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Kerry & Tomas - Owners at Les Charmes de Carlucet

A Brit and a Swede in love with the Dordogne

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Ana Hernández | Dordogne Editor | Published: 10 Dec 2018

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Kerry & Tomas - Owners at Les Charmes de Carlucet

After decades working for IKEA, Kerry and Tomas decided to follow their dreams and leave their life in Paris behind. They moved to the Dordogne where they opened a luxury accommodation business, Les Charmes de Carlucet.

An intense search through the Perigord Noir area took them to Les Charmes de Carlucet, a huge estate boasting a stunning 18th-century manor house and a renovated barn, the Beaux Reves Villa. Located near Sarlat-la-Canéda, this is the perfect place to base yourself if you want to experience all that the Dordogne has to offer. From its breathtaking landscapes to its charming villages, historical sites and, of course, world-renowned gastronomy.

Read on to learn more about this gorgeous corner of the world and about Les Charmes de Carlucet.

Settling in Dordogne after travelling the world

Tell us a little bit about Les Charmes de Carlucet, how it started out and where you're based.
In 2016, we decided to have a change of life after years working for companies and try our own business. It has always been a dream of ours to have our own business, based in a beautiful part of the world, in the tourism industry. I used to come camping near Sarlat-la-Canéda, in the Dordogne, with my family when I was a young girl and I remembered how beautiful this part of the world was.

In 2016, the time was right for us to make the move and take the risk of embarking on a new life for us and our then five-year-old daughter Evie. At the time we were already living in Paris working for IKEA France, so we started our extensive search for a suitable property in the Dordogne. We wanted to be close to Sarlat and in the 'Golden Triangle' of the Dordogne valley. This is the most beautiful part of the Dordogne and the best place to launch a holiday business as many of the most interesting and beautiful places to visit in the region are close by.

When we finally found Les Charmes de Carlucet, we instantly knew our search was over. It is a magnificent 18th-century, six-bedroom manor house with large private heated pool and, next door, a stunning barn conversion, Beaux Reves, also with its own private heated pool. It's set in 20,000m2 of beautiful countryside, between the medieval town of Sarlat la Canéda and the world-famous caves of Lascaux in Montignac. Les Charmes de Carlucet manor house and villa both were awarded five stars from the Dordogne tourist board after our extensive renovations. They can be rented as self-catered luxury holiday homes separately, as they are completely private from each other, or together by larger groups. We also offer fully catered, residential painting and photography courses in the spring and autumn with our renowned tutors from UK.

Why did you decide to open this luxury gites and B&B business in the Dordogne?
We decided to open in the Dordogne because the area is so beautiful, there is so much to do and see and tourism is very good in this area. The area is famous for its gastronomy, especially for the foie gras, walnuts and truffles from this region which is called Perigord Noir. The area is also famous for its prehistory with 147 world heritage sites along the Vezere rive nearby. The Dordogne river valley is one of the cleanest in Europe and famous for beautiful canoeing activities, the abundance of the 'Most beautiful villages in France' to visit along its banks and also the majestic chateaux which tower above the river below. The buildings are also so beautiful with their yellow sandstone and slate roofs. House prices are more affordable than other parts of France as well. We are also within easy access of the major international airports of Bergerac, Brive Dordogne Valley, Limoges and Toulouse, as well as only a six-hour drive from the ferry terminal in Caen. So the area is very accessible.

What were you doing before?
We were both working for IKEA France, based in Paris, for four years before moving to the Dordogne. We had both been working for this company for around 30 years, living in different countries. We met 20 years ago through friends who also worked for IKEA. I (Kerry) started with IKEA in 1988 in the London store and Tomas, strangely, started the same year in their Stockholm store. Tomas is Swedish and I’m from the UK. Before moving to the Dordogne, I had lived and worked in the UK, Spain, USA and Sweden. Then, together, we moved to Russia, Poland and finally, in 2012, we moved to France to work for IKEA France.

What makes the Dordogne a special place to be for someone in the accommodation business?
The countryside is breathtaking, there’s no end to the beautiful and interesting places to visit and recommend to our guests. Sarlat is the jewel of the Dordogne. The medieval bastille town is so picturesque and lively all year round. There is always something going on there. In the summer months, the night markets in the villages around here are incredible. The whole village becomes one big party for all ages with live music, stands to buy your food and wine to enjoy at the market's long tables. There are also the most incredible bike trails and walking routes on our doorstep, as well as fantastic canoeing on the Dordogne river. Finally, the area is world renowned for its gastronomy and the local weekly markets are packed with delicious local produce.

An 18th-century manor house in the heart of the Dordogne

What makes Les Charmes de Carlucet so special? What sets you apart from everyone else?
In our search, we were looking for something special that would set us apart from the many other holiday gites and houses in the area. What set’s Les Charmes de Carlucet apart is the magnificent manor house and its majestic setting in 20,000m2 of beautiful private gardens. The approach along the long conifer tree-lined driveway, the pretty sandy coloured stone of the manor house and villa, the calm and tranquillity of this peaceful spot, the elevated position that gives the most stunning views of the surrounding countryside... The little hamlet of Carlucet is magical. We have never seen stars so bright from the incredibly clear night skies. The location is fantastic as well, between Sarlat and the caves of Lascaux in Montignac, as well as close to the Dordogne river valley. Incredibly, the only pub/restaurant in the area, The Black Duck, is just a five-minute walk away. It's always popular and an incredibly friendly place to wander to in the evening without having to get in the car.

Tell us a bit about the history of your gorgeous estate. What was it originally and how was it renovated?
The estate has a very interesting history. Built in 1767, there have only been four owners. We are the 4th owners. The original family kept the house until the early 1970s when it was bought by a wealthy Italian owner who undertook extensive renovations of the buildings, which had been left to ruin.

The original owners were wealthy landowners. The house was built as a 'Maison Maitre' a masters house. They owned many of the smaller houses in Carlucet and the wider area. In 1942, a Jewish family of jewellers from Paris, rented the house to escape the worst years of the Holocaust. The local villagers showed extreme bravery and agreed to never inform on the family hiding in Les Charmes de Carlucet. When the Nazis came to the area hunting for Jewish people, the local villagers told the family to go and hide in the chestnut forests nearby until the coast was clear. The family survived the war and returned to Paris after the war with their jewellery which they had buried in the fields nearby.

The two barns were converted by the previous owner in 2005 to luxury holiday homes. We have continued the renovation of the manor house and villa to the five-star standard we have reached today.

Do you have a favourite gite in Les Charmes? Which one is it and why?
The manor house is perfect for large groups of up to 14 people to rent with its six ensuite bedrooms and large private heated pool. It’s ideal for groups of friends and families to come together and create some unforgettable memories. It's so private and relaxing. The villa Beaux Reves is perfect for smaller groups of up to seven people, boasting three ensuite bedrooms and private heated pool. It is completely private from the manor house but, as it's next door, for groups of up to 21 people, both houses can be rented. The two of them are luxurious, stylish and extremely comfortable with air conditioning in every bedroom.

Can you tell us a bit about the special holidays you organise? Do you have a favourite one?
During the spring and autumn months, we organise painting and photography holidays. Our tutors are extremely experienced, talented and fun. The courses are for six nights and five days. We provide delicious home-cooked meals at Les Charmes and transport the students to the different beautiful locations as part of the course. I joined the last photography course so now I have finally mastered the manual settings on my camera thanks to our wonderful tutor, Mairi Thomas.

What is in store for the future with your business, any exciting projects in the pipelines that you can share with us?
For the future, as we continue to offer more experiences to enhance our guests stay, we will be offering cooking courses by partnering up with Cook Dordogne school of cookery. Our guests will be able to join one-day or half-day cooking classes and guided visits to the local markets. We are also planning history excursions to sites and locations which are not normally available for tourists with the help of our wonderful local guides. We can also offer helicopter rides that can take off and land from Les Charmes de Carlucet and give an unforgettable ride over this stunning landscape.

Insider's tips for our readers

Do you remember your first time in the Dordogne? How long have you been living here?
I was 10 years old when I first visited the Dordogne with my family on a camping holiday. I always remembered how beautiful the area was. When we came back here in May 2016 to search for a suitable property, the area was even more beautiful than I remembered. Each time we returned for our property search, the area seemed even more breathtaking and the people living in the area were so friendly and helpful.

What is your favourite area in the Dordogne?
My favourite area of the Dordogne is the Dordogne valley around La Roque-Gageac, Beynac, Domme and Castelnaud. The stunning villages and spectacular scenery are truly breathtaking. We also love the gorgeous Jardins de Eyrignac, voted the most beautiful gardens of the Dordogne. Not far from Les Charmes de Carlucet, the gardens are outstanding. They also have the unforgettable 'White Picnics' in the gardens during the summer months. Not to be missed. Sarlat is also picture-perfect with its gorgeous medieval streets and architecture, pretty squares, cafes and restaurants. Always a lively and interesting place to visit.

Any restaurant in the region that you can recommend for a special occasion? 
Le Presidial restaurant in Sarlat, set in a beautiful old palace in the old town, is an outstanding restaurant and perfect for a special occasion. Our guests are never disappointed when they have a meal there. Another great one is Chateau de la Treyne a Michelin-starred restaurant nearby in the Lot region. The chateau hangs over the cliffs above the Dordogne with the most spectacular views. This is a place that dreams are made of and a truly memorable experience. For special occasions, we also highly recommend reserving our Chef Henri, who can come to Les Charmes de Carlucet and prepare, serve and clear away afterwards the most delicious meals suitable for every occasion.

And a great bar for a drink?
The Black Duck Irish pub and restaurant is just a five-minute walk from Les Charmes de Carlucet and has a great bar all year round. Always fun and a friendly atmosphere. We are very lucky to have the Black Duck on our doorstep.

If someone was coming here for the first time, what would you suggest they absolutely must do or see in the Dordogne?
For first time visitors to the Dordogne, the top five things we can recommend to do are: 

  1. Sarlat on Market day (Saturday or Wednesday)  
  2. The Dordogne valley and the villages of La Roque-GageacBeynac and Domme
  3. The chateaux of Castelnaud la Chapelle, Beynac and Milandes, former home of American performer Josephine Baker.
  4. The outstanding Jardins de Marqueyssac near La Roque-Gageac suspended high above the valley and the Jardins de Eyrignac near Salignac and Les Charmes de Carlucet.
  5. Take a canoe ride from Vitrac on the Dordogne to Castelnaud. You will go past the most beautiful scenery and they can pick you up at the end and bring you back to your car.

What is your favourite time of year in the area?
All the seasons are spectacular and very different with the dramatically changing colours but late spring is my favourite. The weather is warm, the days are long, the crowds of high summer haven’t arrived and the light is incredible. The views from Les Charmes de Carlucet of the ancient church of Carlucet lit up in the morning sunlight reminds us every day why we chose to live in this stunning place.

Finally, can you give us a tip to escape the crowds in the summer?
There is still plenty of space in summer to avoid the crowds. If you want to avoid the crowds, go early to the most popular places, especially Sarlat and the Lascaux caves. Generally, mornings and lunchtimes are quieter. Take a canoe trip from higher up the Dordogne, from Souillac, where there are fewer crowds but its still very beautiful. Cycling in the summer months is a great way to escape the crowds. There are so many wonderful cycle routes and country roads that you can find peace and quiet in every corner of the Dordogne.

More inspiration...

If staying in a historical 18-century manor house surrounded by breathtaking countryside and outstanding culture sounds like your idea of heaven, then you'll love Les Charmes de Carlucet.

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