Saturday, 20 September 2008

Mysterious Montbas

The Chateau Montbas is close to Mezieres-sur-Issoire. It is unlived in and, I am told, is owned by a lady who is an art teacher.

In the 1930s the château was used as a clinic and a modern wing was added. Celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin came here for treatment with 'serum' containing cells from sheep (presumably in a effort to halt ageing) - a process that has now been superseded by Botox! The nearby airfield meant they could fly in without being seen, and a private road led from the airfield to the château itself.

Today the château is unloved and unkempt; the jetty and landing stage on the lake have fallen into disrepair and the fabric of the buildings themselves is at risk.

Just as the long, hot days of summer are drawing to an end here, so it seems that the days of Montbas are numbered too, unless the art teacher manages to find enough money to restore the château and find a use for it that will earn enough money for its upkeep.

This area of the Limousin, like many rural areas in other countries as well as in France itself, is suffering as the local young people no longer want the traditional life on the farm and in the village, but hanker after what they see at the cinema or on the TV - a magic and sophisticated wonderland where everyone is beautiful, everyone is happy and finds their love - a 'wish upon a star' universe that, in reality, only exists on the silver screen. A restored Montbas could provide a wonderful resource for all - as an educational centre, a tourist attraction, artisanale workshops - the list is long...

Perhaps this is a project for a film-maker? Certainly the village of Montrol-Senard benefitted greatly in the 1990s when the telefilm "1905" with Michel Duchaussoy was made there. Several old businesses were 'restored' (some were re-created) for the film and the village has become a major site on the tourist map. So - all you properties-buyers in the TV and film businesses - look at Château Montbas - a venue just waiting to be discovered.

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