Frédérique is what the French call a châtelaine, which is just a fancy way of saying that her home is a château. This one actually. Le Château d'Emalleville, where she lives with her husband and children and horses and dogs.
Remember last week my criteria for this series about my french girlfriends? totally gorgeous, great home, great job; Well they all seem to work with Fred. We are good friends, we ride together, we invite each other over, our children are friends. I have always admired her stunning looks, her distinct style and her meticulous nature.
When I asked her about taking part in my girlfriend series, she replied with her habitual generosity and candour that it should be fun!
She has full days keeping up with her husband and children, her horses and dogs and of course the guests to the château where she and her husband Arnaud run guest rooms and a conference centre. Over coffee one afternoon, I sat her down and asked her a few questions.
First of all Fred, thank you for letting us into your beautiful home and accepting this interview. I know that most of the time you go for a very natural look in the way you dress and look, but I've also seen you very glamorous. Which side is the real Fred?
F: That's easy, the real Fred is a pair of jeans, riding boots, and some red nail varnish to make me look a bit more chic! Every morning I pull on jeans and a jumper or t-shirt because it's the most practical way for me to dress for my busy days here, but by the evening I love to be able to dress up to go out for dinner. Sometimes I may even overdress, but that doesn't matter, it amuses my friends and there's no point in having a wardrobe full of dresses if I never use them!
You live in a beautiful château, you are probably living many people's dream, what are your favourite moments?
F: I love going off for a run in the mornings, with the dogs (Chips and LOL), it has to be the best way to start a day. After that I go around the paddocks feeding the ponies and checking that everyone had a good night, that is what makes me the happiest and is a real luxury. But maybe my biggest luxury is having the time to do so many different things, and time to see my friends and I have to admit that I spend a lot of time on the phone too!
Why did you decide to start breeding ponies?
F: Oh dear, if you say I breed ponies, it makes me sound very professional and I am still learning every day! I love to be with horses, I try to ride most days, we have the space here so I started this project three years ago. My daughter Charlotte, who is 15 also rides, and competes, so it is an interest we can share, even though I know that at her age she has other priorities too!
Would you like to live in town, in Paris for example or are you really a country girl at heart?
F: Before coming to Normandy I lived in Paris for 38 years. I was born there and grew up there, I love Paris, I'm sure it's the most beautiful city in the world. But I don't regret our change of lifestyle in 2004. Living in the country allows me to live differently with different centres of interest, I think I've become a real country girl.
Anyway Paris is only an hour away, close enough to go out to dinner or to the theatre, or to go on a shopping spree, but maybe with 8 pairs of jeans in my wardrobe I don't need to go shopping that often (that bit is to please my husband, Arnaud!)
I know that you are very meticulous, but this is a large château to look after, how do you manage to have everything so impeccable?
F: It's true that I hate things to be untidy. I try to be well organised in running the property, the guest rooms, organising and hosting the seminars, but I'm very lucky to have the help of our super nanny Paulette. She has been 'looking after' us for the past 15 years and she works miracles!
I like the property to run like clockwork, I try to have everything done in a timely manner. I love to have a list of things to do, and if I have ticked everything off by the end of the day, then I'm happy.
The French are famous for their great cuisine, do you love to cook?
F: To cook? What does that mean?! No I don't like cooking and I'm not that good in the kitchen. Our family meals are very simple, and quick to put together. Luckily our Paulette is a great cook, and she often prepares meals for us. We love to entertain here, but even more I love to be invited to friends' homes for dinner. I'm lucky to have friends who cook really well, and I'm always ready to finish off a dish. I have a very sweet tooth, in fact I just love good food.
I have to ask you Fred, what's your secret for looking so young. You are very slim and you have fantastic skin, do you spend a lot of time and money taking care of yourself?
F: Thank you! Maybe I'm just lucky! I have no expensive creams or beauty routine. I do a lot of sport, I'm outdoors for hours each day, I walk long distances all over the property, the only place I sit still is in my car! Some of my friends find me hyper-active, but that's just the way I like to be, always rushing around doing things. I hate having nothing to do. So tough luck if people don't think I look ladylike enough for a 45 year old woman, I like it when I'm called Mademoiselle instead of Madame!
Voilà girls - another French girl with serious style and beauty, just getting on with the simple things in life, even if she lives in a not so simple setting!
I hope you enjoyed the second in my French girlfriends, let me know if you'd like to meet some more.....