Meet Jean-Guillaume and Maaike Niemeijer, who came to France via the Netherlands and New Zealand and have built and run the amazing Castelwood complex of 15 wood cabins in the Dordogne.
Q: How long have you lived / owned your gite in France ?
We have lived in France since 1985 – almost 30 years now. Coming from New Zealand we settled in the northern part of Lot-et-Garonne, on the border of Dordogne and created a four-star campsite with 150 pitches. We were very popular with the British Caravan Club and developed quite a few Inclusive Holidays for them. After 10 years we decided to move on and with a non-tourist interval of 6 years, have designed and built a Holiday Park with 15 wooden chalets, under the smoke of the imposing castle of Biron, in Dordogne.
Q: What do you love about France?
My husband and I met on a French campsite, where he had a holiday job and where I helped out the owners for a couple of days. Our fates were sealed from that time on… and how can you settle back in the Netherlands (we are originally Dutch) if you’ve lived in lovely New Zealand for 13 years ?
The lifestyle is, and remains, laid-back and if you integrate in your community and your region, you’re accepted as one of the locals.
Q: What made you choose the region in which you have settled?
First of all because we already knew this region but also – after having explored lots of other regions – we find this region has it all : good climate, good food, good wines, lots of cultural & historic interests – and last, but not least, the landscape is just beautiful.
Q: Tell us three things you like best about your Gite :
Our very first requirement when we designed and built our own gite/chalets was “space”. In our opinion nothing is as irritating as cramped space, especially when you are on holiday. So with us you don’t have to turn sideways to get into the loo, let alone get out of it !
Second most important thing is the equipment : good beds and mattresses, good shower with plenty of hot water and not just a dribble of water, general equipment in kitchen and proper settees.
Third preference is the ethical aspect : our wooden chalets really blend into the landscape, with their weathered cladding, grey roofs and spacious terrace for outdoor life.
Q: What one thing would your previous guests say about your Gite?
Peace and quiet.
Q: What is your favourite attraction near to your Gite?
The imposing castle of Biron – at only 1km from our site.
Q: What’s the oddest thing about the French culture that you’ve experienced?
Our local priest, arriving unannounced on a huge white stallion, clad in a black cape and wanting to bless our site and all persons and animals who lived on it. On our assent he proceeded to do so, reciting some verses from the Bible, which he pulled our from under his cloak, still sitting op top of his horse. Unfortunately this colourful person passed away some years ago.
Q: Which do you prefer and why – Entrecote Frites, Fish ‘n’ Chips or a good curry?
While in France, we prefer Entrecote – Frites, since they generally serve pretty tender steaks and French Fries are not called French for nothing.
While in the UK, we prefer Fish ‘n’ Chips since we can’t get it in France and there is nothing like a good fish and chips… preferably served in a newspaper, as we were used to in New Zealand…. also depending on the quality of the ink…
Not really great fans of curry we certainly don’t eat these in France – except when prepared by British friends – or if and when we visit India, one of our favourite countries.
We wish you all a sunny and warm summer !
Thank you Maaike and Jean-Guillaum. Visit the Castelwood website here.