As we launch our new website I would like to take the opportunity to introduce ourselves and our dogs. Please feel free to explore our website and do not hesitate to ask if you have any questions.
We are Paul and Elaine Clark and we have been successfully running our 2 dog-friendly holiday cottages, or gîtes, on the border of southern Brittany and the Loire Atlantique since 2005.
Elaine is a qualified dog trainer with over 10 years experience. She is a trainer and judge with the World Scent Dog Association, a trainer with Canine Hoopers World and an accredited Assistance Dog Trainer with SuperDogs (of the Channel 4 series).
This is the culmination of years of learning and exams passed during the last 10 years - both in France (taken in French!) and the UK.
In June 2012, she attended an intensive 2-day sminar at the Kennel Club HQ, to learn more about Behavioural Adjustment Training, working with fearful, reactive dogs and puppies.
Training packages are available as an optional extra during your stay at La Belle Vilaine holiday cottages (gîtes) : basic life-skills, behavioural adjustment, Scentwork, Hoopers, heelwork to music, trick workshops and agility.
All our dogs are home trained by Elaine
Elaine has competed in agility at national level in France.
2021 will be our 17th year running our dog-friendly holiday cottages ........... we have many return bookings and have welcomed guests from all over Europe over the years.
Having always dreamt of living in France once retired, we decided to take the plunge early and try to make a go of things and live the French life. Paul had been a policeman for 14 years and Elaine had been running Le Club Français, very successfully, for seven years, teaching French to children both in schools and in after-school clubs. Cheryl, our daughter, already fluent in French and finishing her A levels,(including French!) announced that she would love to live in France - which put the icing on the cake. 2020 saw us obtain our permanent Residency Permits (under new legislation following the B word 🤷🏼♀️). It also saw us marry our daughter, Cheryl and her French husband, Alex. A quiet affair without the UK contingency due to Covid, but it was a lovely day and we are very proud of how the happy couple took it all in their stride.
We thought long and hard about location - which was quite daunting, given the size of France. Having lived in Portsmouth for 22 years, we had to be near to the sea. We had always wanted a home in the country for the peace and quiet and the wildlife. Not too far from the channel for family and holiday makers to the gites alike and with plenty to occupy them during their stay, yet far enough south to enjoy a better climate. South Brittany, Morbihan, in particular and the Loire Atlantique appeared to offer the perfect location for our dream to provide pet-friendly, self-catering holiday accommodation. In the blazing hot summer of 2003 we spent a month house-hunting in Morbihan, South Brittany, found that it was everything we had hoped for and finally fell in love with La Belle Vilaine in the hamlet of Le Bois Nouvel, Nivillac - our little piece of France. Before leaving for England, the deal was done and our dream of offering gite or cottage holiday accommodation was starting to become a reality.
Having sold up in England and waited for Cheryl to finish her studies, we eventually arrived in Morbihan, France in July, 2004 - along with our two dogs, Gracie and Ficelle, (We sadly lost Ficelle in April 2013 and Gracie in October 2015).
Cheryl works full-time as a Manager with Leclerc in Vannes - making the most of her bi-lingual skills - and sounds more French than English. She is now married to Alex and they live in the next hamlet. She also has 2 dogs ... Daisy, a Border Collie and Fran, a Sprollie rescue dog. We now have Cass, an Irish rescue (in honour of Ficelle) who arrived at 2+ years old with HUGE issues, and Izzy our Springer who is far too cute and an absolute credit to Elaine's training.
Paul is busy running the self-catering, holiday cottage (gite) business and keeping our one and a third acres of land neat and tidy. He has become extremely competent in speaking French - no longer needing the translation services of his wife and daughter! He has also become very skilled at keeping our 2 Volvo estate cars on the road..
Elaine has taught English in local primary schools, run after-school English Clubs and also taught English and French to adults and school children of all ages privately. She now concentrates on running dog training classes, professionally from home. Haïyla, Izzy and Cass love all the space at home and the daily walks in surroundings that we used to have to drive to. Haïyla, a working border collie, joined the family in 2009 and won prizes on the local French agility circuit, with 3 x 1st place, 2 x 2nd and 1 x 3rd over just 7 competition days in her first year of competition (2011). Haïyla and Elaine won through to 2nd Degree in July, 2012 (equivalent of Grades 3-5). Gracie and Elaine were selected for the Pays de La Loire Regional Team in 2011 (having actually only competed for less than 2 years, due to Elaine's serious injury which took them out the game for 8 months) and competed at National level. Elaine and Cheryl took the decision to walk away from the French agility scene, even though they were winning prizes ..... the enforced 13 hour days were too much. If we lived in the UK, we would still be competing.
If you are thinking of buying a home in France and have ever been told that French bureaucracy is a nightmare - be under no illusions, it is. However, if you can converse with the bureaucrats in French (or have somebody with you that can speak French) you will find that they are more than willing to help you - even if they still proceed at typical French speed!
Throughout your stay at La Belle Vilaine self-catering, holiday gites or cottages, we will be on-hand to offer friendly, non-obtrusive, advice. If you would prefer to chat in French (at your level), please let us know - we have spent many holidays in France and left disappointed that we had not had enough opportunities to show off our ability to converse in French.
Paul, Elaine, Haïyla, Cass and Izzy