Coup de coeur they say in French. Literally a blow of the heart. And it can be used in so many different contexts and translated into so many different ways: “love at first sight”, “a favourite”, “a crush”, “an impulse purchase”, even “kudos” and sometimes there’s no translation at all!
When my husband and I visited Closerie Falaiseau in Blois for the first time, it was exactly the same for both of us – le coup de coeur.
First we visited the outside. I took in the mullioned window, the stone staircase with its late roses, the stone archway beneath with its heavy wooden door, the half-timbered turret on the right.
As we went round the side we discovered the half dome of the bread oven.
And stretching behind the house, sloping upwards, a little wood, with wonderful old trees and little patches of cyclamens.
To one side of the house, a large ivy-covered barn and a low building that once housed the pigsty.
On the other side, a second barn, also containing the remains of what looks like a large furnace, perhaps part of a blacksmith’s forge.
Then I heard the date – 1584. Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined owning a house more than four hundred years old.
We went inside and the magic continued.
First, the fireplace on the other side of the bread oven.
All the walls and ceilings were half-timbered.
In the kitchen, a little leadlight window with a cabochon from the Chartres Cathedral.
To the right, the inside of the little turret. The owner explained that back in Renaissance times, they first built the house, then the turret on the side to contain the staircase leading up to the second floor.
In the next room, we found a stone seat by a window where many a young maiden must have spent long hours with embroidery in hand, watching the world go by in the courtyard, hoping her life’s love would appear.
Next to the seat, there was a low stone sink where the milk pails were washed.
Another fireplace and a timber-lined doorway leading into the next room with its heavy arched door.
The walls as thick as the length of an arm.
We climbed the inside staircase and found ourselves in a beautifully proportioned room, its mullioned window looking out over century-old trees with their brightly coloured autumn leaves, the Loire in the distance.
An enormous timber bookcase entirely lining one wall, a Renaissance fireplace hidden behind a huge cupboard – what sacrilege!
To one side, through a very low doorway, another little room, on a slightly lower level, with musical instruments and an elegant daybed.
Another leadlight window.
Next a mezzanine giving onto two bedrooms, the first with a sloping ceiling, romantic floral paper covering the walls and sumptuous sweeping curtains.
A very low door leading into the master bedroom with its en-suite bathroom. At one end, the second floor of the turret with its intricate caisson ceiling. Another fireplace and a lovely wooden staircase leading up to a full-size dressing room!
I could hardly believe my eyes.
Above the mullioned windows are the words NO.LEM … SI POSSEM, literally, “I wouldn’t … if I could”. Difficult to know the missing words, but I like the idea that even if I could have something (better?) I would never leave.
Above the upstairs fireplace, there is another inscription that is even more mysterious. An intertwined B and M, what could be a 1, 3 and 4 combined, and two crosses. And beneath is the date – 1584.