Susana Raby

PROPERTY SPECIAL:Property problems

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Just as some men are attracted only to blondes with long legs, or buxom, curly-haired brunettes, so there are certain architectural features that make my heart beat faster and others that leave me cold. Bay windows can certainly be very handsome, and they let in plenty of light, but they don't carry the same emotional charge as a pair of floor-length windows. The ultimate adrenaline rush, for me, comes from two (or better still, three) sets of French doors on to a terrace with a view of tall, venerable trees beyond.

But as with people, so with property: love at first sight can be a dangerous thing. A few years ago I fell in love with a barn in the Dordogne. I had spent several holidays touring south-western France as far south as the Pyrenees looking for something I liked, but nothing caught my fancy. I had deliberately steered clear of the Dordogne, which I knew to be full of English. But after a particularly dispiriting visit to Charente Maritime - a dull, flat, grey region where eels figure on every menu - I was clutching at straws. An agent in London had sent me details of a house in the Dordogne that looked like a Regency rectory: the outside was painted white, festooned with wistaria and had three sets of French doors. I couldn't afford it, and I was hundreds of miles from the Dordogne, without a car, but I wanted to cheer myself up, so I called the agent in London - who was Swedish, as it happened - and asked her how I could get to view it. 'Go to Riberac and stay at the H