meta name="p:domain_verify" content="8b08da541f8a920e6 Marie Z Johnston: Jamie Schler and Hotel Diderot, Chinon

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Jamie Schler and Hotel Diderot, Chinon

Just last November my family and I spent about a week in Chinon, France.  This charming French town is nestled along the banks of the river Vienne, snug in the hillside shadows of an ancient chateau  that has welcomed Joan of Arc, Richard the Lionheart and Louis the 17th among many others.  History runs deep in Chinon, and you can easily feel it wandering along the cobblestone streets.

Flat bottom boats on the river Vienne
To say I had developed a crush on the area would be an understatement. So of course, it seemed an excellent plan to return on my own in February to see how Chinon looked and felt in the dead of winter. The cozy apartment we'd stayed in wasn't available and though momentarily disappointed, that turned out to be a most excellent turn of events.

You see, in the space of those few months between November and February,  I'd "met" a wonderful ex-pat American woman, Jamie Schler, on Facebook.  Jamie and her fab French husband Jean-Pierre Dagneaux, were in final negotiations on a charming hotel smack in the heart of the Chinon historic district.  Naturally, I booked my stay with them at Hotel Diderot.

The back entrance to Hotel Diderot in the heart of the historic district
Jamie Schler is a petite, soft spoken dynamo with an incredible head of hair.  I knew  from her Facebook profile that Jamie had a blog - what I didn't know is that she also contributes to the Huffington Post,  is writing a cookbook, and has not one but TWO blogs:  Life's a Feast and Plated Story with photographer Ilva Beretta (their creative partnership has garnered several prestigious awards in it's wee two years). How she finds time for all of this while operating her hotel is beyond me.

Jamie and I in front of the warm dining room fireplace
You see, in addition to greeting guests and graciously serving them an incredible breakfast, Jamie also makes all the jams and jellies served in the morning at Hotel Diderot.  This is no small feat as there are at least 20 varieties available daily! Keeping up with the consumption requires Jamie's attention each and every week as the various fruits come in season and she'll make enough of each variety to last the entire year.  Given that this monumental task is done the "old school way" it is rather impressive.

It just so happened that the day of my arrival (Jamie and Jean-Pierre's first official day as owners of Hotel Diderot) was also Jamie's first jam making lesson from Laurent Dutheil, one of the former owners. Laurent knew the time had come to pass the jam baton on to Jamie. Her first assignment was orange marmalade, prepared three ways , a three day project that filled the hotel from top to bottom with the most delicious scent.

Jamie and Laurent at the stove - this is how every single batch is made!

The ancient scale upon which the fruit and sugar are measured.
In order to produce about 12 to 24 8oz jars of jam, Jamie cooks 6 kilos (about 13 lbs) of fruit at a time in a large copper pot.  To keep up with her hungry guests, she needs to cook at least 2 batches per week.  That's a lot fruit and a lot of jam.  But the reward is worth it.  I can attest to the pure delight of finding a dozen open jars of jam with big ol' spoons in them at the table when I sat down for breakfast.  Literally, I felt like a kid in a candy shop!  And since each table has a varied selection, you wind up trading jars with your neighbors.

A small capture of the large armoire of lovingly house made assorted jams and jellies
Now, what really fascinated me about Jamie and Jean-Pierre is that they are "Empty Nesters" and this is their 2nd official career.  Owning a hotel was a dream they shared since 2003 while they were raising their two sons, Clément and Simon, in Nantes. That dream was put on the back burner for practical reasons. Then, they found themselves facing a crossroad at the same time their youngest son was heading off to university. The search for the hotel of their dreams began in earnest .  They knew they had found their new home when they found Hotel Diderot.  As Jamie put it  "Well, we took one look and fell in love.  We had a list of criteria and it fit everything on that list!... The stars finally aligned and here we are!"  (no,I didn't ask her if jam making was part of the criteria).

Jean-Pierre and Laurent placing the hotel's newly acquired Michelin rating!
Stories like these just light me right up.  Women, men, couples who have lived an entire lifetime doing one thing while raising a family and then, they follow their earliest (or brand new) dreams once the children have grown.  These sorts of stories are happening more and more.  Isn't it exciting?

We now live so much longer than previous generations - and that can truly be such a gift!  I'd love to hear the dreams for your best next life - as you're now living it, or in process of creating it, or even wondering what is next. Do share in the comments below. 

A bientot,

Breakfast was never so delicious
Jamie's Orange Marmalade Three Ways recipe can be found HERE

For more about Hotel Diderot, Click HERE
(rent a car in Paris or take the train to Tours then switch trains to Chinon) 

For more about Jamie Schler:

Life's a Feast         Plated Stories                Huffpost              Facebook  1               
Facebook 2            Instagram                      Pinterest             Twitter

If you have recently paid a visit to my personal Facebook page or the French Market Maven Facebook page  you may have noticed information about a 7 day retreat I've organized with a couple of incredible ladies for this fall.  It's about women in midlife. It's about reconnecting with our amazing selves. It's about making like minded friends and creating supportive community.  Besides massage, conversation, three workshops (and the salt water pool) I've planned an outing to Saumur  to shop at their incredible farmer's market.  We'll have lunch in town (the enticing 3 course type including regional wine at a totally "locals" cafe) with plenty of time for some personal shopping and yes, a cooking lesson that evening led by yours truly. You can check it out here:  Your Best Next Life

Mention that you found out about the retreat from French Market Maven and I'll take $350 off your bill via Paypal.  Sign up with a friend and I'll take an extra $50 off for each of you as my personal thanks (that's an $800 total savings!!).

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