On fireside evenings we occasionally watch a TV programme about Brits buying-up all the old Chateaux in France, and turning them into wedding or holiday venues; some more successfully than others.
One of the more successful renovations has been undertaken by Samantha Cameron lookalike, and all-round hard worker, Fiona Jones (above), at her 800 year old Chateau du Masgelier in the Limousin. She has impeccable taste, and is tireless in her search for perfection.
Even the cheaply restored buildings are usually better in the hands of Brits or Cloggies, than the French themselves, who when looking at an ancient building often see no further than clean modernised exteriors, and white plastic doors and windows. They can strip a house of all vestige of age and beauty in the blink of an eye; and be proud of the fact.
I suppose our present small house is a good example. When I first bought this tiny cottage it was a one room ruin with a lovely old fireplace and a stone sink. I immediately applied for planning permission to double its size, in order to add a kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. When my permission was granted it also came with the strict instruction that the whole exterior was to be cement-rendered. I should mention here that, back in the UK, if you were to render over 300 year old stonework, you would probably be sent to prison.
Of course I told the local planning office to b*gger off, and extended the building in sympathetic stonework. You can hardly see the join
Our local village Chateau was owned by a good friend. It was far too big for her, and she eventually sold to an Italian who was based on the Riviera. He immediately sold off all the old Oak panelling, and anything else that was removeable, and created an 'Essex style' interior that made the place look like a tart's boudoir. It has been sold twice since his days, and I believe is now in very good hands. I should add that the beautiful Rose Garden in the huge courtyard, that the Italian had installed; is very beautiful. It was designed by me!
Escape to the Chateau is a fun programme. You might be horrified by some of the 'restoration' work, and enthralled by other bits. The presenter Strawbridge and his wife Angel are fun people, which makes it a good watch.