We decided not to use a map and a pin as a means to find somewhere to live. Knowing our luck we’d have ended up in the North Sea or on the top of the Eiffel Tower. After engaging our brain cells we opted for the Loire region. Plenty of wine and some pretty impressive chateaus to visit too.
Our first foray into French properties found us staying at an Auberge in Chateau La Valliere. It didn’t look much from the outside and inside wasn’t much better either but it was somewhere to lay our heads. We booked to have a meal there on our first evening with a view to eating out the rest of the time.
As it happened, the food was so good we ate there every evening. The young female chef was extremely talented and produced superb wholesome food at unbelievably reasonable prices. One dessert she did we have done our best to copy and still eat today …. small filo parcels full of cinnamon spiced apple with a caramel sauce and ice cream.
Bright and early the next day we collected the agent we had been dealing with and drove to our first appointment. Out in the countryside and a short distance from any neighbours was the collection of three properties. Two small houses and a third with a barn attached. We had it in mind to run a gite business so this we thought would suit.
We were greeted as we got out of the car by an elderly lady who we reckoned must be in her eighties at least. She may have been of mature years but she certainly had a sparkle in her eyes and a lively step. She took us to the first house where two young ladies were living. Unlike as would have happened in the UK, they hadn’t bothered trying to tidy up at all. One had to look through the piles of clothes, magazines and crockery to get an idea of the place. This didn’t seem to worry our twinkly eyed hostess who just carried on smiling. The second property was similar to the first but with no occupants and needing quite a bit of restoration - a roof for instance and a wall here and there.
From there we went to the larger property. We entered through the kitchen. It was unlike any kitchen we have ever had to work in and would need, as far as we could see, a total refit. From there we went into the salon where we surprised to see a minstrel gallery at one end. Our hostess told us that the bedrooms led off from the gallery and she took us up to see them. Regular sized bedrooms and nothing special of note. From there she led us back downstairs to a door under the minstrel gallery. She stopped by the door, smiled and announced her ‘piece de resistance’. She pushed the door open for us to go in.
What a sight befell us …… a bar complete with tables and chairs arranged around a dance floor, ladies and gentlemen’s toilets and swaying gently from the ceiling above the dance floor – a glitter ball. We seemed to have walked into a nightclub hidden away deep in the French countryside. From outside there was no way that you would have guessed it was there.
It wasn’t until we were leaving that the centime dropped …… it was a bordello. The minstrel gallery was for young ladies to parade themselves and the hostess who showed us around ….. the Madam herself. All this confirmed by another agent some time later.
You couldn’t make it up if you tried …… the very first property we were shown was a brothel hidden inside a barn attached to a house. It could only happen to us..
Originally from London, I moved with Inmate 1, to France in 2007. Home is now on the outskirts of the Medieval village of Plazac in the Perigord Noir region of the Dordogne.