Katherine always loved vacationing with her parents in France as a child but in 1990, at the age of 22, she took the plunge and decided to try something more permanent. At the time, she didn’t speak any French and had no friends or family living there.
She settled in the Loire Valley and bought a house as a renovation project. The move had a surprise bonus—she wound up married to her electrician; a Frenchman named Yannick.
The couple later moved to the tiny town of Marigny le Cahouet in Burgundy, population 300. She secured a job working as a chef and the town became home for the next 18 years.
Walking through Marigny regularly, she used to pass the house she now owns, a few feet from a stone Roman footbridge and a five-minute walk from a castle. Then one day, she noticed that it was for sale. She met the owners and before you can say voila, she and Yannick were the proud owners of a 400-year-old former barn plus the two houses next to it.
“We did it in total secrecy, without telling our friends,” she recalls. “It was such fun to say ‘Hi’ to the neighbors, who were some of our friends, when we moved in. Their faces were a picture!”
The pair converted the barn to a tastefully furnished five-room inn, La Ferme de la Lochere. Today, in its streamlined spacious kitchen, Katherine teaches cooking classes to guests on her tour package, Frelon’s Fabulous France.
The Frelons and their young son and daughter live next door to their inn, with an outdoor pool in the middle. Marigny has so embraced her that Katherine cooks for the village each Bastille Day. “For me it was all about finding a lifestyle that suits my family. A local school, friends, child care, a support network, bakery and cafe are here,” says Katherine, now 45.
She continues, “There’s easy access to the train and freeway, but my family enjoys the country lifestyle and freedom of France.”
Besides getting her cookbook, A Taste of France, tour guests dine on the gourmet meals they help her cook at her inn, and at Michelin-starred restaurants as well. They taste Burgundy’s famous wines, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and they get to browse through cheeses, pates, seafood, vegetables, herbs and artisan mustards at the Dijon food market. Visitors also tour picturesque towns like Flavigny (Chocolat, starring Juliette Binoche, was filmed here) and Semur-en-Auxois.
With glamorous Paris a little over an hour away by high-speed train, guests are spoiled for choice. But in the end, they have to go home—Katherine enjoys this beautiful corner of France all year round.
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