Narnia, cupboards under stairs & treasure

Owning a huge old house steeped in history & time conjures up tales that enchanted us as children. Huge attics, hidden staircases, towers, cellars, even secret rooms, all spark the imagination of the possible, of mysteries & dreams. Guests and friends still waiting to visit, are prompted to say, "just like Harry Potter you have a cupboard under stairs". Yes, we have a secret space for hanging coats to dry, where staff once waited hidden while watching the foyer for guests. A true Harry Potter space; a secret world behind the stairs.

Our cave; cellars, common in all old French houses were once an important cool store for wine, firewood, preserves, and for us a well and ancient kitchen. The spiralling stone stairs down, are worn with the foot treads of long ago. At our first invitation to meet our neighbours, there was lively chat regarding possible treasure hidden beneath our cellar dirt floors. The men of the noble family de Hercé; who build our house, fled to Jersey & then England during the Revolution. As Madame de Guillotine took up residence in the square outside our house. The Madams de Hercé held on desperately at the house until the Revolution Military Commission confiscated the house in 1793. The tales of The Terror played right out in our house & now beautiful Square. Could a desperate family have hidden gold & jewels in the cellar, hoping to return one day to claim their home? A dramatic compelling history that still sparks discussion to this day. Our neighbours are the ready with their metal detectors to explore.

A favourite niece who is following my adventure closely remarked this week you have attics & cellars, watch out for big wardrobes & Narnia. I smiled catching the C.S Lewis literary reference from the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe books I read as a child. France is famous for the huge armoires, and yes, we have three, vast deep beautiful pieces of furniture children could happily hide away in. The reading I did as a child, and with my children, evokes a great joy and mystery of vast houses. A fantasy of exploring, discovery, finding ourselves in spaces & rooms long forgotten. We try to feel what was, who was here, capture a glimpse of the past and of course so many ask about ghosts. I wonder why that is? I think it’s because our house for all its vastness, has a warm welcoming feeling, a house that has been a happy home for so many. Seen many children running down hallways, scampering upstairs, a busy place occupied once from cellars to attics. Locals tell of long ago dances held in our grand salon, evoking faint hints that perhaps you can hear music, swishing silks, candlelit chandeliers, and laughter. So many memories of past books flood back sparking my imagination. In truth it is not the books or our imagination, it is the house, when entering L’Hotel de Hercé so many visitors feel it too.

Thank you for reading

We hope to welcome you soon.

Vanessa Williamson

L'Hotel de Hercé

November 4th 2019


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