In order for you to get the full impact of the restorations that are happening here at the old convent, we need to take you back to the beginning, or at least to when I was hit by lightning...
It was the perfect storm in June of 2009. My husband and I bumped into our old realtor friend in the supermarche' in the obscure town of Le Blanc. He casually mentioned in passing that he was intrigued by a piece of property, an old convent, that had just come on the market. He said that he never knew it existed in the town. He went on to say that it and its 5-acre garden were completely enclosed by stone walls, cloaked in mystery and dans son jus. I don't know if it was his non-pressure strategy to bait us (which in my experience is unusual for a real estate agent), but whatever he did, it worked. I took the bait. I was hooked. I had to see it.
We saw the charming 17th-century church that the convent was connected to.
We walked past its gorgeous stone perimeter walls.
We walked through the large oak gates flanked by stone pilasters.
As we started walking down the shady Linden tree allee', it happened... a "coup de foudre". I was struck by lighting! Well o.k., not exactly.
Coup de foudre literally means a lightning bolt. The French use this phrase when describing falling in love with someone or something at first sight. That is what happened to me.
J'ai eu le "coup de foudre" pour le vieux couvent.
I fell in love at first sight with the old French convent!
It didn't matter that the building facade needed work,
a lot of work.
Even in its neglected state, the elements of the architecture were so beautiful. I went crazy over the carved stone staircase.
I was able to see past the junk in the horsebarn to the massive carved stone "mangeoire" long enough to feed 6 horses at a time and gorgeous enough to make them all whinny with delight. The floor was paved with cobblestones. I could barely contain myself.
The convent grounds had a small prayer chapel with a exquisitely carved keystone and arched doors.
It had a view of the city.
It had a large area for a vegetable garden.
However shaggy, it had a flower garden bordered with a boxwood hedge and large trees.
Planted in the midst of the garden was the largest Linden tree that I have ever seen.
Not planted far away from the Linden was the largest Lebanon Cedar that I have ever seen.
Within the walls, there was even a "forest"! I was left undone!
As we walked in to the foyer of the house, I suddenly remembered one of the things our realtor said about the house that fated day we met in the supermarche,' "it is dans son jus".
"Dans son jus" literally means in its own juice. It is really a phrase for cooking, but it is used commonly for property that has not been altered and has been left to...age.
You will hear realtors use this term often. It is actually a good thing if you would like to maintain the authenticity of the epoque of your house. It is, however hard to look past if you have difficulty imagining what it could look like with a little TLC and restoration.
I have to admit, it was definitely not the inside of the house that I fell in love with.
Other than the cloister, (central courtyard), there was no sign from its interior that the house had originally been a convent. The archives indicated that after French Revolution in 1789 the monks were forcibly expelled from the convent. The convent and grounds were sold off to a private family and the church was left in control of the city. Since then, the convent underwent drastic changes and "modernizations" to make it into a comfortable bourgeois home. Not much was done to the house since those initial changes. It was very much "dans son jus".
This was the salon steeped in the style Directoire. It did have lovely plaster moldings and oak parquet floors.
There were not many redeeming qualities about the dining room...
nor the kitchen.
Here is another view of the kitchen.
Under the kitchen was a wine cave. It was a dark and scary place.
The hallway made me shudder.
This was one of the most recent upgrades to the house, an indoor toilet. It was installed in the 1920's.
Other downstairs rooms included a small salon/bedroom,
and a billiard room. A redeeming quality of the rooms was that they all had fireplaces.
an upstairs bathroom with a huge but decrepit clawfoot tub,
and another toilet room.
The house had 8 bedrooms. Here is bedroom 1.
Inside bedroom 7, our friends Regis and Joanna had smiles on their faces because this was the least horrible.
Down the stairs to...
...the beginning, the foyer.
If it wasn't for that coup de foudre, we wouldn't have gone back to the godforsaken dining room with the realtor and the owner's eldest daughter Edwige to sign the compromis de vente (promise to buy).
Patrice and I had just embarked on the most incredible journey of our lives!
Stay tuned for the next adventure of Patrice, Karen and The Old French Convent.
Send us a comment! We are lonely and dusty here in the midst of all this renovation and love reading them.
And, if you sign up for our newsletter, your email address will be entered in a drawing for an all-expense paid weekend at the Old French Convent anytime during its 400th anniversary year in 2019! More details to come...
Never forget to keep fighting for your dream!