Discretion and Duty

“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.

  • BGT

7 thoughts on “Discretion and Duty

  1. As an architect, I congratulate you on your lovely acquisition. It’s tasteful and exquisite! I can’t praise you enough because when I was in college of architecture, I don’t really want to become an architect until I played a video game situated in France. I instantly fell in love with Parisian apartments and chateaus. I’m guided by the principles of Haussmann in my practice.

    As a fan request, it would be awesome if you could post pictures and details of your home that would not give away any private details. I would love to read further about your chateau whenever you feel like writing about it.


  2. Excellent attitude to have, Byron. In my experience, locals are welcoming of foreigners when said foreigners demonstrate a respect for the locals, and local customs.

    Have you been interviewed by the local press yet? I’d imagine they would like to run a story about “the new couple in town who bought the old chateau”

  3. Wonderful. I am sure that you will bear your responsibilities with the thoughtfulness and grace you’ve shown in this space. And I look forward to any updates that you are willing to share.

  4. We have ocean front property in a secluded community, and it has taken decades for us to be really integrated into the community. It is hard to tell some people that we are there for 6 to 8 weeks every summer. Summer is a verb for us and has been for more than one generation. We carefully hire local contractors for up-keep and modifications, and we know these people. We also do nothing garish, and keep a low profile. We help-out the community, but discreetly.
    Going to the summer cottage is the “high-tide” of the year for us.

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