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Memorial Day weekend is coming up, and many families will spend a few hours doing minor fix-ups on their homes to spruce them up for the summer months.
Karina and Craig Waters, meanwhile, will spend theirs continuing the renovation of a breathtaking château in rural France.
The couple, originally from Perth in Western Australia, began spending time in Paris a few years ago when both of their children had finished school. But except for a day trip to the Palace of Versailles, they had barely left the 9th arrondissement.
It was only when a French property newsletter landed in their email inbox that they found themselves spontaneously driving down to the Midi-Pyrénées, compelled by images of snow-capped mountains and sunflower fields.
“We simply found the architecture and history to be magical and alluring,” Karina told TODAY.
It was on that serendipitous road trip that the couple first saw the château.
“It wasn’t necessarily so much what we saw, but what we felt as we made our way through the gates," explained Karina. "It’s almost as if you are walking into a dream, or maybe into a fairytale. Reality loses focus and your imagination takes hold. You approach the façade of the building, and it feels as if you are walking into something like a set from a Jane Austen novel.”
The family was initially only able to see a few rooms, which lined the front façade on the ground floor. The rest was inaccessible and all but a few of the ceilings and floors had caved in due to water damage. There were even trees growing inside and on the roof.
But Karina and her husband both felt "an inexplicable connection" to the building and continued to feel that the restoration was something they were called to do.
After two years of negotiation, the couple, along with their children Jasmine and Ben, were finally able to purchase the Château de Gudanes.
They acknowledge that moving to France to renovate a castle has been far from stress-free … as you might have suspected. “I would say that the most difficult aspect of this journey has been adjusting to living in France without my family,” said Karina. “My husband must stay in Perth for work, and our children are studying there at university, so I manage the project.”
But they’ve found encouragement and support on social media — so much, in fact, that they credit a lot of their progress to their followers.
“The positivity and encouragement of people on social media has been a huge blessing on this journey. It’s our new, extended family,” Karina added. “Each time I post on Instagram and Facebook, the energy for the project can be felt. Everyone seems to be connected to the positive energy and vitality that the Château exudes.”
The future promises to be calmer, with much of the restoration work already complete. The interiors of the Château will be relatively sparse, according to Karina, so there's really not too much time before they can declare the project finished.
“It won’t be a pretentious museum piece, but rather a place to reconnect with the earth and with people," she offered. "We plan to tread lightly and gently in order to preserve the authenticity of the region and the community."
“The Château will be renovated, but her rawness, wear and history will not be erased. Instead, they'll be integrated," Karina concluded.
"It won’t be about overcrowding the walls with paintings, or overflowing the floors with furnishings. It will just be a place to simply rest, breathe and enjoy the calm.”