Château de la Carrière in the Loire Valley. Stunning!
Guest: Suzie Jackson
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Suzie Jackson has always had an affinity to France. She deliberately didn’t make her first trip to Paris until her 30s as she was concerned she would be let down by the reality not living up to the dream. But there was nothing to fear, as Suzie’s first French experience had her feeling like she had come home. For years then she dreamed of owning a property in France and spent hours Googling châteaux for sale. In 2014 she decided with her then husband, that it was time to get serious and booked a trip to France to view a number of different châteaux of various sizes and condition in the Loire Valley to get a better sense of what they could or should buy. The first couple of days were a huge learning curve with crumbling ruins, discovering the frightening cost of slate roof repairs, replacement electrics and regulations for historical monuments. Finding that quintessentially dream French property was not going to be easy. Then Château de la Carrière popped up and from the moment she drove up the driveway, Suzie knew they had found their French country home.
There were a couple more signs to make it clear this château is for her. When Suzie went to stay in the château for a week before committing to the sale, she sat out on the steps on her first day there with some wine, cheese and baguette. Out of the woods right in front of her came a family of wild deer who just grazed. It seemed a sign that nature was happy for her to be there! Also during that initial stay there was a second sign. Suzie’s grandmother adored violets, and growing wild everywhere at that time were wild violets! Suzie has never seen them since but the sense the château was meant to be for her must have been overwhelming I think.
Suzie told me a bit about her château life, its challenges and triumphs. We also chatted about the connection to the history of the château. Like many other château owners Suzie views herself as a custodian and is taking great care to restore it to a high standard in order that someone else will want it in the future and it will be able to continue on for generations to come. Suzie described it as a peaceful place. The history drew me in as well… There was a building on the site from the 13th century which was used as a hunting lodge. A French family bought it and demolished the original building, constructing the château there now. There haven’t been many owners which has resulted in most of the original features remaining intact.
Château de la Carrière sounds like the kind of place that would be a wonderful stop in the middle of a European holiday. After travelling on a 6-7 week trip with my family and kids when they were quite young, a few days or a week to recharge is an important tip to consider.
There is a renovated barn that sleeps 6-8 with 3 bathrooms and the château with 10 bedrooms and 9 bathrooms with plenty of things to do around the region or on the property. I love a break in the middle of a vacation when I can slow down, play cards or croquet, dip in the pool, potter in a potager or sit in a beautiful salon and read a book. Connecting to the building and the place at a leisurely pace sounds perfect to me.
Suzie loves to experiment with the produce from her garden. Nothing makes her happier than making dinner from the potager and bringing big buckets of flowers from the garden into the château. She also makes aperitifs when she has a houseful of people. I’d love to try her cocktails with her home-made tulip syrup, dandelion honey, rhubarb syrup or elderflower cordial… whatever is thriving in the garden when eventually I visit! I also now have a hankering to visit the local broccante markets.
Suzie says that a château project is not for the fainthearted, but she also feels that the life she is living is her dream life. She also advises that we can always re-write our story. The plans don’t have to be mapped out ahead of us to just follow. Her sentiment is similar to what I always say, this is not the dress rehearsal, this is the real gig! We can always change the narrative of our life story if we wish. It is never too late to change if we’re willing to learn. Change and learning are both life long. Both Suzie and I agree, make an informed choice, analyse the risk to check it is ok for you and if the stars align, follow those dreams!
Suzie Jackson’s links:
(Backstage at Zenith, Paris)