Leaving the good life in rural France

An historic property in the Armagnac region and a Napoleonic-era home in Luxé have been lovingly cherished – and enjoyed – by two Irish owners now returning home

Thu, May 1, 2014, 00:00

Many guests are referred from a nearby chateau that holds weddings while musicians taking part in a local opera have also been coming for the past five years and will stay again this summer.

The project was mainly funded, she says, by her time in the wine business in the US where she took the expertise she had gained in France. She would sell bottles of wine for up to $10,000 each, found languishing in cellars, often to sponsors at car races.

Another job entailed working on Clint Eastwood’s ranch, between San Francisco and LA, which catered for visitors. “I had never seen any of his films,” she laughs which made her more relaxed with him, she says. “He’s a wonderful person. One of the things I loved about him was when he would arrive, Clint would always come through the back door into the kitchen, and pick at the food. And he would always speak to the guys, the Mexicans, who worked there.

“He never asked anyone to do anything for him; he never wanted anyone to treat him in any way differently. He’d say: ‘Jesus, you don’t have to worry about me’.

“His private trainer was a guy from Donegal. One day we were out on the ranch and suddenly this man, who I didn’t know, said, ‘Doesn’t this remind you of Donegal?’”

Trish will be sad to leave her home in France, and will miss the markets, the thermal baths nearby, the butcher and baker within walking distance, but it is time to be with her parents, both artists whose flair she has inherited.

“I will try to find something in France at another time. Something smaller, easier to handle. I adore restoration but I didn’t expect to make this whole big development.”

Trish is leaving the property in a good state. “The whole town said, ‘Oh my god, it’s come back to life’.”

Gascony: cottage and gîte complex
The property comprises three cottages with six bedrooms and seven bathrooms. The main cottage has a livingroom, three bathrooms three bedrooms and a kitchen. The first gite is a duplex with two en suite bedrooms, country kitchen, livingroom and downstairs toilet. The second gite is smaller and sleeps two. Outside is a vegetable garden and orchard (with figs, plums, pears, peaches and damsons).
Price: €230,000
Agent: gitesforsalefrance.com

“I think we were caught by watching A Place in the Sun,” says Jane O’Hara who moved to France with her husband Rodney when they were in their late 50s.

“We saw couples our age setting off to France and we decided we could do it. We were relatively free of obligations,” says O’Hara who had run a B&B in Ireland while Rodney was self-employed.

The couple found their 1870s, Napoleonic-era house in Luxé in the Charente region through an agent. “It had lovely green shutters and a beautiful old stone barn.” And they set off. “Our friends were stunned. Many Irish people go to Costa Brava but we were not remotely interested in Spain. ” Later they bought the field beside the house: “Because we didn’t want anyone else to build there.”