French Chateau from the Times of King Louis XV on the Instagram of Its Current Owners
The Waters — Karina, a tax inspector, and Craig, a surgeon — used to live in Australia. After their children finished school, the couple decided to do something new and started searching for a suitable summer house to buy in France. And for a long time, they could not find anything that would suit them. They almost lost hope, when their son Ben sent them a link to another house.
The couple found what they were looking for in Verdun, 700 kilometers south of Paris. The huge mansion built in the 1740s was originally owned by Louis-Gaspard de Sales, Marquis de Gudanes, who was called ‘The King of the Pyrenees’. Centuries later, in the 1960s and 1970s, the chateau housed a summer camp for children. In 1990, French government listed the mansion as monument of architecture and cultural heritage — that’s why it took Karina and Craig Waters two years and £280,000 to close the deal.
In 2013, they finally became the official owners of the house. But it was only the beginning of their hard times — even the most minor changes done during the reconstruction works were impossible without the permission from the authorities: “Buying an almost ruined château which was classified as a level one historical monument in a country where we didn’t even speak the language was always going to be challenging,” Karina later laughed in one of the interviews.
Before buying the house, the Waters managed to see only four rooms out of the 94, and even they needed serious renovation. Plaster was falling off the walls, and the 300-year-old roof was leaking. The house had neither electricity nor running water. But this didn’t stop Karina and Craig. “It was love at first sight. Despite all the damage we could already see that there was so much beauty there. The whole thing’s a fairytale,” Karina Waters says.
The renovation of the first floor took four years. The house got a new roof and windows, as well as water and electricity. This year, the Waters are opening a hotel in the mansion and are waiting for the first guests this summer. They are planning to do tours around the chateau and organize culinary workshops, and use the money they earn with this to finish the renovation. The new owners are sure that it will take a lifetime to restore the mansion completely.
The Waters inform the public on social networks about the progress of the reconstruction. About 400,000 followers on Facebook and 240,000 subscribers on Instagram follow the life of the mansion. “The positivity and encouragement of people on social media has been a huge blessing on this journey. It’s our new, extended family,” Karina says.
In 2018, Karina and Craig are planning to publish a book about their experience.