16 April 2013 by Jessica Boston
Meet the Owner: Chaumiere, La Grange and Le Helleguy, near Baud, Brittany
For Neil and Tricia Young their ‘someday’ dream of moving to France to rent holiday properties came rather sooner than expected. “We’d always fancied the idea,” says Tricia “But we thought it might be something we’d do in retirement, not in our early 40s!”
The move from banking to Brittany
After the 9/11 crisis Neil was made redundant from his banking role in Jordan whist Tricia was on a career break from her job in IT taking time out to enjoy London life and complete a part time beauty therapy course. “It was such a hard time for banking jobs, so many people were in the same boat, it made it really difficult for Neil to find a new role and one day he came home and suggested we change focus and start thinking about moving to France!
It really made sense so we started looking for properties and I turned my ‘hobby’ beauty course into a serious undertaking with the idea that beauty and reflexology treatments would be a welcome addition to any holiday home. Neil even got in on the act by becoming a qualified masseur!”
They narrowed their property search to Brittany where the mild climate, easy access to family in the UK and a rich military history appealed. Renting in Redon for six months allowed the couple to thoroughly research the properties and areas available in the region. The style of buildings in Morbihan stole their hearts, and although they viewed over thirty sites they subsequently purchased the third property they had seen.
Renovating old buildings into thatched holiday cottages
Their three thatched holiday cottages near Baud in Brittany initially started out as a home for them to live in, a gite complete with long term tenants and a third barn ripe with renovation potential. In a lucky twist of events Neil and Tricia were also able to purchase more land next to the properties a year later allowing the addition of a heated outdoor swimming pool and landscaped gardens.
“We wanted to keep the existing style and we liked the way the first property had been restored so we made an effort to find the same local artisans to work on the other buildings for us. They did a really excellent job, especially the local mason who ended up project managing the work after our architect disappeared without a trace halfway through things when he realised the deadlines he had promised would not be met! We’d already taken some bookings so for the first season we ended up putting a mobile home on site for Neil and I to live in whilst our guests took our house as their holiday home!”
Prestigious facilities and onsite treatments
Once the work was complete the idyllic hamlet of thatched properties quickly proved very popular with holidaymakers with both rentals booked solid from Easter through to November as well as over the Christmas break. “I think it’s because we offer people what they really want from a holiday – the properties are beautifully done out and I make sure every detail is perfect from the soft tumble dried towels to ironed bed linen, florist flowers and a basket of groceries fresh from the local market for arriving guests. It’s a labour of love, especially all the ironing!”
Added to that there is the benefit of a heated outdoor pool with a retractable roof for swimming in all weathers and a dedicated treatment room in Neil and Tricia’s house where guests can book in for a bit of pampering. “It works really well, especially for families. They can be out all day at the beach and then once the children are in bed the parents can take turns to pop in for a massage or a pedicure. We book treatments in up to 10pm so there’s plenty of time to treat yourselves”.
“Even the cooking can be taken care of; there are three lovely local ladies who specialize in cooking delicious French/Moroccan feasts, authentic Indian curries or more typical Breton food. They will come and set up a buffet for all your party to share and even clear up afterwards too!”
Endless activities and family attractions
If you can tear yourself away there are plenty of attractions and events in the region to enjoy. Carnac is a short drive away with its miles of sandy beaches, there are world class golf courses, water sports and plenty of family attractions and historic sites to explore. The nearby town of Vannes is a must-visit for the Wednesday and Saturday markets, go early to see the full range of wonderfully fresh seafood and get first pick of the artisan breads and locally grown vegetables.
“When we first arrived we really threw ourselves into the local life” says Tricia “we helped out at local village events and even learnt Breton dancing. It’s lucky we made such an effort to get to know people at the start as we’re so busy now there’s much less chance to get involved”.
Local Breton festivals
One thing Tricia and Neil always make time for are the annual festivals celebrating the Celtic and Breton culture. “The festivals are so much fun, they last for up to 10 days and the whole town is transformed with music, costumes, dancing, artisan crafts and food. Many of the events are free and the atmosphere is fantastic with everyone, young and old, getting together to have a good time.”
Despite being so busy the Youngs have found the balance of their new lifestyle fits them perfectly “Ironically we probably work longer hours now than we did before, but the point is that now we do it together” says Tricia. “And we have the freedom to choose how and when we work that we’ve never had before. We can take time out to walk our dog by the River Blavet or go out for a lunch of my favourite moules frites whenever the mood takes us. And besides, some of the ‘work’ that goes into making our holiday homes really special hardly feels like work at all! We are both keen gardeners and we so enjoy welcoming all our new guests it more than makes up for the more hectic changeover days and maintenance we need to do. Moving to France and starting this business has been brilliant for us – we really wouldn’t change a thing!”
Tricia Young’s top tips when visiting Morbihan, Brittany:
- Make the most of the local restaurants. There is a whole range of amazing restaurants in the area where you can get a real flavour of France. From the little creperie down the road from our property to the Michelin starred restaurant at Les Relais des Marquis in Plouay there is something to suit all tastes and budgets so don’t miss out!
- Time your trip to include a local festival. Neil and I love going to the local festivals like Quimper Festival at the end of July and Lorient Festival in August. There is so much to see and do and it’s a real celebration of local culture and Celtic traditions.
- Visit Poul Fetan. Poul-Fetan in Morbihan is a real village from yesteryear – in Brittany you are spoilt for choice for historic sites from the stones at Carnac to the many Chateaux, but this thatched village museum really is something special. It’s a working museum with people in traditional costume showing the old fashioned rural Breton way of life including everything from laundry and spinning and dying wool to butter making – a fascinating insight for visitors of any age.