WHERE THE HEART IS

Hav­ing lived in Gironde for some 40 years, Amer­i­can ex­pat Carol de Mon­trichard Dal­léas en­joys ev­ery­thing that life in France of­fers, as Stephanie Shel­drake finds out

Living France - - CONTENTS - whatscooking­in­france.com

Find out why Gironde has been home to an Amer­i­can-born ex­pat for some 40 years

For Amer­i­can-born Carol de Mon­trichard Dal­léas, France has been her home for some 50 years since she ar­rived in Paris to study back in 1967. It was love that made the move per­ma­nent when she met and mar­ried a French­man. The cou­ple de­cided to move to Gironde, to the fa­mous wine-mak­ing area known as En­tre-Deux-Mers, sit­u­ated be­tween the Garonne and Dor­dogne rivers.

“En­tre-Deux-Mers is be­tween Paris where we lived, and the Basque coun­try where we were plan­ning to fi­nally set­tle to be near our chil­dren’s grand­par­ents. How­ever, we wanted to make sure we could live out­side of Paris where my hus­band had grown up and so de­cided to try the coun­try­side near a big city, and the choice was be­tween Bordeaux and Toulouse,” ex­plains Carol.

“Bordeaux won as it is near the ocean – we live about 30km to the east of Bordeaux,” says Carol, who ad­mits that these days she doesn’t go to the coast very of­ten as coun­try liv­ing takes up most of her time. “It’s nice to know it’s there and we can get there within an hour.”

Trag­i­cally, Carol lost her hus­band at the age of 37, and with two young chil­dren, she de­cided to start a B&B busi­ness from her home to com­ple­ment her work as an artists’ agent. “At the time I think I was one of two B&Bs in all of Aquitaine,” re­mem­bers Carol, who started the B&B known as ‘La Forge’ in 1985.

Now, 30 years later, Carol is mar­ried to Bruno, from Bordeaux, and has re­tired from her work as an artists’ agent, but con­tin­ues to host guests in the B&B as well as run­ning ad­di­tional ac­tiv­i­ties through her net­work of lo­cal chefs, wine­mak­ers, gar­den­ers and artists.

The char­ac­ter­ful stone house with its pretty pale green shut­ters is typ­i­cal of the area, and over­looks vines once worked by the black­smith’s horse. The main house is taste­fully dec­o­rated and ac­com­mo­dates up to 11 guests and there is also a guest cot­tage which sleeps three.

VAR­IED EXCURSIONS

“We or­gan­ise cook­ing classes, wine tast­ings, vis­its to gar­dens and artists’ stu­dios, as well as din­ners in pri­vate homes and châteaux. But with an ex­ten­sive net­work I can re­spond or sug­gest al­most any­thing that guests might be in­ter­ested in,” says Carol. “Last year I con­tacted the lo­cal pé­tanque club who or­gan­ised a tour­na­ment and din­ner for my Florida guests.”

The cou­ple ini­tially of­fered cook­ing and bik­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. “My hus­band, who is a doc­tor and also has a de­gree in French cui­sine, was in­ter­ested in giv­ing classes and we had a new off-road bike path that just opened nearby. Pro­fes­sional chefs from the re­gion, as well as home cooks, now give classes and the ac­tiv­i­ties have ex­panded to week-long trips to visit gar­dens, winer­ies, and pri­vate homes.”

Around half of Carol and Bruno’s guests are French and the other half are in­ter­na­tional (about a third of which are Bri­tish). Guests are able to find La Forge via Carol’s web­site, Saw­day’s, as well as TripAd­vi­sor and French web­sites in­clud­ing Les Guides Ri­vages and Maisons d’Hôtes de Car­ac­tère.

HOME FROM HOME

Carol en­joys invit­ing guests into her home, as well as the so­cial in­ter­ac­tion that run­ning the ac­tiv­i­ties brings. “As the house didn’t start out as a B&B, but as our home, it still is more of a fam­ily house that I share with my guests, as op­posed to the clas­sic B&B that most peo­ple imag­ine. It suits us and our guests very well,” says Carol, who en­joys spend­ing time with her guests.

“When my guests sign up for a three­day to a week-long stay on a spe­cific theme I usu­ally ac­com­pany them or leave them in the hands of a spe­cial­ist. How­ever,

a ‘theme week’ is a 24-hour re­spon­si­bil­ity and I have my guests un­der my wing all the time.” These days, Carol spends most of her time plan­ning new excursions, spend­ing time with her guests, pro­mot­ing her busi­ness on so­cial me­dia and work­ing on the house and gar­den. Carol and Bruno do the ma­jor­ity of the work in­volved in run­ning the busi­ness, with help from a cleaner and a gar­dener who comes once a week. The pace of life suits her, and Carol en­sures she makes time for her­self. “I’m open all year round but my busy sea­son is from April to Novem­ber. When I have fam­ily af­fairs to at­tend to and don’t have time, I just say that we’re booked or some­times I find a friend to step in for me.” Since her in­tro­duc­tion to French life in Paris all those years ago, Carol has not looked back. “I’ve en­joyed liv­ing in France from the very be­gin­ning when I ar­rived in Paris as an au pair and stu­dent. Even af­ter the death of my first hus­band I didn’t re­ally con­sider go­ing back to the US. I like liv­ing in two cul­tures – be­ing both French and Amer­i­can… If I was born French I would prob­a­bly like liv­ing in the US!” she laughs.

For Carol, the ap­peal of liv­ing in this beau­ti­ful part of France has not waned over the years. “France is amaz­ing as ev­ery area has some­thing to of­fer and I think I could set­tle al­most any­where and be happy,” ad­mits Carol. “En­tre-Deux-Mers has be­come my home over these 40 years so, of course, I have my friends and fam­ily here which cer­tainly adds to its at­trac­tion for me.”

From host­ing guests on gourmet pic­nics to visit­ing lo­cal châteaux and gar­dens or ac­com­pa­ny­ing guests on wine tast­ings, the nu­mer­ous ac­tiv­i­ties that Carol en­joys make it un­sur­pris­ing that this cor­ner of France holds such a strong place in her heart.

“Pro­fes­sional chefs from the re­gion, as well as home cooks, give classes to our guests”

Bot­tom left: La Forge cham­bres d’hôtes is run by Carol and Bruno in En­tre-Deux-Mers These pages from top: Two cou­ples tak­ing part in a chef-run cook­ery course; the tran­quil gar­dens; Carol and Bruno en­joy cook­ing; one of the dishes cre­ated in the cook­ery classes

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.