"Arrivés à Troyes par l'express de Paris ils attendent généralement un second train pour joindre enfin la gare de Polisot où, le cheval "coco", Fluteau le cousin, Clément et son fils viendront les attendre tous les débuts juillet"
Ever since I read this excerpt from the book "Renoir à Essoyes" by Fabienne Dubois, which describes how "cousin Fluteau" would come collect the Renoir family at the train station to take them to their summer home in Essoyes, I’ve been curious to know exactly what the family connection was to Renoir. Well, last weekend I met up with a distant cousin, who had inherited her family’s archives and had spent considerable time researching the family tree. Thus I learned of Gustave Fluteau, the brother of Thierry’s great grandfather, who owned and operated a café in the Town of Essoyes, about 10 kms from our village.
Gustave was the elder brother in a family of 4 children. His father owned the “Hotel des Voyageurs “ here in Gyé, so I suppose it was quite natural that Gustave would embrace the same profession. (later, his brother Henri, Thierry’s great-grandfather would take over the hotel in Gyé) However, as was the case for many in those days, he was always searching for opportunities to diversify, and so in addition to running the local café with his wife Marthe Armedey (a native of Essoyes), he would provide transportation to and from the train station, about 15 kms away. In the absence of any kind of phone system in this rural corner of France, people would send quick notes written on postcards. The Renoirs, who by that time owned a summer home and workshop in Essoyes, would send word to Gustave via the post, to let him know their time and date of arrival, and ask him to collect them.
So I would guess it was more a customer relationship than familial, but I still like to think of Gustave offering the Renoirs a bottle of Champagne Fluteau as a welcome gift. The only problem is that at the time of the Renoirs, champagne was yet to be produced in the Aube, and the beverage made from the vines there was little more than cheap wine destined for the tables of Parisian workers.
If you are interested to learn more about Renoir’s life in Essoyes, you can find out more here
Or better yet, come for a visit!
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