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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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Nanci Dixon says
Pictures, pictures pictures please! What a wonderful adventure. While we are still full-time RVers I would trade the motorhome in for a Chateau for a few months at least.
LOTS more pics coming, definitely 🙂
What a wonderful opportunity for you and Paul to experience! Do you know how long you will be “chateau” sitting and do you have to do all the upkeep while there? It’s great that the location is only 10 minutes from your dad too. Nice grounds for you to explore and I’m sure Polly will like it too. Glad to hear your dad got his vaccinations done. We just got our 1st shot this week at the stadium (where the Cardinals play) parking lot outside of Phoenix AZ. Compared to signing up for the appointment online, the drive (40 miles to/from) was a breeze, and the process was very organized at the drive-up site; all the volunteers were very pleasant and many being there after working their usual shifts at a hospital. My 74 y.o. brother rode with us hoping he’d be able to get his shot as a “plus one” since he didn’t have luck securing an online registration (or the patience), but no go for him due to supply shortages due to delivery delays because of wintry weather in the country. We will continue trying to get him registered. We are glad we will be able to complete the vaccination before we hit the road in May to drive from AZ to SC/TN, a trip we had planned for last spring. Of course we will continue doing all the health measures to keep us well. Enjoy your explorations in your new temporary home and stay well!
Right now we’re scheduled to be here a few months, but that could extend…depending. We will be helping to keep an eye on everything, and will keep the inside of the castle clean, but we won’t be doing any grounds work (they have someone for that).
Bummer that you’re brother couldn’t get a shot! They’re being very strict about the age cut-offs (and appts) here in France too.
Kris Sullivan says
What a lovely beginning to your article about living in a chateau! It paints quite a picture! Hope this change of pace agrees with you.
John B says
Congratulations on your luck. I will be very interested in following this adventure – especially the upkeep and operating expense. Quite a change from a small RV I expect. 🙂
I’m very curious about expenses too. Hoping to learn (and share) a lot more over the next few weeks.
Angie Quantrell says
Wow! What an awesome experience! Can’t wait to read more. 🙂 And yay for dad getting his second shot. We are at the bottom of the shot chain as well…guessing late summer or fall. Enjoy the experience!
We’re way down on the vax chain too. France will tackle 65-75 next, and who knows long that’ll take. Then it’ll be over 50’s, then the rest of the population. So a ways to go.
Escape to the Chateau is one of my fav. tv shows, so I’m excited to follow your adventures! Will you dye your hair red and wear crimson lipstick and kimonos while you make fanciful decorations and buy ancient stuffed creatures to keep you all company, etc.??? Will you change your name? Will Paul make scrumpy from the estate’s orchards?
I feel I NEED to dye my hair, but perhaps turquoise is more “me”?? And fanciful decorations are a must. I just need to persuade Paul on the moustache now LOL.
I’ve spent the last couple of months watching The Chateau Diaries so I was happy when you linked to the channel. When I first saw the picture of the Chateau you’re chateau sitting, I thought it was the one from the channel, “How to Renovate a Chateau (without killing your partner)” but it is in Normandy and I think you are in the far south of France? Watching these vlogs has definitely made me rethink my retirement plans but I’m pretty sure you need more financial backing than I currently have. Glad the tension of whether your dad would get his second shot has been resolved – it’s because you are so darn organized! Is your dad staying at the chateau too?
The Chateau Diaries are fabulous. Not only is the gal a lovely presenter, but she’s passionate about what she does, and has done some really interesting and creative things to keep her Chateau running. I’m binging it as well, and learning so much!!
By the way your comment about thinking you might have seen this Chateau before brings up some interesting history about French Chateau’s in general. I will talk more about that I my next post.
Samantha Butler says
Wow this is exciting, not just for you, but us – your blog readers! Can’t wait to find out more about the upkeep of the place and the beautiful location! Miss you guys!!
Michelle Powell says
Gosh, it’s nearly as beautiful as Polly. Sorry, Polly’s always gonna win that one for me. Glad to hear you are all well.
I think vaccines here in Canada are even slower than France, just wrapping up Long Term Homes, medical professionals and our indigenous peoples. Still waiting to even start on the over 80s. Astra Zeneca not approved here yet, only Pfizer and Moderna and Pfizer comes to us from Belgium probably because Trump was president at the time of negotiations and no one trusted the vaccines to actually come here from the USA.
Personally not enthused by Astra Zeneca’s vaccine and our Health Agency has been incredibly slow in approving that one here I think because they kind of blew their testing and than released confusing data about its efficacy, merging the results of two different regimens. Looking forward to Johnson and Johnson finishing up. I’ve become a vaccine information junkie in case you couldn’t tell.
I keep thinking of the Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times. How can it be so interesting and so %^&%#$ boring at the same time? Ah, well, spring will soon be upon us.
Sorry to hear the rollout has been so slow in Canada! They pre-bought a ton of vaccine, so I’m surprised the follow up has been so poor. Ugh! As for the vaccines themselves, I’m with you on the AstraZeneca vaccine. I’m not overly enthused by it, and find their test data inconsistent, not mention it’s efficacy against some of the new virus variants is questionable. I’m also hoping J&J gets approved here in France soon (it’s in last stage approvals in EU) as that’s a promising vax! Easy to give/store and so far it’s been proven to prevent 100% of serious cases. That’s significant.
As you say….the curse of interesting times.
You guys are amazing! I get my second vaccine on Wednesday–have to drive to Phoenix but oh well–a friend and I are going to make it a girl’s trip. Can’t wait to hear more about this chateau and to see more photos! Like I said, you guys are amazing!
Yeahhhh for shot #2!! What a relief that’s going to be for you. Nice that you’re making it a gals outing…helps to pass that long drive.
Leean Craven says
Wow how exciting I am so looking forward to the pictures to come.
What an exciting new adventure. But to be honest, I’d be lost there after living in RVs for over 30 years. Yet, it’s like a fairytale.
We have gotten our own chateau of sorts in WA. Upsizing from a 280 sq ft RV to a 2500 sq ft house has been weird and cold and amazing! Enjoy your new digs and I can’t wait for future posts! So exciting!
It is definitely strange to be in such a large place. All three of us find ourselves squeezing into two rooms so we can be close…I guess RV life never leaves you LOL.
Lianne Meehan says
The chateau looks great although I would be slightly dubious about staying in such a massive place. Vaccinating in the UK is picking up pace, both I and my husband have had our first jabs, he because he is classed as clinically vulnerable and I just seem to have luck on my side. We do live in a highly Asian community who don’t seem to be quick on the uptake. I had the AZ Oxford vaccine and he had the Pfizer Biontech, we use different surgeries although my mum who is yet to have her 2nd jab also had the Pfizer one, can’t really say I was bothered which one I had. I’ve never been a big fan of needles but in hindsight after having had the jab cannot see why I ever had this fear and remember as a child in HK having to be chased around the hospital on one occasion when we went to get jabs before going on holiday
Very glad you were able to get your first jab. The UK has really gone full-on for the vax roll-out & are doing an excellent job of it at the moment. They’re getting so many more people vaccinated than France (or rest of EU).
Ron Seitz says
Holy “Wheeling It Chateau” mini adventure! Serendipity works in amazing ways! Your house sitting opportunity is such a dream come true in challenging times. A Covid-Funk reliever! Congrats to Dad (We are also fully vaxed!). Await Chateau mini-series updates! We have the opportunity to house sit for friends in Lake Chapala Mexico, but don’t feel safe & comfortable enough for that this summer. I’m sure my questions will be answered in your future posts so for now we only wish you, Paul & Polly our best! Ron & Mike
Terry McKnight says
Living in a Chateau! Fantastic! #envy (lol)
Sue Malone says
What an exciting adventure this is for you two/three, and so close to dad is such a great bonus. Although the cold part would be daunting to me. I like being warm and cozy in a home. Such a big cold place reminds me of so many castles we have visited in Europe which always seem so cold and dark. Looks like you at least have lots of light and beautiful grounds to explore. Is the swimming pool operational? Will you be there when it gets hot? Maybe the chilly house will be a blessing if you are there in August. I remember the stories of the heat last summer. I have never even heard of the Chateau Diaries, or any other sort of Chateau thing before this so will have to search it out.
I have to admit that so far the constant cold is the most daunting thing here LOL. But like you said it’ll probably be lovely in summer. The pool is operational yet, but they do bring it in for the hotter months. I think you’d really enjoy the Chateau Diaries on YouTube. Definitely recommend that one.
Dave Burns says
Whoa!! What a crazy and unique opportunity – I love it. I cannot wait to follow along on this journey!
So beautiful…. I love PARIS!!!! I live in Visalia California and have friends who live in Paris. Their way of living is something to envy….
Have a great time Chateau Sitting… <3
What a grand adventure! I’m looking forward to hearing all about life in a chateau. I trust you’re finding ways to stay cozy. And I’m so glad to hear that your dad is doing well and that you’re still in close proximity to him while also continuing your adventures. Losing both of my parents this year makes me deeply grateful that we made the long journey cross-country to spend time with them for the past eight years. Take good care of yourselves.
What an amazing opportunity!! I am very much looking forward to your posts and pics on your new adventure.
Nina how INCREDIBLY exciting! I can’t wait to read about all your chateau adventures.
Judy B says
Must have skipped this-been a bit crazy in my life-but read the next and WOW! An opportunity I would give a lot for. Lucky lucky you! I’ve dreamt of such things but know it would only have possible in the same way you are currently experiencing. So enjoy and I will do the same vicariously through your blogs about chateau life. I did have, at the tender young age of 17, the opportunity to visit the Palace de Versailles as well as several lesser chateaus. My imagination was rife with possibilities. But many decades later the facts about cost and energy have become real and I will remember the dreams but live with reality. Guess when I had the energy I had not the money, now could maybe swing a small chateau but don’t have the energy for the work. At any rate-enjoy!!!