Loire Valley Living: Southern Style
Alabamians in France
A UNESCO classified World Natural Heritage site*
The small village of Bréhémont lies thirty minutes west of Tours by car, in the Val de Loire, through which runs not only France's longest, but Europe’s last remaining undeveloped river, whose deceptive calm is in fact treacherous to navigate. The area is known as the garden of France and for centuries was considered a princely playground. More recently, no longer at play but in all earnest, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, traveled to the Valley to campaign for the safeguard of this exceptional river, proclaiming along the way 'Long live a wild Loire !'.
A dream come true
Here under the rosy skies so favored by court painters, an American couple from Alabama set their hearts on finding an unconventional second home. With incredible good fortune, they stumbled across it on the very first day of serious searching.
The late 17th-century farmhouse had been tastefully renovated by the French owners, turning what had once been the entire house into what is now the bedroom wing, raising the roof to accommodate two additional bedrooms and baths in the former attic. The adjacent barn had been joined to the main structure to form a spacious living and dining room area with its tall stone fireplace and a kitchen with its own large fireplace, as well as a library and study on the mezzanine above.
The American couple bought the farmhouse on the spot. Once the papers were signed and the purchase was a fait-accompli, the real fun could start. The previous owners had left the house with carpets, wallpapers and draperies intact, but the rooms needed furnishing and the new owners immediately set about exploring the region's antique shops and brocante flea markets and soon made the old house a new home, one that reflected the period of its original construction and provincial character.
Thus an American couple realized their dream of putting down roots in France, to which a quintessential, 25 year-old Southern Dogwood tree planted in the front yard will attest. A quarter of a century later, this Southern family continues to enjoy and share the special charms of one of the most enchanting parts of France.
The road home
After crossing the Loire from the northern, right bank at Langeais with its fortified château, a dike road to the right leads westward along the river’s left bank. At first all that is seen from atop the dike is a dense growth of trees to one side, with small gardens and a scattering of white limestone houses on the other. Then the road turns, and suddenly the Loire comes into view. At the same moment, Bréhémont, resplendently white, appears on the horizon, its church spire silhouetted against the western sky. This approach to a riverside village is one of the loveliest in France. On entering the town, a left turn south from the dike road towards the village of Rivarennes leads to the house, roughly 100 yards on down.
Privacy is highly valued in French country homes and the house at Bréhémont is no exception. Shuttered windows on the street and a white stone wall with ornamental climbing roses shield the interior and inner courtyard from inquisitive passers-by. Through the large wooden gate, however, guests find a welcoming courtyard, its graveled center bordered by trees and beds of flowering bushes. To one side a small pool reflects a towering hazelnut tree. Shallow steps lead to a stone terrace where a table and parasol speak of lazy lunches and late afternoon aperitifs, following a day of visiting nearby medieval towns, châteaux and gardens, or sampling wines at area's vineyards.
The terrace leads into the high-ceilinged salle de séjour serving both as a living and dining room. The eye is drawn to exposed beams overhead, a comfortable grouping of sofas before a grande cheminée carved of stone, and the large farm table and Louis XIII-style chairs that provide the dining area. Wooden stairways anchor the lofty room at either end. But the room’s most striking feature is its unique floor composed of 5-inch thick cross-cut rounds of wild cherry trees. Set in resin, these random-sized rounds make for a stunning, one of a kind floor.
Across the room from the large fireplace, three stone steps lead to two bedrooms, each with one of the farmhouse's original 17th-century Renaissance fireplaces and its own private bath. Above, two more bedrooms and baths. Despite four bedrooms and baths in all, it soon became apparent to the new owners that they needed extra guest quarters, so they proceeded to convert an empty 18th-century dependency on the property into a cozy, independent guest house on the opposite side of the courtyard.
In their widespread quest for furnishings, they chanced upon a rare find at an antiques shop near Reims in Champagne: an ensemble of an alcove, a grandfather clock and an armoire combined into one piece of furniture. It was this find that determined the floor plan for the guest house. They created a bedroom behind the alcove and the clock and armoire were put to use as a pantry for the small adjacent kitchen. Two additional sleeping spaces were added upstairs. Compact but comfortable, the guesthouse can accommodate four-to-five.
The village of Bréhémont is not your usual riverside village but was once a thriving community bustling with river commerce. The cultivation of chanvre**, or hemp, used for rope-making at Langeais across the river, supported a population more than twice the size of today's. In its hey-day the village had four hotels, several small grocery stores, a barber shop, bakeries, meat markets and a service-station garage. Most of these have gone today, vanishing with the demise of river transport a century or more ago, but the decoratively-carved façades of the stone buildings that compose the village center still attest to Bréhémont’s former affluence.
Keywords: French Farmhouse, Loire Valley farmhouse,perfect for Chateaux tours, family house,Loire River house, Historic Stone farmhouse, historic cottage , enchanting french cottage,
Perfect for sightseeing the area Chateaux and vineyards. This property will give you the feeling that you have stepped back in time to the historic, elegant France of legend.