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Fr : +33 678 740687 Nl : +31 653 771441

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Buying a Chateau in France– How it all started:

Unlike many other people we never had the dream of changing our lives or living in France, let alone buying a chateau. We just happened to be on holiday in the Somme estuary area in the summer of 2012 when Tim fell in love with a hotel that was for sale. He decided there and then that he wanted to give up our jobs in Holland, sell our house and buy that hotel. Until then Tim had been a professional musician, playing in a band and I, Margreeth worked as a teacher at a secondary school. We had absolutely no experience running a hotel, let alone one that came with its own restaurant, but the longer we talked about it, the more enthusiastic we became. We had a few meetings with the hotel owners, calculated how much time and money we needed for renovations, read loads of articles about moving to France and then contacted an advisor who specialised in people buying a hospitality business in France. He looked into the figures and immediately told us not to do it. He decided it wasn’t a good business for us to take over. It was hard for Tim to let go of this project but in the end he accepted the advice we were given.

A few weeks later we were sitting on the couch together, both feeling a bit down. Planning this French adventure had given us so much energy that carrying on our lives the way they had been somehow felt like something was missing. So we decided that afternoon that we were going to do it anyway. We just had to find another project. One that was good for us. I started browsing the Internet and after looking at lots of chambres d’hotes that were up for sale, often not more than a chip shop with two rooms on the first floor, I stumbled upon a photo of Chateau des Lys. It was advertised as a small chateau, a bed and breakfast with 5 guestrooms. There was only one picture online, of the front of the building, and not much more information, but I felt straight away that this was it. Tim warned me not to get my hopes up. The photo didn’t show the surroundings; maybe there was a nuclear plant next to it or something else hideous. We decided we couldn’t wait to find out and drove down the same day. Whilst in the car we found the contact details of their B&B and we booked a room for the night. When we got to the village it took a bit of time to actually find the chateau since it wasn’t properly marked on Google maps. The old owners were afraid no guests would ever want to come and stay at unlucky 13, so they were actually vague about the chateau’s address! A bit of driving around with a photo to hand brought us standing in front of the chateau gates for the first time, it was an  impressive sight. We told the owners that we were interested in buying the place and they organised a meeting with the estate agent for the next morning. It was already quite dark when we arrived, so we didn’t really realise how big it all was until the agent showed us round. So many rooms, gites and basements, we just couldn’t take it all in. It was so much larger than anything we’d prepared for. After the 2.5 hour tour, which still wasn’t enough time to see everything, the estate agent suggested we took a walk in the park. The park! Not a garden, but an actual 15 acre park! I think it was then that it really dawned on us that we were possibly about to buy a chateau with its grounds. It was a beautiful sunny day in November and the sunlight was filtering through the trees as we followed a winding  path through the small woods. It was simply breathtakingly and magnificently gorgeous. Even now we both still remember that that was the moment. We stood still on that path under the huge ancient trees, looked at each other, hearts beating slightly faster and said: ”Let’s go for it!

 

It was the most exciting and at the same time surreal feeling to start planning for our life in France. Telling people about it was discombobulating. Everyone had so many questions, ideas and opinions about it. What struck us most about those conversations was that so many people live their lives dreaming of an adventure like ours but are too afraid to follow it up. We were really going to do it… and it felt scary… and a bit irresponsible. We stood to lose everything, and it was a huge change for our children. Our son Joe who was 5 at the time, was moving to France with us, so he had to go to a French school and try and find his way there. Our 18-year old daughter Donna had just started university in Holland, so she decided to stay behind. This meant that we would be seeing her less often. Looking back this has been the hardest thing. We had to put our home in Holland on the market, we had designed and built it ourselves largely from reclaimed materials and it was a big wrench. Our lives would change for ever- we had to quit our jobs, fill in forms and have meetings to prepare ourselves for owning an unknown business in a new country. So much to be done.

 

 

We were so busy that the 4 months it took to be ready for the move went by very quickly. Before we knew it, it was our last week in Holland. We packed the last boxes, loaded the removal truck and our wonderful friends threw us a surprise farewell party. We hugged and cried and told ourselves we weren’t moving to the other side of the world and they were only going to be a 4-hour drive away.

The weekend that we actually moved into the chateau was amazing. With both our children we drove down to France, our two cars full to the brim with stuff, closely followed by a good friend in a huge lorry with the rest of our life in it. The next day we were joined by a group of 25 more friends who came to help us unpack and get settled in. We all got to work. We cleaned, repaired doors and drains, moved and emptied boxes while the kids that had come along were playing tag and hide and seek with Joe and got to know their way around this huge building long before we did. It felt as if this place, this new business was some kind of communal project- as if we were all moving in together. In the evening we all sat by the big fireplace, drank lots of French wine and sang songs together. This was the life!

All too soon it was Sunday afternoon. One by one our dear friends were leaving. We stood in the front entrance of the chateau, waving as the last car left taking our daughter with it. We realised we were all alone in the chateau for the first time. This was it. Just the two of us and Joe. Living in this enormous old building that didn’t feel at all like a home yet. In a country where we didn’t know anybody and where we couldn’t even get to the supermarket without getting lost. It was the loneliest feeling in the world. Our new life had begun.