Catherine Broughton is a novelist, poet and artist who lives and works at Chateau Cypres, a delightful property near La Rochelle on the west coast of France. Catherine and her husband Bruce bought the derelict villa in 1995 and renovated the property over the next few years before offering it as a holiday destination in 2000 – perfect, considering the ease with which local sand beaches can be reached, as well as the wealth of local history and activities in the surrounding area.
Having lived in places as varied as the South Pacific, Africa and Belize before settling in France, Catherine’s certainly happy for her wanderlust to inform her work. “This life of travel inspired the characters in my books – each book is set in a different country. As for my sketches, I admit I’m a hopeless photographer and so I sketch instead!”
Yet it isn’t just the countryside that has inspired Catherine. Initially, moving to France provided its own challenges (she describes the time as “really rough”) including Continental red tape and settling with her husband and three children, but she used these experiences as a springboard to write her novel A Call From France, much of which is set around Chateau Cypres. “Those big silent spaces,” she says, “are great for being creative.”
It’s hardly surprising the chateau and its surrounding countryside are a tonic for those who may be feeling a little creatively blocked. Not only does the region receive an average of 2,700 hours of sunshine a year (the rest of France gets around 1,600 hours) the deep-rooted history inherent in the region is certain to inspire the more artistically-minded visitor. Says Catherine, “There are a lot of forts dotted all along the coast, ranging from 17th Century forts built by Vauban to Napoleonic ones – all built to keep the English out!”
Thankfully, repelling and English invasion is no longer necessary, and considering Catherine and her husband renovated the property from the ground up (even to the point of reupholstering her own chairs) she’s especially qualified when she talks of the balance the chateau maintains between the uniqueness of the villa and the comforts of home. “The advantage of a visit here,” she says, “is that you can, even if just for a week, make it your own.”
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