An 18th-century French manor, hidden histories and a successful novelist, all encircled by the greenery of Auvergne: meets Carolyn Bear and her husband Peter
As you approach La Gozinière, you wonder if you’ve got lost. You’re deep in the Auvergne region in the heart of France; you’ve followed empty roads through miles of oak forest under wide blue skies; you take an intriguing country lane and you’re looking out for the stone pillars.
Suddenly there it is: the sort of rural French manor that we all dream about, dressed in wisteria and set in acres of majestic trees.
“The tall windows, the tower and the gardens were all just as I’d envisaged,” recalls Carolyn. “On our first visit, it was impossible to be objective; I was so convinced we’d finally found our home.”
Indeed, La Gozinière seems made for writers; its setting offers inspiration on all sides and there are stories tucked in every corner. No wonder the Bears felt at home here.
FIRST TASTES OF FRENCH LIFE
Married for 47 years, Carolyn and Peter first met while working in advertising in London, and their love of France dates back several decades.
“My first ever trip abroad was aged 16, staying with a Parisian family to improve my French,” explains Carolyn. “I spent weeks roaming the city and visiting galleries, convinced that I would become a professional artist.
“Later, when our daughters Claudia and Leo were about five, we had limited budgets for holidays and discovered we could stay very cheaply in the Morvan, about three hours south of Paris, in Burgundy. We found a place with limited bathrooms but plenty of bedrooms, so we’d rent a whole floor and my parents and brother would join us. Peter would stay for as long as his work permitted; we’d laze around the garden, write, paint or play badminton. It was a complete change. We always said that if we didn’t live in London, it