MY HOME IS A CASTLE--the tale of how and why I became a chatelain , four times .This is my present home. If you are visiting for the first time you may care to read the older posts first.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


This a photo which I took on our first viewing visit to La Roche Hue , and it shows how the Chateau stands high in its grounds with the outbuildings placed unobtrusively. This is the rear of the building.

In those first few days we thoroughly toured the grounds with the dogs. I remember the weather being extremely pleasant, surprisingly, as it was still January. We later learned that it had been a particularly mild January in the Loire Valley that year. One day walking in the front park we noticed that in one area the trees seemed to have been planted in an open ended square shape. Most peculiar, we thought! So we investigated the area and began to scrape the leaves and earth away with our feet as the ground felt quite hard beneath. To my amazement I uncovered a white painted line; We got a shovel then and began to uncover a full sized hard based tennis court!! UNBELIEVABLE! Particularly as the agent hadn't a clue that it had been there. It was still in a reasonable condition but, obviously, had no net or fencing ; it went down on to our growing list of must do's!

We re-contacted our friend Archie who agreed to come over for a three month period to work alongside of us and , shortly, our daughter Victoria and her boyfriend would be moving in to work with us as well. So that would be 6 workers ( including Mum)!! Our first project would be to create a separate living area for Mum, who, at that point wanted to be independant. There was a great area on the sous sol , lower ground floor, which had previously been for staff. It consisted , a salon with doors opening onto the garden, a tiny kitchenette and a WC/shower room--ideal! That would be Archie's first job. Meanwhile Vicky and I ( & Mum) would tackle the huge entrance hall. We needed to strip off all that horrific paper and remove the old varnish off the original floor tiles.

These are not a good quality photos I'm afraid, but this is in the entrance hall--it shows the awful paper peeling off; That fireplace is enormous, but doesn't look it in the photo.

Above photo is the front door . Dwarfed by the camera, and more of that ghastly paper!

We were becoming used to the big space little by little and getting to like it. The problem most of the time was finding each other, because once one of us went ' walk-a-abouts ' it might be half an hour before they could be located.

I used to end up at the end of nearly every day in the lovely old stables, dreaming of having a horse, or two...............................

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Today in the present time, I have been searching through all my boxes of photos for some that we might have taken on those first few weeks in the Chateau, and , HOORAY , I have found a few. Trouble is the day has absolutely sped by ( with other issues) and I have not had enough time to scan the photos, which I will do tomorrow. However I have pestered my lovely four daughters to also search through their photos and my second born, Danielle, has triumphed and sent two pictures which she took of the front and rear of La Roche Hue. I thought I would publish them today as I had only just remarked on Monday's about the difference between the rear and front of the east wing. So here they are -- sorry they are a bit small :-(

My other daughter, Michaela has sent me a picture of part of the magnificent staircase , so I will post that up too, so here it is....

I look forward to continuing my story tomorrow,
Bon fin journée.....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


The days began to speed by in a frenzy of-- unpacking --keeping Mum busy--searching for the dogs ( 27 acres is a lot freedom for 2 dobermans)--trying to find each other--trying to find simple things like knives and forks--locating the most convenient food stores-- getting to know the chateau--etc etc.

We managed to get the heating turned on , and gradually the guardians flat began to resemble a home. We knew that that once we got ourselves organised we could start spreading out into that east wing, and create a proper kitchen, use the two grand salons as a dining room and a lounge and install a bathroom in what we were currently using as a kitchen. Our bedroom was going to be in the room that was our present lounge. Then we had to tackle the plans for the renovation. The ground floor consisted of the east wing , which was our private area. The rest of the area consisted of a lovely large reception hall, a staircase hall with a massive wide white stone winding staircase( both of these areas had their original tiles), a long gallery room which gave on to rear terrace , and a large beautiful ballroom. Both the ballroom and the gallery had original parquet flooring , but which needed restoring. There was also another large salon, and a chapel with stained glass windows. The floor area on each floor was 1000 m2.

We studied the bedrooms at length and our plan was to establish 15 self-contained apartments on the 1st and 2nd floors ranging from studios toone, two and three bedroomed appartments. So it was quite an ambitious plan for a couple with no previous experience in that sort of thing. We wondered what the cost might amount to......................

Monday, February 16, 2009


This lovely old building hadn't changed in all the years it had stood, and for us it had been an immediate love affair. This old postcard shows the rear of the chateau which, if you scroll down to an earlier picture, you will see is different from the front because of its rounded west wing. Between each wing is a long balustraded terrace overlooking the wooded park and lake. That is where we were both standing on that first morning-- a beautiful sunny day January 10th 1989-- quite euphoric.

Believe it or not we had all immediately fallen to sleep the previous night( with no hauntings) and awoke to the removal men banging on the front door to wake us up! They were anxious to start! I must give them credit , it was quite a task, however it was confined to just the guardians appartment which ,we had decided, was the best place to start from. There was plenty of other storage space for boxes yet to be opened and all the paraphanalia that one seems to collect.

We took our sandwich lunch onto the terrace ( la-di-da) in the sunshine ; to be shortly interupted by our first visitors. The Mayor of the local village, and our nearest neighbours arrived to welcome us into the community. The wife of our neighbour turned out to be the grand-daughter of the Count and Countess who used to own the chateau at the turn of the century. The family had retained the Chateau's farm buildings which were very elegant.They are still there today and is run as a working farm. So there they were welcoming us the french way with a bottle of champagne. As you can imagine we didn't achieve too much on that first day, and the day drew to a close with us happily in the midst of chaos.

Tomorrow we would make a real start to sort out our living area , then start making plans on how we were going to make this work! All we had at this stage was 80 empty rooms, no heating , no income, no food ( yet to locate the nearest supermarket to stock up), -- but were we down? OF COURSE NOT!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


HOORAY! Although it was dusk , we could see a Pickfords lorry trundling up the drive. The driver jumped out , looked up at the building and cussed - obviously realising the enormity of his work tomorrow. He explained that the other two trucks had bedded down for the night en route as it was so late ,and that they would be arriving the next day. We were so thankful when he said his lorry had the beds and kitchen equipment on board . Alex sped off in the car to the nearest telephone box and rang EDF emergency number and they promised that they would send someone to turn us on ' toute suite' ! Our spirits lifted and we wandered through the ground floor of this vast building trying to locate a suitable ' smallish' area where we could set up a temporary nest. Mum was tired and we needed to eat and she needed to rest. Lo and behold the EDF were true to their word and a technician soon arrived and within half an hour we had some form of lighting on the ground floor. The problem we hadnt considered was the lack of light bulbs, but we made do.
Trying to ignore the dead flies and what looked suspiciously like mouse droppings we chose to set up in what must have been the guardians appartment located in the east wing on the ground floor of the chateau. It had a toilet ,which was in reasonable condition, and two rooms, one which could be a kitchen , then there was a wooden staircase which led up to a mezzanine to three rooms which could be bedrooms. The Pickfords man carried in some hard chairs and a table, so we sat Mum down and hunted for a broom. The dogs meanwhile had been going bonkers in the grounds, so we had to rake them in. Surprisingly they did as they were told and settled into their boxes, obviously glad to be finished with car travelling. So that was all good news! The bad news was, the beds were right at the back of the lorry, and so was the cooker!!! Then good news again, a microwave oven was reachable, and sleeping bags, also one put-u-up for Mum. I had been prepared for an emergency dinner, so we microwaved some jacket potatoes, heated up some tinned vegetables opened a tin of ham, and the most important of all, cracked open a bottle of good red! Here we were now all of us , including the Pickfords man, seated around this little table and dining ( we felt) like - Kings!
Time for bed, and we were so tired and warm with wine that we didn't notice how hard the floor felt beneath the sleeping bags. Mum was comfortable and thought she was ' camping'. The P man was totally spooked though and he decided he would sleep in his lorry. When he said that, it occurred to us that we hadn't even thought of the possibility of GHOSTS ? Now that was on our minds as we turned off the lights and noticed all the sounds that a huge house makes as it settles down for the night, that and the odd mouse scurrying. Did we care? NOT A BIT ! Come hell or high water we were going to enjoy this experience!

Friday, February 13, 2009



The morning finally arrived and we gathered ourselves, Mum, the animals , baggages and guns and headed for the boat.

I cannot begin to tell you how we felt as we saw the french coastline looming up! Here we were , after burning all our bridges back in England, leaving behind four daughters , one married , two courting and the other one a petty Officer on the QE2 working her way around the world! We were facing a new era, totally unknown to us. Admittedly we had a smattering of french , learnt at school and on camping holidays in the south of France, but that was it! The prospect of running a business in France apparently did not seem to daunt us at all! AH- the confidence of the young!

It was a long slow drive down to the Loire Valley region, Paris was manic ( as always), and Mum needed to stop for loo breaks as did the dogs. Pickfords were making their own way and the arrangement was that we would be meeting them that afternoon at the Chateau.

We finally arrived, and were grateful to see that the tree which had been blocking the drive had been removed, so we drove majestically up the drive to our NEW HOME and what a home! We were bursting with pride as you can imagine until Mum looked up at this vast building and said " What on earth have you bought this old thing for?" Bless her! I mean that sincerely, I am an only child and she was the most beautiful person for me.Her name was Celia ( short for Priscilla)and she had been living with us since Dad died in 1986. She died sadly in 2006. In 1989 she was fit and seemed strong, just a little forgetful, but still ' quite a girl'!

Back to the story--- We entered the cold interior and found that the electricity had not been turned on!! Pickfords ( the removal firm) hadn't arrived, there was no running water, and no kitchen in the Chateau.
Everywhere was dirty and we had nowhere to sleep and darkness was beginning to fall...... to be continued.....

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Well, it wasn't as bad as this, but I couldn't resist posting this wonderful picture!
We were moving from a mobile home, posh name for a large caravan! But you wouldn't believe how much we had to cram into the large Pickford lorries. Huge amounts! Where did it all come from? I must admit we were both hoarders-- I have never been able to throw anything away . Honestly, I still have outfits from the '60's ( keeping them for 60's parties that I'm waiting to be invited to!!!) . Alex was the same, thank goodness, or I would not have all his papers and poems which I am posting on my other blog . Anyway back to moving day. On top of all the boxes , cases, furniture etc etc; there were two male Dobermans, Axle & Rocky, one ginger tom, Ginger paws , and my 81 year old mother, Celia ! My daughter and her boyfriend were going to baby-sit the caravan business until the new owners arrived.
By the time the lorries departed, it was getting late, we were in the Isle of wight, so our plan was to stay in Dover at an hotel for the night and catch the boat the next morning. I didn't mention that Alex belonged to a shooting club and had a passion for guns,and there was no way he would entrust them to Pickfords, so we actually walked into the hotel with two dobermans and a large gun case that resembled Al Capones'. All credit to the hotel receptionist, he didn't bat an eyelid!!
Got to cook dinner now, so, more tomorrow......

Wednesday, February 11, 2009



So, we were back at the Hotel, still buzzing. All sorts of questions popped into our minds-- Could we afford the renovation? Would a bank take us on? Would it generate enough income?How would we do the work? Our idea was to turn the first and second floors of bedrooms and large rooms into self-catering appartments each one with a kitchen bedooms and bathrooms. But given the layout of the chateau that wasn't going to be easy, plus the fact that was- we had never attempted anything like that in our entire life! Previously we had worked in London and then bought and ran a caravan park. Renovation was not our metier. The total floor area of the chateau was 3000 sq.metres- the mind boggled! That was our first ( of many) sleepless nights.

The next day dawned bright and clear and so we pushed La Roche Hue to the back of our minds and looked forward to seeing the other chateaux. Unfortunately, there is not a lot about the rest of that week that I can relate here, because I had already fallen in love with the first one and all the others paled in comparison, and I don't remember them in detail. We looked in the Dordogne area at a moated chateau, one in the Auvergne and others further south. They didn't have the potential, they were ( of course) all smaller, less beautiful, either not in the right situation, or would just not be suitable for the type of conversion that we had in mind. So the rest of that week is just a blur in my mind and I cannot find any photos to post up for you. It all felt like an anti-climax.

The three of us arrived back in England absolutely exhausted. We needed to take a step back and collect our thoughts, which were still running away with us. A good night's sleep was needed and we thought we would awake the next morning realising how stupid we were to even think about taking on such a huge project!! Well - THAT didn't work! By 10am the next morning we were on the phone to the London agent and made him an offer of £160 000! When we told him that it was for Roche Hue he said " Why are you buying that old Victorian pile ?" I asked him if he had ever visited it and he replied no, but he had sent his young lady assisant. She had obviously thought it was dreadful ( obviously she wasn't into chateaux) --how wrong could she have been!

However, they did turn down our offer! We made a final offer of £190 000 which accepted!!! "OH MY GOODNESS " I thought what have we done?..................................

Monday, February 9, 2009


So this was the day we got the official guided tour of la Roche Hue with the agent, who was initially totally unaware that we had ' broken-in' the day before. It was interesting to note that he tried to avoid the areas which needed the most attention ( ie the attics), but we insisted on seeing everything! To our amazement there were the most beautiful outbuildings included in the sale, and a small lake loaded with carp ( see pics). There were also stables with 4 stalls and two birthing boxes, in not too bad a condition. The total parkland was 11ha ( approx. 27 acres).

It seemed to us unbelievable that the asking price was £200 000. We were told by the English agent who was handling the property that it was an old Victorian pile -UH? No way! It had stood empty and neglected for five years , but generally was in good condition. Apparently it was nearly bought by the Russians for an International School but the sale had fallen through. We took a good four hours looking around and then after confessing to our break-in ( the french agent just chuckled) headed back to the Hotel for some serious thinking and discussion. We knew that we had another Five Chateaux to look at so decided to squash our feelings for making an immediate offer and do the 'sensible' thing and look at the other chateaux.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Update: we had turned up uninvited at the Chateau we were about to view with an agent the following day ( year 1988).....

The tree lined drive seemed to go on forever, but we stopped at about halfway as a huge tree had come down across the driveway. Undaunted, we leapt out of the car, climbed over the tree and continued up the drive which was now winding through the parkland. Suddenly Roche Hue loomed into view and it really was breathtaking. It rose from a 'sous sol' ( in a dry moat) to the attic rooms , five floors in all. The agent had told us that it had been empty for five years, so we didnt feel like we were traspassing. Archie, our scottish friend wandered off , and Alex and I just stood open mouthed and gazed at the grounds surrounding the Chateau . Suddenly the huge great door started to creak open,and to our total astonishment Archie's grinning face peered out! HE HAD CLIMBED IN THROUGH A BROKEN WINDOW !! So, guiltily , we entered, feeling like Christmas had come early. A chance to take a thorough look without the agents blurb, was a real bonus! We examined every floor , every nook and cranny and looked for all the obvious defects. It was actually late 18th century, so , inspite of the institutional wallpaper ( from when it was a school) it was in a reasonable condition and, unusually, most of the beautiful fire-places were still intact. The entrance hall was magnificent and large with original tiled floors and a fireplace , then there was a separate hall just for the staircase. A long parquet floored gallery room led from the entrance hall, and that in turn gave on to an outside terrace overlooking the parkland. We travelled from room to room, floor by floor and loved it all, but it was sooo big, and we were beginning to doubt attempting such a huge project. It was beginning to get dark, so, reluctantly we dragged ouselves away, carefully closing up and returned to the hotel BUZZING with our find!

Friday, February 6, 2009


So, back to my adventure! It was 1988 and we had just returned from France after signing on with quite a few agents......

We had good results from the agents , soon envelopes of all shapes and sizes began pouring through the letter box filled with Chateaux and Manor Houses big and small! Then the sorting had to begin. Firstly we looked at their situation - it had to be in an area that was popular with the tourists! Secondly we looked at size--if we were intending to create some sort of business within a Chateau, it had to be big enough to accomodate enough people to generate an income for the upkeep of an old building. Thirdly, we looked at cost, obviously the cheaper (don't like to associate that word with a Chateau) the better. Then forgetting all of those things, we just chose the ones to view that gave us a ' coup de coeur '( started our hearts thumping) , and there were about six of those scattered all around France. To start with we decided to choose the biggest (trust us!) and it was an 80 roomed beautiful white Chateau with 11 hectares ( approx 27+ acres) in the Loire Valley near Angers! Then we decided we would work our way southwards to view the properties in the Auvergne , Dordogne, and Languedoc. We left just three weeks later, taking with us an old pal , Archie, a scotsman who could turn his hand to anything , and he had a good eye for seeing faults . He was also a craftsman and painter,and most of all he was a very dear friend.
We arrrived in the Angers area late afternoon. Having arranged to meet the agent the following morning, we decided to go on a hunt beforehand to see if we could find " La Roche Hue" , the chateau we were due to visit. We knew roughly where it was supposed to be and on the way passed a fantastic HUGE Chateau, ( see picture above) set back in its own land . We sailed past dismissing that one as being 'too good' . Half an hour later, not finding anything else we decided to take a closer look at the one we had passed by. We knew that Roche Hue had been a ' Colonie des vacances ', which means that it had been used as a summer school holiday residence, like many of the larger abandoned chateaux in France. As we drove up the long tree lined drive there was a Board which showed we had actually found the right place. IT WAS AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL , but far bigger than we had expected. It was a definitely love at first sight!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Yesterday here in mid France we had temperatures of 10° and sunshine; I telephone my daughters in England and they were buried under thick snow--how I chuckled. BUT this morning soon wiped the smile from my face , I looked out of the window and it was snowing and below freezing , what a contrast in less than 24 hours! When I got over the surprise I donned hat and gloves and became a child again--why does snow always do that to people? I took a couple of pics too one which is here. England is getting it pretty bad, apparently 800 flights were cancelled in London yesterday, and today doesn't look much better for the travellers. Sky News Active is putting up photos sent in by viewers and I noted that one family have acually built a real Igloo in their back garden, now THAT is dedication! To all those who are snowed in, ENJOY before it turns to slush. I will be back later to continue with my story and the first Chateau which we decided to buy. It had 80 rooms!

Monday, February 2, 2009


This is the Manor House that got us buzzing......

As soon as we could we packed our bags, loaded up the car and took off for France to search for our new life.

The manor itself was very elegant, with far reaching views at the back of the property. The owner kindly showed us all around, they had already converted the outbuildings into Chambres for letting, but they appeared to us to be gloomy with not a lot of potential to change things. Overall we were a little disappointed, and realised that this particular property was not going to be the one to get us to move to France.

After a superb lunch and a glass of red in Villeneuve sur Lot, our mood lifted and we wandered through the town looking at the many Agences Immobiliers. To our great surprise we found that they had quite a few ' Chateaux' at amazingly low prices; so we signed on with the agents who all promised to send us suitable properties for our project...............

Sunday, February 1, 2009


At the time I saw the advertisement for the Manor House, we were living in a caravan in Sandown on the Isle of Wight -- a lovely little island for those who are not familiar with British shores-- it sits in the solent and its climate is sunny warm and welcoming. We were running a caravan park for the summer season. Our dream had always been to own a large country house and turn the bedrooms into self-catering apartments,
but buying a large property in England was not an option, and, also France was our most favourite detination . With four children our French holidays consisted of a tent , sleeping bags, pots and pans and tinned foods all loaded into and upon our old banger--AHHH ! times were hard :) The thought of being able to afford to buy a "MANOR HOUSE" was thrilling, and the viewing of it would be the first step towards our ambitious dream....