I don’t think you could ever tire of rolling down a French country lane through ivy-covered woods, with glimpses of a stunning french chateau in the distance. In fact, it’s not hard to see how you could fall in love, dream of buying it and live half the year in France.
Well Australian couple Suzie and Vinnie did just that and now they’re living the dream of doing up a 200 year old grand French chateau, sharing the journey as they go.
Chateau de la Carriere is on the edge of a little village La Cropte, a couple of hours drive from Paris, somewhere between the Loire Valley and Normandy.
For a few days in the middle of Autumn, we got a glimpse at chateau life in the French countryside …. with exceptional hospitality. It was very hard to leave…
From the most abundant basket of fresh produce on arrival – bread, fruit, homemade jams, wine and cheeses, to the organising of unique adventures, we felt so looked after.
We loved exploring the grounds, and witnessing the bustling atmosphere of work going on around the place. We had plenty of walks in the woods spotting squirrels and deer and just sinking into a place that has so much history- links to Napolean and the Irish Royal family.
As Suzie puts it, they are caretakers, restoring the chateau and ensuring it lives on. Some chateaus are left to wither, others might be gutted and sold for parts. This one got lucky.
Suzie and Vinnie offer their guests unique experiences. Their knowledge of the area helps to access things that you might not come across yourself.
“We just want people to experience chateau life and have as much fun as we have,” Suzie said.
From clearing out old wells (full of all sorts of strange things), to replacing electrics and plumbing, repairing the old slate roof, restoring wood panels on the interior walls, Suzie and Vinnie, along with their staff and volunteers have put their heart and soul into bringing new life to this grand old dame.
“We didn’t want a complete restoration job. We wanted something we could live in and do up and offer people a chance to experience life in a French country house. However it has been so much more work than we thought…” She said.
Suzie is not only project manager extraordinaire of the many tasks involved in restoring a Chateau but her interior style is superb. The interiors of the chateau itself are divine -furniture and artworks have been sourced on their travels, at Paris flea markets or commissioned especially to bring the whole look together.
The old barn (where we stayed) is now a stunning guest house in French country style with three generous bedrooms, each with it’s own generous bathroom and then a fabulous sized kitchen, dining and sitting room.
The garden is on its way to something pretty special and one the many drawcards for us. When we realised Suzie was in the process of constructing the Paul Bangay-designed garden we jumped at the chance to stay so we could witness this coming together.
You often see a finished garden but we were keen to see the foundations and the of what will be spectacular when complete. We saw the main layout, the hard landscaping and the green composting of mustard in the potager garden. Much work had gone into the steel edging and the basketry chestnut weave for many of the garden beds and there was a big focus into getting the soil right for planting. Their aim is to be next level organic using natural systems and relationships between plants and animals for promote healthy soil and fabulous produce and flowers. Can’t wait to follow the progress and return one day to see it all.
It was such a unique experience to gain an insight into project like this. And while we were guests with superb accommodation and not involved with the work going on, it felt like we had behind the scenes tickets to witness this dream project.
And oh the experiences we were treated to!!! For our stay, Suzie knew we were interested in cut flowers and floristry so one afternoon, with homemade madeleines in hand (recipe from The Ritz Paris), Suzie drove us through beautiful countryside and picturesque villages until we reached another chateau – think French doll house.
We toured the garden here at La Rongere and the cut flower patches with head gardener and flower grower Emmanuel Taillard followed by those delicious madeleines for afternoon tea. Such a fab experience – felt so unique and a little exclusive. “All part of the magic,” Suzie said upon our return.
We also explored the Loire Valley from here and of course visited Chateau Villandry. And our last day we shopped at a fantastic local market for a feast back at the guesthouse.
Suzie also has her favourite spots for brocanting and knew the best produce markets. A shame we only had four days!
Stay tuned for unique stays at the Chateau next year for lovers of gardens, brocanting, cooking and the French way of life. You can also rent the self-contained guesthouse over the summer months.
You can follow their journey and keep up to date with all that is happening at…