Ar­chi­tect’s di­ary

It’s all in a week’s work for France-based Neil Vesma

French Property News - - Contents -

De­sign­ing fab­u­lous new homes and im­prov­ing old

Best foot for­ward to­day as I’m lunch­ing with a client who is brief­ing me on the new house he wants to build. He’s a film pro­ducer from Los An­ge­les and it’s the first time we’ve met so I’ve braced my­self for a We­in­steinesque fig­ure and pre­pared my­self to get steam­rollered.

When I ac­tu­ally meet Ted, how­ever, he couldn’t be fur­ther from my men­tal im­age of him. Young, re­laxed, funny and open, he’s look­ing to take a step back from the rat race (al­ready at his age!) and build a mod­est coun­try home in ru­ral France for him­self and his fam­ily. And a cou­ple of hun­dred close friends? I ask, and he laugh­ingly says no, only a hun­dred and ninety. He’s not that much of a movie mogul.

We meet at Berg­erac, at the Bistro d’en Face (the ‘bistro op­po­site’), which I’ve never tried be­fore. It’s on the ‘wrong’ side of the river so it over­looks the quays and the old town on the ‘right’ side, a view bet­ter than any other restau­rant in town. And the food is ex­cel­lent, well pre­sented, well served, and not too pricey. It’s a de­light find­ing a new resto like this. I shouldn’t have named it though; now you’ll all want to go.

Af­ter lunch we drive to the site that Ted has just signed for. Just out­side the vil­lage of Soumen­sac, it’s on high ground over­look­ing farm­land and woods, a view that stretches for miles. There’s just one farm­house nearby but away from the view. I’m knocked out by it but Ted looks wor­ried. “It’s gone. They’ve cut it down.” And then I see it. A raw, two me­trewide stump. And then I see the cut-up re­mains of an an­tique oak, bull­dozed into the hedge. “How could they?” he stam­mers. And for once I’m lost for words.

The view of Berg­erac from this restau­rant ter­race is hard to beat

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