The Start Of A New Mini-Adventure
I’m sitting in the living room, or perhaps I should call it the drawing room?
Tall ceilings surround me, accented by a glass chandelier hung from an ornate white plaster medallion. In front of me is one of two dining rooms, separated by a mid-19th century door with stained glass inlays and wood panels painted pale turquoise and gold. There’s another glass chandelier there (of course), more medallions, and several additional ornate doors leading to hidden rooms and elegant corridors.
I feel under-dressed, and distinctively under-classed.
I have a sudden urge to raise my pinky when I sip from my coffee cup, and a strange yearning for a multi-tiered plate of finger-sized cucumber sandwiches and mini-pastries (although I’m probably confusing countries on that little fantasy). Plus my clothing is definitely lacking. Surely I should be wearing some kind of wide-skirted silk gown or at least a frilly petticoat with enough girth to keep strangers at bay, rather than clingy yoga pants and fleece? Then again, the room is freezing so thermal underwear seem the most practical decision. And lack of a house butler means those mini-dream-sandwiches will not be forthcoming anytime soon.
Polly, we’re not in Kansas anymore…..
As you may have gathered by now, we’ve had a rather monumental week here in SW France. A combo of happenstance and sheer luck of timing has taken us just 10 mins away from dad’s into an entirely different world. And this just after dad’s 2nd vaccination shot (yet another monumental event).
I’d like to say this kind of thing could happen to anyone anywhere, but I have to admit this is a case where living in France has given us a unique opportunity that I don’t think would we would have gotten anywhere else.
So come away with me if you will to a place far, far away from a time long, long ago….
A New Opportunity Falls In Our Lap
As you know Paul and I have been thinking about how to switch things up for a while.
It’s not that we don’t love the house we’ve been sharing with dad for the past few years, or appreciate how lucky we’ve been to have that as a base during these crazy COVID times. In fact we’ve really fallen in love with that area both for the location, views, family and our wonderful neighbors. And we couldn’t have found a better place for our two kitties to live out their last years (I will be eternally grateful for that).
But 2020 was a tough year mentally, as I know it has been for many. Multiple COVID shut-downs, isolation, the deaths of our kitties and lack of movement have troubled our nomad hearts. Small issues compared to so many (I know and appreciate that), but we decided 2021 would not be a repeat, despite the inevitable and on-going Pandemic. So we starting planning and talking, and staying open and ready for any opportunities that might come our way.
Basically were looking for a breather, something to re-awaken our minds….and OMG did we find it!
A month ago or so we were chatting to some English neighbors about our situation. One thing lead to another, some other neighbors got involved, discussions happened, and whish-bang-whoosh a few waves of the magic wand later we suddenly had a brand new & unexpected path open to us.
We were offered a chance to house-sit and not just any old shack, but a true French Château in a beautifully secluded park only 10 mins (!) from my dad’s house. It’s something we never imagined we would have the chance to do, and certainly never in this area that we love so much.
The whole thing was a confluence of pure luck, need and timing, So of course we thanked the Universe profusely and jumped at the opportunity right away.
First, Dad Got His Second COVID Shot
Right before our big move day, dad got his second Pfizer vaccine shot. This was another monumental event that we had been waiting for, for a long time!
As you know from my previous blog posts, the vaccine ramp-up in France has been laboriously slow, hampered by major issues of supply and delivery. As of today, vaccines are still only open for those over 75 and health-professionals and a mere 2.5 million French (only ~3.8% of the population) have gotten their first jab. Plus there’s no end of stories of folks not being able to secure appointments, people waiting for hours on phone-calls to try to get in, and general mayhem in the roll-out.
For a country that usually prides itself on the quality of its healthcare, the vax situation has not been pretty. Thankfully I got dad in VERY early, and although I was nervous about his second shot (i.e. whether or not there would be any vaccine at all), my fears thankfully were for naught.
We went back to the same hospital as shot #1 and were pleasantly surprised to see the whole vaccine set-up had been completely re-vamped. Not only were there clear signs for the vax area, but they had moved it from the garage into the main building complete with two separate rooms, proper seats and….best of all…ZERO waiting time! We literally showed up, dad got taken in right away, and 15 mins post-vax-time later we were outta there. No multi-hours-long wait, no crowds, no issues. We were both incredibly relieved and happy!!
Dad has had no real side-effects and feels great. Best of all, two weeks from now his immune system will have performed the minor miracle of boosting his antibodies and killer T-cells to the tune of 95% efficacy against COVID.
As for us, we’re still waiting and have no real idea when we’ll get access. The Moderna vax is just starting to come into France now, while AstraZeneca is ramping up in March for those under-65. However supply numbers are going to stay limited for months, so I don’t expect any major improvements in the vax situation anytime soon. Perhaps we’ll get a chance by the end of summer? early fall?
In the meantime, virus infection rates in France are holding more or less stable, and ICU numbers (although slooowly creeping up) are still not at lock-down levels. So that means curfew (6PM to 6AM everyday) and restaurant/bar/theatre/gym etc. closures remain in effect, but no full confinement.
It’s not great but frankly it’s much better than I predicted for Feb, so I’m not complaining. As long as we stay healthy and avoid another full confinement, I’ll be very relieved indeed. And whenever we’re able to get the vaccine, we’ll be ready and waiting. Onwards and forwards….
We Move Into The Château
The day after dad’s 2nd jab we loaded up the car with essentials to move down to the Château.
I’ve never lived in a mansion like this, so I’m really not sure what I expected. We’d both visited beforehand (and know the owners) so I already knew it would be grand and beautiful. Plus I was rather excited by it the idea of it all. I mean who hasn’t dreamed of living in a Château at one point or another in their lives? Especially in France, where you Château’s are a big part of the history and landscape as you travel around.
The property itself is incredible, and lives up to everything to might imagine of such a place.
You enter through a large gate into a sweeping driveway that winds dramatically towards the Château. The main building itself is 3-levels high, complete with 4 towers in renaissance-style. This is flanked by a 2nd building almost equally grand, as well as a large outdoor lounge area, swimming pool, tennis courts and an enormous garden and forest. The whole thing was built for a Baronne in the middle 19th century and contains 9 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, 4 sitting rooms, 2 dining rooms (and probably a few more that I’m forgetting at the moment) all located on ~25 acres of land.
What a place!
Is Château Living As Dreamy As It Seems?
Paul and I will be staying at the Château for a little while, so I’ll be doing a mini-blog-series on our time here as well as French Château-living in general, diving deep into some of the positives and negatives of this interesting lifestyle.
So far we’re chilly (it’s COLD inne yon thick ‘ol brick walls), but it’s a blast and of course we’re still naïve tourists having only just begun our adventure.
Owning a Château is a completely different experience from staying a few nights in one, and it’s not for the faint of heart (or pocket). The allure of living in grandeur can hide many lesser-fun surprises such as massive upkeep costs, heating and structural challenges. Not to mention cleaning & grounds maintenance can literally take up all your time. Château’s are passion projects, more than anything else.
Nonetheless the lure is strong.
In France, Château’s are comparatively easy and inexpensive to buy, so it’s a fascinating and growing trend especially for foreigners looking for a complete lifestyle change. In the past few years the idea has gained even more traction as programs such as UK-based “Escape to the Chateau“, and YouTube channels such as “The Chateau Diaries” have risen in popularity and acclaim. In some ways Château-living feels a bit like RVing did over 12 years ago, a grand new adventure that already has some well-trodden history, but remains an undiscovered gem.
So, I guess we’ll let you know?
Either way, Wheelingit’s French Château Mini-Adventure has begun and like all our adventures I’ll be sharing our progress on the blog (with lots more pics to come). Let’s see where this goes, shall we?
So my dear blog readers what do you think? Have you ever dreamed of living in a Château? Or perhaps you’ve already tried staying in one? What would you like to know about French Château’s (tell me and I’ll include some of the ideas in future blogs)? Fire away in the comments below!SPONSORED LINK:
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