Recently I’d mentioned that my wife and I had left our apartment in Paris and relocated to the French countryside. This was indeed the case, but not the full truth. My ingrained tendency toward privacy and even secrecy in my personal life made me hesitate.
But my perspective has changed after two short months into this. I’ll explain in the next post.
The full story is that we purchased a chateau in the Loire-Atlantique region. It’s situated near a small village, but is actually surrounded by farmland. Driving by car, Nantes is an hour away. This was not as abrupt of a decision as it may have appeared. We have been looking for a chateau the buy for the past three years. The reality (one of many that we’ve learned so far) is that it usually takes a year or two to find a chateau once the decision is made to purchase one.
Add the pandemic onto that, and there you are. We looked at–and bid on–a couple of lovely properties before finding The One. Thankfully, we were outbid by other buyers. (Parisians in particular and Europeans in general were fleeing cities for more isolated living quarters during the pandemic and paying cash for chateaux, far above listing price, sight unseen.) We were even originally outbid on the chateau we now own, but the sale fell through and the real estate agent kindly circled back to us.
He had a dozen other cash buyers waiting in line, but we had contacted him the very hour that the property was listed online and made our full price offer, without so much as a visit to the property. (Do not try this at home.) Perhaps more as importantly, he was born and raised in the Paris neighborhood where we lived, and felt a special kinship because of that.
Prior to reaching an agreement on this chateau, as I said, we had looked…and looked. In Brittany, Pays de le Loire, and Normandy. One beautiful property had everything we wanted, but sat 50 yards from a freeway. (Noise.) Another chateau pulled at our heartstrings, but was basically a shell of a structure, requiring too much renovation, even for us. (No, thanks.) A third had everything but land. (We now have 20 acres.)
Fun fact: chateau prices tend to decrease as the distance from Paris increases. As we took the train from the city to meet the real estate agents at the train station nearest the chateau we were visiting on a given day, we took that convenience/price ratio into consideration. Luckily, the chateau we now live in can be reached in an hour and a half by train from Paris.
So this is the next adventure. The differences in this life compared to Paris are obvious at first glance.
We had left a city where everything you could possibly desire or need was no more than a 15 minute walk or metro ride from our front door. We now need to get in the car and drive twenty minutes just to get to a cash machine. A few months ago, finding a cafe or restaurant open late was easy. Now, finding anything open on a Sunday is a miracle.
We have left a comfortable apartment in a noisy, congested, vibrant and bustling metropolis. Now we find ourselves in an enormous, ramshackle residence, with only the rain, wind, and wild boars to contend with. We sit in bed and watch the sun come up every morning. We can see the stars at night. The solitude is refreshing. The silence, rather than deafening, is sublime.
But these factors are external, environmental, social. When you make a move like this, it is what you learn about yourself that really surprises.
More on that later…