Tiny ancient stone houses with clay tile roofs slip in and out of view as our bus carefully navigates rural roads and narrow streets on the way to Bois Richeux in Pierres, about an hour and a half southwest of Paris. It’s another spectacular side of France we’d never have seen unless we took the leap of faith to see the medieval estate.
A cool breeze accompanies the soft sounds of cooing doves which greet us as we stepped off the bus into what seems like another world. We’re introduced to the affable Hubert Mourot who smiles easily as he talks about buying the dilapidated medieval property in 1991 and reflects on his passionate journey of renovation and restoration.
In a combination of broken English and French he explains the long journey to bring this place back. I asked over and over again, rephrasing the question several times, why has he devoted so much of his life to Bois Richeux and what it means to him, but it wasn’t until the end of our visit that he finally revealed what this crusade is for.
Old fashioned roses cling to trellis’ made of dried tree branches. A variety of medicinal herbs are surrounded by neatly trimmed boxwood shrubs and Mourot does his best to explain what they are and how they were used historically and today too.
There was no garden here back in 1991 and the buildings no longer had roofs when Mourot fell in love with the place. Although he was just looking for a summer home, this estate became so much more.
The beautiful vegetable garden he created with a little help is comprised of square raised beds, each surrounded by meticulously weaved branches.
Plump butterhead lettuce thrives in one. Vines covered with round bright orange squash escape the confines of their bed, rambling across the garden. Huge green leaves of Swiss chard with red veins are supported by thick magenta stems.
Next to the vegetable garden were several small spaces divided by boxwoods, “privacy seating for lovers,” Mourot said while flashing his trademark grin.
Holding my hand to my heart, I asked again, what do you get out of doing all this?”
After a quizzical look, some help from a translater, he paused, “It’s for you,” he said with a sly smile.
But when pressed by the crowd of tourists, wondering if there was more, he added, “the scent of all these plants together are my prozac,” which brought both laughs and complete understanding.
On the way to Monet’s garden Giverny our bus never smelled better as many of the visitors bought the perfume Mourot makes from a special blend of herbs from his garden.
Click here for more information about Bois Richeux.