A Good Home, Expatriates in France, Family Stories, Famous Places, Home, Living in France

At Home With Nancy Ing-Duclos

Nancy Ing-Duclos is a TV news producer and online publisher of INSPIRELLE.

Blog Photo - Nancy INSPIRELLE COVER 3

France has been home for almost 30 years.

She loves it. “I can happily say:  ‘Je suis chez moi’ .  I’m at home.”

This spectacular rooftop view of Paris, by the way, is from her home.

Blog Photo - Nancy Rooftop Terrace - Photo Credit Alexis Duclos
Credit: Alexis Duclos

Long before Paris, however, Nancy spent her childhood in Windsor, Ontario.

“When my father bought the house (in Windsor), we were the first Chinese family on the street and the neighbors, I’ve been told, drew up a petition. We felt the need to blend in and soon, the fireworks display on our lawn every Canada Day on July 1st  and our elaborate Christmas lights made our home indistinguishable from other Canadian homes.”

Nancy went to university in Toronto and got her first big job in TV news in the 80’s “at a time when Canada’s multicultural communities were finding and defining their voices.” 

That’s how we met.  Nancy and I were both young journalists at CBC TV.

But a car accident changed her perspective on life.

“So when I met my French husband, Alexis, six months later at a G7 Economic Summit, I said to myself, ‘You never know when tomorrow will be your last day’ ”.

Blog Photo - Nancy at Work

She moved to Paris and worked at various news jobs for years.

“Paris is truly one of the most beautiful, cultural and dynamic cities in the world but once the honeymoon period wears off, the reality can be rude. Moving abroad is a very humbling experience. No one knows you or knows what you have achieved or are capable of.

“I had to start from scratch. I read loads of books, attended classes, explored each of the French neighborhoods in my quest to become a “Paris insider”. And what I learned is I will never feel totally ‘French’ but ‘je suis bien dans mes baskets’. I’m comfortable in my sneakers.”

Blog Photo - Nancy and Alexis

Did she ever imagine this kind of life?

“I always thought the person who married me would have to learn to accept the Chinese culture ingrained in me. In fact, I’ve done most of the work in the relationship by learning to speak French, reinventing my career, tackling bureaucracy and understanding all the nuances of my adopted home, France.”

A car accident had changed her attitude to life.  And it was a car accident that changed her career:

“Covering the death of Princess Diana in a Paris tunnel landed me the position I still hold today with a major American television network.

“I have been privileged to interview presidents and pop stars, produce major live shows from iconic locations. It’s also been sobering to witness the tragic aftermath of plane crashes and terrorist attacks on French soil.”

Alexis built them a small house on a hill, next to the woods.  They and their son Jordan moved to Sèvres 20 years ago.

Blog Photo - Nancy - Paris suburbs drawing

Blog Photo - Nancy Alexis Jorxdan

“Retreating to the suburbs was the only way we could own a house.  I left the city of lights reluctantly but Alexis promised me that if I was unhappy two years later, we could move back to Paris.

“On my first night in my new home, I slept soundly. No more waking up to every creak of my Parisian neighbors, conversations sneaking through walls and babies crying down the hallway.”

Her son Jordan could walk to school and play in the woods. It didn’t take Nancy long to realize that they lived only a short drive to the Seine River; Paris was only 20 minutes away by car.  She decided to learn to drive in France.

Blog Photo - NANCY TABLE SETTING CORSICA

“Last summer, my entire Canadian family and close friends, 25 in all, traveled to France and Corsica to help me celebrate with my husband’s French family.

Blog Photo - Nancy and Family and Friends

“It was pure joy for two weeks. Never have I felt so at home with the people I love the most.”

In 2015, Nancy and two expatriate friends launched INSPIRELLE.

Blog Photo - Nancy INSPIRELLE Team - Photo Credit Alexis Duclos
Credit: Alex Duclos

“We created INSPIRELLE to inspire, connect and empower international women in France. Having experienced the challenges of living abroad, raising a family in an unfamiliar setting with different sets of rules and values as well as reinventing myself at work, I wanted to share stories and resources to help women in their personal and professional lives.”

Blog Photo - Nancy - INSPIRELLE_cover

Sixty contributing writers share advice, expertise, and personal stories on how to navigate and celebrate life in Paris.

Nancy, Alexis and Jordan are now thinking about a bigger home to accommodate visiting relatives or friends.

It will have “a large kitchen with a long dining table to host dinners. We figure the only way to afford that is to move a bit further outside of Paris. We’ll build a beautiful house so everyone will want to come to visit us.

“For me, home is where I am surrounded by family and friends.”

~~

 

A Good Home, Canada's National Historic Sites, Canadian Gardens, Canadian Homes, Canadian life, Famous Places, Gardens, Heritage Homes, Home

PARKWOOD: A Place of Astonishing Beauty

Ever visited a garden which made your jaw drop — repeatedly?

Parkwood does that to me… every time I visit. A national historic site, Parkwood is gorgeous.

Blog Photo - Parkwood house from west

You’ve likely seen Parkwood in the movies – many movies and television shows have been shot here, from X-Men to Hannibal.

Located only about 35 minutes from Toronto, Parkwood is the kind of place where you can lose yourself, meandering from one space to another. Time moves slowly and pleasantly on the 12-acre grounds.

Surprisingly, Parkwood is right downtown in the city of Oshawa.

Blog Photo - Parkwood Fountains and teahouse

It’s one of the few places I know that has a white garden — but then again, Parkwood has so many garden rooms, it could dedicate one to each colour and still have space left over.

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Built for auto baron Robert Samuel McLaughlin (“Sam”), his wife Adelaide Louise and their five daughters in 1917,  the house is a mansion by any definition.

Blog Photo - Parkwood Drawing room

Blog Photo - Parkwood Dining room

Many features were rare at that time: indoor heated swimming pool, morning room for breakfast, large conservatory and an indoor bowling alley and games room.

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As for life’s ‘little’ luxuries: Parkwood had an in-house telephone system, an elevator, a central vacuum system, remote-controlled outdoor lighting system, air conditioning, climate-controls for the art gallery, a walk-in refrigerator, and much more.

Blog Photo - Parkwood - RSM and Family

The family could well afford it. McLaughlin was president of his family business Canadian Motor Car Company which became General Motors of Canada.

The house is Classic Revival in style, with some Georgian features.

Blog Photo - Parkwood back of mansion.

I’m impressed by the grand house and its history — it’s a Canadian jewel.

But I’m completely bowled over by the gardens.

Blog Photo - Parkwood teahouse-restaurant

Inspired by the great gardens of Europe, they were created by the finest landscape designers available.

Blog Photo - Parkwood Garden layout

Blog Photo - B&W shot of garden and pavilion

And though Adelaide and Sam loved gardening, the expansive grounds and eleven greenhouses required a staff of 24 to look after them.

Blog Photo - Parkwood Garden and Pavillion

Today, people visit from all over Canada and the world. They tour the house or gardens or both, and some come for lunch or tea at the restaurant. I highly recommend the tea house-restaurant and tours. A great way to spend a morning or afternoon in a place of outstanding beauty.

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To visit Parkwood or donate to the upkeep of this national treasure:

Tel: (905) 433-4311
Email: info@parkwoodestate.com

All photos courtesy of Parkwood Estate

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Loving and Leaving Ebor House – Pt. 6 – Conclusion

Ron Coffin did such a great job restoring Ebor House that he was honoured for it.

Blog Photo - Ebor House MBedroom other view

He received the Newcastle Village and District Historical Society’s Preservation Award in 2011.
Blog Photo - Ebor House Master Bedroom

He also opened the house to the community on a recent architectural conservancy day and 600 visitors came.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Library

A pianist played beautiful music.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Living room reverse

The visitors toured the grand old house, admiring the furnishings and paintings, old and new.

Painting by George Forgie
Painting by George Forgie

Ron has invested untold time, love and money into his home.

“This place has nurtured me. Not just me but others too. One friend stayed here in the winter, healing from an accident. It’s nurtured her.”

The children are grown up. Ron says it’s time to leave. Ebor House is too big for one person.

He looks around at rooms sparkling with sunshine, beauty and a strong sense of well-being.  He tells me yet another story about the house and the Farncombs. He calls each family member by first name.

I say:  “You don’t sound like a man who’s selling this house.”

He says he is.  

“I truly believe the house is looking for a buyer, rather than a person looking for this house. It’s a very special place.  Last evening four of us had a wonderful supper under the trees and at the end of our meal we were visited by one of the hawks that have decided to call this place home this year.  Just magical!”

Blog Photo - Ebor House back lawn

**

As for me?

It started when I got lost a few weeks ago and saw this house.

I wanted to know more.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Front 2

But the single discovery that kept me searching was the August 1901 New York Times story about the drowning of the two Farncomb boys.

My heart sank when I read it.

A parent myself, I wanted – perhaps even needed –  to know that things turned out well for the family.

Of course — since this is real life and not a fairy tale — they did and they didn’t.

**

The Farncomb family survived and, over the decades, many thrived.

John and Jane and the boys were not forgotten.

Blog Photo - Ebor House Entrance and Stairs

But life must go on, at least after a while.

And so it did.

Farncomb descendants became successful in Canadian business, education, law, medicine and other fields such as literature and media.

They still own property in Bond Head, and still have influence. In 2002, one descendant (among other residents) protested against a plan to change the name of a local street. He argued it made no sense. He also pointed out that Farncombs had lived there for 150 years. And that he owned much of the land in the area.

His side won.

Blog Photo - Bond Head main street

**

My interest in a house became a story about other people’s lives.

I double-checked each finding, then begged homeowner Ron and Myno Van Dyke, secretary of the local historical society, to read some of what I’d written. I thank them.

I conclude the series knowing I’ve done my best to make it fair, factual — and kind. But I know there is much more to the story of Ebor House and its families than I’ve written here.

**

This story is dedicated to the descendants of Frederick and Jane Farncomb.

**

POST-SCRIPT: EBOR HOUSE HAS NEW OWNERS — OR PERHAPS I SHOULD CALL THEM ‘NEW STEWARDS’.  I WISH THEM JOYFUL TIMES IN THIS  EXCEPTIONAL HOME.

Thanks to: Newcastle Village and District Historical Society; Library and Archives Canada; Archives of the City of London, England; Trinity College, Port Hope; Canadian Anglican Church;  St. George’s, Newcastle; the Canadian Encyclopaedia; The New York Times and several other Canadian and American newspapers; and other sources. Some photos of Ebor House came from Promise First Realty’s website.

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Author MT McGuire At Home

Author MT McGuire is one of my favorite bloggers. That’s partly because I never know what MT will write about next.  Or how.

Like the time she went metal detecting and found “a strange um…. thing.”  Well, with an opening like that, don’t we just need to press on, to figure out what the um… thing is?

The Thing
The Thing

One day she’s unearthing an 800 year old object and the next she’s breaking your heart with her worry about her parents’ health.

My Mum was 80 a few months ago. She told me, gently, that her father didn’t survive to see 81 and I had a horrible feeling that she was telling me she thinks she mightn’t be around for long.  And I think this is the root of it all.  That my parents are knocking on, and soon they won’t be here.  And I want their last years to be happy, and for life to be kind to them, and while I think they are happy, I know they are struggling.

So I suppose I’m just scared.”

That ability to confront both the weird and the deeply moving may help explain the appeal of MT’s  K’Barthan Trilogy.

Blog Photo - MT Few Are Chosen
 She describes the young adult fantasy series as:  “Above all else, a romp. If it makes people laugh, then — to be honest — anything else is gravy. There are bad jokes, silly names, an unspeakable baddie, flying cars, flying car chases, exciting fights and a smattering of romance.  But I’m hoping there might be the odd universal truth buried in there somewhere, even if it’s only by mistake.”

MT McGuire’s self-description?   “A 45 year old who still checks inside unfamiliar wardrobes for a gateway to Narnia.”

Any luck with that?  “None yet.”

One day, I checked MT’s blog and discovered a wonderful old building where she and her family lived while her father was housemaster of Gibbs House, at Lancing College in Sussex, England.

Gibbs House, Lancing College
Gibbs House, Lancing College

Here’s how she describes it:

“Miles and miles of corridor and a couple of enormous rooms (you know, bed in one post code, wardrobe in another) and a couple of tiny ones just big enough to fit a chest of drawers and a bed, on each floor. You have the spare room; the dormer up top (horrible room, we thought it was haunted – so we kindly put our guests there – phnark).”

Lancing was definitely not a “normal” environment for a young girl, since it was mostly a boys’ school.

“If your life is not like other people’s you end up with an alternative perception of what normal is.”

You also learn to see things that others may miss.

“There were always the lads who were having a hard time at home. They were the ones my parents were extra kind to and for whom they went the extra mile. I never knew what was going on in these boys’ lives but there was something unmistakable in all of them.  So, I guess I developed an eye for people who were hauling baggage which has helped a lot with the characterisation in my books – not to mention day to day life.”

Lancing College Chapel
Lancing College Chapel

So – back to the pictures of Lancing College. They reminded me of another fantasy series — the Harry Potter books.  And sure enough,  Lancing was the producers’ first location choice.

“The school was offered a lot of money to be the ‘film-Hogwarts’ but declined. The headmaster at the time said that it was a place of education and not for Hollywood. He is a charming and mild mannered man.  I wonder what on earth they must have said to him to get such an uncharacteristically pompous rebuttal.”

Back Garden

Today, MT, her husband (“McOther”) and young son (“McMini”) live in another old building (above, built in 1800).

Blog Photo - MT Stairs to Landing

She loves it, despite the fact that the plumbing and heating systems and the plastering need repairs.  MT says it’s like owning a 1960’s Rolls Royce.

Blog Photo - MT Office via landing

Blog Photo - MT LRoom comfy corner

“Sure it needs a bit of care and tinkering but it’s like living in history and it’s so beautifully made. The banister rail is beautiful and the doors and the floors are lovely.  The look and feel goes with our furniture, which is mostly family stuff, generations of hand-me-down antiques and some nice modern things McOther and I have bought.

Blog Photo MT LRoom red sofa

Comfort matters.  “I like a well cared house, but not too neat. It has to look lived in or it makes the guests nervous and then they are far more likely to spill stuff and break things. Well, OK — I am, if I’m your guest. It may be different for normal people.”

Blog Photo - MT Stairs

For MT, home is a place, but, above all, it’s the people who love and understand you.

“Someone as well as somewhere to come home to. When I was a kid it was my parents and brother. Now, it’s McOther and McMini. Unless they are in it with me it’s not a proper home. I guess they are my home in many ways.”

MT McGUIRE’S BOOKS

There are 4 books — not three — in The K’Barthan Trilogy.

(MT cheerfully admits:  “Unfortunately, I’ve never been very good at maths”.)

The books are sold on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the other online booksellers. To learn more about MT and her books, please visit:

Blog: www.mtmcguire.co.uk
Website: www.hamgee.co.uk/books