The MOST asked question.
L'autre Vie #11 ( My other life in France )
A blog about choosing between our two french cottages located in the South West of France in the Dordogne Valley.
By Rae-Helen Fisenden of ourcottageinfrance.com
Probably the question people ask me most often is:- " which of your cottages do you actually prefer Rae-Helen? "
I always preface the answer with a sharp intake of breath followed by a pause, because the answer is very difficult.
On reflection however, perhaps my response to this question may help you in making an informed decision ( if indeed you are considering staying in one of our lovely houses in France ) or even inspire you to consider doing so. Whatever the case may be, I hope you enjoy the article.
The sweet cottage in Berbiguières ( seen above ) was our first acquisition and therefore it has a special place in our hearts for that reason. We had rented it ourselves a few times, from the previous owners, so we knew it very well. When it came up for sale we actually couldn't believe our good fortune and we jumped at it. What then followed was the fun part of setting it up with comfortable furniture, re-carpeting and painting it and giving it a fresh look however, as some things had been left by the previous owners and even a selection of art work, it somehow still felt very much as it always had:- inviting and quaint. Quaint is a word my husband dislikes as a descriptor but when one looks at its meaning - "attractively unusual or old-fashioned"- I have to agree that it fits. It IS attractive, a tad unusual and definitely charming because it is in fact, very old. And it's her age ( I simply have to use the feminine pronoun ) that is so central to her charm:-her beautiful thick stone walls, her creaky floor boards, her wooden beams, her french authenticism that makes her hard NOT to love. She reminds me of a nicely groomed old lady, young at heart but full of stories to tell with a twinkle in her eye. And indeed this sums up the cottage perfectly. Comfortable, quirky and character-filled.
She sits overlooking the fields beyond and, if I am in need of a happy thought, I often recall what I both feel and see as I stand in the cottage kitchen, perhaps preparing an evening meal, looking out of the central living room window across the fields beyond. As the light changes the colours intensify. It is tranquil and serene and it fills me with a peace that is quite profound. Walking through the village and surrounding countryside is also wonderfully therapeutic for the soul, if it is in need of some nurturing, and you want to escape the fast pace of your normal life.
If, however, you are a party animal in need of constant stimulation, then this is definitely NOT the place for y0u.
Beaulieu sur Dordogne ( pictured above ) is a village nestled on the banks of the river in the upper reaches of the Dordogne valley 100 kilometres east of the cottage. It's surrounded by wooded hills and is dominated by both the river and the old Benedictine centre with St. Pierre Abby and accompanying medieval buildings. Two old gates, dating back to the 12th century, still exist and it's just inside one of these magnificent old gates that we found our second property for sale and promptly bought it. ( The Gate is pictured below - the photo far left is from one direction- and centre- from the other. The Abby is pictured to the right. ) Our apartment often features in photos of Beaulieu as many tourists visit our street to photograph the fantastic old gate and streetscape.
In every way the apartment fitted our brief to provide a "different" french experience to the cottage. We wanted a slightly larger property in a larger town. It still has all the features and beautiful characteristics of a 300+ year old french home but is situated within a thriving village with shops and restaurants and the river within a short stroll from the front door. The house itself is spread over four levels with the large open plan living area on the first floor and bedrooms on the second and third levels. It's marvellous to be able to view the goings on in the cobble stone street below from the windows of the living room which still has the remains of the original basin between them. This would once have emptied directly down onto the street below and is a constant reminder of a more primitive lifestyle in days long forgotten. Hence, the Beaulieu apartment provides a medieval streetscape which feels a bit like being in a movie set whereas the Berbiguières cottage is pastoral in orientation and idyllic in its fairytale location. ( N.B. The French are generally very happy for foreigners to buy and restore old properties and to keep them in good condition, contrary to what you may be led to believe. )
Yet again we enjoyed setting up the second property but this time a great deal more furniture was required as well as some much needed maintenance. We felt this was a project we really owned and which had a little more risk attached to it. We weren't as familiar with either the village or the surrounding sights but as we soon discovered, we had chosen well.
The cottage in Berbiguières is located in a very sought after area mainly because it is within 20 minutes of many major attractions and outdoor activities. It is definitely location, location, location and provides a gentle, peaceful setting to return home to after a long day of sightseeing. Here are just a few examples of Dordogne highlights:
Beaulieu sur Dordogne is also close to beautiful sightseeing but is perhaps located in a region less well known to the majority of travellers. Bordered by the edge of the Lot region and located in the Department of the Correze it is very picturesque, replete with glorious villages to explore and also with a comfortable, well-equipped home to return to at the end of the day. The centre photo below is the village of Collonges la Rouge- the first village to be classified as one of " La Plus Beaux Villages de France "- the most beautiful in France.
The photo to the right is looking back at Beaulieu from the other side of the river and the comfortable lounge space is pictured left.
The difference is simply that the medieval townhouse is located in a busier village and often our guests comment that they really enjoy the ability to walk to a nearby bar or cafè or choose a restaurant in the village to stroll to and not have to drive. For many, driving is not an issue but for some, it can be. In Summer, Beaulieu really thrives on the influx of many tourists and camping families. The river with its accompanying water sports is a huge draw card and the village comes alive!
I enjoy both properties immensely and I can honestly say, it is truly too difficult for me to choose one over the other. They are both so different and completely unique.
Like me, some of our guests have found the decision of choosing just too hard and have opted to stay in both! A very wise idea n'est pas?