Frank in France #38

Frank Varney

Frank in France #38

5 mins
December 14, 2021

Last week I wrote about les marchés de Noël (the Christmas Markets) in France in December, showing some photos of the month long market that takes place in Limoges, where I live.

Today I’ll write about a one-day market that I participated in this past Saturday, December 11, which took place at le Château de Bonneval, about 45 minutes south of Limoges.

This year was the seventh year I was invited to participate as the special guest of the Marquis and Marquise de Bonneval, (whom I have come to know simply as my friends, Marta and Geraud) in the inner courtyard of the château.

My first Christmas Market at le Château de Bonneval in 2014. (Photo by Frank Varney)
My 7th Christmas Market at le Château de Bonneval, with my son, Oliver, and my dear friend, Katell on December 11, 2021. (Photo by Marta de Bonneval)

In 2014, while I was doing my training to become a pastry chef, I received a message on the Facebook page for my future bakery, Sugar Tree. The message was from a woman who said she was organizing a Christmas Market in a castle. She loved what I created and wanted me to participate in the event.

At the time, I was very busy with my education and raising a rambunctious youngster (who was then 7 years old), so I didn’t give the message much thought. Then a couple of days later, she sent me another message. And another a couple of days later!

Finally, I answered her message and we talked on the phone. Turns out it was Marta de Bonneval, the Marquise of the castle, who was attempting to organize a Christmas Market at their castle. She loved the American pastries and decorated cakes that I created and wanted to meet with me to talk about participating in her event.

I met Marta and Geraud at le Château de Bonneval shortly thereafter and we quickly hit it off. Marta has a vivacious, friendly personality that made me feel at ease immediately. Geraud is more timid, but I could tell that he was a good guy and was clearly proud of his heritage and history.

To find my stand, you simply need to approach the front entry (be careful of the moat!) … (Photo by Frank Varney)
 Cross the drawbridge… (Photo by Frank Varney)

Needless to say, that was the beginning of our friendship which has led to seven Christmas Markets (it would have been eight had it not been cancelled in 2020) and a few other events where we’ve worked together.

Outside, in the shadow of the castle, over 20 exhibitors set up under large white tents. They include the local PTA and other associations that support various causes, creators of jewelry and decorative objects, and local food producers offering such items as sausage, poultry products, local beer, honey and beeswax products, and much more.

My stand is always located inside the courtyard of their magnificent château, where there are also tables and chairs for those who wish to sit and enjoy the ambiance and the goodies they just purchased from my stand where I sell American pastries, vin chaud (mulled wine), homemade hot chocolate, coffee, and tea.

During the day, there is a visit from Santa as he walks around and talks to the children. There is also usually a roving choral group who spends time walking around the grounds, singing Christmas carols.

And follow the red carpet. (Photo by Marta de Bonneval)
The American pastries I offered from Sugar Tree. (Photo by Frank Varney)

It is always a pleasure for me to participate in this Christmas Market, although now that I don’t have a professional bakery in which to make my pastries, it does take some planning and it is a lot of work. The weeks leading up to the market are always filled with sleepless nights as I prepare for the event.

In past years, I have always made three or four two-tier cakes, including Red Velvet, Carrot Cake, Lemon Cake, either a Vanilla or Chocolate Cake, as well as two types of cheesecake, a plain and a cranberry. To accompany these, I make Chocolate Revel Bars; Brownies, with and without nuts; Cranberry Bliss bars (similar to a bar that a U.S.-based coffee giant offers in their stores); Lemon Bars; three types of scones; chocolate and vanilla cupcakes; dozens of chocolate and vanilla decorated sugar cookies; cinnamon rolls; and pecan sticky buns. 

This year I changed things up a bit by exhibiting some products from my new small business, Franky B. Creations. I displayed the personalized gifts that I sew and embroider, including embroidered kitchen towels, onesies, t-shirts, hooded towels, and pencil cases, as well as personalized stuffed animals and Memory Stuffies, created with the clothing of loved ones who have passed.

Some of the sewn and embroidered items I offered from Franky B. Creations. (Photo by Frank Varney)
 The exterior of the château with some of the exhibitors under the tents. (Photo by Marta de Bonneval).

It was an enjoyable day and it felt good to see some of my former clients and to talk to people about my pastries and my new handmade creations. 

It was also rewarding to have my son by my side, helping me and my friend Katell serving clients. It feels like it wasn’t long ago, during the first market where he was also with me, that he was running around making friends with the kids outside, and here he was helping out his Dad behind the counter.

If you’re interested in seeing more of the items I create, please visit: www.facebook.com/FrankyBCreations or www.facebook.com/sugartreefrance.

This article was orginally reported by
Frank Varney