There’s a story in the Telegraph about French chateaux perhaps being good value for money, with a list of ten fairly nice-looking ones currently for sale. Yes, but it’s not the cost of the building that matters in cases like these, but the cost of the upkeep. You can buy magnificent country houses in the UK, sometimes quite cheaply, but you need shedloads of money to afford the annual running costs. I would guess that many of these chateaux will need restoration work from time to time. Paneling will need to be replaced, intricate plaster ceiling work restored, in addition to the usual updates to electrical and plumbing fixtures and fittings. And some of them are not quite what they seem.
I stayed once in the Chateau de Balleroy, (photo above) quite near Bayeux in Normandy, and visited it again as a tourist many years later. It is an imposing and impressive building to look at, but less so once you pass through the front door. It is only one room deep. The entire building from front door to back is only a few feet thick. It looks as though it might have hundreds of rooms, but it does not. When I stayed there my bedroom was in the stables alongside, as most of them are. Only a handful were in the building itself because there isn’t room for any more.
The place is quite strange, in that it was bought by Malcolm Forbes and passed on to his son, Steve. American money restored and maintained a French chateau, and has made its impact. The oil paintings of the French aristocratic family that owned it give way to memorabilia of the hot air balloons and Harley Davidson bikes that Forbes admired. Each year there’s a balloon festival centred on the chateau. For visitors the place shows exhibits relating to Napoleon, with a bedroom decorated with souvenirs of the emperor, together with some of Wellington. I mischievously asked the French guide who showed us round if there was anything featuring field marshall Blucher, the Prussian co-victor at Waterloo. I received an angry glare and was shown a miniature painting of him hidden behind a door.
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