Meet Kerry & Tomas, photography and painting holiday hosts in the Dordogne, France
What better place to stay on your painting and photography holiday than a 5-star rated, 300 year-old manor house in the southwest of France? British host Kerry and her husband, Tomas, run creative holidays from their stunning base in France and it sounds like a dream job to us here at NotInTheGuidBooks.com!
So we asked Kerry to tell us why they completely changed gears and how they came to settle into a new life in the French countryside.
What did you do before becoming holiday hosts?
Both my husband and I worked for an international home furnishing company for many years and although based in various countries throughout Europe, we were based in Paris for 4 years until February, 2017 when we decided to have a complete change of lifestyle.
So what brought you to where you are now?
We’d been moving around with our company to live in different countries for the last 30 years. It was a wonderful experience and we made some fantastic friends along the way (including meeting each other :-) ). However, we now have our 7 year old daughter, Evie, and we wanted to have a better work-life balance to be able to spend more time with her and for her to grow up in a wonderful part of the world.
We’ve also suffered a number of personal tragedies, losing close family members in the last couple of years which really reinforced that life is short, so we decided to follow our dreams before it was too late!
I was familiar with the Dordogne region of France from camping holidays with my family as a child, and remembered how beautiful it was. So in April, 2016, we started our search for a suitable property to build our business in. We knew we needed to be close to Sarlat la Canéda and within the “golden triangle” of the Perigord Noir région of the Dordogne, as it is the most beautiful part and the best location for a successful holiday business.
When we found this 300 year old manor estate, we knew our search was over.
What made you fall in love with the property?
Quite simply, its beauty – from the yellow sandstone of the buildings to the stunning secluded gardens and views of the surrounding countryside and pretty hamlet of Carlucet, which it overlooks. It also has a magnificent tree lined driveway to greet you and gorgeous swimming pools. The location itself is also perfect, halfway between the medieval town of Sarlat, and the world famous caves of Lascaux at Montignac.
The first time we saw the property, the agent told us it was under offer by someone else to buy it. Although we were extremely disappointed because it was everything we had hoped to find and more, we continued with our search. Then in November 2016, while we are visiting other potential places to buy in the area, we noticed that our dream property was suddenly on the market again. We arranged to see it the next day and by the end of that week, it was ours!
How have you found integrating with the locals?
We have found the local people extremely friendly and helpful. We employed local craftsmen and artisans to help us renovate our property, which helped us meet locals in the community. We also made great efforts to improve our French.
Having our daughter at the local school has really helped us to integrate and be accepted by the local community. On top of that, we have a friendly Irish pub, the Black Duck, just a 5 minute walk away, which guests seem as fond of as we are. This has given us the opportunity to meet many local people here and build up a good social life.
Do you have any qualifications related to running these creative holidays?
With regards to hosting, we don’t have any qualifications in tourism but having travelled extensively with our careers and privately, we knew what we wanted to achieve. We also have a lot of experience in business and with customers. Our sales and marketing backgrounds, together with our interest in home furnishings and hospitably, have also served us in good stead for the challenges of setting up, maintaining and developing a successful business.
We recently were awarded 5 stars by the Dordogne Tourist Board for both the Manor house, which sleeps up to 14 people in 6 en-suite bedrooms, and the villa next door, which sleep up to 7 people in 3 en-suite bedrooms.
Joining us for the photography and painting holidays are experts in their fields that come to spend a week hands on with our guests, offering amazing and friendly tuition.
Mairi Thomas, our photography tutor, has lived all over the world. She recently returned from living in Bahrain, back to UK. She has years of experience as a professional photographer and teacher as well as being a successful textile designer.
Christine Forbes, our painting instructor, is a successful artist and also an extremely experienced teacher. She has been teaching art for over 12 years and comes with experience in art, design, fashion and acting. She can teach in different media, but specialises in watercolour, acrylic and ink. Christine teaches regularly at West Dean College in Sussex, UK, but be warned – her courses are popular and tend to sell out!
What makes your creative holidays such a unique experience?
What sets the our venue apart from others in the area is the magnificent manor house and its majestic setting in beautiful private gardens. There is really a sense of calm and tranquillity in this peaceful spot, with an elevated position that gives the most stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
The little hamlet of Carlucet it’s located in is magical. We have never seen stars so bright from the incredibly clear night skies. The location is fantastic as well between Sarlat la Canéda and the caves of Lascaux at Montignac, and also close to the Dordogne river valley. The area is the perfect location for painting and photography holidays as there is so much beauty all around providing endless inspiration for your art.
Highlights of the region include the majestic Dordogne river valley and all the activities it offers, an abundance of the “most beautiful villages in France”, magnificent Châteaux which tower above the Dordogne river below, 147 World Heritage Sites for prehistory along the Vezere river nearby, outstanding world class gardens of Marqueyssac and Eyrignac, and I’m not even finished!