by Sylvia Edwards Davis

©Pat Bernstein

We had first spoken with Pat back when he bought his renovation project around seven years ago. We were wondering how he was doing and how his plans might have progressed, so we decided to give him a call to catch up on progress.

What brought you to France in the first place?

We had a family run computer business for the last 16 years in the UK. We’re young enough to still be working but old enough to think about retiring. We got here by pure accident and on impulse. The place we bought had not been lived in for over 50 years. As one of our friends said, “Most people have their water features in the garden, not inside”.

Do you still have family there?

Our two kids, both left home ages ago, one is in the UK and one in Singapore and we have grandchildren in the UK.

©Pat Bernstein

Tell us about the renovation project.

We bought a house and a large detached barn, with the plan being to use the house as a gite and the barn as our home. We did everything ourselves, except for the septic tank. As so often happens, we ran out of money and I went back to work as an electrician, renovating in my spare time and weekends. The house is a modern interior with lots of oak.

©Pat Bernstein

We now have a three bed two bathroom house, with many of the original features and decorated in keeping with the age of the property.

©Pat Bernstein

So you can say it’s mission accomplished?

Well, we will be letting for the first time in July and August of this year. What we are letting is a three bedroom house, two bathrooms (one en-suite) and a self contained house within the barn, three bed three bath, stunning interior, and shared pool between the two. Both rentals have wi-fi and UK Freesat TV, DVD players, fully equipped kitchens (microwave, dishwashers, washing machine). For winter lets, under-floor heating and wood burners.

©Pat Bernstein

We made a headstart on the grounds but they are not completely landscaped so the reduced rental price will reflect this.

©Pat Bernstein

Tell us what attracted you to this area.

We are 4km From Chalais, with Supermarkets, hairdressers, restaurants and bars. The immediate locality is a triangle formed by the villages of Aubeterre, St Aulaye and Chalais, all in the southern Charente, close to the Perigord region. The area is characterised by rolling hills and frequent patches of woodland. Most of the restaurants and bars are open throughout the year. Aubeterre sits high up above a bend in the river Dronne. Its charming narrow streets wind through white stone houses and ancient buildings. Chalais is located on the river Tude which joins the Dronne. There are fine sandy beaches are maintained along the banks of the river Dronne, in shady spots, close to campsites and snack-bars, where you can swim and fish safely. There are many local vineyards making Pineau (a local speciality) and these can be found along any main road. Often they allow visits and tasting. St Emilion and Bordeaux are within easy car journeys and there wine tasting is essential. Many of the wine estates offer tasting without appointment, so you can arrive, drink a bit and not feel like you’re obligated to buy if it’s not to your taste.

Now that you’ve gone through the experience, what would you say to someone thinking of embarking on a DIY renovation?

  • Ignorance is bliss. If we had known how big the renovation would be, we may never have started.
  • Even doing a budget, and allowing plenty of contingency, we still ran out of money.
  • Rural France is not just across the Channel and a different language. It is a cultural world away from the UK (but we love it).

    •With thanks to Pat Bernstein
    If you would like to receive information or find out the availability of this property for holiday lets, please email Pat at info@country-house-in-france.com

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