CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to France Magazines today CLICK HERE

This renovated farmhouse attracts guests from all over the world

PUBLISHED: 11:48 20 November 2018

La Ferme Bed and Breakfast in Calvados

La Ferme Bed and Breakfast in Calvados

Archant

When Lin France and her husband Geoff moved to La Suisse Normande in Calvados they took on a major renovation project, turning a derelict building into a lovely home and a holiday accommodation business

When did you move to France and why did you choose Calvados?

We came here 10 years ago having visited the area many times, as we have friends who were living here and had their own lavender farm. We happened to see this ancient longère near to where our friends lived which was for sale, and at that time we were in the process of taking early retirement. We decided that it would be a good idea to buy something that we could renovate and turn into a lovely home, which we have since done. We bought this place and moved over lock, stock and barrel from Salisbury with our two dogs.

How much renovation work did you have to do?

We had to stay in a gîte nearby when we first came over because the place was uninhabitable. It had been derelict for about 15 years when we bought it, so we really had to start from scratch. There was no electricity, water or septic tank and in fact it didn’t even have floors or ceilings. What we bought was basically four walls and a roof – that was it! We thought it would be a good idea because although we were retiring, we were taking early retirement and were still quite young and active, and we wanted something to do. So we took this on as a project.

La Ferme as they bought itLa Ferme as they bought it

It ended up being an awful lot more than we had anticipated but then these things usually are. We stayed in the gîte for about six months while we did enough to make it habitable and then we moved in and renovated as we went along, which we did over the next six or seven years. We were also working on the garden at the same time. Geoff dug out a lovely pond which is now home to about 40 goldfish and we now also have a beautiful terrace, seating and barbecue area.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

How much does it cost to renovate a house in France?

Dordogne is doubly desirable but we still love a bargain property in Brittany

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Did you do the work yourselves?

We used professionals for the electricity, water and septic tank installation but apart from that we did the majority of the work ourselves, with help from friends. We have quite literally rebuilt the whole place and we felt we could take this on because we’d had previous experience of renovating. When our home in Salisbury, a Grade II-listed barn conversion, was destroyed in a fire we worked with professional builders to rebuild it, and we learnt a lot of skills during the process.

One of the studio apartmentsOne of the studio apartments

Did you always intend to run a B&B?

No not at all. We didn’t have children or lots of family who would be coming to visit, so originally the plan was just to make this a really lovely home for us to live in. However it’s such a big house and once we’d done the work we decided that we had to do something more with it as it was too nice not to.

First of all we developed one small gîte out of what was the stable. We started off with one and rented that out for a couple of years while we carried out work to create a second one. The house is built into the side of a hill so our living accommodation is on one level with its own entrance and the gîtes are underneath, which means they’re self-contained and quite separate from us.

Our guests are welcome to bring dogs and other animals – some even bring their cats! The gîtes have kitchens so guests can self-cater, or we also offer B&B and table d’hôtes if they’d prefer us to do the cooking.

Geoff and Lin France of La Ferme B&BGeoff and Lin France of La Ferme B&B

Was this something you already had experience of?

Not at all, but we were always entertaining at home for Geoff’s work and regularly had people coming to eat and stay. I love cooking and we both had ‘hosting’ personalities. You do need a certain kind of personality to welcome total strangers into your home and make them feel comfortable. Running this kind of venture involves a lot more than cleaning and changing beds, you have to be able to engage with people too. We knew we’d be able to do something like this, which is why we went for it.

What attracts people to Calvados?

There’s so much to see and discover in this part of France – the D-D Landing beaches, the Bayeux Tapestry and of course the historical connection with William the Conqueror. Everything is within about an hour’s distance maximum from where we are so you don’t have to go very far. Caen and the beaches are about 50 minutes to an hour away while Falaise is about 40 minutes. There are lots of lovely public beaches, including one at Ouistreham where the ferry comes in from Portsmouth, which is also only 50 minutes away. It makes life easy for the people who come from the north of England as they tend to take a day travelling down to Portsmouth and stay there overnight, then get the ferry and are with us early the next day. Our guests come from all over though and we have a mix of nationalities, including Dutch, Belgian and American.

La Ferme enjoys a tranquil settingLa Ferme enjoys a tranquil setting

What appeals to you about this part of France?

We live in La Suisse Normande and I love it. It’s very much like Dorset, with lots of hills and very beautiful views and countryside. It’s a farming community here so it’s very rural but there is a town within 2.5km.

Have you found it easy to integrate into the local community?

I speak French so that does help. I spoke relatively good French when I came here but obviously the longer you live somewhere, the better you get. Geoff doesn’t speak French – he says he doesn’t need to as he’s got me!

The couple worked on the garden alongside the farmhouseThe couple worked on the garden alongside the farmhouse

All of our French neighbours are just delightful and we’ve integrated well with them. I think having a little business in the area means they can see we’re contributing to the economy and the community, which gives us a nice reputation. Geoff enjoys growing dahlias and a few years ago he thought he might as well sell them as he had so many, so we put a sign outside the gate and people pop in. We didn’t want to move to an area where everyone was English so we’re quite pleased that there aren’t many English people here, but we’ve become friends with those who do live here.

What do you enjoy about the French way of life?

There’s a very laid-back attitude here in France and the best thing of all is the lack of traffic. It’s just wonderful. We travelled to Caen this morning on one of the back roads and we only saw four or five cars on the entire journey. One of the bugbears we have when we get off the ferry in Portsmouth is that we’re immediately faced with cones, roadworks and diversions and the volume of traffic is a nightmare. You really notice it when you don’t have to live with it.

The healthcare here is excellent too, and then of course there’s the cheese and wine! It’s great going to a French market because all the families come out to meet each other and stand and have a chinwag for a couple of hours, blocking all the lanes while you’re trying to get your potatoes and tomatoes. It’s what they do and we love it.

The barbecue and seating area outsideThe barbecue and seating area outside

Do you have plans to do any more renovation work?

There is one more room to renovate if we really wanted to, which could be another en-suite bedroom. It’s at the far end of the house in a part that hasn’t yet been touched, and every time we go in there we remind ourselves that this is what the whole house looked like in the beginning. We wonder at our sanity when we took it on! We were 10 years younger then of course and we wonder if we’ve got it in us now, but we may do it before we move on. Recently we were discussing whether it was time to sell up and retire, which is what we planned to do in the first place! We would definitely stay in France though. Why would we want to go anywhere else?

lafermebedandbreakfast.com

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Liked this? You might also like

Can you live in France and work in the UK?

Study shows France offers a better work/life balance than the UK

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Article by Living France Living France

More from Living in France

13:44

French cheese doesn’t just have to be saved for the cheeseboard, why not experiment with canapés too?

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

How does a jewellery designer, filmmaker and restaurateur who was born in Israel and grew up in New York come to turn a French château into an artists’ retreat? Ziggy Attias shares his life in Champagne-Ardenne

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

France has helped launch a satellite to study the effects of global warming; but how do French attitudes towards climate change compare to those of other Europeans?

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

France has historically been on the leading edge of eco-friendly projects and regulations. While many argue that much more needs to be done to meet environmental goals in France and globally, here are 11 ways that French government, companies and people are striving to be green.

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Seen a French property that would make fabulous food business but unsure of the paperwork and process? Read Tracy Leonetti’s at-a-glance guide to opening a restaurant or cafe in France

Read more
Running a business
Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Thinking of setting up a campsite in France? Here’s what you’ll need to consider when it comes to planning permission.

Read more
Tuesday, June 26, 2018

With its unbeatable wine and cheese and laissez-faire attitude, there’s nowhere better to retire than France. But which cities are best for growing old in? Here’s the top 10

Read more
Pays de la Loire
Thursday, January 25, 2018

If you are buying in or moving to France you will need a French bank account but before you open one make sure you read these 11 things you need to know to avoid making a costly mistake

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

France might be experiencing a shortage of general practitioners but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find a GP willing to take on new patients. Here’s what you need to know about finding and registering with a doctor when you move to France

Read more
Expats in France
Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The French pharmacy is so much more tham a place to pick up your prescriptions. Here are 11 things you might not know about pharmacies in France.

Read more
Healthcare in France
Subscribe for

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

France Forum

Questions about France? Visit our free France forum to get help and advice from thousands of other Francophiles and expats. Topics include: property, tax, law, travelling, pets, education, healthcare and much more.

Join the forum

Most Read

Join us on social media

France magazine
Living France magazine
French Property News magazine

Enter our competitions

Win books, DVDs, travel and even holidays in France in our great competitions! Take a look at our latest competitions…

Enter now