Celebrating Renoir, Champagne and the Belle Epoque in the Aube

Celebrating Renoir, Champagne and the Belle Epoque in the Aube

If you’re looking for interesting things to see and do in France this summer, you might want to consider visiting Essoyes (pronounced Ess-wah), a lovely little village in southern Champagne that was the summer home of the Renoir family for many years—and is the burial place of the painter, his wife, and their three sons.  

Visit Renoir’s home and studio 

In 2017, the village restored the Renoir home, which had stayed in the family until a few years earlier. The home and the artist’s studio are now open to the public, and guided tours in English are available for groups of 12 or more. (Reservations must be made in advance: [email protected] )

The best way to begin a visit to the Centre Renoir is in the interpretive centre, which is located right next to the town hall in the main square. This centre tells the story of the Renoir family in this village, which was the birthplace of Aline Charigot, Renoir’s wife and the mother of his three sons: Pierre, Jean, and Claude. There you can see a short film in either French or English and learn about the life of the family in this town. A 15-minute walk away from the interpretive centre leads you to the Renoir family home and the painter’s studio. The home has been decorated with period furnishings and is staged to suggest that the family has just gone out for a stroll and will return imminently. An audio tour is available in French, English, German and Dutch, and is included in the price of admission; explanatory plaques in French and English placed outside each of the rooms in the house enrich the experience and provide helpful historical context.

Photo: Janet Hulstrand

Belle Epoque festival and Impressionism exhibition 

On June 30th the village will celebrate the beginning of the high summer season with a Journée de la Belle Epoque. June 30th is also the opening date for an exhibition sponsored by the Association Renoir, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the famous 1874 exhibition in Paris that launched the Impressionist movement. A guided tour will explain the historical and cultural context of the 1874 exhibition, and how and why the term “Impressionism” came to be. The exhibition will feature reproductions of characteristic works of Renoir, Monet, Degas, Berthe Morisot, Cezanne, Sisley, Pissarro, and Guillaumin, along with contemporary press reports and caricatures, and will continue until August 25.

Alain Cintrat, deputy mayor in charge of tourism has extended a warm welcome to one and all to join in the festivities. “On June 30, for the 150th anniversary of Impressionism, we invite you to come and discover a variety of Belle Epoque activities in Essoyes—among them ancient crafts, a carousel, an old-fashioned dictée, and a bal guinguette.” He adds, “Many of the villagers will be dressed in period costume to welcome you to this festive day.”  


© Hippogriffe communication

Tour de France, coming through! 

On July 7th, the Tour de France will pass through Essoyes on the way to Troyes, which is a fascinating and beautiful place to visit as well. There are a number of beautiful churches in Troyes, including the church in which Henry V of England married Catherine of Valois, and the cathedral where Joan of Arc attended a mass on her way to Reims with the Dauphin, to have him properly crowned King of France. And there are several wonderful museums, including the Cité du Vitrail, which celebrates the art of stained glass; and the Museum of the Tool 


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History, wine and nature 

Near Essoyes, in Mussy-sur-Seine the wonderful Museum of the Resistance of l’Aube tells the story of the years of Nazi Occupation; the regional history of the French Resistance during the occupation; and the drama of the hard-fought liberation from it.

Last but certainly not least, there is local viticulture to discover: Essoyes is situated in the middle of the beautiful Côte des Bars, which is home to numerous small family-run maisons de champagne, where visitors can have tastings and tours, and purchase some very fine champagnes. And each year the Route du Champagne en Fête features several champagne-producing Aubois villages. This year four villages along the Seine will host the celebration on July 20 and 21. 

Finally, the nearby Lac d’Orient offers abundant opportunities for enjoying nature, from birdwatching and hiking to bicycling and sailing. 

Information about the Centre Renoir: https://renoir-essoyes.fr/en/home/§ 


Places to stay in and near Essoyes 

Restaurants in Essoyes 

For more information, visit www.troyeslachampagne.com and www.aube-champagne.com

Lead photo credit : Essoyes is the home of painter Renoir © shutterstock

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Janet Hulstrand is a freelance writer, editor, writing coach and teacher who divides her time between France and the U.S. She is the author of "Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You," and "A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France." She writes frequently about France for Bonjour Paris, France Today, and a variety of other publications, including her blog, Writing from the Heart, Reading for the Road. She has taught “Paris: A Literary Adventure” for education abroad programs of the City University of New York since 1997, and she teaches online classes for Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington D.C. She is currently working on her next book in Essoyes, a beautiful little village in Champagne.

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