Louvieres, France – Where My Love Of Travel Began
Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Full Time Travel Coach
Every Story Has A Beginning
With 72 residents, Louvieres is not a village you’ll find tourists flocking to. There’s no tourist office, no restaurants, no public toilets. There is a Mairie, and one of my French host sisters is the adjoint mayor of Louvieres.
I came to Louvieres for the first time in 1986 with The Experiment In International Living. I was a shy, insecure only child from New York City who suddenly found herself in the middle of nowhere (the Louvieres population was smaller back then). More surprising was ending up with 8 host siblings; 7 sisters and one brother. Another shock was the herd of cows in the back yard, and the cow faces that regularly appeared at the kitchen window to see what we were up to each day.
My host family members weren’t able to pronounce my name so I told them it’s a flower that grows in Scotland. They looked up “Heather” in the encyclopedia and found “Bruyere”. From then onward I was known as Fleur de Bruyere. To this day I feel a bit like Harry Potter because most people I meet there for the first time say they’ve heard of me!
I feel like I’m home every time I see the sign
My high school French was mediocre. When my host sister Marguerite-Marie showed me my room for the summer, I understood her to say I was sharing it with François, a friend of the family. At 16, this seemed highly inappropriate, not to mention terrifying. When Marguerite Marie realized what I had understood she burst out laughing. It turned out I was taking the room François had been using up to then, and he was leaving later that day.
The house that became my home for the summer.
I was quickly overwhelmed in such a big family. At meals it seemed like everyone was looking at me and laughing. I stared at the ceiling to avoid crying. My host father, Ernest, didn’t speak much, but he had an uncanny way of always making me feel seen and understood. He caught my eye at many a meal and made me feel reassured.
The herd of cows was another source of comfort. Amazonie, in particular, would follow and lick me like an overgrown puppy. She was the daily moral support I needed and became the impetus for my love of cows.
Scenes from herding the cows, now at my host sister’s home, and some of the new calves to join the herd.
While Ernest made me feel seen, Simone, my host mother, pushed me out of my shell and into the center of attention. At some point that summer, I shed my shy skin and became much more engaged with my outer world. She taught me about the “ugly American” who travels and expects everyone to speak English. I didn’t want to be that, so I’ve made language study a priority.
Marguerite-Marie and another host sister, Marie-Christelle, accompanied me to places like Omaha Beach, Giverny and Bayeux. I even had a French boyfriend, Stephane, who was a cousin of the family. (Note, you won’t find any photos of my family in this article as they prefer their privacy.)
The Louvieres church where my host father is buried.
Over the years, my host siblings got married, moved and had families of their own. There are 28 grandkids and literally too many great grandkids to count. Marguerite-Marie moved nearby and took over the cows and created an organic farm. The milk from her farm goes to Isigny to make camembert! She became mayor of Louvieres and then joined with some other communities so they could make a bigger difference.
In 2007, when Ernest passed away, I attended his funeral and felt another level of connection with the rest of my host family.
A back view of my French host family’s home in Louvieres.
I just spent a wonderful two weeks here with my host mom. She’s getting older now and I’m happy to have the time to spend with her. I had the pleasure of spending her birthday week with her, and ordered her my favorite cake, that we eat every time I come to Louvieres. It’s called a Moka, and is made at the Reine Mathilde pastry shop in Bayeux. They just changed ownership, but the cake is still delicious.
While in Louvieres, I of course milk the cows, play with the calves, and even walk to Omaha beach one day. It’s only about a 25-minute walk! When I arrive at the D-Day memorial, I happen upon 350 musicians from Omaha and an amazing concert. In the 36 years I’ve been going to Louvieres, I’ve never seen anything like it.
While Louvieres may not be a place you’ll ever visit, it will always be a magical place for me. A shy girl became an extroverted woman, fluent in French and fell in love with cultural immersion. This is the place that started my love of travel.
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