Montreal

After 40 years, Gaspé castle builder ready to retire

The Chateau Bahia, a 26-room bed and breakfast overlooking the Baie des Chaleurs, was a 16-year labour of love for Jean Roussy and his father, who began building it in 1983.

Chateau Bahia, a 26-room bed and breakfast overlooking the Baie des Chaleurs, was 16-year labour of love

What began as a folly in the 1970s eventually became the Chateau Bahia: a 26-room castle with four towers, seven turrets and 12 guest rooms. (Submitted by Jean Roussy)

Have you ever wanted to live in a castle?

Nestled in the woods just off Highway 132 in Pointe-à-la-Garde, on the Gaspé coast, is the Chateau Bahia, a 26-room castle built entirely by a man and his son — and it's on the market.

Overlooking the Baie des Chaleurs, the castle has served as a bed and breakfast for more than four decades, but its builder and owner, Jean Roussy, says it's time to retire.

"After 41 seasons of receiving guests — I've loved it all my life, some of the best friends of my life I met at Chateau Bahia — I'm older now, I'm slower, it's time to pass it on to someone else," Roussy said.

Turning a dream into reality

It was back in 1976 that Roussy told his friends he would one day build a castle. While his mother thought he was crazy, his dad, also named Jean Roussy, jumped on board and agreed to help make the dream a reality.

Jean Roussy began work on his dream castle in the Gaspé in the early 1980s. (Submitted by Jean Roussy)

Seven years later, using lumber from a local mill, Jean Roussy junior and senior got started on one of the castle's towers on the 160-hectare plot of land they'd purchased.

Over 16 summers, the Roussys added the great hall, then two more towers, and the castle eventually grew to its current grandeur, with four towers, seven turrets and 12 guest rooms.

Along the way they got help from a Norwegian carpenter the younger Roussy met by chance at a gas station outside of Oslo in the early 1970s.

Buildings in Norway are often built of wood instead of stone and brick, so the carpenter's experience was invaluable. He made seven trips to the Gaspé over the years that the castle was under construction.

Roussy said his fondest memories of Chateau Bahia are the dinner parties: hours of conversation around candle-lit tables.

"All the beautiful evenings: we have dinner every night in a big banquet hall, and it's those exchanges with people that are fantastic," he said.

The Chateau Bahia hosts a candle-lit dinner party every night at 7 p.m., as it has for the four decades the castle has served as a bed and breakfast. (Submitted by Jean Roussy)

A pastime for every season

Roussy named the castle for a Véronique Sanson song.

"I don't know how it came to me. I had thought of many, many other names," he said. "But once when I was walking in the castle, just at the door, the word came to my mind, and I knew it was the name."

A guest at the castle happened to be neighbours with Sanson and delivered a letter to her from Roussy explaining his inspiration. Years later, he met Sanson at a concert in Paris, and she remembered the story.

Jean Roussy told his friends more than 40 years ago that he would one day build a castle. (Serge Bouchard/Radio-Canada)

Roussy said he loves to soak up the fall colours, snowshoe in the winter, and pick berries and wild mushrooms in the summer.  

But he's not a homebody.

The B&B owner has gone to Europe every year for almost five decades. Once he's retired, he hopes to travel more.

He said he's looking for a new owner of the chateau who loves to meet people and who has the energy required to keep the business running.

Here's a look at the castle, in summertime:

With files from Quebec AM

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