Once upon a time, a handsome French general scoured the Béarnaise countryside for the perfect place to build a modest chateau. He searched and he searched, until one day, he found Montfort, a charming village overlooking the steely blue waters of the Gave d'Oloron.

Once he'd secured a scenic vantage point, he got straight to work and built a chateau from the finest stone, with two towers: one three stories tall and another shorter one overlooking a little stream. He was rather fond of wine, so he planted a vineyard and built a barn to press his grapes. Being a man of leisure, he wasn't particularly fond of doing anything too strenuous, so he built a concergerie and houses for his farm labourers and eventually became so popular with the locals he was elected mayor of the village. All that was needed was a beautiful wife, so again, he searched and he searched. Legend has it he put so much effort into this process that there was quite a procession of prospective ladies, but sadly, the objective of settling on just one eluded him, He eventually passed away, a very satisfied, but single, man.

The next owners of Chateau Montfort were relatives of King Leopold III of Belgium and a prominent and well respected Basque family. They used the Chateau to raise their family, until eventually it was sold to the Silm family, Australians with rather nothing remotely regal or important to their name; just unbridled optimism, the dream of renovating an old chateau and immersing themselves in the slow rhythms of French country life.

This is the story of a petit Béarnaise Chateau in the French countryside.

My husband and I bought Chateau Montfort in April 2015. It’s namesake, the Béarnaise village of Montfort is nestled amid the emerald foothills of the Pyrenees in South West France. Most French chateaus are generally proportionate to the size of their surrounding town or village. Ours is no exception—think storybook, not Walt Disney; Chateau Montfort is all about understated country charm. It’s soundtrack is the trickling of the stream, the mooing of a cow, and perhaps if it’s peak hour, the erratic chorus of a few sheep bells as the flock trots home across the mint lawn at the bottom of the orchard. Renovation is ongoing and like any building that has been unoccupied for many years, it’s gradually awakening. Years of silent slumber have now been replaced with the laughter of friends and family, the patter of puppy feet and the thunder of 3 children charging up and down the stairs. What was once a house is now a home.

I hope you enjoy the ongoing journey of its renovation, the flavours of my kitchen and stories of life here in the Béarnaise countryside and it’s surrounds.

About the Chateau: