Travel Departures: Happy ending to a French affair

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The Independent Online
LAST month's Channel 4 series, A French Affair, about ex-pat British residents pursuing an idyll in the Dordogne, has provided a welcome boost to business for French self-catering specialist La France des Villages (0449 737664).

The programme featured the Chateau de Libersac, owned by Paddy and Nell Heyland, who bought the property on impulse without having sold their home in England. It showed the Heylands' battle for financial survival: struggling to restore the chateau in order to attract self-catering holidaymakers - while meeting the mortgage on their English house. Paddy Heyland was seen making a desperate call to La France des Villages - which features the chateau in its brochure - wondering if they were going to receive any bookings last summer.

The good news is that eventually they did. Nick Brimblecombe of La France des Villages says that viewers sympathetic to the Heylands' plight were quick to respond. 'We have had a tremendous reaction: generally along the lines of 'What can we do to help?',' he said. 'More than 50 individuals have phoned us via Channel 4 asking if their holiday could be donated to a good cause by booking at the Heylands. 'We must stop them losing their house' was the usual message.'

A week at the Heylands' two-person studio apartment costs from pounds 270 to pounds 510, depending on season, including ferry crossing and the shared use of the Heylands' swimming-pool.