Living the dream… expats’s running a Gite business in the Dordogne

Domaine du Sourire has been the realising of more than one dream with new owners, Jackie and Terry, just on the cusp of their new and awesome adventure. They are so excited to see this come to pass and honoured to be a part of something so worthy.

Domaine Du Sourire began as a seed in the heart and mind of Teresa Camilli back in 2005 while working at Aberlour Child Care Trust in Stonehaven NE Scotland. Teresa, working with children who are Autistic, was aware of the challenges faced for these families and children when on holiday in unfamiliar environments which would often not be equipped to suit their sometimes-complex needs.

 Teresa’s brother and sister in law, Mark and Dawn, were living and working in Charente, France renovating old buildings into holiday gites. The old farm buildings, that is now Domaine du Sourire, Champagne et Fontaine, were discovered and Teresa could see herdream coming alive.

Physically the complex began its life as farm buildings in need of restoration and new use.


Looking at the buildings Teresa, Mark, Dawn and family friend Sandy saw the vision of Domaine du Sourire and set about 4 long years of hard, intensive labour to lovingly make that aspiration a reality.


While it was Teresa’s dream many friends and family encouraged and helped along the way. Teresa said the support she received helped her through those difficult years restoring, she went on to tell me “The mosaics were made by an Autistic boy I supported, Even in France when people knew what I was doing they were quick to help.”2 years after Domaine du Sourire opened for business Sandysuddenly and sadly passed away. Sandy Mair was a larger than life character who stubbornly refused to learn more than a handful of French phrases maintaining his “scottishness” to the end. He was much loved by all who knew him, especially the children at Aberlour and those he met at Domaine du Sourire. His kindness knew no bounds, but he stood for no nonsense and despite his quiet demeanour, you knew it! Whilst he was not very involved in running the business he used his retirement years to labour at the restoration to see the vision and hopes of the Camilli’s come to fruition and enjoy a time or two resting in the sun with a glass of “vin”.  Teresa told me, “Sandy’s input and belief in Domine du Sourire was invaluable”.
He is missed.


Soon afterwards Teresa began to suffer from ill health which brought to an end her ability to continue to run and manage the holiday business.

Yet as her dream seemed to be coming to an end, another began for Jackie and Terry to have an inclusive place to cater for guests of all abilities. It was birthed in them with the passing of Sandy, Jackie’s dad. Jackie and Terry always enjoyed their many holidays across the world and they wanted to have a place that would give guests everything they felt a self-catering holiday complex should have and they were looking at various options including a place in Gran Canaria. So when the chance came to buy the business from Teresa they reached out and grabbed it with both hands even though it meant a move from the beautiful north of Ireland away from their sons and family. They are fully embracing a new life, a new country, a new culture and a new adventure. Jackie said it felt so right.




Jackie told me: “when I tell people I will be leaving my job to move to France their response ranges from “are you serious?,” or “that’s amazing” or “Can I come with you?!”


Of course there’s the worries too, “what if the business doesn’t do so well? What about Brexit? What if? What if?”


So, why? 2014 began a series of heart-breaking, life altering events for us as a family and culminating in March 2015 when dad died it seemed to hit me, life goes too fast. Every minute of life is for living. I mean really LIVING.


Well, the decision was simple and our motivation as common as the day is long: life is short.


Why not? It was our dream – mine and Terry’s.


So the start of this dream and our life here at Domaine du Sourire, Champagne et Fontaine in Dordogne SW France, is dedicated to the memory of my remarkable dad, Sandy Mair. I imagine he is cheering us on.”


Jackie went on to say “We’re no Ellen De Generes or Simon Cowell or on a celebrity A-list or any list but if you found our blog and you’re still reading, you may be contemplating a change for whatever reason, so I’d simply offer a little advice: dream and go for it. Learn a new skill, train for a half marathon or a marathon, write that book, move to New York or Alaska or even France, whatever, just do it. And for a little more motivation in the words of Walt Disney “If you can dream it, you can do  it”


Drop us an email to tell us about it, we can help each other along the way”



Domaine du Sourire means Field of Smiles and Jackie and Terry will work hard to welcome and keep guests smiling from the start to the finish of their vacation.
Welcome, Bienvenue, Welkom, Wilkommen, Fáilte