James and Lauren Crease quit their corporate jobs in Manchester and moved to France with their 18 month old son Oscar. The country was of particular importance to them as they spent their first vacations there together and both had childhood memories of family vacations. They saw 40 houses before they found a mansion that was fair within their budget.
“It was just beautiful. It is an 18th century property with a swimming pool, an orchard and outbuildings, all set in 1.5 hectares of beautiful countryside.
“We fell in love with it. But it required a lot of work. It was quite dark.
On Oscar’s second birthday, the Manoir Beaulieu had been purchased.
The Creases felt like they were officially living the French dream in the village of Salles-Lavalette, nestled on the Charente / Dordogne border in southwestern France.
But after Lauren fell pregnant again and worked her fingers to the bone to prepare the house for guests, their first full summer season was wiped out by the pandemic.
They shared how the retreat now has an abundance of modern touches as well as a swimming pool and terrace. The attached barn has a 200 inch cinema screen and sound system with access to Netflix.
The lack of vacationers was initially a big blow.
“We couldn’t believe it,” Lauren said. “Our families had come to help us demolish the place and the landscape outside and we were ready for a great summer.
“At seven months pregnant, we were determined not to let go of the gas. I sanded the ceilings, made headboards and James worked every hour and of course we also had a two year old to watch out for. It was stressful to say the least.
As a result, the Manoir Beaulieu, which can accommodate up to 14 people, was packed with locals.
The couple who live in one addictions, hope their efforts will attract British guests once the pandemic is over.
And they have some surprise finds to complete the great property.
“When we moved in we found hundreds of French comics in the attic. We’re going to frame them and sell them, they look great, ”added James, 35.
- A new life in the sun is on its way Channel 4 on Monday January 18.