A Little Slice of Loire Valley Heaven

A Little Slice of Loire Valley Heaven

After many years of holidaying in France, Noelle and Michael Keating decided to start looking for their dream home. They now live in the pretty village of Bourgueil in the heart of the Loire Valley best known for the splendour of the chateaux and quality of its wines.

What made you decide to move to France?

The sheer diversity of the country; the excellent way of life; the culture and history; the wonderful food and wine; and the need for a quieter existence! France also has a safer society, showing less violent crime, particularly away from the big cities.

We had no language barriers, as we both speak French fairly fluently and so we both get by. It would have been hard moving to a country where the language would mean that integrating into the community would have been quite difficult.

Accessibility was another great attraction. The auto routes make it very easy to drive to visit other parts of Europe as well as getting back to the UK. From where we live in the Centre region of France, it takes about 5 hours to drive to Calais, 35 minutes on Eurotunnel and then whatever time it takes to get to our destination.

Property prices here are great value for money and a lot cheaper than the UK; with the exception of Paris which may be on a par with London. You get a lot of house for your money here.

How did you start the search for your new home?

Since 2004 we had been coming to France on holiday, travelling to the Loire and staying in a lovely little gîte in a small village nearby that was attached to an old water mill, the wheel of which was a feature in the main house. It was situated in a really lovely, tranquil location. The Loire River is quite magnificent that there are so many places along its flow that are just magic.

We had holidayed in other parts of France as well, staying in gîtes in pretty country locations, but never too far from a town, in places like Bordeaux, The Dordogne, Burgundy and Champagne but the properties and wine here were beyond our budget!

In September 2006, the lovely lady who owned the gîte informed us that her health was failing and that she would no longer be renting out the property. With this news, there was not a shadow of a doubt in our minds; we were going to look for our own little heaven in this little corner of France!

We wanted a townhouse preferably in the centre of Bourgueil, with a small enclosed walled garden that would be easy to manage and a natural wine cellar would be an added bonus. It had to have a lock up and go facilities, and had to be in quiet surroundings with essential shopping within walking distance and enough space for family and friends to come and visit.

We looked at several properties and only one of these ticked all the boxes even though the décor was very 60s and required a lot of TLC. On entering the property we both immediately fell in love with it and could immediately see the potential.

What advice would you give to people who are considering moving to France?

  • Do your research on various areas and draw up a list of your requirements
  • Learn the language
  • Be prepared to integrate into the way of life instead of looking to live in English enclaves

Why Bourgueil?

The ambiance, it had everything we needed and the locals were just so friendly.

It has a population of approximately 4,000 inhabitants, two supermarkets, hairdressers, patisseries, pharmacies and a few nice little bars including our favourite haunt, The Café de La Promenade. And all within walking distance, including doctors and dentists!

There is a wonderful street market every Tuesday and the most amazing vineyards just five minutes’ walk from our house producing a really good quality of red wine at very affordable prices. You buy direct from the winegrowers and never from supermarkets unless of course you want imported wine.

One of our favourite spots of all time is Lac de Rille, where we often go to bird watch or have a picnic. Tours is 40 minutes away and is where the Airport and railway station are situated, so not far to collect visitors who arrive by air or train.

Michael is a huge Grand Prix fan and Le Mans is approximately 1.5 hours away from where we live. Need I say more? For the last 3 years he has been drawn there for the sheer drama of “an epic race” and I have accompanied him because I adore this city for its vibrant nature and fun loving people.

Situated on the crossroad of Anjou and Touraine, between Le Mans and Tours, Chateau du Lude is a family home and an historic monument in the Loire Valley. The breath taking gardens are amazing, particularly the Chinese waterside garden. It is much smaller than some of the grander, more renowned chateaux like Chenonceau, Amboise, Villandry, or Angers, but it is beautiful and definitely worth a visit and it is one of my much-loved tourist attractions.

Our grandchildren are obsessed with animals so we’re very fortunate to live a short distance away to the zoo of La Flèche ; a gorgeous place to visit no matter how old you are and a firm favourite with our family. We have some amazing properties available for sale in the Loire area.

What is it like living here?

In the seven years that we have owned the house, we have made quite a few friends. Like everything, the life you lead in a place is what you make of it yourself. We have emerged ourselves into the community. We occasionally play bridge, I have started teaching English once a week and we have become very involved with a few wine growers so that we are now very much part of their wine production. This year we helped with the wine harvest, picking the grapes by hand at the vineyards of three of our friends. Although it was very hard work, the camaraderie was amazing and it was total fun. We are now helping one of the up and coming wine growers with his production!

The social life is also amazing with lots of parties and dinner parties, so all in all, a really lovely way of life.

What is your favourite time of year?

August, September and October when everything is just so lively here. The family come and visit and we have our wine festival ‘Bourgueilotherapie’.

What do you love about where you live in France?

We love the slower pace of life, the lack of traffic and being close to a product that is our passion; wine!

When it comes to castle fun, Loire, the Valley of a Thousand Châteaux; steals the show. There are so many around here.

Chenonceau, is a 15th-century Renaissance palace arching femininely over the Cher River. The château of Chambord is huge and boasts a magnificent double-spiral staircase that was designed by Leonardo da Vinci who spent his last years here. The château of Cheverny stands in the heart of a large park and features splendid interior decoration.

If you’re interested in exploring the property offers we have in the Loire Valley, here are just a few houses for sale in the area to get your taste buds going. If you are looking for that special French chateau or Manoir then pour a glass of your favourite wine and take a look at these gems.