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House Talk

No. 21 - September, 2005

"A Lost Art: The Art of Living in Your Own Home"
A talk with Monique and Gerald Cabin

Like many Bay Area residents, Sheila Sabine of the Glass Sabine team, took an August vacation. And like many travelers, she headed for France, just about her favorite place on earth. She could have spent all of her time in Paris, visiting museums and fabulous architectural sites. Instead, longing for the delicious smells, sounds, and relaxation of the French countryside, she had the good fortune to return for a second visit to La Gue de la Roche, the lovely 19th-century manor located twenty minutes from Limoges and a three-hour train ride from Paris. This intimate bed and breakfast belongs to her good friends, Monique and Gerard Cabin who abandoned their busy life in Limoges years ago in order to enjoy a more peaceful existence in the French countryside. All three floors of their unique home have been carefully restored and meticulously decorated with lovely objets d’art from the Cabins’ travels throughout the world. The final touch consists of the fabulous paintings done by Monique who is a very talented artist in her own right. While it is true that the beauty of this paradise is breathtaking, the real attraction is the realization that you are surrounded by people who possess a true gift – the art of knowing how to live in a home.

Sheila had many discussions with the Cabins each evening sitting in the large country kitchen, which is the heart of the home. Sipping local wines and feeling the warmth of the toasty fire, she and the Cabins renewed their strong friendship (it is definitely a plus that Sheila is fluent in French.) Like the cows in the French pasture down the road, the three friends chewed carefully on the meaning of the words to truly “live in a home” as opposed to just “pass through” a home. Gerard’s impression of some of the newly built homes in the U.S. is that although they are quite beautiful, they remind him of displays in store windows where one can look but not touch. He also commented on the fast pace of life both in the U.S. and in much of France. Daily life passes by with great speed and less and less time is spent enjoying life at home. Furthermore, among the young French couples, less and less time is spent preparing meals, which has always been an extremely important event in the French culture.

The Cabins talk about the house being “un etre vivant” or having a living spirit - the home is actually a real personnage. This sense of spirit is clearly felt throughout their home but especially in their large country kitchen where one spends hours sitting around the long wooden table. It is at least one hundred years old and shows marks of days past when hunters plucked and prepared their fresh game on the sturdy surface. To eat with them in the kitchen as opposed to the more formal salle a manger (or dining room) is considered a complement and lets the guests know that they are considered part of the family. Each morning the sumptuous aroma of espressos and fresh croissants awakens one’s taste buds. In a relaxed manner, the daily events are organized and menus planned. The art of meal preparation is extremely important; each item is carefully purchased from local merchants – one patisserie for bread, another for croissants, la fromagerie for cheese, the charcuterie for meat and on and on. The evening meal is lovingly prepared with discussion of cooking time and choices of wine. Homegrown spices sit proudly in little containers by the kitchen sink and are skillfully added to soups, steamed fish and fresh omelets. Gerard places all the emphasis on the quality of the cuisine; he does not worry much about the external display or the use of fancy dishes. Each item on the menu is slowly tasted and appreciated and during this process, one develops a sort of intimacy with the cuisine. An evening meal may last two or three hours with lively discussions about politics, travel and environmental changes - it is easy to lose complete track of time. Equally important one feels the strong sense of friendship and generosity that exudes openly from the Cabins. They sincerely believe that the cuisine and the art of sharing a meal together provide a background in which close friends spend pleasurable time together and concentrate on expanding their friendships.

While enjoying this wonderful experience, Sheila felt the layers of stress slowly disappearing. She looked forward to renewing friendships back home with old and new acquaintances and sharing a delicious meal together. Hopefully when this story is read, people will have more awareness about the importance of truly taking time to relax and enjoy their home environments. Indeed the house is a living spirit and deserves care and attention. In return, the living spirit of the home will flourish and infuse the inhabitants with qualities of peace, friendship and good health.

To learn more about how you may visit La Gue de la Roche, go their website at www.domaineduGuedelaRoche.net or contact Sheila Sabine directly to view an extensive photo album of this fabulous paradise.

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For further information or questions for our House Talk column, 
please contact Glass/Sabine by email:  Sheila@GlassSabine.com
or call us at 510-326-5055.

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