“Don’t tell anyone you’re buying a chateau.”
Such was the refrain from everyone we spoke with in Paris: Parisians will be jealous. Parisians will think you’re a fool. People will try to take advantage of you.
These warnings came, almost verbatim, from Americans, Brits, and even Parisians themselves. Of course, the default mental setting for Parisians is suspicion, so we have to discount things a little. But my wife and I did heed their words of caution. And we’ve pretty much adhered to them: we haven’t told anyone in Paris we bought a chateau.
We didn’t tell anyone, in fact, until we’d lived in the place for awhile. (It’s been two months.) We knew the advantages to remaining quiet about our acquisition: discretion is a way of life for us. The reason I’ve finally decided to share the adventure publicly is because it is just that…and adventure. Readers might be interested to hear first hand what it’ s like to live, work, and restore a building that was constructed in 1610. (The chapel on the property was built even earlier, in 1515.)
Plenty of YouTube channels are devoted to following the journeys of Americans or Brits who’ve purchased a chateau and are now in the process of renovating it and making it a home (or business).
I doubt we’ll go down that road, but there is no denying the mystique and aura of a chateau. It is the domicile of former kings and queens, aristocrats past and present, as well as the run-of-the-mill, modern-day romantics.
To be clear, I don’t have anything to prove. My wife, the Old Money Gal from Boston, abhors publicity in any form. Still, she encouraged me to write about this next chapter, and it feels good to do it. Fear not, I will remain discreet. But there is a story here: we two tall Americans have moved to the French countryside. We have been greeted by farmers on tractors, by children on bicycles, and by the mayor on his way to a christening. Everyone has been kind, generous, forthcoming, and hopeful.
They don’t want anything from us. They just us to take care of the chateau. To bring it back to life. To live in it. To cherish it. And, in time, to become a part of their community.
I understood this intellectually, in theory, when we first began our search for a chateau: that there would be some expectation perhaps from residents in the area. That we had to behave, not be the ugly Americans. But now I have come face to face with it. It is so much more, and it resonates on a very deep, emotional level.
We have not purchased a chateau. We have assumed a responsibility. We have not positioned ourselves for privilege. We have been given a duty.
I only hope we can fulfill it.