Interview with Lil Kelman, Co-Owner and Operator of Holiday in the Dordogne
Could you tell us more about the history of Holiday in the Dordogne and its core activity?
My partner Stephen Reed, and I, love travelling especially to France! We‘re learning French and we have very good friends in Paris that we like to visit regularly - so we thought that buying a house in France would be a wonderful project. We enrolled in a course with the company French Desire in Brisbane on ‘How to buy a house in France’ which was very helpful, in particular to learn about the tax implications. We then took off to France for a two-month road trip zigzagging our way south of Paris in a quest to find the perfect house. I had created a ‘Vision Board’ of the perfect house on a river in the perfect ‘lively’ village, which would have a weekly market, bars and restaurants. We initially wanted a house located in a pretty village - rated at least 3 flowers (France’s rating system for ‘pretty villages’) and in a region with a warm climate. Half way through the trip however we realised that some of the 3-flower villages were a bit like museums and shut down after 6pm with no-where to go for dinner or have a drink. That criteria was quickly dropped from our list.
After having visited about 80 properties, sometimes up to 4 houses a day, and exploring le Pays de Loire, La Rochelle, and the South West, we finally arrived in the Dordogne. The valley of The Dordogne is exceptionally beautiful and was dubbed by Mellen Candage as ‘Le Sourire de France’ or the Smile of France. Many of its villages are listed amongst the Most Beautiful Villages of France. In our search for the perfect house in the perfect village we kept crossing a bridge over the river La Vezere through a delightful village with a fountain in the middle of a stream right in town. We watched canoes gliding down the river and I totally fell in love with this village. Le Bugue was not on Stephen’s list and I had to insist we stop and look in the Real Estate window. There just happened to be a house fitting our “Vision” in the village and right on the river. When we stepped into the hallway and saw the beautiful staircase we looked at each other and said ‘this is it!’ We just knew without doing anything practical like looking at the kitchen or bathrooms. When we walked out onto the terrace and saw the view of the river, we were totally hooked and still are.
The house has for storeys, with four bedrooms, two main bedrooms with an en-suite and two bedrooms in the ‘grenier’ (attic) with a shared bathroom. The kitchen is equipped with German chefs saucepans and there is a Weber barbecue on the terrace! All rooms overlook the river. The interior decoration is very elegant and serene. Over the years, we have actually renovated the whole house and the feedback we get from our guests or the people renting the house is always great. When we bought the house it was already with a holiday rental agent, which was perfect for us as we currently occupy the house only about 4 weeks a year. The house can be rented via Simply Perigord: http://www.simply-perigord.com/rentals/view/BUG200.
Can you describe your personal background and your role within Holiday in the Dordogne?
I grew up in the bush on an 80,000 acre sheep and cattle property in north-west Queensland half way between Mt Isa and Townsville. I am actually the great-great-great grand-daughter of John and Elizabeth McArthur who were the people who introduced the merino sheep to Australia and established the wool industry in the country. On the other side of my family, the Tyrells are wine makers. I inherited the love of the country, of tradition and the love of wine, fine food and cooking - which obviously made it easy for me to connect with the French culture. I am a drama and dance teacher, with a passion for arts in general. I love interior design and it has been a real delight to design the interior of our French house.
One on my favorite things to do in France is to explore the ‘marchés au puces’ (flea markets), vide-greniers (garage sales) and other brocantes (antique markets and shops). For instance, I bought a spectacular chandelier at the Puces de Clignancourt in Paris and carried it over my shoulder in the Metro and then on the train all the way to Bordeaux! It takes 6 hours from Paris to our house, either via Bordeaux or Limoges by TGV, and then a regional train to Le Bugue. Technically, you don’t need a vehicle to get there but we recommend our guests rent a car to be able to enjoy the numerous activities the region has to offer.
Both my partner Stephen and I are very hands on and we undertook the renovation work ourselves: peeling off very unappealing wall papers, painting, and replacing the carpets in the bedrooms. We bought the house in 2009 and for the first few years we worked from dawn to dusk during our holidays in France, but now we can relax and enjoy the fruits of our labours. It took us 5 years to complete the work. Now that the work is completed, I am making time to market our rental property and am actually learning about social media and digital marketing.
How do you envisage the future of your company and how can FACCI help you achieve your objectives?
The house is pretty much done now and we are interested in developing strategic partnerships with various service providers to create more opportunities for our guests to experience the French culture. For instance, we have a French teacher that can come to the house to give lessons and a Chef that can provide cooking classes after visiting the local markets. We also have a local bike Rental Company that can deliver bicycles for keen cyclists. There are so many of things to do or see around the Dordogne… If you do not like cycling, you can canoe, kayak or hike. They are some fantastic walks and I make sure that maps are available at the house. There are many prehistoric caves nearby including the famous Lascaux II. The popular villages of Sarlat, Beynac with it’s famous Chateau where Richard the Lionheart once lived, Domme and Les Eyzies, with its prehistoric Museum are all less than an hour away.
Obviously being part of FACCI is about circulating the information about our rental property in the Dordogne amongst a community of Francophiles. I have attended quite a few events during the year and enjoy interacting with French people and Francophiles who know and appreciated the French culture. I also enjoy the opportunity to practice my French from time to time which is great.
For more information, please visit Holiday in the Dordogne’s website: http://www.simply-perigord.com/bug200.
Interview conducted on 3 June 2016 by Claire Dupré.
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