Vanessa Howard and partner William gave up their jobs, sold their home and vintage clothing shop in Suffolk, England and arrived in France in June 2017.
They had over several previous trips, built up a wish list for their perfect home. They wanted a house that came with potential for a gite or two, a gorgeous garden, a fabulous swimming pool and a stunning location. And somewhere to store their vintage clothes collection…
Running a gorgeous gite in Dordogne
For the couple, moving to France was a dream come true. Like so many, Vanessa had fallen in love with France at the age of 14 on a school exchange trip. Her time in Fontenay la Comte near La Rochelle had left the sweetest memories and as she grew older, she spent more and more time in France though mainly in the south. She and her partner dreamed of one day living in France and with her 55th birthday approaching, the couple decided the time was right to start looking.
They looked at south Dordogne and loved it but couldn’t find anything within their budget matching their wish list. So they decided to look at the north and it’s here that they found their little piece of heaven.
Their stone built coach house is in Mialet, in the heart of the Perigord/Limousin National Park but just a three minute walk to the village centre.
Their two-bedroom luxury gite, Beaux Souvenirs, has its own entrance, private terrace and exclusive use swimming pool. With a lovely shaded terrace overlooking a pretty garden, it’s the perfect base to relax and for sightseeing in Dordogne. They even supply golf clubs, complimentary wine and a starter hamper for that all important picnic.
Private fashion museum
The couple have converted a large barn on their grounds into a private museum for their huge acquisition of vintage built up over thirty years of collecting. Vanessa who lectures on fashion, is an expert on nightwear and her collection dates back to 1880. The museum showcases fabulous fashion examples iconic to every decade of the 20th century and the couple are proud to show it to their guests.
There are hats designed by Phillip Somerville who designed all the hats for the early James Bond movies. Shoes by the creator of the Ruby Red shoes in The Wizard of Oz who also invented the Beatles Boot when asked by John Lennon to create something unique for the band. Dresses by Jean Varon who created the costumes for Diana Rigg in the original 60’s Avenger series. There are also some very rare items on display including silk stockings once adorned by Queen Victoria “if only they could speak” says Vanessa.
There’s plenty to do in the area with beautiful Brantome nearby (AKA the Venice of the north), St Jean de Cole, one of France’s prettiest villages, chateaux and gorgeous gardens, caves and various sports including water sports. Historic Perigueux is withing easy reach, it’s not far from Limoges and a day trip to Bordeaux is doable by train (the station is just ten minutes away). “This area is seriously rich in gourmet food, it’s truffle land” says Vanessa “ and a little bit of paradise in France”.