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Erin Gois, The Intrepid Chatelaine

Erin Gois lived in Vendée since one year. She decided to leave her medecin carreer to buy with her fiancé Jean-Baptiste, a french castle and restor it.
Once upon a time, a fairytale in Château de Bourneau in the South of the Vendée…

Where are you from and when do you arrive in the Vendée?
I am from London originally and my French fiancé, Jean-Baptiste, is from Burgundy.  We lived in Edinburgh together for 9 years before moving to France and have lived in Vendée for one year now.  

Why did you choose to become the owners of Château de Bourneau?
When we first saw the Château de Bourneau, with its romantic turrets rising above the wild flower meadow, it was a complete “coup de foudre” (or “love at first sight”) for us.  It has always been a mutual dream to take on a historical building to restore and look after it for the next generations to come.  Protecting the patrimoine or “heritage” of France is something we feel very strongly about and we had an instant affinity for this château in this beautiful region of unspoilt France.  We love seeing the joy the Château de Bourneau brings to our guests and local community.  We work hard but it gives us a lot of satisfaction restoring this beautiful monument back to its former glory for others to enjoy too.

Why did you decide to make Château de Bourneau a place of reception and gites?
The château is our private family home but at the same time we feel these historic monuments are also to share.  We have 4 large holiday cottages, each with their own swimming pool, that were once the out-houses to the château and it is wonderful seeing our guests having a lovely time enjoying the Château de Bourneau Estate and exploring Vendée.  Our holiday lets, weddings and events all directly contribute to restoring the château back to its former glory. It gives us so much pleasure to see the château coming back to life little by little with the help of our guests. 

Your best memory since your arrival in the Vendée?
I have so many great memories here but a particularly special moment is when we were visited by the local Vendéen traditional dancing society in their 19th century hand-made costumes. They honoured us with a private folk dance on the bridge across the moat, welcomed us to Vendée and presented us with a bottle of local troussepinette. What a lovely gesture!

A local speciality that you love to taste?
I do enjoy sipping the troussepinette as an aperitif and the local brioche is the best in the France!

According to you, what is the most Instagrammable place in the Vendée? 
I am, of course, completely biased(!) but the war memorial in the village of Bourneau over-looking the Château de Bourneau’s turrets peeping out across the wild-flower meadow is my favourite view of the château and an excellent selfie-spot!  Otherwise, the bocage is filled with glorious sunflower fields that make a picture-perfect setting or the top of the hill overlooking the Mervent lake is one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen.

According to you, what are the 3 essential places of visit in the Vendée?
- Taking a rowing boat around the beautiful ruined Abbey of Maillezais (Abbaye de Maillezais) in the canals of French "Green Venice," Marais poitevin. You can have lunch underneath the wisteria terrace of "Auberge de l’abbaye" and then hire a boat and enjoy the "slow-life" floating along the gorgeous tree-lined canals sipping a glass of local wine and admiring the stunning views of the ruined abbey. Just bliss! The view from the top of the Abbey itself is also phenomenal.
- Enjoy the unspoilt nature of this beautiful region by going on a long walk through the 6000 hectares of the Mervent forest. In Autumn, the colours of the changing leaves are fabulous. 
- A day out to one of the many spectacular Vendéen beaches such as La Tranche sur Mer is a lovely spot to sunbathe, paddle or simply enjoy a good book with an ice-cream.

A perfect day in the Vendée, is… 
There are too many options to choose from! A particular favourite of mine is going brocanting or visiting the local charity shop Emmaus for vintage treasures. From traditional French linens to vintage china and grand pieces of furniture, it is an enormous warehouse of French treasures that you simply cannot find in the UK. It’s zero-waste, it’s affordable and for charity. Perfect for the trendy up-cyclers too. 

A tip to give to foreign tourists for a successful stay in the Vendée. 
Try out your school French! Even if you think your French is terrible, no one will judge you, promise. The local people will just be pleased that you are trying and you will have a much more genuine French cultural experience. A glass of local wine helps with speaking French too!

And what about people from the Vendée, are they welcoming?
We have been overwhelmed by the kindness and welcome we have received from our local community.  It is a pleasure for us to live in this beautiful and friendly region and we are proud to become adopted "Vendéens".

More information about Château de Bourneau :

To follow the story: Through her account on Instagram @theintrepidchatelaine, Erin shows behind the scenes of the life in Château de Bourneau