I stumbled across a blog some time ago about a delightful couple that had purchased a ‘Chateau’ and were documenting the restoration project as it unfolded. The blog was pretty, well written, and well marketed (even catching the eye of Haper’s Bazaar) but the further I got into this story the more I kept wondering why were they bothering at all.
Here’s the story. An Austrialian couple discovered this chateau (probably abandoned and purchased for a song) and decide it’s restoration would become their labor of love. They may have had a ‘love affair’ with the project at first, but all I could see was one giant nightmare.
You see, this Australian couple bought what I’d consider a complete waste of time. It’s location was in the middle of nowhere, and the structure was in such terrible condition the thing would have been better off bull dozed to the ground. Oh I know, everyone’s going to say oh how horrible, it’s a lovely heritage building. How could you say such a thing.
Easy, it’s a building that’s far beyond repair and will crumble to the ground eventually no matter what they do to repair it. There’s a reason these derelict Chateaux cost nothing to buy.
I should know. With my countless trips to France I had a look at Chateaux a vendre (for sale) by the dozens. Some better than others. In the price range I was hoping to get, nothing existed that didn’t need millions of dollars of restoration work. Unless you’re willing to work on them yourself, (which I’m incapable of) forget it. Even the one’s that are livable usually need new rewiring, plumbing etc. And for a place with 10 or more bathrooms that’s a lot of plumbing.
It’s so full of rot and decay that it will cost a fortune. And to find the skilled workman (who are dependable) are few and far between in France. Seriously, The Chateau de Rothschild, that rotting hulk I wrote about a few blogs back, will take a cool 60 – 100 Million Euros to restore and it doesn’t have the problems Chateau de Guldanes has. And it’s located in Paris, which is far more preferable than in a mountain somewhere miles from anything.
Unfortunately the Chateau de Gudanes with whatever elegant past it may have had would be something I would have avoided at all costs.
A little about French Chateaux in general. If you’re thinking of buying one the old adage still applies. ‘Location,location,location’. But more importantly condition.
Buy a Chateau in the Loire Valley and it will cost millions. Particularly one that is in good liveable condition with lots of sq footage and acreage. Buy a place in the Verdun Pyrenees area (like Chateau de Gudanes) that’s in the middle of nowhere and high up in the mountains. (Bitter cold in the winter and semi warm in the summer) and you can be sure there was no ‘bidding war’here.
I once saw a Medieval Castle (photo shown below) for sale with drawbridge, moat etc. for sale for 1E. It needed just as much restoration as the Gudanes place but it was a real Castle and very cool. I would have bought it, but it was already sold. Hey, 1 E….not much committment there. The taxes were a bit high, but still, getting a place for almost a farthing does exist. But as the old adage goes, you always get what you pay for.
I don’t like Chateaux particularly. Give me a mill house or a large stone farm with building on a meandering river anytime. Chateaux are big, impersonal and always cold. On our trips around France we always sought out a large farm and avoid Chateaux when doing over nighters. I like the home cooked cuisine of the farms and the manoirs. Always more personal.
I remember one Chateau that Larry and I visited where upon returning from the bathroom I heard the kitchen staff mimicking Larry and his poor French. You never heard me tear a strip off someone so fast. They were literally stunned. Larry and I promptly left that bourgeois ‘Chateau’ for something more charming and friendly.
My Parisian friends say the only place to have a Chateau is in the Loire, the Sologne, Berry etc. That’s about 1.30 minutes south of Paris. The French Kings for Centuries selected this area for one reason and one reason only. The weather. It’s an amazing micro climate which never gets too cold in the winter and never too hot in the summer. And apparently the air is fresh full of positive ions with a slight breeze all the time. Paradise on earth.
The owners of the Chateau Gudane are this charming couple that you can’t help falling in love with with their lovely blog, dotted full of cutesy picutres of themselves, children, flowers etc. It makes you want their life. But you won’t
Hope you enjoyed my brief foray into the buying of Chateaux and properties in France. With the country and it’s brutal tax structure I’d tend to stay away from anything in France unless you have very deep pockets and money to burn.