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

An­nal­iza Davis

Living France - - LIFESTYLE -

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

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