Year of Grace, Day 208. Saint Gengoux de Scissé

We bid Bonn auf Wiedersehen at precisely noon on the first of October, three hours later than planned: it was tricky getting everything to fit in the van. I had to ditch some items, like an aubergine-glazed pot that would’ve been perfect for tiny blue-green-purple succulents — something to adorn the rental flat we’d be calling home for some time.

Everytime I say “auf Wiedersehen,” I am reminded of the much-loved old British television comedy series “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet” featuring a group of unemployed construction workers, mainly from the Midlands and further north, forced to travel the world seeking short-term building contracts, starting with Germany –- hence the title. We divined they were speaking English, but it took M and I several episodes to get acclimatized to the diverse (and so entertaining) regional accents. We became avid followers — as the series took the group to an American Indian reservation, on to Havana, and to Thailand as well.

Our route south took us past Luxembourg to France. At half past 6, the sun was still fairly high, unlike its location at this time further north in Bonn, and I tried the old trick of calculating how much time we had till sunset: 5 fingers, each finger being 15 minutes. (Or was it 5? My memory has turned fickle, but my first reckoning turned out to be right after all.) Sure enough, we reached St. Gengoux de Scissé an hour and a quarter later, just as dusk began to fall. The lights of the B&B had been turned on and shone out through the tall, narrow windows as we stepped into the gravelled courtyard. Oh, it all looked so inviting! Our host had phoned earlier, just as we were doubting whether our route was correct. It had meandered through well-tended vineyards and lovely villages in the heart of the Bourgogne, seemingly unending, that we suspected we were being led in the wrong, though thoroughly delightful, direction.

Who was St. Gengoux de Scissé? “Gengoux,” it appears, is the Burgundian spelling of Gangolf or Gangulfus, the Latin reversal of Wolfgang. Gengoux was a pious and wealthy knight who served under Pepin in 8th century France, and was venerated after divining a source of water that could detect prevarication: quite likely one of the first recorded lie detectors. It was tested on his wife who, while immersed in the fountain’s water, swore that she was faithful, and if not, may her arm fall off: whereupon the skin on her arm did slough off. Gengoux consequently gave away his wealth to become a monk. Gengoux’s wife’s lover, a priest, later murdered Gengoux in the monastery. Gengoux’s relics have been scattered throughout his native Burgundy, Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland, such that Gingolph, Gengoult, Gengon, Gengulfe, and diverse variants of the name abound. Even before his miraculous lie-detecting fountain, as a young man Gengoux had been known to heal all sorts of animal complaints, and human ailments too, such as blindness.

Incidentally, there is a Gangolf Strasse in Bonn, along part of the old city wall, the site commemorated by a plaque set in the cobblestones. It is the street that leads from Bonn central station’s bus terminals to the specialist toy store, Puppenkönig, and on towards the Munster, past a fountain. Could this fountain be alluding to Gangolf’s original one? Definitely something to confirm when I’m back in Bonn.

After that rather long prologue, St. Gengoux de Scissé is where we spent the night at a delightful B&B called Le Bourg. A blazing fire in the salon with its library well-stocked with cookery books (one entire ceiling-to-floor shelf) and a most welcome, simple but oh-so-satisfying home-cooked meal of carbonnade of pork (slowly braised in a flavoursome broth of beer and spices), served in the romantic intimacy of the salon, were just the thing after a long journey. It also capped rather fittingly our month-long ordeal of packing our household and paring it down to essentials.

Le Bourg was all that we had hoped for and had actually delivered far more than we’d expected: a genuine jewel in the midst of a vintners’ village; one we would never have encountered had my first choice of accommodation been available. All too often in my experience, at least in this case of B&Bs, it is actually a blessing not to get one’s heart’s desire at first.  An old Burgundian burgher’s house has been and still is in the process of being lovingly restored (deliveries were ongoing as we sat to breakfast the following morning) by its Dutch owner, a former accountant who is certainly in his natural element as architect and designer.

All was tasteful in all senses of the word and Anton was the perfect convivial innkeeper, warm and chatty but not intrusive. We were also introduced to his two adorable Bassetts Fauve de Bretagne, a breed we’d never come across before, and just the right size and, most importantly, disposition for eventual pets. Apparently they’re hypoallergenic and their hair doesn’t shed, besides which they are affectionate and good with children (a nod to eventual grandchildren). After a restful sleep and an energizing breakfast, we were off, but our stay and welcome at Le Bourg had definitely set the right tone to our Southern European odyssey.

This little nook in the salon overlooked by a mysterious lady was where our dinner was served (we were the only guests that night). M vaguely recalled a story about the lady, an aristocrat who, after being painted, became the mistress of the painter or some other person, and died in poverty and obscurity. Please click on the photos below for a larger view.

We shall definitely come again to stay at this delightful village and B&B.


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