Americans Buying Chateaux in the Dordogne
who, if they did venture across the Atlantic, would traditionally visit Paris, or Provence and the Côte D’Azur for the more adventurous.
However, figures for real estate sales in 2014 show that Americans have now entered into the framework as a significant 2% of international buyers in the Aquitaine region within which the Dordogne lies. Previously Americans didn’t figure at all in the statistics, and this will surely be increasing in years to come as the word gets out. They are mainly buying second homes, which will often be leased out as holiday rentals when they are not using them to cover the running costs.
Americans are particularly attracted to the Sarlat area of the Dordogne with its stunning scenery around the Dordogne Valley. Specifically the Valley of the Five Chateaux in the Dordogne is a favourite, featuring Beynac, Castelnaud, Marquessac and Chateau Milandes, previously owned by singer and entertainer Josephine Baker.There are many prehistoric and touristic sites, including the world famous caves of Lascaux and it is worthy of note that The Dordogne and the Vezère Valley, as well as Sarlat all have Unesco World Heritage status. As well its incredibly rich architectural and historical heritage, its unique style and native honey coloured limestone, the area is also world renowned for the gourmand as a gastronomical
capital. The specialities of the area including foie gras, duck, cepes, walnuts, and excellent quality local produce found in the daily markets, as well as, of course, the excellent accompanying wines from the neighbouring Bergerac and Bordeaux appellations. The temperate climate is also very accommodating with long warm summers often extending well into September.
Nicola Venning, freelance journalist, writing for the International New York Times in her recent article “Grand Homes of the south west” highlights the delights of the region and its rich heritage of grand homes in the region, renowned to be the home of 1001 chateaux:
“It is for good reason that the Dordogne region of southwest France is known as the land of 1001 chateaus: it is thought to have more grand homes than any other part of the country, and the range is almost as varied as that of French cheese.”
Where else in the world on a casual drive through the countryside do you literally encounter a chateaux in the Dordogne perched on a hilltop on every corner you turn? This cinematographic landscape is for real here, and has long attracted the attention of film makers, including Hollywood directors, given the attractions of the region, the castles, and the authentic medieval backdrop, hence being a frequent location for films, such as Ridley Scott’s ‘The Duellists’. It really has to be seen to be believed, and once it has, people want to come back over and over again to enjoy the sense of awe and wellbeing they feel here, hence the increasingly diverse popularity of the region.
One variation of the chateau is the ‘chartreuse’, which is an architectural style of grand home typical of the Sarlat area of the Dordogne, built out of the local honey coloured limestone as country residences for the bourgeoisie in the 18th century, with characteristically grand proportions, double aspect rooms, the principal living space on the first floor and intricate detail in the finishings done by master craftsmen, such as sculpted stone fireplaces and window moldings.
In her article, Nicola Venning features a fine example of this type of architecture, La Forge du Roy, located 25km form Sarlat, near Les Eyzies and the famous Lascaux caves.
The property was originally built as a hunting lodge around 1680, and later converted to an iron foundry for Napoleon’s army, hence its namesake, meaning ‘The King’s Forge’. The original furnaces remain on the property. All the original period features have been preserved in the chartreuse, and it has been lushly refurbished and decorated by the current owners to accommodate modern comforts and living.
La Forge du Roy offers the unique opportunity to own a piece of France’s architectural heritage with its estate of 180 hectares, the 6 bedroom chartreuse, a spacious 4 bedroom guest house, guardian’s cottage, a yoga studio and gym, heated swimming pool and loggis, as well as its private fishing lake fed by a stream that trickles through the property.
This type of property is precisely what attracts Americans with such passion to the region, being steeped in history and full of authentic and intriguing original period features and set in a totally preserved rural setting, yet still in reach of international airports with flights to the US (Bordeaux, Toulouse and Paris airports).
Written by Kirsten Pollard