A Visit to La Cressonnière

When we lived in France before (February 2011 through July 2013), we rented a house in the countryside, about 15 minutes from the small town of Argentan where we live now.

The house we rented has a name: La Cressonnière. And it’s a special place. It’s currently being rented by an artist from England, and her husband who is a writer. The owners of the house are also a creative and artistic couple and it’s a place where creative people can really thrive.

The artist who lives there now, Kathryn Holford, had an Open Studio a few weeks back, and we got the chance to visit La Cressonnière. We hadn’t seen it for six years. What a treat to be there! Those were truly magical years for our family. So many memories came flooding back:

Watching this lavender being planted in the front yard.

Seeing our vintage Renault 4L parked outside these red barn doors.

So many meals and celebrations on this lawn.

Admiring the roses out front. (I believe they are Pierre de Ronsard, which is easily my favorite rose variety — that perfect shade of pink with just a touch of peach in it.)

Jumping rope by the front door.

Filming Olive Us episodes in the big walled yard, and watching the stone wall be repaired by a mason.

Eating grapes from the vine.

Celebrating Flora June turning one year old in this courtyard.

The photoshoot in French Greys that was all shot on film.

Stacking fire wood in this barn.

Picking apples, and pears, and cherries, and walnuts from the trees in the garden.

The huge artist studio stocked with a giant stack of oversize paper that my kids made good use of.

The visit was emotional and a bit overwhelming — in a good way. The home is still so beautiful; still providing its occupants with so much magic, joy, and peace.

Living there changed the course of our life, and changed my philosophy about what I want in a home. I’m so grateful we got the opportunity to live there. (For those who are curious, our rent at La Cressonnière was 1200 euros each month — at the time that was about $1600.)

Have you ever been able to visit, years later, a home you used to live in? What was it like? Were there major changes? Did it still feel the same? Was it a happy visit? Or did it make you sad?

P.S. — More from when we lived at La Cressonnière.

20 thoughts on “A Visit to La Cressonnière”

  1. It’s a beautiful place! I’m wondering if your younger children remember living there? and what has changed in your vision of what you look for in a home? I have never gone back to places I’ve lived because they’ve been totally renovated (both times they were very old flats, I loved them). But I do go back to villages and cities and countries, to visit the people I love. Have a good week! (it smells like autumn!)

  2. I think this this home needs to be available stat 😃!! What a gorgeous daydream of an experience! How wonderful to go back and relive some memories of your time there.

  3. Oh, Le Cressonniere is such a wonderful home. I’m glad to hear it’s being loved just as much as it was when you lived there. What a fantastic opportunity to be able to revisit her.

    Just last summer my brother, and I, along with our families and our mom, went back to visit the town and the house we grew up in. In some ways it was still so much the same. But other things had changed. We didn’t go in; the owners weren’t home. The neighborhood in general brought back so many happy memories. I’m glad we had the chance to take our kids back to see where we grew up. For my kids particularly, it’s such a different style of living from where we are (town vs country).

  4. Interesting post. When I was in high school, the adult children of the couple my parents had bought our home from quite a few years before stopped by and wanted to see it. When we had moved into the house, it was dated in a 70s way (think gold velour curtains and valances, shag carpeting everywhere). My parents had done a ton of work to the house and were excited to show it off. But the adult children were actually really sad and surprised to see how different it looked from their memories (even, if in some objective way, it looked “better”). It ended up being sort of an awkward tour.

    So, I guess re-visiting places you used to live can bring mixed feelings.

  5. What a beautiful place! Unfortunately, we will soon be leaving our home in France that we’ve been in for the past 3 years to return to the US. The idea of coming back to see it in the future sounds emotionally hard – remembering such wonderful times and knowing they are all in the past. But hopefully if we do revisit, we will be sufficiently happy with wherever we are at the time that it won’t be too hard.

  6. Interested in hearing more about how it changed what you wanted in a home. I just visited a friend’s rental home on Nantucket (also owned by an artist) and it had a similar effect on me…. wondering how I can adapt my home to incorporate the aspects I loved in the other one.

    1. Yes, please. I love this topic. Vacations, life changes, new interests can affect what we want in our homes- I would enjoy hearing/seeing more about incorporating the new and cherishing the old. Sort of the meaning/reasons behind updates, not only before and after pictures :) Thank you!

      I tend to get too attached or too complacent with my surroundings, so I appreciate hearing from those who thrive on changes and new experiences. But learning to appreciate my own needs, and honor them, is vital, and having homes that support us physically and spiritually is beautiful.

      (At the moment I would be a meltdown of emotion if I were to revisit a past home; yet lately I have been greatly comforted by my own memories of places I used to live.)

  7. Glad you had a nice visit back! I visited my childhood home about 15 years after leaving, and was shocked and surprised that the little bungalow home was no longer and a multi-story condo building stood in its place. The house wasn’t particularly beautiful, but my mother put so much into cultivating flowers in every corner and a productive vegetable patch. I also didn’t expect it to not be there, which was hard to digest. We have some pictures of the house, but it lives most vividly in my memories.

  8. My parents lived in my childhood home from the time I was 8 years old until just before my 21st birthday. It was the perfect house for a family to raise two kids, with a great backyard, the perfect driveway for pickup basketball games, a cul-de-sac, and a huge bonus room off the kitchen that we made great use of. When my parents moved, they sold the house to a wonderful family with two young kids of their own [kids I used to babysit!]. I had the opportunity to revisit the house in 2016, and it was such an incredible experience. They’ve made changes here and there – some appliance upgrades, new carpet, turning part of the backyard into an outdoor patio – to put their own mark on the place, but the essence of the house – a home full of love and passion and dreams – is still there. It was so wonderful to see it continuing to be loved.

  9. I find it so hard to believe it is that many years since you lived at La Cressonnière! Seems like yesterday I was reading your posts of making it your new home. I’m curious as to why you chose Normandy… each region of France has such wonderful attributes… did you find it hard to decide or was it this house that brought you there specifically? Recently via Facebook I saw a few pics of my childhood home and it was lovely to see its updated interior being enjoyed by a young family.

  10. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I was a reader before your move to France. I felt like I moved with you. Every post was just so wonderful. It is just the kind of house I love. It has been a pleasure to watch you continue your family adventures. I love your new house in France as well. Happy for you that you have fond memories.

  11. I’ve been following you for so long and when I read that you had moved back to France, in my mind you had been away about 3 years, maybe 4. To know it was 7 years is hard to believe–time flies so fast.

    I’ve only been able to drive by the house I used to grow up in, not see the interior. But I heard through a neighbor of some of the changes they had made inside (including changing my former bedroom into a laundry room!) and I was curious to see it, but also a bit happy to not have the opportunity. It might have made me sad.

  12. “Living there changed the course of our life, and changed my philosophy about what I want in a home. I’m so grateful we got the opportunity to live there. (For those who are curious, our rent at La Cressonnière was 1200 euros each month — at the time that was about $1600.)”

    Would loooooove to read a post on this! And amazing to see the age gap with Flora June !

  13. We lived in a flat inside a large home in Cusco, Peru, for a year. Ten years later, we went back to find the home had been turned into a “luxury hotel for tourists” complete with a fake “Inca” stone wall. We didn’t see our flat because it was the hotel owner’s apartment (he is the son of the señora we rented from). While being back in the city of Cusco made me happy (despite the rapid and sometimes unsettling development), being in that hotel lobby made me feel sad and disoriented.

  14. I moved a lot as a child – my mother was a single mom and an Army nurse! One of my favorite homes was a little 70s rambler in a neighborhood of identical ramblers on a military base in Albuquerque, NM. It had a charming address – Friendship Loop! We lived there for 5 years – from preschool through 3rd grade – a long time for a military family. Lots of families and kids, walking to school 1/2 a block away, slow lazy summers in adjoined backyards. I remember houses where moms would hand out popsicles to every kid. And, a hot air balloon that landed in our school playground when it spring a leak during the Albuquerque balloon festival. LOTS of lovely memories.
    I have such a fond recollection that I was sad when I looked up the address on Google Earth – the entire neighborhood is gone and is now just flat open scrubland. :(
    My years growing up on military bases really shaped who I am.
    The US military is an odd and amazing institution. People who did not grow up as “Army Brats” might not realize, but enlisted military are, by and large, a very diverse group. Plenty of single parents, people of color, 2nd generation immigrant families, blended ethnic families. A military base is a great place to learn about diversity! The military also has socialist aspects – it provides housing, food stipends, excellent health care, and a college education to soldiers. It is one of the few US institutions where a low-income parent with little or no college education can financially support a family, and hope their children might be better off and go to college themselves.
    In fact, my experience as the child of a military family ultimately shaped my personal philosophy and politics in a very positive way – I ended up a lifelong Democrat simply by listening to the adults around me talk about racial equality, immigration, equity and opportunity…

    1. Thanks for writing this! My husband and his 3 sibs were military kids, too, and he has fond memories of living in Albuquerque in the 70s/80s. Love your insights.

  15. I am interested to know what you look for in a home? What do you think home is? Is there such a thing as a forever home or do you think it changes depending on your stage in life? I’m really pondering this especially in the age of a pandemic. I know many people who have returned to what is familiar.

  16. Just last March, before the shutdown, I picked up an antique bed from a couple who lived in the neighborhood I grew up in (about 30 minutes from where I live now), a beach community. I was early for our meeting, and took the time to drive by the house I grew up in (all my life, until age 18 and I left for college), the streets we rode bikes down, my middle school – it was an interesting feeling for sure (I’m now 43, with two kids myself, and hadn’t been there for at least 10 years).

    Our previous home is now a rental for us, it’s the house we lived in for three years (four years ago), where we brought home our second daughter after her birth (and our oldest was 16 months at the time). It was an intense time for me and my husband, for a myriad of reasons. I’ve found it difficult to return to the house now (between tenants) b/c of how I feel about that time in my life, my emotional ties to the house, and the fact that “strangers” now live there.

    Home, memories, and feelings are a unique mix for sure.

  17. Loved re-visitng La Cressoniere with you. I started following your blog while you lived there. It’s such a beautiful place and I loved what you shared with us when you were there. Also really loved Olive Us! videos. So joyful and heartwarming. I live in San Francisco (for 53 years now). The fires and the smoke and Covid and Trump and threats from armed white supremacists when we protest — all really seriously overwhelming. I have thought about Ralph and Maude being stuck here, so far from the rest of you. I hope they’re doing ok and will be able to join you soon. And I hope Flora June feels better soon. Sometimes I wonder (only half-joking) how many of your followers will be moving to Argentan or nearby Argentan as soon as Europe will let us in again… I fantasize a Friends of Gabrielle artists and writers support group meeting in a wonderful local cafe each week for croissants and hot chocolate, and for your single followers, hooking up to go to the farmers market each week. Maybe we’ll also pool our money to hire a wonderful French as a second language teacher, and meet a couple of times a week for that too. (You inspire a lot, Gabrielle).

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