People say that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us.
At least, the great writer Umberto Eco did. He believed, “We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” Umberto and his father were two particularly dissimilar souls, so perhaps his father’s teachings had to be cloaked in mystery to have their effect. In the case of the Ecos, Senior wanted Junior to become a lawyer. Junior took up philosophy and literature instead. He stopped believing in God, left the Roman Catholic Church, and befriended a group of avant-garde artists, painters, musicians and writers. Sacrilege. But not an uncommon story across different generations.
The Odd Moments Way of Fathering, however, is not lost on those more similar in nature. For instance, my father and I… our paths and passions are rather aligned. It’s a result that I’m sure has been (quietly, never to be admitted) created or at least prodded along by my father, both purposefully and at more random moments. On a walk through the forest or tending to the granadilla creepers… Moments when he wasn’t trying to educate me about the world, when he was simply being his natural self.
Together with his wife, Anne Bourgeois, Michel owns and manages what is the first boutique hotel on the island – a route he embarked on in 2005. His previous career, however, and an eternal passion of his, was as an airline captain on the Airbus 340 & 330 for Air Mauritius.
Michel is a man of many passions. But from what I gather you can distill this into one phrase – art de vivre. Michel strikes me as a man of refinement over excess when it comes to the luxuries of life, a man in favour of the delicacy of taste, feeling and spirit. And a man who has shared this spirit, his passion for life’s little pleasures, with his son. And whether consciously or not, his son has inevitably followed in his footsteps.
Today, Bourgeois Senior and Junior often share the cockpit, with Junior acting as co-pilot on personal journeys. How this came to be Michel puts down to our “odd moments” theory, moments when passion, above all, shines through unfiltered on morning walks together along the beach or private flights back to Belgium where Michel hails from…
“Aviation is not a job, it’s a passion,” Michel says.
In celebration of Father’s Day this year, we asked Michel two simple questions… to give us a different perspective on family compared to our Mothers of Relais & Châteaux Africa series. This is a glimpse through the eyes of the men of Relais & Châteaux Africa…
Michel, What does being a father mean to you?
On top of the fact of course that I love my children, being a father means for me mostly being responsible of people.
BELOW: Michel’s extended family, the faces of 20°Sud in Pointe aux Canonniers. “Our staff have followed us on this journey and are very dear to us.”
As a father, what have you tried to instill in your children about life, love and Africa?
I try, day after day, to teach them values such as honesty, courage, hard work, and speaking of Africa, respect for nature. I once read this beautiful phrase in a book – “The earth is not given to us, it is borrowed, and we will have to give it back to our kids when leaving.” That is what I try to teach them.
Above: Michel with our AC, Annie Claude Bergonzoli, the Director of Relais & Châteaux Africa and Indian Ocean
The odd moments, however, cannot be captured and quantified. Those remain private, between family members, or elusive altogether…