We have been coming to France and the Dordogne for many years, beginning in 1989 for summer vacations at our newly acquired house near St Cyprian, and then, since 1999, here at La Millasserie. For many of those years we spent our summers buying French antiques for Alain's gallery, Alain Pioton Antiques, that he had opened in 1982 in the, at that time, little known town of Hudson, New York. His was the first antiques shop in Hudson and by the time he closed it in 2008 there were 70 of them and Hudson had become gentrified and known not only for antiques, but for art, music and food. Of course those buying trips all over France were business for Alain, but they were also fun for us both, and they were a summer respite for me from my work as Professor of English at the City University of New York.
By 2002 we were able to spend more and longer time at La Millasserie, and having early on fallen in love with the Perigord, as our French friends reminded us we should call it, we began to think about living permanently in France. By 2003 we decided we wanted to do it and we began to make plans. Alain, who is from Bordeaux, was ready to return to his native land, and we were both ready for a different life, but for Alain not one selling antiques, nor for either of us living in idleness, which we couldn't afford to do in any case.
Needing something to do, the obvious choice was to rely on past experience and open a B&B. We had some experience in the US with a B&B in one house where we had extra bedrooms and we liked it. Meeting people was fun. Since more people visit France than any other country in the world it was fairly obvious what we should do. So there it was. Our house didn't have extra bedrooms, and so in 2005, for the B&B, we began to build a four-room addition to the 17th century house in the style of the period and the region.
By 2006 the new B&B was ready. We furnished the B&B in the summer of 2006 and early Spring 2007 and we had a trial run for some friends of friends in Summer 2007. By early 2008 we were surprised and pleased to see that our new website and various internet B&B sites sent clients almost immediately and from May to August of 2008 we soon found out that we had done the right thing. Since we opened in 2008 we have gained a clientele from all over the world, and more and more people stay every year. We love doing it.
I often think that the sensations are heightened here in what the French call la France profonde, deep France. The taste of food, the sweetness of the country air after one of the spectacular late-summer thunderstorms that role ominously though the region, suddenly etching the sky with alarmingly jagged bolts of lightening. The drowsy rich summer days, followed by cool autumn nights and then the chill brilliance of a mid-winter frost, not just the light millimeter thick coating of American frost, but a thick, glittering covering, laid on as if with a brush like brilliant icing studded with tiny diamonds on some elegant pastry. Perhaps because men and women have for so long worked the fields and every inch of land that can be tilled, the entire countryside has the effect of having been landscaped by some master hand. History is always present here, in the lichen-covered golden stone of every ancient house, in the narrow streets of ancient tiny villages, in the hauteur of a forbidding and crenellated chateau that towers imposingly next to a rushing river. Indeed history seems to infuse the very air of the Perigord, heir to all the ages of eternal France. There is mystery here and some say that it was born with the magic that scholars claim the ancient cave paintings may have been trying to conjure. Whatever the cause, the Perigord is indeed the most magical and the most beautiful region in all of France and as you drive along a narrow country road, the rich dark forest bordering either side, you suddenly see in the distance ghost-like towers rising above the trees, floating, it almost seems, on the horizon, the misty towers of a castle in the air.