Sometimes, if you’re lucky, the previous owners of a house will leave you a bottle of champagne to celebrate your moving-in.However, if you decide to buy the Chateau de la Joliverie, in the Loire Valley, you get something rather bigger. A Rolls-Royce.
Not only do you become the proprietor of a house that dates back to 1834, you find yourself owning a top-of-the-range, gleaming limousine in which to drive around the French countryside.
What a difference from when the house was first built. Back then, the wealthy owners lived in high style inside the house, while the caves beneath the mansion were the altogether humbler home of the local tenant farmer and his cattle. Talk about an upstairs downstairs arrangement.
Mind you, in the early 1900s, both the two- and four-footed occupants of the caves were turned out, and replaced by giant wine presses. It was here that the well-to-do Rousseau family not only began producing large amounts of wine, but went into property letting, adding both the barn and the workers’ cottage within the grounds.
The family retained the home throughout the First and Second World War, and even during the German Occupation: it’s 71 years since the village was liberated by American troops, on August 11 1944.
At the turn of the 21st century, the chateau went through another change of identity, when its new Russian owners undertook a top-to-bottom conversion of the place, which had gone somewhat downhill in the intervening years.
Not only did they transform the attic into a luxury bolt-hole, they created six bedrooms on the upper two floors; those on the north side gave their occupants dramatic views over the valleys and beyond.
At one stage, it seemed as if the chateau was going to be turned into a small hotel or guesthouse as all of the bedrooms have their own bathrooms, but this has not transpired.
Naturally, there have been improvements since then. Out went the all old décor and in came grand marble fireplaces plus a state-of-the-art kitchen.
The best part of it all is that the chateau does not stand in some remote, rarely visited corner of France, but halfway between Tours and Le Mans. And within driving distance of Versailles and even Paris.
At the same time, though, you are hardly in built-up territory. The chateau is situated in the village of Dissay sous Courcillon, home to a priory, two chateaux, seven old water mills and a population of just 1,000 people, which turns out to be just 18 more people living there than there were in 1999. It’s fair to say that this is not a densely populated area (there are just 28 inhabitants per square kilometre). Look at the list of nearby, charming hamlets (Saint Pierre de Chevillė, Villebourg and Saint-Christophe-sur-le-Nais, all within four miles), and it is clear that your Camembert cheese won’t even have had time to melt before you get it back home.
And if, in the best Jane Austen fashion, you wonder who you should drive around to visit in the Rolls-Royce, there are two sizeable mansions less than a litre of petrol away: the Chateau de Courcillon and the Chateau de Pavillon.
What’s more, the place comes fully furnished: the estate agents’ particulars say the mansion has six bedrooms, but if you feel like it, you can have quite a comfortable night inside the seventh, i.e. the Rolls.
There is also a library with its own sun terrace and views of the garden, along with large grounds that house an orchard, a swimming pool, a gravelled courtyard, plus a self-contained guest lodge.
No question about it, then. Come and live here, and you become an instant lord of the manoir, enjoying short, mild winters and long, warm summers – and with the potential for your own inexhaustible supply of wine on tap.
On top of which, the cost of buying is no higher than what you might pay for a three-bedroom semi-detached in Wandsworth. The asking price is €1.596 million, which works out at just over £1.1 million. And while house prices in London are 45 per cent higher than they were in 2007, in this part of France, asking prices are 10 to 15 per cent lower than they were eight years ago.
Yes, the French Revolution may have got rid of the monarchy, but if you move here, you could still live like a king.