A newly engaged couple from two different nations is looking for a way to make their relationship work, traveling all around France looking for the perfect setting for their blooming love story. Then they stumbled upon a hauntingly beautiful 600-year-old chateau, will it be the perfect home for their French fairytale? Or will it be the cause of their happily never after?
London-born and raised Erin Choa, who was then working as an anesthetist, decided to go up north and move to Scotland to take on further studies at its capital city, Edinburgh. It was in one of her programs that she met the love of her life, her French prince charming, Jean-Baptiste Gois. Jean-Baptiste or JB for short was a mechanical engineer who moved from France to Scotland. He had been living in Edinburgh for 10 years when he met the girl who finally caught his eye.
As the two were totally head over heels for each other, it didn’t take long for them to fall in love and get engaged. Everybody was happy for them and they were very happy too until they sat down and talked about the future looming before them. “When will they get married? Where will they get married? Where will they settle after marriage? Do both of them get to keep their jobs? How will they make it work?” So many questions were waiting to be answered by the couple, they had to make a decision.
After taking a lot of time to think, the couple reached an agreement: they would move to Jean-Baptiste’s home country, France. But what does that mean for Erin?
As Erin spoke English all her life and only had French classes at school, her French was a bit rusty, so she couldn’t really continue being an anesthetist in France. JB, on the other hand, would have to leave his mechanical engineering career behind in Scotland. As the two would embark on a new life together, Erin proposed that they both have a change in career and do something that they both have in common, which was love for everything historical.
Reaching a united decision to move to France and start new careers, Erin and JB thought of different ways to earn money while doing something they love, which was history. The couple knew very well that France was rich in history and culture and surrounded by beautiful architecture, so they thought about buying a historical French property and then renting it out to tourists. For them, it was a very good idea because they knew they could find a beautiful property somewhere in France and tourists come in all-year-round. All they had to do was to find the perfect building…
Taking a risk
The couple started their extensive search for the perfect French property, scouring every countryside in France, but even though there were many options to choose from, the couple still found it hard to decide because of a lot of factors. For starters, they have to make sure that the property they will be buying would have historical worth and background. Another is, buying a massive property is no cheap deal. In fact, JB and Erin would probably have to max out their credit cards and drain their savings just to buy one chateau. Were Jb and Erin willing to take that risk?
Before reaching a final decision, the couple had already thought about the pros and cons of their quest, so they knew that many obstacles awaited them, but these obstacles didn’t stop the couple from continuing their search. For weeks and weeks, JB and Erin traveled all around France, going on countless open houses, and joining various websites, trying to find the perfect place. They were starting to feel exhausted when they stumbled upon the Chateau de Borneau.
Chateau de Borneau
The Chateau de Borneau was a beautiful estate located in Pays de la Loire, in the west of France. Out of all the chateaus and mansions that the couple saw, this one really caught their attention. It was a beautiful chateau with turreted pillars and stone walls, plus it had a rich historical background as it had been around for many centuries and was rebuilt in late 1863. Aside from having a rich and interesting origin, the chateau offered something else that others couldn’t…
Unlike the previous mansions and chateaus that Erin and JB viewed, which all required a lot of work and money to renovate, the Chateau de Borneau seemed to be more intact and liveable. The outside was still so majestic, even after being neglected for years, and its plumbing system, which was built in the early 19th century still worked! Knowing all of this, the couple was highly impressed but more than their own preferences, they also had to consider if tourists would like the chateau, so they continued to explore the property further…
A beautiful moat
As the couple went around the vicinity, they discovered that the chateau was really the French property of their dreams because it was surrounded by a beautiful moat!
Back in the day, most castles and large mansions were surrounded by moats to serve as a line of defense to protect the castle from attack. Some moats were just built around the main castle while others were built to surround a whole village. With the moat, the chateau gave off French castle realness and definitely looked like something out of a fairytale that would surely grab the tourists’ attention. With all its glory and grandeur, JB and Erin wondered why the Chateau de Borneau hasn’t been snagged yet, but they were about to find out why…
You know how they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, well, it’s also applicable to chateaus, you definitely shouldn’t judge a French chateau by its front doors. As soon as JB and Erin stepped inside the Chateau de Borneau, they knew that the place was once beautiful, but it was beyond repair. After being abandoned and neglected for nearly three decades, the whole house was in need of some serious repairing and refurbishing. It needed new furniture, new doors, new locks, new everything, from top to bottom! Just by looking at its current state, the couple knew they needed to shed a huge amount of time, effort, and money just to get it ready for visitors. It was a big risk, but why couldn’t they walk away from this chateau?
Rich in history
Aside from having a hauntingly beautiful appearance, the chateau holds a very rich historical background. It is believed that King Louis XI himself gave the blessing to build the chateau in 1464. For many years back in the 14th and 15th century, the chateau was a formidable fortress that served many noble men and women of France. Although it looks far from its former self, the chateau still holds some kind of elegance to it and just waiting for the right people to give it back the glory it once lost. Are JB and Erin up for the challenge?
After further consideration, the couple closed in on a sale and became the new housemasters of Chateau de Borneau. It wasn’t exactly cheap because it cost them a whopping 680,000 Euros or $775,000. The couple described the chateau as “a complete coup de foudre (lightning strike),” so they were totally willing to spend a huge amount. To buy the property, JB and Erin had to use their personal savings and take out a huge loan from the bank. But the purchase and the loans are just the beginning of the couple’s long list of problems to solve…
First things first, now that the lovebirds found their new love nest, they had to officially move their things from Scotland to France. It wasn’t much of a problem as the chateau was massive so they were able to fit everything they own inside. Luckily for them, even though the chateau needed lots of repair and renovation, basic necessities like running water and a heating system were readily available. After settling in, what they have to do next is to flip the chateau upside down and have it ready for the public to see.
Work, work, work, and more work
The couple got their gloves on and set out to start the renovations of their chateau. They started with the easier and more urgent tasks like replacing and fixing the big front doors, changing the locks, and repainting the outside. The couple made sure that they got exactly the original color of the chateau so as to really get history right. As you might have imagined, it was no easy feat for the two of them to finish repairing the whole property, especially because it was 10,700 square feet wide. JB and Erin poured out their blood, sweat, and tears as they worked all day long but working on the inside was nothing compared to the hard work they had to face repairing the outside…
Bridges over troubled water
To really bring the chateau back to its former glory, the couple needed to fix everything and that meant every. single. thing. including the moat and the bridges that connect it to the castle.
Actually, the couple had a choice whether to keep the body of water or to get rid of it completely, but as their goal was to make the chateau as authentic as possible, they chose to keep the moat even though it meant more work for them. To have a reference, the couple dug deep into the house and found old sepia photographs dating back to 1908 that showed how the bridges originally looked like. JB and Erin were inspired by the beautiful photographs they saw and started painting the bridges back to life. After that, the couple discovered more things inside the chateau that were truly priceless…
Unearthing hidden treasures
As Jean-Baptiste and Erin went from room to room to see what’s inside, they discovered different things from the past. From little trinkets to old furniture to boxes containing various relics, it was like they were on a scavenger hunt to the past. The couple got excited to see what’s waiting for them at every nook and cranny, but their excitement reached its peak when they discovered what was waiting for them upstairs…
Soon after a lot of digging and looking around the chateau, the couple realized that they had landed a goldmine of beautiful and priceless antiques. There were tons of furniture and antique pieces that any collector would die for. They even found a beautiful antique dressing table that just perfectly fit the vibe of the chateau. Seeing all of those things inside their house, instead of giving it up for auction to gain more money for the renovation, the couple decided to keep them, clean them a little, and put them on display.
To make the chateau more liveable and accommodating for guests, the couple had to provide comfortable couches, beds, and chairs. But they couldn’t just buy furniture at any store, they had to stay on theme, so they looked for antique-looking finds at antique shops and thrift stores. Luckily enough, JB and Erin were able to score some pretty good deals like a set of 19th-century chairs and giant urns for just $80. Looking at their creation, it felt like a mix of the old and the new, which made the chateau even more beautiful and interesting. It wasn’t perfect yet, but finally, the couple felt like their home was ready to accept visitors…
Welcome to Chateau de Borneau
Finally, after years of being closed down and abandoned, the 16-hectare chateau was ready for the public to see. But there was one itty bitty problem, they haven’t finished renovating! Firstly it was because renovating a 16-hectare place takes so long and secondly, the couple was running out of funds. So they decided to invite some guests in to start earning a little more income. The guests didn’t seem to mind the ongoing construction though as they kept on coming every day. Now that they had some guests come over, did JB and Erin find that the big risk they took was all worth it?
Worth every single penny
As word got around about their French chateau, more and more people came flocking outside JB and Erin’s newfound home. Tourists were eager to see what the chateau has to offer, interested in the piece of history they are going to get once they stay for the night, and most importantly, excited to take Instagram-worthy pictures of the chateau. Renovating and bringing a massive chateau back to life was a lot of work and involved a lot of money, but in the end, Jean-Baptiste and Erin were happy to have made the decision to purchase it in the first place and watch as it got back its former beauty and glory.