Updated: Nov 4, 2018
Loving all things French it was always my dream to own a property in France. In 2014 when exchange rates were favourable my darling husband to be said it’s now or never and so we arranged a trip to France to look at a number of properties that were for sale. Despite being tempted by ancient castles with amazing history and neglected family chateaus, common sense prevailed and we purchased a youngish chateau of only 200 years in the top of the Loire Valley.
Having been unoccupied for a number of years I assured my husband it just needed a bit of sprucing up. That translated into major roof repairs, new septic system, new electrics, updated plumbing, new kitchen and complete refurbishment of the ground floor and rear garden. We also decided it was a good idea to renovate the barn into a guesthouse we could then rent out as self-contained accommodation. On top of that the husband to be proposed and we decided there was only one possible place to hold our wedding – our chateau of course. There nothing like taking on a big project and then putting a deadline in place. Oh, and did I mention that neither of us spoke French!!
Not surprisingly the past few years have been somewhat hectic as we proceeded with the renovations and also established the necessary infrastructure to live in France. Who knew opening a bank account could be so hard, with the added surprise of finding out they limit the amount of how much of your own money you can spend! When the artisan tells you it’s a 3 days job don’t assume that will be three days one after another. I’ve walked in on the kitchen installer in his underpants, mistakenly instructed the clearer to dust the house with icing sugar (wrong French word for dust) and am still never quite sure what I have ordered at the butchers.
It has been an enormous learning curve that without doubt will continue but somehow we muddle our way through. I think the Aussie sense of humour helps as you tend to see the funny side of things (most times). I am fortunate I can spend far more time here as my gorgeous clients back in Australia seem quite happy for me to continue to look after their financial affairs from the other side of the world although there have been a few hints about a “client conference”. My husband’s job is not so flexible but he gets over for a few weeks at a time. We are never short of family and friends who are keen to visit and it is wonderful to watch them also fall in love with our chateau and surrounding countryside.
Owning a chateau probably makes no sense and most chateau owners will admit they are a little bit crazy but continue on regardless. The on-going costs are not insignificant, the winter heating bills are outrageous – it would be cheaper to give everyone a fur coat to wear; 200 year old houses need constant care; the French bureaucracy almost sends you mental; they drive like maniacs and getting to grips with French etiquette is challenging. But on the plus side living in an amazing chateau in the French countryside is beyond fabulous; waking up to the sound of birds every morning or watching the deer in the front parc is something you never tire of; the food and produce is amazing; Sunday brocanting - never knowing what treasures you might come home with is so much fun and every day brings new surprises and memories. And our French is slowly improving.
Looking back so much could have gone wrong and whilst there have been many challenges, overall it has been the most amazing experience and a decision that we have never regretted, every day is like being on the most incredible adventure. Our friends now refer to us at the Duke and Duchess which is very amusing and last year we had our fairy-tale ‘royal wedding’ at the chateau with 100 of our friends and family attending. Pretty sure that’s probably the most number of Aussies in this area ever!
There are still more renovations to complete and we need to tackle the rest of the garden but with the bulk of the work now done we look forward to sharing our French fairy-tale. We look forward to welcoming travellers in the guesthouse; hosting tours where you can stay in the chateau itself and experience life in the French countryside and hosting bespoke weddings and events.
This is just a brief snapshot of our story to date but I have been documenting it all and hope to share the full story in a book very soon. In the meantime, you can keep up to date with our latest adventures and challenges by signing up to the Chateau blog “Chat from the Chat” or following us on Instagram or facebook.
Suzie (AKA Duchess)