Chateau de la Cheine was built in the 1840’s for a Colonel in the French Army, titled Chateau de la Ressegue originally, the owners sold the name to the neighbours . It is the most “important” building in the commune and provided employment for the local people but was bought twenty years ago by Karen and Clive as a home in France.
A home they now let out to large groups (up to 20 can stay), the latest of which was a Barrow / Brewin / Mortara / Saunders mash up. There should have been 18 of us but due to
the fact our friends probably realised it would mean spending actual time with us some last minute issues with family or work schedules it ended up being just the seven of us. We had been asked by Oliver’s Travels, the luxury villa specialists if we would like to go and stay for a few days and literally jumped at the chance.
The Chateau is in the Dordogne region in the South of France, just fifteen minutes from Bergerac airport (flights from many UK airports) or about an hour and a half from Bordeaux where we flew into as it was slightly cheaper to fly from Luton that it was to do Southampton to Bergerac. You could of course also drive from Calais, about 9 hours or Caen would be about six. Take a map though. The sat nav on our phones for some reason was dire and we ended up going round in circles for what felt like forever.
The 12 hour journey from home though and any tiredness was soon forgotten when we emerged dishevlled from our car to be greeted by Karen saying “we were cooking anyway so have made you a big lasagne”. At 10 Euros a head it was a very welcome sight.
France has a very different pace of life and it can catch you out if you are not familiar with staying in villas or self catering. Supermarkets generally close for two hours around lunchtime, and typically shut for the day at 7pm. On Sundays a few are open from 9.30am to 12.30pm but not all of them. So you really do have to think and plan ahead if you are not landing until 5pm on a Saturday as we did. In fact I thought I had it all covered until we realised we didn’t have any loo rolls at 8am on Sunday morning. Thankfully there is a supermarket five minutes away that is one of the ones open on a Sunday so all was well before anybody turned feral.
The Chateau is set in its own grounds and there is certainly plenty of space to all spread out, whilst some of us sat by the pool, others played table tennis in the garden, read a book in the lounge, or played frisbee outside the chais, the stone building where the pressoir was kept when it was a working vineyard.
Sadly the vines were all wiped out by Phylloxera in the 1900s and so from then it was used primarily as a farm and a country estate.
The house itself is set over three floors, with five doubles and five twin rooms (there are no bedrooms on the ground floor and lots of stairs so I wouldn’t recommend it for anybody with mobility issues). Bathrooms were generally not ensuite, though there were a couple of rooms with a bathroom alongside, the majority didn’t. And loos were separate from the bathrooms so do make sure you take a dressing gown if staying in a big group where you don’t know everybody very well!
There is a formal dining room that seats 8 or 10 and is where we had dinner one night, provided by friend’s of the owners. It seemed like a treat too good to miss: four course with wine for 30 Euros. A stunning array of cold meats and pate to start, home made garlicky potatoes, stuffed peppers and pieces of chicken for the main, two gorgeous tarte aux pommes, followed by the obligatory selection of cheese. After a day out exploring in Sarlat it was lovely to come home and know we didn’t have to worry about what to cook for dinner.
The property also has two lounges, one with satellite TV so whilst we all hunkered down to watch X Factor on Saturday night, Mr B could avoid it as he does at home, in the comfort of the other lounge. And when it was the boring bits there was the games room just next door for a quick game of billiards. Or was it pool? I am not very good with these things.
It is clear though that this has always been a family home and I loved having a little nosey amongst the ornaments and items left. I hate properties that have been styled, they feel sterile somehow and not very welcoming. Chateau de la Cheine couldn’t have been further from that. This desk for instance, who has sat here and penned letters to loved ones?
Or even at this desk up in the attic. I wonder if this is somebody’s desk from school. What naughtiness was hidden from the teacher by lifting the lid in classes?
There’s more history in the garden with this old grinding stone, which now makes a fabulous stand for flowers.
I could have explored for hours, and it really seems that the property reignited my love of doors and windows. I could have photographed them all day, though it appears as though I did!
We found it the perfect place to spend a week and came away feeling incredibly relaxed and refreshed and with a real desire to retire to the Dordogne. It is an area of France we know well as my parents had a property 20 miles away for ten years (and funnily enough it turns out they had mutual friends with our hosts here. Small world).
If you are looking for a relaxed and informal place to stay in France then this could well be it.
The link above has all the information on booking, the property is available exclusively through Oliver’s Travels, and prices start at £2100 for a week.