Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Escape to the Chateau.


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.

34 comments:

  1. I remember the episodes with Fiona Jones, she was like Wonder woman. She certainly didn't mind rolling her sleeves up and getting stuck in.

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    1. She seemed to have someone occasionally helping her, otherwise she did everything by herself. Very impressive.

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  2. I also remember Fiona. A brave woman.

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    1. I think she's been in the property restoration business for quite a while. We need more like her.

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  3. Well done you but how did you manage to go against the planning office and get away with it?

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    1. I simply told them I wasn't going to ruin the appearance of my house.... and that was that!

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  4. We regularly watch this (having done the same restoration and renovation of our Welsh farmhouse, which was semi-derelict when we bought it). We can sympathise with these Brits. Some you know will make it - others you can see are desperately papering over the financial cracks and I imagine, will have had to try and sell up because of no wedding bookings etc in this Year of the Plague. I am quite relieved that in the house we hope to move into before Christmas, we just have to get it rewired.

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    1. When I left college I bought and totally restored a big old Welsh ex-pub just inside Wales from the N Shropshire border. I was teaching, so it took every minute of my spare time. After I sold, I moved to France.

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  5. And how exactly do you happen to know what a tart's boudoir looks like? Eh?

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  6. I enjoy watching Escape to the Chateau. I'm hoping there will be another season. Currently it is just reruns. -Jenn

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    1. Yes, I think the one's we're watching are all re-runs.

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    2. I think I've watched each episode at least 3 times. I know what they're going to say even before they do!

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  7. I too have watched each episode more than once at the very least. I love it and will look forward to a time when there are new ones to watch.

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    1. I've seen a few of them before, but not all.

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  9. We LOVE Escape to the Chateau ..... some do a beautiful job but a few have been a bit naff !!! Like Rachel and Carol, we have seen them many times ! I think there is a new series starting on Sunday. Fiona is such a hard worker and seems to be able to take on most jobs that are put in front of her ..... she doesn't seem to be fazed by much ! It is so good to watch and most of the chateaus are so beautiful. I would have liked to have owned one but it would have been a bit too much for us !!! XXXX

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    1. Strawbridge never seems overawed by any project. I wish I had his confidence.

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    2. A good advertisement for the British Army.

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  10. I've only seen a handful of episodes but they are certainly entertaining and hard working.

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    1. It's amazing what some people will take on. I've done a few house renovations in my time, but nothing on these scales.

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  11. I remember him from Scrapheap Challenge. A good demonstration of ingenuity and engineering

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    1. The original Scrapheap Challenge was excellent, when they changed the presenters it went sharply downhill. Shame!

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  12. I have been watching an HGTV program where an actress (US, but Italian heritage) won a lottery for a house (ruin) in Sicily that has to be restored according to the specifications that the town has set. I have watched it for two weeks now and it is looking very nice but probably not up to your standards. After all, it is show business and reality is mostly not real.

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    1. Most 'celebrity' homes are just show homes. If you look around them there is no sign that the owners have any 'past life'. It's almost as if they want to start from scratch. I suppose most come from poor backgrounds and they wish to forget them.

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  13. A renovation well done is an art. Those with good taste combined with expertise are a rare find. Honoring the period of the home is important. I love visiting salvage yards and finding old world doors, mantels, stain glass...

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  14. Reminds me of Barry Bucknell who used to present DIY programmes which specialised in covering up original doors and fireplaces with hardboard, and in some cases ripping them out.

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    1. Dear old BB. He did more damage than anyone could have imagined. He'd go down well in France.

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  15. I need to catch up with this..I think I’ve seen one is the guy involved a big guy with a huge moustache ?

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    1. Yup that’s him and his missus with the red hair

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  16. I’ve been quite enjoying ‘doing it ourselves’ on YouTube. It’s a British family restoring a lovely French Chateau.

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  17. A good renovation program--that would be a good change.

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