James and Sam Parry with their Sons Will and Ben, first came to Corrèze for a summer holiday in 2007. After one trip out on his bike, James a keen MAMIL, was so enthusiastic about the cycling here that a seed of an idea was planted. In 2008 the family relocated to France from their home in Surrey, plunged into life in Rural France and embarked on a three year 'grand design' style adventure which resulted in the opening of Correze Cycling Holidays in April 2011.
James has become an expert on roof slating, plumbing, dry lining and plastering - a far cry from his career as a financial analyst - and spends his spare time exploring the wonderful countryside on his bikes and hanging out in cafes.
The barn was in very good condition, built from local granite with chestnut and oak beams but we trashed it anyway, removing the metal roof and adding a reinforced wooden structure to help the old beams support the new slate roof. James learnt to tile the roof on the job and went on to do all of the extension on his own. Sam had to put two holes in each of the eleven thousand slate tiles! The interior earth floor was dug out to allow for drainage and a new concrete slab floor.
The original farmhouse and barn were joined together by a new extension. A huge and complex shaped concrete slab was laid over foundations and the wooden structure was built on top. We chose to clad the extension in wany edge chestnut - a homage to Sam's Grandfather who helped his father build a house in the 1930's using the same technique in Surrey.
The interiors were filled with thick insulation and plasterboarded. We installed underfloor heating piping through the extension - surprisingly heavy work! Months of plastering, sanding and decorating and the end result - glorious exposed beams new and old set off by warm colours.
The garden was well and truly trashed by the digging for the pool and septic tanks and we thought it may never recover. Youngest son Ben got to dig the first trench for the pool much to his delight. The fibre glass pool got wedged a couple of times on it's journey from the road to the garden and finally arrived full of branches from our neighbours cherry and apple trees. Happily the grass grew just in time for the arrival of the first guests and the pool looks as though it has always been there.
Sam, formally an interior designer and a keen chef, was been in her element project managing the build, laying tiles, installing insulation decorating and renovating old furniture. She now spends the off season learning html coding and divining the mysteries of SEO, driving the local school bus, growing vegetables and experimenting in the kitchen with the fantastic local produce.
Family life in France carries on much as it did in the UK with all the usual school, sports and afterschool activities, although these do now include rockclimbing, logging in our 10 acre wood and skiing at our local resort Mont Dore. The boys are now fully bilingual and have gone native.
Sam was elected as a local counciller to the local commune of Espagnac in 2014, scoring the third highest vote - everyone in the commune knew who she was, as she drives the school bus and waves at everyone.
Village life has proved to be fun and rewarding - as with everything, the more one puts in the more you get out. We have been warmly welcomed into the local community, full of interesting characters and village gossip. Espagnac is regarded as one of the most social villages in the region and every summer the 'committee des fetes' organises a 'repas' (a public meal) for up to 350 people every saturday night in July and August, swelling to 650 diners for the last meal of the season when jambon a la ficelle is served - large legs of ham which are cooked over an open fire for 12 hours. When possible we take our guests to this event for a truly french experience
Life would be incomplete in the countryside without animals. Dottie the golden retriever cross arrived here from a local rescue centre in 2009. Initially terrified of all men as she has evidently suffered abuse, she now myopically barks at new people briefly before deciding that they are lovely and pestering them for cheese. Henri the Jack Russell was a present from friends and arrived here age six weeks to the disgust of Dottie, who quickly became Henri's favourite chew toy.
Always the centre of attention, more is written on trip advisor about Henri than us..........