Canisy – By Pierre-Jean REMY

Pierre-Jean REMY Member of Académie Française

The first time I saw Canisy, dusk was beginning to fall; Against a sky still light raced heavy dark blue clouds which intermittently veiled the moon. As though in a romantic engraving, the towers of chateau, its pointed rooftops appeared through the trees of park, on the other side of the moat and ornamental lake, which reflected scattered burning lights, here and there along the obscure facade.

The car passed for a further moment beside the lake, then the great entrance tower, and there it was, the enchantment of the vast courtyard, the friends who came to welcome us, and the first visit through seemingly unending corridors, reception halls… Log fires crackled in the fire places under the portraits in pastel hues of young beauties of the name Kergorlay who had been beheaded during the French Revolution, and music — it was a string quartet and it was Mozart –, sounded from the final round tower.

That was the first time, and from the first, Canisy seemed to me a timeless place where everything was possible – even the impossible.

Often in the past ten years, I have returned to Canisy. For weekends with a handful of friends, or for more ambitious festive gatherings. Sometimes seminars, serious people discussing in one room while others; elsewhere, played bridge or listened still to Mozart while sipping a glass of very old calvados. I have attended weddings and christenings there. Many have married in Canisy in those ten years. Many fell in love also in this romantic place. I have run into other writers, who have withdrawn to Canisy to begin a new book; and young American or Chinese musicians from all over the world, now famous. I have overhead ministers of one faction, talk politics with former ministers of another faction, and I have often glimpsed laughing blond or dark-haired children riding ponies in the alleys of the huge park.

This indeed is the miracle of Canisy, its grounds, its galleries, its corridors, over which even other lovely ladies, long dead, keep watch; its choice of three librairies : the large library, the small library and the archives. Its huge kitchen in which guests convene on Friday night, as they arrive, around steaming soups like those our grandmothers made.

This is the miracle of Canisy: a place outside of time where so many men and women come together at given time and through the magic of weekend, become our friends for ever.

After the first evening comes the first morning. We open our shutters onto the park still nestled in the white mist of dawn, a man leads two horses over a lawn and on the other side of the park, above the treetops, the church steeple, its bells tolling, beckons us to mass. And the day itself, which slowly takes form around meals, walks- and the sea, so nearby, with its wide beaches – and finally the candlelit dinners which lend even more enchantment to our most enchanting friends… Ah, the dinners is, carefully, painstakingly prepared throughout the years by Andrée and Marie. And the memorable wines and, between the fruit and cheese courses, the serving of ‘fromage blanc’ known locally as ‘La piquette’ which has become a tradition.

Guests may number twenty, forty, sixty; they may be donning sweaters, or tuxedos and here come again our pretty friends, their shoulders so beautifully naked under their shawls, while evening has barely begun…

A few moments later, coffee is served in the Grand Salon, and in no time we discern the first notes rising from the piano. There is the silence of those who listen, while others, in other rooms and the libraries, talk and talk into the wee hours of the night.

At the end of the north wing of a certain gallery, in the tower where the children have created their own nightclub, other music can be heard – this too is the miracle of Canisy.

From the very first time I came to Canisy, I understood that it was a home – this chateau of seventy room… – where ‘things’ were as alive as its inhabitants.