 58, and her husband Matthew, 50, arrived in Mayenne from Australia in March 2018 and own and run chambre d'hote L'Hotel de Hercé. They were keen to embrance the French traditions for their first Christmas in France.
"We weren't really sure how the first Christmas away from home would be - while we had made both French and expat friends, most had plans with their families for Christmas.
But as it was, we invited Canadian, American, friends from our French class and close family and friends from Australia, ending up with 17 around the table- aged from 16 to 80!
We were determined to have a French - style Christmas as we were now in France, so I had a chat with my French neighbours about what was typlical and went from there. The table was laid with a linen tablecloth and napkins bought from the local Emmaus and the huge Limoges dinner service came with the house.
We started with canapés made with foie gras, a gift from a French neighbour, followed by a starter from our Canadian friends of an enomous pot of Breton moules (mussels) cooked in cream and white wine sauce.
For the main course we had goose cooked by Matthew, my 26 year old son Jackson and Australian friend Tom- I had never eaten roast goose before!
It was a free-range goose sourced from a friend of a friend who had a farm and cooked to a Nigela Lawson reciepe with apples and potatoes - it was delicious.
We then had two platters of local cheese - before desert of course!
It was wrench for me to give up my usual Christmas Pudding because I love it, but I was determined everything would be French. I bought two Bouches de Noel-one from the local supermarket ad one from the smart patissier which was twice the price- they both tasted fabulous!
We drank Samur Cremant sparking wine along with a mixed dozen Cote de Rhone and French white wines.
Lingering around the table eating chocolates, a gift from our American guests, it was a dinner of over six hours.
It was a really special day, bringing together people of different ages, nationalities and even religions. I'm looking forward to our second French Chrsitmas and this year we will be welcoming paying guests too.
If your away from home during the festive season then Christmas can feel lonely. We'd like people to feel welcome into our family and enjoy a very French Christmas experience when they are staying here with us".
Confinement. On Instagram, They show Mayennes heritage a Kilometer from their home
By Kristell LE GALL. 02/11/20
"We have an idea for containment: share with you our daily walk in Mayenne. Every day we will share a monument to the city and its history. There is so much to see a mile around the Hotel de Hercé.3
“We have a plan for lockdown. Sharing with you our daily walk in ville de Mayenne. Each day we will share a highlight of the town with its history. There is so much to see within the Lockdown regulated 1km walk from L’Hotel de Hercé. Hopefully with this challenge we will bring you virtual tourism of France at it best. We remain forever hopeful and still find joy in the beauty of where we live.”
Their 643 subscribers have already been able to discover Chateau Mayenne and Place de Cheverus with a presentation, by Matthew Williamson, in English, of course!
Ouest-France - 16 Nov 2019
By Justine GUITTON-BOUSSION.
Imagine going on vacation, a few days or a week ... and go back in time. This is proposed by Vanessa and Matthew Williamson, an Australian couple who arrived in Mayenne in March 2018. To open l'Hotel de Hercé as a Bed and Breakfast. A grand maison steeped in history built around the 1720s. Vanessa and Matthew brought from Sydney only two sofas and a coffee table. "We furnished the rest of the house little by little, going to second-hand stores" , says Vanessa. The couple took care to decorate the place with objects dating or recalling the XVIII th century. A la carte GuidedTours
For seven months now, the guest rooms have been open to the public. Three rooms are available, but Vanessa and Matthew only accept one Touring group of clients at a time. "Our goal is for people to feel like they are visiting friends". Thus, Vanessa and Matthew share their entire home with clients and are at their available at their disposal. Whether to chat, share a glass of wine or run clients to a special restaurant or Train station transfers.
If they wish, clients can discover Western France historic destinations. Theme Guided Touring is offered to introduce clients to the history of the area, says Matthew. "We can show them the Normandy landing beaches, the castles of the Loire, medieval towns ... It's a la carte"" , adds Vanessa. Which cities are most appealing to visitors? Angers, Saumur and Vitré.
clients can "Relive the great moments of history" Matthew, a trained historian and former soldier, has a passion for French Military History. "Clients can visit battlefields in the morning and play the Wargame in the afternoon" , he explains enthusiastically. A Wargame is a large table top game where the different participants replay historical battles, using figurines and dice. It's a real passion to relive the great moments of history, smiles Matthew. We can play across all periods of French history! I have collected over 5,000 figurines since I was the age of ten.
"Our French clients are just as interested in what we propose as foreigners", says Vanessa. Since April 2019, L'Hotel de Hercé has attracted local and travelling French clients, and international clients mostly from Australia, Canada and England. In August, we were booked 24 days in a row said Vanessa and Matthew laughing. After a very busy summer we closed for a week to rest!
And they do not intend to stop there. L'Hotel de Hercé Bed and Breakfast will be open during the Christmas holidays and throughout the winter.
Ouest-France - 22 Nov 2019
By Justine GUITTON-BOUSSION.
Vanessa and Matthew Williamson, a recently married couple of 50, chose to leave Sydney, Australia, to make a fresh start. They manage together guest rooms, in a large historic house in the 1720s, Mayenne.
It is in a large 18th century house, in Place Cheverus Mayenne, that Vanessa and Matthew Williamson decided to put their bags in March 2018.
This 50-year-old couple has traveled a large part of the globe: they are from Sydney, Australia. "I always wanted to live elsewhere," said Vanessa immediately. Sitting in her big salon of the 1720s, she easily tells her love story with Matthew, worthy of a romantic film.
"We have gathered our dreams"
The two lovers had each been married before meeting each other. Three years ago, they chose to make a fresh start and say yes. "We went on our honeymoon in Germany," says Vanessa. Before coming back to Australia, I told him, "Come and settle in Europe with me. Our children are grown up now, we can leave. Let's start a new chapter in our story. "He said yes. "
Everything went quickly for the young couple. Vanessa and Matthew chose France as a home. "I have a real passion for this country," explains Vanessa. And there are more opportunities in France for the activity project we had. "
The couple signed in Australia the purchase of the property in March 2018. Three days later, they flew to France to start their new life in Mayenne
The couple wanted to build a project for two. Matthew a geometric graduate and former military, wanted to organize thematic tours, particularly on Military history. Vanessa, a manager and has studied archeology, wanted to create a calm cocoon for guests.
"He had his dream and I had mine: we brought them together," said Vanessa. The couple has chosen to open guest rooms, in a large historic house, and offer customers different private guided tours.
"We were looking for a quiet French city"
And it is on the city of Mayenne that they set their sights. Several reasons motivated this choice: "It's near Laval, where there is TGV," says Matthew. It was important for us to be near Paris because this is where the foreigners arrive "
"We were looking for a quiet French town, where everything is within walking distance: shops, restaurants, cinema," continues Vanessa. And the department is beautiful. "
A warm welcome
Vanessa and Matthew immediately fell in love with the L’Hotel de Hercé when visiting it in October 2017. The couple bought the empty house in March 2018, and gradually furnished it by browsing different second-hand stores. After some redecorating, L’Hotel de Hercé opened to the public in April 2019.
Vanessa and Matthew radiate happiness. Their guest rooms are a great success, and most importantly, they feel good in their new city: "We have support from neighbors, traders”, says a smiling Vanessa. That's what we love, this human side, this community. "
Mayenne Courier 15th Sept 2018
"Australians offer wargame weekends in Mayenne"
Last March 2018, the Hotel de Hercé in Mayenne changed owners. An Australian couple have here to create a Bed and Breakfast and offer strategy Wargames.
Williamson painted more than 5,000 lead soldiers. The process was long and stressful, but Matthew and Vanessa Williamson managed to achieve their goal. This Australian couple, passionate about history, left everything to come and live in Mayenne. "Everyone asks us: but why Mayenne? , smiles Vanessa. We chose this city in relation to its history and geographical location. This region has experienced many conflicts or is close to many battlefields.
Having fallen in love with the Hôtel de Hercé, on Place de Cheverus, the couple did not long hesitate to pack their bags, with only one idea in mind: to offer an original concept to tourists from all over the world, in a beautiful French mansion. Not content with just offering traditional Bed & Breakfast in an 18th century house, they will organize Wargame weekends. This strategy game allows two, four or six teams to piece together historic battles, using metal soldiers. "Players choose a battle from their chosen era and revisit the course of history. They can choose the composition of their army: horsemen, soldiers, archers, catapults... There are different rules for playing games, they can be day long games or fast skirmish games. »