Magical journey of restoring the bygone grandeur – Château de Gudanes 'A true love story never ends'
Dear readers, back in a couple of weeks ago, I was doing some research about Christmas decorating and shopping ideas, in the midst of the search, a very stunning video clip just came across my screen, the scene took place in a secluded and aged grand mansion somewhere in Europe, a young lady in her white chiffon dress running towards a horse carriage which enters the mansion’s carriageway, she opens up the door, and took out a book, then ran back into the mansion, her bare feet and the floating dress glide through the dimmed grand staircase, where there were some candle lights were flickering next to the chandelier without any excessive ornaments but more the iron skeleton itself; the lady ran into her grand bedroom, with the interior is a bit ruined however looks tidy and romantic, with dozens of candles lit as well; she jumped into her bed, and started to flip over the pages of the book like she just can’t wait for the exciting news to be unveiled. To me, this alluring and beautiful video simply unveiled the prelude about the grand castle named Château de Gudanes, and the book which released in 2018 and written by the current owner, an Australian family, Mrs. Karina Waters.
Tracing back the history of this once-was magnificent château, located in Château-Verdun, a little croissant-shaped village in southern France near the border to Spain, this château was once the luxurious residence of Louis Gaspard de Salles, an affluent and noble family who not only owns the residence but also the Domain of Gudances, he also known as the King of the Pyrénées, a Marquis, Baron and President of the Toulousian Parliament, the highest ranking of nobility; this Neoclassical designed residence was being re-built by Louis Gaspard after he inherited from his grandfather around mid 18th century; unfortunately, the French revolution commences, all properties of the noble families were either confiscated, or being destroyed or looted by angry civilian, that situation has no exception to Louis Gaspard’s fate, not only he lost the residence, but he was also imprisoned and eventually died and being buried without a proper grave. The château then landed to the hands of an affluent Frenchman named Jean-Pierre Astrie, who once worked for the de Salles family managing the iron forges throughout the Pyrénées for generations. His granddaughter, Charlotte, inherited the château around mid 19th century, with her marriage to Charles de Limairac, who came from a distinguished local family, the château got their new owner and become their residence. Charlotte and Charles had 3 children, and eventually after their passing, one of their son, Louis, inherited the château, however, Louis and his wife didn’t have any children, so in 1884, Ann Charlotte, Louis’ sister, inherited the estate; Ann Charlotte then married to Adolphe Baudon de Mony, who had 2 sons, Charles and Xavier, and it was Xavier and his wife, Louise, who lived in this château during the first and second world war up til the mid 1950s, while this last family who owned the château didn’t leave a proper will, the remainder of the relatives contested in inheritance lineage of the château and resulted in a 28-year inheritance battle in Paris’ high court, but still unresolved for decades, eventually, the château being separated from the rest of the title of the estate and subsequently sold to the local government Department of Tarn, and the estate was later being used as a school holiday camp venue for local French children, and, in recent years, landed to the hands of an Englishman named Charles, who bought the estate with his syndicate from the department of Tarn, who tried to turn this historic château into a 17 private modern apartments, however, with the château being declared as Grade one historical monuments by the government, which prevents the estate from being torn apart, Charles has gone through a duel ensued between the syndicate and the French government for almost a decade but no avail, and over time, the aged château’s condition deteriorated as it left unkempt and abandoned until it was eventually dual classified as a ruin, Charles then decided to offered the estate for sale, and, the story of this new book is starting from the purchase by the passionate Australian family, Karina & Craig Waters, who hailed from Perth, Western Australia, to rewrite the glory and nobility of this beautiful estate.
Just like me who enjoy doing internet surfing about French and European history, Karina and Craig was passionate about French culture and their magnificent architecture after their visit in Paris several years ago; after returning back to Australia, they suddenly had a thought of purchasing a beautiful and historic home in France to recapture their love and memories about the visit, through internet surfing they found a French real estate agent, and embarked a journey of ‘home hunting’ in France, without any luck after seeing dozens of places, a magical thing happened when they decided to check out the last estate before leaving France, and it was this charming Château de Gudanes that instantly caught their heart, and that’s how they encountered the former Englishman owner, Charles, and having him to tell them the story about the château.
I know that I have been spending a lot of time to bring out the history of the château, and how it becomes the property of the Waters’ family now, and I have to admit that this is the longest blog I have ever written, but I have a very good reason (actually a couple of good reasons): one - it gives the opening and ‘raison d'être’ about why this new book is so beautiful; two - the connection that something I believe in as well – the preservation of bygone French elegance and splendor, and recapturing the magical moment by visiting these spectacular châteaux; three - the destiny (which I’ll elaborate more through the vocabulary being used by Karina throughout the book) and our quest of pursuing dreams and beauty with love and harmony.
OK, this beautiful book titled ‘Château de Gudanes “A true love story never ends”’, is written by Karina herself (and her family) as a memoir on how the restoration work for this magnificent estate starts from the beginning: their visit to the village, the witness of the deteriorating and heartbreaking condition of the estate, the evidence of the battle from the bygone splendor to the abandonment; unlike any other books about any historic building (or private residence) in Europe, this book revealed something very real about the situation, not just display the splendor, beautiful, and elegance of the estate after they were being restored, but the behind-the-scene before the beautiful outcome – the work, the effort the traumatic condition but also very compelling, moving, and liberating when I flipped through the pages of the book, that’s exactly what people needs to see I believe, not only the ‘finished product’ but what did the artisan and people who do the restoration work, their effort put behind! Say is easier than done, but when someone like Karina’s family that is so determine, passionate and putting not only their heart but also their hands to bring back the former glory and splendor of this magnificent château, I truly think that this story is absolutely worth-telling. I remember whenever I visited France, I always tried to pin down at least one grand château that I can visit, to satisfy my craving about the magnificence and glorious French monarchy history, something that is so surreal, hard-to-reach, but it did happened in centuries ago that I have never, and will not live in, but it’s so inspiring to all creative people to come back to those history again and again, to give some grandiose input into their work and creation, I always enjoy a very simple and solitude photo with the château, just me and the château actually, to manifest my dream-come-true statement to myself, telling myself that my ‘homework’ is done; and such kind of spirit did resonate the kind of passion that Karina and her family had! It’s come from passion, love and the quest of living our dream which is bigger than we are, making the impossible possible even without anyone believes in you but you still doing it anyway, and I guess this is another reason why this book did touch me so much.
Throughout my brief reading, Karina has mentioned a couple of important vocabulary which it manifests the reason what motivates her to do this project – the restoration of this new home of hers in France – i.) ‘Serendipty’ – as quoted from the book, it said ‘making a desirable discovery without looking for it, and, the occurrence or development of events by chance leading to a happily ever after.’. ii.) ‘Home’ – again, as quoted from the book, it’s ‘the place where one lives, &, one of life’s sweetest creations made from the heart.’; and lastly iii.) ‘Love’ – something about love at first sight, and the magical connection in between you and something, or someone, that is unexplainable but it requires no words nor explanation needed, and here’s what Karina quoted at the ending of the book: “Love is the emblem of eternity; it confounds all notion of time, effaces all memory of a beginning, all fear of an end”. All these vocabulary leads to why I write about this blog today, and the most relevant to me is ‘Serendipty’ because coincidentally, my first name is exactly the same as the former Englishman owner, the son of Ann Charlotte and Adolphe Baudon de Mony, and, the husband of Charlotte, Jean-Pierre Astrie’s granddaughter. For ‘Love’, of course, needlessly to explain, is my passion and love about French elegance, culture, style and aristocratic splendor.
This beautiful book also featured the château in different seasonality, with photos taking by Karina and her team, to show the readers about the beauty of the château in different season from spring through winter, and, a long-lost recipe of the original Château de Gudanes Apple pie! I have to say that this book is such a perfect gift (even it’s not for Christmas) for those who appreciates history (French architecture and interior design in particular), art and countryside, and I highly recommend you all, my dear readers, to check out the official Château de Gudane’s website to find out more about the restoration project by Karina and her family and team, and possible, getting involve to see what you can assist.
Hope you enjoy your read.
Image courtesy of Château de Gudane