How do I even begin to explain the few weeks of my life in the south of France? I will try my best to keep this short, but it will be long, so my sincerest apologies in advance!
I stayed in Castillonness, about 20 minutes south of Bergerac. Originally, I was going to arrive a week later, but Jennie was celebrating her birthday, and had a large party planned. She invited me to come early to participate, and since it was the weekend of my birthday, I thought it would be perfect!
The first week was filled with family visiting, and celebrating Jennie’s birthday. I got to meet her son and girlfriend, sister and husband, and then Ron’s group of 17 relatives. After everyone left, it was quieter, but definitely not slower. I learned how to plaster, remove lime scale and polish a faucet, and refined my eye for antiques. Jennie is an incredible antique conservationist and collector, and has acquired some of the most stunning pieces I have ever seen. Ron’s expertise to build and design anything is unmatched. The two combined are a dynamic pair who creates the most magical and gorgeous places.
Their Lauzan home (a village nearby), used to be a convent, and has the most amazing energy. The style of interiors can’t be categorized. It’s otherworldly and whimsical. (Pardon my phone pictures)
The Thomazeau home is a historical monument, built on a medieval fortress, and designed by Victor Louis (architect of the Bordeaux Opera House, and many other notable buildings). He is compared to an American Frank Llyod Wright. Not only does it have a spring, but it’s also filled with wonderful antiques of unique stories. The most ridiculous includes unknowingly purchasing 32 plates in auction, only to later find similar pieces in someone else’s collection, and receive the shocking truth that they were from Marie Antoinette’s farmhouse china! Thomazeau is open to the public every Tuesday for market day. I helped Jennie update their website, so feel free to check it out with the complete collection of photographs here. If you’re in the market for a wedding venue, or any other celebratory event in France, you should seriously consider this place! It’s incredibly special
The coach house across the street from Thomazeau is under renovation. For many years, it stood vacant, and extremely inhabitable. From the original condition, Jennie and Ron were in for many impossible surprises. It has a stone stove dating to the 11th century on the 3rd floor, and a well in the rear courtyard. Jennie wanted the doorway moved, and upon clearing the stone wall, Ron found a silk bag filled with 45 mint condition Spanish gold coins. (You can read about them on my blog post “The Thomazeau Mystery”). Because finding gold coins isn’t enough for one residence, they found graffiti covering the walls of their future living room. It matches graffiti in the Vatican, and they’ve recently covered them to preserve it for hundreds of years to come. Who knows what else they might find!
Castillonness will always have a special place in my heart. Jennie and Ron are incredibly special people, and Jennie is THE most positive person I have ever met. They were incredibly generous with their time to show me around the south of France, and shared so many beautiful villages and historical places with me. We visited countless brocantes, enjoyed several road trips, and delicious meals around the area. I met many of their friends on multiple occasions - from the gentleman that brought tours through Thomazeau, to Jennie’s antique friends Jean Jacque & Victor, close friend Val, the late Saturday night walk with Tracy, and many friends who came by for coffee on Tuesdays. Also, many afternoons with Cathy preparing the Lauzan house for the upcoming wedding guests, or cleaning up the coach house construction messes, and the miscellaneous opportunities to bother Ron’s helper, Richard, into teaching me new things with the renovations. I can’t imagine a better three weeks, and I am so grateful for everything they shared with me. I can’t wait to go back in the future to see the final product.