Part 3 of our Burgundy Bliss story! So sorry we kept you waiting. The next and final installment will be delivered to you in one week’s time.
To recap – Donna has been stranded in France while en route back to New York. At home, she has left an impatient and demanding Bill, and as she settles more into the ambiance of beautiful Burgundy, she finds herself less and less in a hurry to go home.
When she buys an antique painting of a chateau, she wants to find out more about the property…. little does she know how interesting it will be. As it turns out, the ancient castle belongs to Henri who she met when her airplane is diverted…
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Over dinner that evening, Henri and Donna had no shortage of things to talk about. He spoke of his life in the country and his family that he didn’t get to see nearly as much as he’d like. She spoke of her life back in New York and her exciting but demanding job. It didn’t occur to Donna until later, but she never even mentioned Bill.
Once the rain had eased off, Donna popped out to her car to grab her bag as well as her new oil painting that depicted the chateau. She couldn’t wait to show Henri. Donna shielded it from the light drizzle under her coat and hurried back into the warmth.
“Look at what I purchased yesterday,” said Donna, as she burst through the heavy doors. “It’s actually the reason I came out here today. I was so intrigued by the beautiful chateau in this painting. It looked so mysterious… I needed to know more about it.”
Henri took the heavy frame from her hands and walked over to the glow of a nearby lamp to see the details more clearly.
“Henri, you have the most amazing property here. The image in this painting alone was intriguing enough to make me visit, and now that I’ve seen the chateau for myself, it is even more captivating.”
Henri glanced at her, smiled and returned his gaze to the painting.
“Henri, I don’t want to speak out of turn here,” said Donna. “But as you know, my business is in marketing. The first thing we were taught about marketing an idea or a brand in school was to find the storyline and work out how to tell the tale. And this place surely has an amazing tale to tell. I am convinced that by getting the word out, we could give you the means to save your precious family home.”
“Really? But there are many chateaux around here, you know,” he murmured sceptically.
“I know,” said Donna. “But that’s beside the point. What matters is how we convey the image of your property here. Your family history, the love of their land, the way that the chateau has historically been so important to the local village…”
Henri looked at her surprised. Now she had his attention.
“Yes,” Donna said and laughed. “Don’t worry, I’m not a stalker, but I did find a book in your library about the chateau and its history. Although it was in French, I did get the impression that the property has over a century-long tradition for looking after the local community.”
Henri smiled. “Yes, I suppose that is true. My grandfather used to love hosting dinners for the grape-pickers at harvest time. He prided himself on laying out the most beautiful spreads at the end of each day. It was a big thing for our family, and for all who attended. I was only a young boy at the time, but I remember those happy meals very clearly.”
They chatted on through the dinner while the storm raged outside. After coffee, Henri showed Donna to her wonderfully warm guest room, and although her mind was buzzing with ideas, she settled quickly into a deep sleep.
In the morning, Donna awoke with a start. She was surprised to find herself in an intricately-carved, four-poster mahogany bed with a thick tapestry splayed over her head. On one side of the room, early morning light streamed through rich velvet curtains that lay slightly ajar. She snapped back to reality as the previous day’s events played like a slideshow through her head – the market, the painting, the storm, the library, and… she smiled fondly… the dinner the night before with Henri.
Donna cast aside the plush bedspread and walked over the the windows, dragging back the heavy curtains. What she saw astonished her. Golden sunshine fell on rolling green fields lined with trees and dotted with haystacks and horses. Farther off in the distance, she could just make out the lines of the chateau’s vineyard she had heard so much about. The storm was distant memory now, the only clue to its existence was the heavy dew that clung to the grass.
Dressing hastily in her clothes from the day before, Donna exited her room and made her way down the winding halls. At no small feat, she finally found the kitchen, where Henri sat already awake and with his morning espresso.
“Good morning, then,” he said with a warm smile. “Did you sleep well?”
“Like a log,” quipped Donna, who covered her mouth in slight embarrassment after realizing this was quite a crude American answer. Henri chuckled and gestured for her to sit beside him while pouring her a cup.
“I’d like to talk more about your ideas for this place,” said Henri, getting straight to the point. He had a gleam in his eye that she hadn’t seen before. “I’d be happy to pay for your services, of course.”
Donna gulped her espresso and nodded, trying to quickly brush the cobwebs of sleep from her mind.
“Do you mind if you show me around a bit more?” she asked. This would be the first major project of her burgeoning career.
“Of course,” said Henri. “Take a croissant, and I’ll show you the vineyard.” The two grabbed their coats and shoes and left through the gargantuan front doors, setting out for a beautiful walk down a tidy farm road that eventually ended at the stone entrance of a stunning vineyard.
Donna could not recall the last sight that had truly taken her breath away. Henri began walking her through what seemed to be endless rows of vines carefully trimmed and tended. They spoke the entire time, not just about the type of grapes and the wine it produced, but of the process and of the community of workers who cared so deeply for them. Donna was amazed to learn that Henri’s wine had won the most prestigious award in Burgundy just earlier that year. Apparently it had been the talk of the town amongst the locals, but the news hadn’t reached much past the region’s borders.
Henri ended his tour at the magnificent winery, which was filled with fragrant, ageing wooden barrels. Donna even got to taste of the prize-winning Burgundy, and indeed, it was truly remarkable.
“Are you hungry?” Henri asked, after awhile. Donna nodded; she realised they’d spent hours talking about the history and exploring. It was late afternoon and she was famished. The pair headed back to the chateau, where Henri set about cooking up a hearty lunch for them both. After they ate, he stood up abruptly.
“Donna, I have to be off to a meeting,” he said. “But please continue to make yourself at home; it’s been a real pleasure showing you around.”
Donna smiled and nodded. As soon as he was gone, she jumped at the opportunity to put her ideas to paper. Her marketing wheels turned – she now knew what the story was here, and she knew just the person to tell it. She fumbled for her cell phone – choosing to overlook the four missed calls from Bill – and found the contact she was looking for – Jerry McDonald at The New York Times.
“Jerry,” Donna said, as soon as he clicked onto the line. “Boy, do I have a story for you.”
You will be able to read the final episode in this short story next week. Thank you for your patience!