In 2010 we were in London attending an art exhibition at the Fine Art Society on New Bond St. The artist was Joash Woodrow, recently discovered, and of Polish ancestry. There was a very simple attractive painting of a white goat, and we wondered about calling the hotel ‘La Chevre Blanche’, after all, Bordeaux has a white horse ‘Cheval Blanc’!. However, a Google search revealed that name was already taken. So we searched for ‘Two Goats’, ‘Les Deux Chevres’ – et voila! A fable by Jean de Lafontaine, written in 1695 for the Duke of Burgundy, by the exact same name. The moral of the story is compromise. Two stubborn goats meet on a bridge over a stream. Neither will give way, and they both fall in the water. Whether we have learned the lesson of the fable, is another matter!
One of the properties used to be a famous restaurant. President Mitterand and famous American actors ate there. Before the restaurant, it was a winery. The other property belonged to the Faiveley family, one of the largest producers in Burgundy. There was an ancient wine press that had been dismantled to create space for the restaurant, and there were vaulted cellars that connected underneath both properties. We thought there could be a demand for a luxury hotel in Gevrey Chambertin – and we were right!
In January 2010, not speaking a word of French, Jolanta moved to France. We had recruited a small team of workers from Poland for the renovation. However, the winter of 2010, just happened to be the worst winter in Europe since 1945. The pipes burst, there was no hot water or heating, the buildings were open to the elements, but the work kept going. Instead of the eighteen months that we had envisaged, it kept going for almost four years. In the meantime, back in the UK, a dispute between the partners of the law firm I worked for delayed my arrival in France, and Jolanta was left on her own to get on with it.
Guests who come to stay with us who have carried out a renovation themselves, marvel at what has been created; the attention to detail; the design; and the mix of the old and the new. However, only those who were actually involved in the project, can appreciate the monumental effort that was involved. We renewed everything apart from the stone walls, some of the beams, and the roof of one building. Jolanta’s health was affected, and it has taken a long time for her to recover from the experience.
In June 2013 the properties opened for business as Les Deux Chevres, and in 2014 we obtained our hotel license. We could not see the point in applying for a hotel categorization, and have not missed it. Jolanta suggested we should sign up with Booking.com, but I was not convinced. Of course, sign up we did, and within days we started receiving reservations from all over the world, and which has continued ever since. For the last three years we have been either No1 or No2 on Trip Advisor out of over 470 hotels in Burgundy, and have held the No1 slot in Dijon over the same period ahead of 5* competition.
An old wine producing property comes back to life!