Expat Brits in the Loire with a captivating manor house and sublime taste in interior design…
As an interior designer and antique dealer, Rosemary Conquest from London travelled all over France sourcing material. She and her husband Richard loved their trips and in 2006 they decided to move to France and chose the Loire Valley as their dream location. Rosemary says the architecture and the Chateaux had great allure but “also this is very much traditional France and it is possible to drive back to the UK easily in a day”, important for family visits.
Their first French house was in Samur but four years later they completely fell in love with a rather unloved 14th Century Manoir in the southern Loire Valley. By now, their son Ben had moved to that area and Rosemary and Richard wanted to live closer. Rosemary says “we didn’t know the immediate area but the minute we saw Manoir de la Foulquetière, we decided to buy it straight away. Richard told the agent as soon as we stepped into the Salon and that was that.”
Surrounded by stunning parkland and countryside close to Valencay, the Manoir was perfect for a B&B business and had a few outbuildings the couple knew would make wonderful gites. There was a lot of work to renovate the buildings and then to decorate them.
The result is stunning.
There are now three self-catering gites including a gorgeous Pigeonnier and five rooms for bed and breakfast. Rosemary has looked into the history of the house and advises “it goes back to the 14th century and has always been called La foulquetière and was owned by the family Foulquet. The chapel is a monument historique”.
The little chapel is absolutely exquisite and in 2014 Rosemary arranged to have it blessed by a Benedictine Monk. It’s a place of romantic beauty with a great feeling of history; the huge barn next to it has been renovated and converted into a party room. The first wedding held in the chapel and the party after were a huge success and for couples looking for a typically French, dreamy country wedding, this is the perfect venue.
Rosemary has spent years sourcing furniture and antiques, and the house, gites and rooms are beautifully decorated. She confides that she loves to rummage about at local markets and antique fairs but also in the south of France at Avignon, Beziers and Montpellier as well as Paris.
The couple love working in the gardens of the Manoir with its swimming pool, woodland and lake. It’s also home to Rosemary’s two pot-bellied pigs who live in a rather grand shed in their own part of the garden! Rosemary says “When we arrived the garden was a wilderness! You couldn’t see the railings at the front of the house for overgrown shrubs and climbers. When we cleared them we found lots of the tops of the railings in the ground and had them all replaced. The garden is an on-going project which I love. We have just sown a wildflower meadow and planted thirty-six new roses to form a hedge.”
Roses are a speciality of the area, nearby is the town of Chedigny which is famous for its rose festival and its stunning good looks. Winding little streets, picturesque cottages and everywhere you look roses climb, creep, run up walls, round windows and doors and in every garden. When they’re in fully bloom they are absolutely stunning and the town holds a rose festival each year (May/June).
Rosemary is a fabulous cook and her dining room is gorgeous. As you sit there sipping Champagne or wine from a local vineyard there’s so much to look at it, it’s pretty much a living artwork.
The sun shines a lot in this part of France and one of Rosemary’s favourite hors d’oeuvres to serve in the garden with Champagne is an egg and caviar dish she calls Gateaux Foulque Noire. Inspired by a recipe served up by a barman in New York (reputedly much loved by Liza Minelli), it’s a fresh and delicious dish that’s truly simple to make but completely delicious and memorable – much like a stay at the Manoir de Folquetiere.
More about this area
Bourges – a breath-takingly gorgeous city with an extraordinary history
Chavignol – oodles of charm and delicious goats cheese!
Sancerre – town, wine and irresistible terroir
The stunning gardens and swoon-worthy hotel of the Priory d’Orsan