We knew we would have to fall in love with at least one aspect of the new property in France. Be it the setting or the location or the grounds. We didn’t expect to fall in love with the house itself. We have been very clear all along that the business had to come first. So looking at the property from the point of view of guests, and in terms of how well it fit the business plan had to trump our own aesthetic sensibilities and to a degree, our own immediate comfort.
We weren’t looking for this house. We weren’t looking for a village centre villa. We weren’t looking for a house backing onto a road at a junction, with a major road just over the other side of the river. We were not even entertaining the possibility of running Chambres D’hotes. I would not even consider renovating a barn or two to create a gite business. So invested and convinced were we in our vision for a rural off-grid Jam Jar Roulotte Retreat.
I included it in my short list of properties to send to Nadia for feedback, expecting to find out it was in a poor position, closely hemmed in and overlooked by houses, with a deceptively tiny, sloping or unusable garden. I expected there to be something obviously wrong with it and to have to scratch it from the list. But it was in a town we have always loved the look of and in a location within the parc that we’d be extremely happy with.
Nadia’s slightly surprised but excited reaction was music to my ears. There were only positive comments apart from a concrete render issue that doesn’t phase us. It was on a junction, backing onto a road. Mom wouldn’t like that. But it was in the old town. Swoon. On the outskirts of the village. Swoon. And then I found it on Streetview. The OMG moment.
Tick, tick, tick! To my delight, it was not hemmed in by lots of houses. It did have a generous plot of land. It had no neighbours, instead the garden extended on three sides to the seemingly quiet junction, and bordered what looked like a nature reserve. Best of all, it was right on the river bank. The river was within strolling distance. Tick! We can’t exaggerate how much running water close by means to us.
And then, the views. We had seen the view of the mountains from the estate agent photos. But the other side of the house boasted views of the Cathedrale and Palais. This was blowing our minds. We instantly realised this was a very special house in a very special situation. Unlike a similarly grand villa, another Chambres D’hotes actually, we had seen in Auzat, it stands the only one of its style, in a prime position, certainly not as part of a housing estate.
As for the house itself. It is somewhat too good to be true. It is huge. There are FOUR floors. The rooms themselves are enormous, with tall ceilings and tall windows and plenty of doors out to the terrace. It is grand. Clearly retaining beautiful period charm in the wood panelling, wooden floors, columns, fireplaces and even bathroom suites. It is a somewhat grander interior than I had envisaged decorating and furnishing but still very much to my (our) taste. In its current state it oozes faded grandeur which I find very beguiling.
We were captivated. Besotted.
I felt straight away that the roulottes would not work with this house. There would be a conceptual as well as aesthetic clash. I let go the roulotte dream and set to work with Ben planning how we could use each room and floor to accommodate ourselves, new crying babies, teenage kids, Moms now and as she gets older, and guests, writers, and family and friends.
This is the ONLY town or village in the Ariege that we would consider Chambres D’hotes. And this appears to be one of the only, if not THE only house in the village that would work for us as a family and for the business. And somehow it’s within our price range.
It is just like Jam Jar House, Lechlade, our home now, in that it is UNIQUE. And once we had seen it, and really seen it, and more than fallen in love with what it was and what it could offer us, but felt relief and gratitude and felt a perfect fit with ourselves and its story; we could not contemplate as we could before it inhabited our hearts and minds, a single other proposition.
It is the one. There is nothing that Nadia can tell us after her viewing this afternoon that would make us think otherwise. And if for any reason we do not manage to make this house our own, the fact will remain even then, that this house is ours. It is meant for us.