Australian Couple Bought A Decaying Neoclassical French Chateau And Started Blogging The Restoration Process…

Isn’t it just a dream come true to restore a rundown neoclassical French chateau? I can’t help but get excited at the thought of exploring a once-grand, now-mysterious palace that used to be home to French aristocracy, with each corner holding its own intriguing story.

Bringing a massive, deteriorated palace back to its former glory is like tackling the ultimate challenge of renovations. That’s exactly what Karina and Craig Waters, an Australian couple, decided to do when they stumbled upon the 94-room Chateau de Gudanes in the Midi-Pyrénées region for sale online in 2011. They saw this as their Mount Everest of restoration projects and embarked on a journey to revive this 18th-century gem.

Karina, who used to work as a corporate and tax accountant, lived with her surgeon husband Craig and their two children in Perth, Western Australia. Their quest for a French home seemed almost futile until their 16-year-old son, Ben, discovered the neglected chateau on the internet.

The couple traveled all the way from Australia to Paris and then drove a staggering 700 kilometers to visit the captivating property. The moment they set eyes on it, they knew they had found their true purpose: to breathe life back into this fading beauty.

“It was love at first sight,” Karina recalls. “As we entered the hamlet, we spotted the chateau, and in that moment, we exchanged looks as if we were at the altar! We drove up to the front of the property, and there it stood, radiating pride.” This was the moment Karina spotted the Chateau de Gudanes in the town of Château-Verdun, nestled at the base of the Plateau de Beille.

This neoclassical treasure, Chateau de Gudanes, was under the ownership of a foreign syndicate and had been on the market for four years. Previous owners had intended to convert it into 17 separate apartments, but fortunately, the French Historic Monuments organization intervened and put a stop to it. This halted the chateau’s transformation into flats and left it at the mercy of nature, waiting for new owners who appreciated its artistic value.

For Karina and Craig, their goal wasn’t financial gain from this historic gem. They aimed to restore the dilapidated beauty and bring back its splendor, a task that was undeniably daunting.

“I remember seeing small trees growing on the roof; most likely birds had dropped seeds that found a home in the 300-year-old slate! The French Government had to replace the roof to prevent total destruction,” Karina shared with The Good Life France. “It was far from habitable—no electricity, plumbing, or water,” she added.

But Karina was steadfast in her determination to conquer this challenge, equating it to scaling Mt. Everest. After signing the final purchase agreement in March 2013, Karina embarked on this journey fueled by determination, goodwill, and what she humorously calls “denial.” Restoring a structure dating back to 1741 from its ruins is no small feat.

“It’s like uncovering a well-kept secret. Every time I’m here, I feel rejuvenated. Walking the historic paths connecting communities across the highlands is awe-inspiring… picking apples, pears, blackberries, gathering walnuts, searching for the plumpest figs, returning with a bag of mushrooms, breathing in the crisp air, forgetting about my phone, and delving into the history of my French abode,” Karina expressed.

And there’s a rich history to delve into, right? The castle’s roots span generations. The initial castle, owned by Fantillon de Sales, the Catholic Lord of Gudanes, was destroyed during religious conflicts in 1580. After two centuries, the castle was reconstructed in 1741 by Marquis Louis Gaspard de Sales, nicknamed “The King of the Pyrénées,” who chose it as his residence. Completed in 1750, the chateau hosted lavish gatherings, attended by notable figures like French playwright Voltaire. It weathered the storms of the French Revolution and eventually came into the hands of a local family.

Karina embarked on this “summit” knowing it would be a challenging journey in every aspect. The most remarkable part is that she documented the entire experience from the project’s inception. To follow Karina’s adventure, check out the Chateau de Gudanes Facebook page for updates, explore the Instagram feed, and dive into her blog.

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