Friday Fun: Maisons, Maisons, Mansions

In other words, still more inspirational houses that once belonged to writers and artists in France. Most of them have been turned into museums, although the last one has had an interesting fate.

Alexandra David Neel, who introduced Tibetan Buddhism to France, lived and practised here. From
Alexandra David Neel, who introduced Tibetan Buddhism to France, lived and practised here. From
Anatole France is not widely read nowadays, but was a Nobel prize winner back in the 1920s. From
Anatole France is not widely read nowadays, but was a Nobel prize winner back in the 1920s. From
Picasso's last house on the Cote d'Azure. From
Picasso’s last house on the Cote d’Azure. From
Renoir's home in the south of France. From
Renoir’s home in the south of France. From
And how can one ever forget Monet's house and garden? From
And how can one ever forget Monet’s house and garden? From

Just in case you are thinking that these are all too good to be true (certainly without a talented gardener or two), below is a sad story of aspirations and loss.

The house that Francoise Sagan won and lost. From
The house that Franoise Sagan won and lost. From

The Manoir du Breuil near Calvados in Normandy belonged to Lucien Guitry, actor and father of the slightly more famous Sascha Guitry. Whenever Françoise Sagan spent the summer at Deauville in Normandy, she would look covetously at this house perched on a hill and occasionally be able to rent it for a few weeks. Then, one night in August 1958, she won a huge sum at roulette and the very next day she purchased this property.

Unfortunately, there was no happy ending. The house required major renovation works, particularly after it was damaged by fire, but Sagan was a compulsive gambler, buyer of fancy sports cars, drinker and drug addict, so there was never enough money left over. A huge backdated tax bill was the final nail in the coffin. She was forced to sell the house, although the generous friend who bought it allowed her to continue living in part of it until her death. The house has now been completely remodelled by the current owner, the CEO of Eurotunnel.

29 thoughts on “Friday Fun: Maisons, Maisons, Mansions”

    1. Yes, isn’t it? When I was a child, a classmate of mine had a father who was addicted to gambling and pretty much sold everything in their house to fund his habit. It was really devastating to watch, even from afar.

    1. I came across it when I was searching for the best image for her house and the local newspapers seemed to have the whole sad story. To me, it’s a shame the house has switched from ‘artistic’ connections to the business world.

      1. Oh! I’ve just read Sagan, Paris 1954 which covers the months just before & after getting Bonjour Tristesse published (highly recommend) found these first-for-me reads about Sagan’s life & storytelling compelling so I’ve ordered more biogs & novels… curious to discover whether her writing replicated life or life influenced her writing, or if indeed the two merged… so, haha sorry for wandering off on a tangent, on that basis if had to choose I’ll go to The Manoir😊

  1. Oh, these are really gorgeous, Marina Sofia! My choice would be for Picasso’s last home, but they’re all beautiful.

  2. Oh, the Renoir house! It’s lovely and according to the web site it “is placed in the heart of a beautiful estate planted with olive and citrus trees offering a breathtaking view down the Cape of Antibes.” I want to go there!
    Marina Sofia, I love your Friday posts!

    1. Pleased to be of service, and if they don’t quite work as estate agents’ promotional material, at least they give us ideas of where to go and what to see when we get there…

  3. Great stuff, MS! Aside from anything else, you’ve reminded me of Anatole France. I’ve had one of his books on my shelves for years now, and it keeps dodging my hand when I reach for it. I must approach it soon with sterner purpose . . .

    1. I remember quite liking Thais and The Red Lily when I was a teenager and in a more romantic frame of mind. I think The Gods Are Thirsty (or however it was translated into English) is considered his best work. I haven’t ventured anywhere near him in decades though…

      1. I struggled a but (well, quite a lot) with his Penguin Island when I was of similar age, and have never gone back to him. It’s Thais that’s on the shelf.

  4. I’d go for Anatole France’s house. BTW I didn’t know that about Sagan. It’s sad but also a reality that some of these grand houses are moneypits and you need deep pockets.

      1. Yes! I have the occasional client who live in chateau and mansions, they are such hard workers, I bring stress release and love to arrive, stay a few hours and leave them to it. And get invited to the parties 😉

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