Meet the owners: Les Chauvins, Charente
Further Afield has always been about finding “hidden gems”, those beautiful places to stay which you simply might not come across unless we’ve picked them out and told you about them. We also like to make sure they’re beautiful and unique and if they’re dedicated to sustainability even better! Les Chauvins meets all of those criteria, so we’d like to introduce you to Kelly and Peter and tell you their story.
Has the Charente always been your home?
When we bought Les Chauvins we were living near Cambridge in the UK. My (Kelly) background is in Architecture and design, but I was working in hospitality and events for a Cambridge University College. Soon after buying the gîtes, and just as COVID-19 began to be felt, I left to focus on running our new venture. Peter has a boutique financial business in London and is able to work remotely most of the time, as well as being involved with me on DIY projects, decision making and financial aspects, naturally!
Why did Les Chauvins have such an appeal?
I’d known since we met in 2015, that Peter had long harboured a dream to own a small pied-a-terre in Southern France. It was his love of cycling that led him to watch the Tour de France in the early 1980s. The overhead footage of the stunning French landscape had captivated his attention and he’d fallen under its spell. His passion for the country grew through many holidays and cycling tours since then.
Whilst my first of many visits to France was as a 7-year-old, the trip which left a lasting impression was when I travelled to Paris by myself at 18. I spent a month with close family friends staying in various locations in the South and have continued to visit for both work and pleasure since.
We spent our first ever holiday together in the Charente in 2016, immediately before getting married [back in Cheltenham in the UK] and it was then that we decided this would be the area for us one day. The stunning countryside, wonderful weather, fabulous cities and crazy property prices, not to mention the literally out-of-this-world night skies, are just some of our reasons for wanting to establish a future slower pace of life in France, by running a gîte business.
In December 2019 we bought Les Chauvins as a going concern. We took it over with 95% of the contents included in the sale, but wanted to imprint our own style and upgrade some aspects of the décor and furnishings.
I am so grateful for Les Chauvins as this lifestyle change provides the opportunity for me to be able to finally do all of the things that I love: interior design, making, sewing, styling, DIY, gardening, photography, marketing, writing, events, hospitality and ultimately; helping people to relax and feel good.
Peter can slow down after 35 years of working in the finance industry and find a better balance of cycling on these quieter French country lanes, pottering in the grounds and workshop and playing his guitar. For our family (children and stepchildren aged 19, 21 and 27) we can offer them a base to explore Europe from and a taste of a different way of living which we hope will inspire them in many ways.
Tell us some of the best things in the area
Les Chauvins is a fantastic location from which you can discover the local fresh produce markets, quaint villages, medieval towns, exciting historic cities and even beaches. From nature to architecture, history to sport and all sorts of other fun pastimes and stimulating activities in between.
Angoulême, the capital of the Charente is 35 km away and has two unique attractions; first off it is the capital of the Comic strip, with the International Comic Strip Museum, hosting an annual international festival. Throughout the city, the sides of its buildings are adorned with comic strip art murals by some of France and Belgium’s best-loved artists (below). Secondly there’s The Circuit des Remparts d’Angoulême which is an annual weekend-long classic car race, when vintage vehicles hurtle around the ancient, twisting roads of this pretty hill-top town. This exhilarating event is a highlight in any historic racing enthusiast’s diary.
There is also paragliding in Magnac-Lavalette-Villars or for those interested in architecture, interiors and history, exploring the incredible Château de la Mercerie, a fascinating restoration project of a magnificent building, is a must. Both are a mere 20 minutes away.
Closer to home, we are delighted to have partnered with Orangette, a one-woman project bringing family-friendly, locally sourced and honest, homemade food to people’s tables. Martina offers a variety of services from welcome meals to celebratory brunches, lunches or suppers which will reduce some of the catering work for our guests while adding a really superb ingredient (pardon the pun) to your holiday. Read more about what’s offer on the Les Chauvins website.
Do you have a favourite place to eat nearby?
Actually, due to the pandemic, we’ve yet to experience any of the local restaurants but we do have a favourite in Angoulême, a little further afield which we love (one of our favourite restaurants of all time, anywhere) called Cokotte. We love its superb innovative and original menu and the cool and quirky interior.
Tell us one unmissable experience for your guests
This would have to be the jaw-dropping subterranean Church of Saint Jean, the pièce de résistance in Aubeterre-sur-Dronne, officially listed as one of “The Most Beautiful Villages in France” since 1993, which makes this our number one recommended destination.
The fascinating and enigmatic church was carved out of the face of the limestone cliffs. It is one of the largest rock-hewn churches in Europe and certainly among the most impressive in the world. It was hidden by fallen rock for centuries and archaeologists are still trying to understand the mysteries of this extraordinary building which has welcomed pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostella in north west Spain, for over 1000 years.
Finally, what’s the best thing about running your business?
See answer to question 2 but also…
The fact that we can return to the rural living that we both love, surrounded by stunning countryside and a life where we do what we love and love what we do.
Our business enables us to enjoy both our mutual and individual passions as well as discovering new things together. We also get great pleasure from creating a special and memorable home-from-home to share with others, who we hope will come and enjoy an amazing holiday in this beautiful part of the world.
You can read more about Kelly and Peter’s journey on their blog