Wednesday, August 30, 2006

[europe] americans selling their french chateaux

Interesting piece in the Washington Post about French chateaux [sorry – lost the direct link and this is an abridged version]:

When the village of Boucard's fairy-tale chateau is viewed from afar, it’s easy to imagine the pampered existence of the aristocrats inside. You’d be surprised.

"It is a very heavy load for people who inherit a castle," lamented Marie-Henriette de Montabert, 74, whose family has owned Chateau de Boucard since 1720. "All of the castle owners have the same problem - how to save your castle."

"Nowadays, a castle is no longer an exterior sign of wealth, but rather an exterior sign of poverty," said Bertrand Le Nail, a French real estate agent and property expert.

About 90 percent of the country's chateaux -- a term that loosely applies to everything from castles to large manor houses -- are not maintained properly because their owners cannot afford it, Le Nail said. Some sell their properties or turn them into small hotels, some open them to the public and charge entrance fees, and others simply go on living in edifices that are collapsing around them.

Chantal de Bonneval thought she had found the solution when she and her husband inherited his family's 45-room chateau in Thaumiers, about 175 miles south of Paris, in 1977. The new owners added 13 bathrooms to the existing four, repaired 40 leaks in the roof and turned the chateau into a bed-and-breakfast.

By John Ward Anderson and Corinne Gavard

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