Karen Burns-Booth moved from South Africa to the UK at a young age and her earliest memories are of “picking hazelnuts and foraging for wild herbs and garlic with my grandmother for her famous stew pot” at her granny’s old stone cottage in rural Northumbria. A place where the “milk was delivered by the farmer and was decanted into a billycan directly from the milk churns. All of the fruit and vegetables were home-grown, and we always had fresh eggs from our hens”.
It is no surprise then to find that Karen, after living in several parts of the world, eventually moved to south west France to live the good life in a beautiful old French house in Charente-Maritime.
Karen says that she and her retired French teacher husband always planned to move to France because they love the culture, the language, the food and wine. It was the coast and the beautiful beaches of St Georges de Didonne that lured them to their current corner of France near Royan and Saintes. They searched fruitlessly for months on end to find “the perfect house”. They wanted a “large stone house with a private family wing near to the coast with a large garden for B and B guests”. A home but also a business, in a picturesque setting, with all amenities, near to the coast they adore. Not an easy thing to locate but one day whilst out driving, they passed a for sale sign in the garden of their dream property.
Their 600 year old home, formerly an auberge is in the middle of a pretty village with all services and comfort of a village, but it feels as though they are completely private thanks to the gorgeous secluded walled garden.
With its mature fruit bushes and trees, chickens ambling about in the sunshine – the house is the epitome of the expat dream. Beautifully renovated rooms and original features such as oak fireplaces and a cave (wine cellar), stunning beams and authentic Toulouse tiles reflect the love and attention that the couple have lavished on this wonderful old house.
Karen is a food writer, recipe developer and food photographer – anything and everything food and she writes the popular blog Lavender and Lovage. After writing for a major UK food magazine that closed, Karen decided to develop her own “exciting new and original recipes” both French and British to reflect her background. She also writes about travel and “French lifestyle, French cooking, herbs, keeping chickens and gardening” on her blog as well as writing for numerous magazines, newspapers and websites.
Karen grows many of her own vegetables and herbs, developing her own recipes in the large farmhouse kitchen with her happy husband tasting the fruits of her skills like for Chocolate Clementine Curd and Guinea Fowl with Apples, Prunes and Armagnac Mustard Sauce (Pintade aux Prunes). She confesses though that if left to her own devices she is rather partial to a fish finger sandwich (fish fingers are actually very popular in France!) washed down with a glass of rosé wine! Karen says that if she was to have dinner with her favourite French character it would be Edith Piaf who could sing to her while she cooks the chanteuse a dish of Cassoulet salade d’été avec confit de canard (Summer Cassoulet Salad with Preserved Duck)!
Change is on the horizon though for the Lavender and Lovage lady, after 11 happy years in her French home Karen says ruefully “we need to downsize and hopefully be able to buy somewhere in the UK to be closer to elderly parents, as well as buy a small pied-de-terre nearer the ferry ports in Brittany for easy and quick access to the UK. My daughter also lives and works in London, so it would be nice to see her more often too!”
Although they will be sad to leave their beautiful French home once it is sold, we’re certain that the couple will be back in France soon…
You can contact Karen via her website and see lots of her lovely recipes: www.lavenderandlovage.com