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How one couple paused their careers to buy a 20-bedroom French castle (for the price of a London flat)

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Anna Brech
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A castle in the French countryside

Fancy living the French fairy tale dream? One 30-something couple pressed pause on their careers to do exactly that

It’s the kind of move to strike envy into the heart of daydreamers the world over.

A 30-something couple have put their high-flying careers on hold to buy and renovate a fairy tale 1860s castle in the Vendée region of France. 

Doctor Erin Choa and her French fiancé Jean-Baptiste Gois, a mechanical engineer, decided to take the plunge after they spotted the whimsical property on the market for €680,000 (around £585,000): roughly the same price of a one-bedroom London flat. 

“We’d always talked about doing something like this one day but we were planning our next stage in life and we thought ‘why does it have to be something we do when we’re retired?’ A daydream evolved into reality,” Choa tells the Evening Standard

“The thing that clinched our decision was having a search online for properties. For the price of a one-bedroom flat in London, we could buy our 20-bedroom house in France with land and outbuildings and the ability to run a business to make it work and pay for the renovations.”

It was love at first sight for the couple when they spotted the Renaissance-style Château de Bourneau on a tour of historic country properties in France last summer. 

Since then, they’ve put every last inch of their DIY skills to test in renovating the 16-hectare estate, which comes with a moat, stables and a one-time bakery based in an outbuilding. 

The pair’s adventure features in this week’s Escape to the Château DIY show on Channel 4, where they are seen doing up the castle to hire it out for weddings, along with a plan for holiday lets in the south wing. 

“I think people are a bit surprised that we’ve taken on this huge project, especially when they know medicine is still my passion and I intend to go back to it at some point,” Choa previously told the magazine French Property News

“But it was always our dream to move to France eventually and we thought, why not take the plunge now, while we’re still young and have the enthusiasm and energy to do up a historic building?”

Choa and Gois estimate that their château project will cost hundreds of thousands to fully complete, but they plan to spread this fee over the course of a lifetime. 

In the meantime, “it’s perfect for its imperfections”, says Choa, who is focusing on upcycling old furniture she’s found in the attics, along with removing Seventies wallpaper, leak-proofing the roof and making the ballroom “fabulous”. 

Judging from their Instagram account, The Intrepid Chatelaine, the venture also seems to involve a fair amount of landscape gardening, hanging out with their cat, Oscar, and drinking G&Ts in the library. In other words, living the dream. 

And, as far as putting their jobs on hold is concerned, the couple have few regrets. 

“I’m used to working long shifts as a doctor but there are definitely some ‘what have we done?’ moments, usually at three in the morning when there’s a leak in the roof or we’re unblocking a toilet,” says Choa. “That said, even after a really long, tiring day it’s really nice to look around and see how far we’ve come.”

Main image: Dorian Mongel on Unsplash

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.