Luleen and Frederic Wanklyn have been living in the Tarn near a village called Lombers (between Albi and Castres) since 2005. They run a chambres d’hôtes for Wolsey Lodges. Here, Luleen talks about the home she shares with paying guests…
What first attracted you to life in France?
The fact that Freddie had lived and worked in Paris for the Canadian Embassy for several years. The children were all educated in Paris and are bilingual.
Why did you decide to take paying guests?
We needed to supplement our income in order to be able to run the house. I also think we needed something to do, as we were used to being surrounded by lots of interesting people.
How busy are you?
We’re only busy in the summer. The Tarn is not such a popular destination in the winter as it can be quite cold, but from April until the end of October it is beautiful. I have help once a week only as we really only let out two rooms – the third only being suitable for children. Two couples are perfectly easy to manage.
Describe your property.
Our house is a typical maison de maître and was originally owned by a Monsieur l’Abbé, retired missionary. I think it was added on to a farm in the mid nineteenth century as there are very thick walls on one side of the hall. There is a plaque with 1868 over the front door. It has three floors and a beautiful elm elliptical staircase leading up from the traditional black and white tiled floor of the hall. When we bought the house, the garden consisted of the parterre with surrounding high box hedges and two flower beds in front. How easy to cope with, I thought, and proceeded to expand the garden around the house and pool until I am left with a bit of a monster!
How did you go about decorating it?
Our house is a typical country house which has been decorated as a home. It has an eclectic mix of oriental and English antiques, lots of pictures, ornaments and all the bric a brac you would associate with someone’s full time home.
However, it has to be said that most of the curtains/covers etc were made for us in England prior to our move, as it is much easier to make properly interlined curtains there and we already had a container coming out which could bring them.
Terracing, painting, electrical work etc was done by our wonderful local services. Speaking French is really important if you are going to renovate any property in France – you can avoid so much misunderstanding and create far better relationships with the people in your village or town.
How have your benefited from the move?
France has given us back the ability to slow down and smell the roses. We have made many friends and will drive happily for an hour to go to lunch with some of them! The countryside is just spectacular both to north and south and if you want to drive anywhere the roads are unbelievably empty compared to the UK.
What do you miss about the UK?
Occasionally I long for a bit more English rain when I am lugging a mile long hose round the garden. I have been away for so long now that I probably miss less than most people.
Describe a typical day.
A typical day will begin (in the summer) with a bit of watering in the vegetable garden, followed by breakfast and then at some stage a visit to the village to get the newspapers. There is always lunch and dinner, no skipped meals here. A bit of time checking the computer for bookings and of course if there are visitors, breakfast takes time with lots of fresh fruit, croissants, yoghurts, bread etc. This is usually followed by a discussion on what the guests feel like doing and where they want to go. Some will stay by the pool and some will sight see or walk or visit vineyards.
Is your move permanent?
I think we envisaged 10 to 15 years, but the days go by so fast! I would like to end up back there before I am too old.