BIRON, France — The tiny village of Biron in the Red Périgord area of the Dordogne is best known for the 12th-century Château de Biron, perched regally on a hilltop overlooking the village and surrounding countryside. But it's a former priory, on a cobbled lane just below the chateau, that might be a bigger draw for Lexingtonians.
A 500-year-old former monastery that was home to the priests of Biron, Le Prieuré has been re-invented as an elegant bed and breakfast.
Le Prieuré's owner, Elisabeth Vedier, is a native of Brittany in the north of France, but she spent 27 years (from 1980 to 2007) as a resident of Lexington.
"I was mostly a stay-at-home mom," Vedier says in flawless, unaccented English, although her chic style — perfectly coiffed hair, designer jeans, ballet flats and colorful scarf expertly tied — is pure French.
She adds, however, that she did find time to work as a travel agent and teach French at the University of Kentucky while earning her own degree in interior design.
That degree came in handy when she moved back to France in 2007 after a divorce from her physician husband ("I just thought it was time to reconnect with my homeland after so many years in the U.S.," she says) and bought Le Prieuré in 2008.
She designed the B&B's public spaces and five spacious bedrooms to provide a sophisticated but homey ambiance. "I love for guests to flop down on the couches and get comfortable," Vedier says.
She also loves to introduce her guests to her friends from the village, which she sometimes does at dinner parties where the guest list is as carefully thought out as the menu.
She spent several years carefully restoring the priory and furnishing it with antiques and period pieces. Vedier canvassed the Dordogne for most of the pieces, but pointing to a large antique buffet in the dining room, she says, "this made the trip over from Lexington."
Vedier herself makes the trip to and from Lexington once a year.
"I still keep an apartment in Park Place on Tates Creek Road and since I close the B&B in the winter, I spend every December in Lexington visiting with friends," she says. "It's something I really look forward to."
Patti Nickell is a Lexington-based travel writer. Reach her at email@example.com.