Wednesday, 6 August 2014

At the Chateau

"Our" swimming pool
Pre-dinner drinks by the pond
We are living in luxury at the Château La Vaudourière. The Château is set on a good sized piece of land surrounded by forests and farm land. Very rural, it is about 4km from the nearest village (Lunay). The building seems to have pieces added each century since the 16th, including a lot of recent modernisation, hence we have a beautiful bedroom and bathroom of our own (on the 2nd floor of the 'tower'), a smart lounge with whopping telly, a huge chef's kitchen with adjoining family dining room (seats about 12!). Other rooms in the house are a work-in-progress, including a huge “ballroom”, formal dining room, office, and industrial scale laundry in the attic. And there's the original and very rickety spiral staircase up to the bedrooms in the 19th C tower. The entire place is designed for events and rental accommodation either in the house or the two other standalone houses on the property, or the other apartments in the various outbuildings.

Farmer's cottage, stable and barn
The chapel
Sadly the place is not yet completely finished due to some over-exuberance by the ex-architect which has drained the available funds and been followed by a court case which means everything has to stay as it is for the foreseeable future. One of the houses on the estate is in rentable condition but, as the others are not, the immaculate tennis court and 10m heated indoor swimming pool are not likely to see much use other than by ourselves. There is a brand new larger swimming pool in place but it hasn't been connected up yet and languishes collecting stagnant rain water.
The dog house - includes a fire place!

A "sculpture garden" nearby - tacky?
There are good cycles available so we have ventured out into the local countryside which seems to be farmland (mainly fields cut for hay, some corn – only grown for animal feed in France – and a few cows and odd donkey!), lots of small areas of woodland, and a few large farmhouses. We have seen deer and one red squirrel so far. The quiet roads are ideal for exploring.

A baguette vending machine
Further afield is the Loir river (a tributary to the Loire), a small river winds through scenic countryside and villages. Many of the hills near the river contain man-made caves, some where the stone has been excavated for the local Châteaux. Houses are often built into these caves so some rooms will be underground (Troglodytes). All very unusual and picturesque.

Only one real trip out to date and that was to a classical concert. A visiting Dutch orchestra/choir performed in a church in the town of Vendome. They get together once a year, set a destination, and stay in a local campground, performing in nearby towns. Afterwards we walked to a reception held by some Dutch friends of our host, who also invited the entire orchestra and what seemed like half the audience - their son is a member of the orchestra. They have a huge five storey place in town built in the neo-classical style using stones from a demolished local church.  It's a huge and interesting place with rooms full of books – they are rare book dealers.  Outside they had a pretty and lush garden lit up by lights. It was still 21C at midnight when we left.

Our host’s son is arriving from the US shortly to stay for a week. That will be some company as it is quiet here with just us, our host, and Rob, a 22yo ex-UK army helper – all rattling around on a huge estate! We are kept fairly busy though as we start our working day quite late (because we are up late eating dinner – often still eating and talking after 10pm, in the French style), we work through to a late lunch, then another hour or so before knocking off mid-afternoon in time for a swim. The work is reasonably hard with lots of gardening, strimming, and endless lawns to mow.

The local countryside ...

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