609 Passepartout Homes’ property portfolio showcases a very exclusive collection of unique luxury holiday retreats located in 18 countries on four continents across the globe. What’s unique about each of our exclusive holiday villas is that every one is a home which has been lovingly built, rebuilt or renovated by its proprietors who invested their hearts and souls into creating a unique and special atmosphere for their guests. In this interview series, we meet the property owners who tell us the stories behind their exclusive holiday homes. The beautiful rural region of Dordogne in south-western France is a favourite destination for those who love the rustic country life of scenic landscapes, medieval castles, and good food and wine. The best way to experience this picturesque region is to stay in a rural country villa while exploring its charming villages and medieval castles, and sampling the many regional gastronomic specialities, including wild mushrooms and truffles . Michiel Jaspers and Iris Courjaret’s lovingly restored rural villas in the heart of the Dordogne offer an authentic local experience combining the rustic charm of these unique rural properties with top-end luxury amenities. This Belgian-Dutch couple used to live in Mechelen, Belgium where they ran two restaurants and a sauna centre. 10 years ago they moved to the Dordogne where they now run several rural luxury holiday home properties with table d’hôte style restaurants attached. Iris told us how their deep connection to this region goes back a long time and how they transformed several rural properties into exclusive holiday homes while preserving their original character. Villa Auvent How did you discover the area, what made you fall in love with it? Almost by coincidence, we both used to have family holidays as kids with our parents in this same area. So both of us knew the area long before we found our dream house. We’re happy to live our dream and we feel lucky to live in such a beautiful quiet environment with our 5-year-old twin girls! Residence du Chai Did you build or renovate the property? What was this process like? In 2005, we renovated Résidence du Chai, an old vineyard with a manor house attached to it. We started from scratch, starting with the barns and gardens. We spent the winters creating a holiday home with lots of facilities and luxury. We now have five luxury holiday homes and each can sleep five people. Our goal was to preserve their old character while integrated many modern elements. In 2009 we renovated our manor house Le Pigeon Voyageur . This house is over 230 years old and used to be a post house where travellers could rest. It even has two pigeonniers (dovecotes) which used to house pigeons. We’ve converted it into a luxury rural holiday home, keeping some elements of the original building and combining this with some sleek design-style furniture. Then in 2010 we renovated Villa Auvent a village house in Saint Martin de Gurson. This house dates back to the 1800s and used to house a pharmacy. We love its light blue window shutters which contrast sharply with its white gable. Again we made a point of preserving as many original elements as possible like its old doors and wooden floors, while adding many modern design details. Le Pigeon Voyageur What’s unique about the properties and the Dordogne region? Each property is unique in its own way. The old stones have a story and a soul. The area is still ‘pure’ and authentic, and not too touristy. There are many very small villages in the middle of nature, woods, fields and vineyards of course…and still very close to bigger and very interesting places like Bergerac, Saint Emilion, Périgueux, Bordeaux, and the Atlantic Ocean. Because the highway is only 7 km away, we have really quick connections to all of these places. Le Pigeon Voyageur What type of visitor do your properties suit? We’re kind of ‘specialised’ in groups and families because of our unique combination of luxury for the parents and lots to do for the kids. But we get couples as well, especially before and after the school holiday season. There are loads of things to do for the kids: there’s a lake two kilometres away, playgrounds, tree climbing parks, and opportunities for canoeing, horse riding, as well as cultural sites to visit like castles from the Middle Ages and prehistoric parks. We’ve had people coming here every year for over 10 years, and they still haven’t seen everything! Did you have any notable guests stay there? We’ve had many architects, writers, actors, CEOs, doctors… all kinds of people in fact who appreciate our luxury holiday homes Le Pigeon Voyageur By Isabel Putinja, Travel Writer by Isabel PutinjaDordogneFranceluxury villasPassepartout Homes.