Château life is just what the doctor ordered
Ayoung doctor from London has put her medical career on hold to look after an exclusive and rather demanding patient – an historic château in Vendée.
Erin Choa is just 31 and was working until recently as an intensive care anaesthetist in Edinburgh. But since the summer, she and her French fiancé Jean-baptiste Gois, also 31, have been caring for a grand Renaissance-style château and its 16-hectare estate.
“It was a coup de foudre!” laughed Erin, describing how it was love at first sight when the couple saw Château de Bourneau, north of Fontenay-le-comte. “I think people are a bit surprised that we’ve taken on this huge project, especially when they know that medicine is still my passion and I intend to go back to it at some point. But it was always our dream to move to France eventually and we thought, why not take the plunge now while we’re still young and have the enthusiasm and energy to do up an historic building?”
Erin met Jean-baptiste, a mechanical engineer, eight years ago when they were both studying in Edinburgh. After deciding to move to France and find an historic property they could run as a business (as Erin feels her French is not yet good enough to work as a doctor) they viewed more than a dozen country piles before buying Château de Bourneau through Cabinet le Nail for an undisclosed amount.
Abandoned during the Revolution, the property was completely rebuilt in 1863 in the style of the famous Loire château of Azay-leRideau. It was a refugee centre for many years before a family took it on and opened four gîtes in the grounds. As well as continuing the holiday let business, Erin and Jean-baptiste are now hard at work sprucing up the main château, picking up tips from Escape to the Château, one of their favourite shows.
“The château is in a ‘liveable’ state but we intend to redevelop the south wing into a self-contained holiday let for family reunions and weddings and possibly chambres d’hôtes,” says Erin. “This will involve us getting new central heating, putting in new ensuite bathrooms for some of the bedrooms, general interior decor and making the ballroom look fabulous! We also need to complete the pointing on the château façade, make the roof leak-proof, fix the moat walls, do some general garden landscaping, and lots more.”
One perk is that the couple won’t need to find a venue for their own celebrations. “It’s such a romantic place,” said Erin. “We’re going to have our wedding here next year.” Follow the adventures of Erin, Jean-baptiste and the château on Instagram @chateaudebourneau and @theintrepidchatelaine