Mostly I live in the Dordogne, but I often go to Paris where I used to live and where my family still are. We went there when I was 4 years old so I spent my childhood, my studies (getting a degree in English at university) and the major part of my life there. I also lived near London for two years.
I have traveled to quite a few countries, and my work in advertising, public relations and time-sharing has taken me to Florida, Reunion, the West Indies and French Guyana as well as other countries in Europe. I’ve also worked in real estate, specializing in selling châteaux, and from that I started helping some of my friends and clients rent their properties.
For the last 20 years I’ve lived with Patrick who is a freelance chef. We moved here 10 years ago, with the idea of managing the rental of hotels and restaurants on golf courses, as Patrick is a keen golfer. That’s how we met the Rougiés, at a country club and golf course nearby. Patrick made friends with Caroline’s father who was also a member, so when he decided to renovate Château Espérance in order to let it, he asked me to help him. So I prepared the house for the first guests in 2008. Now it is Caroline who takes care of them.
I’m also the Local Host for the Château Valandraud near St Emilion, which belongs to a distant cousin of Patrick’s who is a wine maker, and for some of the Hosted Villa apartments in Paris, which of course I know very well.
I really like looking after people and helping them to discover all the hidden treasures of an area, which lets them make the most of their time over here. So this job is perfect for me -- I like it very much and am looking forward to the coming season.
Another reason why I like hosting is that I’m very fond of history, so this gives me the perfect reason to visit the amazing sites in the area: prehistoric caves, pretty medieval villages, churches and castles. The countryside too is really beautiful, and the local fresh farm produce is delicious.
My first recommendation for guests at Château Valandraud is always to go to St Emilion. It is a real gem, in the midst of the most prestigious vineyards: a very pretty, small medieval town with old stone paved streets, a unique monolithic church carved out of a hillside and a cloister. It's a truly historic atmosphere. Because it is in such a well known wine area it also has top class restaurants, wine bars, and luxurious wine shops. People visit it all year round, for the wine business as well as for memorable holidays.
Last year one group stayed at Château Valandraud for 4 weeks during the grape harvest, always a busy time, so I was able to take them to many places in the region: Bordeaux which is a wonderful historic city with many cultural events and fabulous shopping, the smart resort of Arcachon on the Atlantic coast, famous for its seafood, and also the castles, caves and other treasures in the Dordogne. The guests were so friendly and we had a great time.
But some of the best moments here are the simplest: enjoying a good coffee with a fresh baguette and just opening your eyes to enjoy the landscape. Each season offers a new picture, different scents and colors, but you feel that the stones have been there since prehistoric times and will never change.
The Paris stays are usually shorter and it’s a different experience, but of course I enjoy that too, there is so much to see and do. And I can really use my knowledge of the city - the guests so appreciate my advice about how to find the things they most want to do, without wasting precious time or having to follow the crowds who only have the guide books to rely on. So when you come to Paris, I’ll be glad to show you around!