There’s a song that’s been running through my head for the last week and as I sit down to type up the story of our first day in our new home, I can’t help but think of this song once again.
It’s day one of the rest of my life
It’s day one of the best of my life
I’m marching on to the beat of a brand new drum
Yeah, here I come
The future has begun
– Day One by Matthew West
Our first morning in France, we arrived at the chateau just as the family was gathering for a tour. My parents and sister were there along with a friend and our realtor. we were greeted warmly by the French family of siblings who were selling the house. They were very excited to see us again and to meet our children, going so far as to kiss each of them on the cheek with the customary greeting of the French. They encouraged our children to pick out their new rooms, and followed them around chattering excitedly in French although we didn’t understand them. The home had been a family retreat for over thirty years and they had many memories here with their parents, their children, and grandchildren. I knew it had been a hard decision to let it go, but seeing our children’s excitement seemed to make it a little easier for them to let it go.
We had been in the home before, but this time we looked with new eyes, opening cupboards, cabinets, and drawers to take stock of what we might need before we settle in. Did I mention the house is furnished? It is filled with antiques on all three floors and we are so grateful to be able to move right in on day one. In the end, we decided we could probably make it through the night with what we had and just start making a list of items we’ll need as we go along.
After a tour and lots of stilted conversation with the French family that none of us fully understood, we loaded into the cars and drove into the town where we knew there to be a restaurant for lunch. It was closed! (For those of you who were following our last adventure on FB, you know how I took this personally!) Our realtor swore he saw a restaurant on the way into town, so we all climbed back into our cars and drove back the way we’d come. We climbed out and paraded across the street to the little local pub where the chef met us coming out. They were out of food! No joke. They had twice the locals for lunch since the only other restaurant was closed and they literally ran out. I offered to share the picnic I’d kept in the car for just such an emergency (see? I’m learning.) But the realtor insisted we try one more place. So, off we all went again, down the road and into a new village I’d never even seen before. We stepped into the restaurant just as the waitress was cleaning up the last of the tables. Luckily, our realtor pleaded our case and convinced him to set us a table. They agreed to feed us whatever was leftover from lunch if we would accept it. We agreed, and settled in at the table set for ten in the corner.
That was about the time when the man’s wife came in from the kitchen. She took one look at all of us and turned to him with raised eyebrows, demanding to know what was going on. He told her to prepare lunch for ten. “DIX?!” she yelled. He nodded with a smile and walked out. She stormed back into the kitchen grumbling to herself while the women in the room tried not to laugh out loud. You don’t have to speak French to understand the thoughts in that poor woman’s head. She was nearly finished with her work for the day, probably had the kitchen half cleaned up, and her husband agreed to something he wouldn’t even have to work for. We sympathized, making us doubly grateful when they began to bring out the food. Since it was the leftovers, they served us family style with big bowls of food in the center of the table that we passed around and shared. There was a potroast in thick brown gravy, slices of roasted beef well-done served au jus, a bright green salad with a sweet mustard dressing, stacks of bread, and two bowls of thick cut fries. Then, out came the cook. She smiled at all of us filling our plates and asked a question none of us understood. We all turned to the realtor and he explained she hoped we liked tripe because it was coming out next and they had plenty of it. Tripe. It looked like a bowl of beef stew with carrots and potatoes floating beside some odd colored bits of beef. The beef itself was from the inner part of cow and its rubbery texture was made worse by its strong flavor. It turns out we do NOT like tripe. I can see why they had so much leftover.
After lunch, we all met in the notaire’s office for the signing. It was a very long meeting that included all parties on both sides who were available, the notaire, the realtor, and a translator. It was very crowded, and very boring. But then, the realtor said it was time for the keys. The man sitting next to me turned to me with an enormous grin and pulled a set of keys from his pocket, placing it in my hands. We were now the proud owners of a chateau in France.
After handshakes, goodbyes, kisses, and hugs, we all headed back to the chateau. It was now dark (we were in the office for three hours!) and the chateau was a little cold, but we raced around trying not to cry as we stared around us in awe. It’s ours. It’s really ours. I can’t believe it.
We decided to go to dinner to celebrate, so we headed toward the only restaurant we were sure would be open. (Although, I’m beginning to wonder if you can ever really be certain of such a thing.) Climbing the hill into the oldest part of Chaumont, we were happy to see it was open despite the fact there were only a few people inside. The temperature was dropping now below freezing, so we hustled into the warmth. The waitress greeted us with a smile and asked if we wanted the formule menu. That’s like a fixed price four course dinner where you take what they give you. We reluctantly agreed, feeling lucky after such a successful day. When the main entrée arrived, we were stunned. It was a beautiful pastry filled with layers of ham and cheese with béchamel sauce drizzled across the center onto a pile of potatoes. It was beautiful and delicious and absolutely the best celebratory dinner, a perfect ending to our life-changing day.
Tomorrow I’ll share how we began to tackle the massive To Do list that comes with buying a chateau in France. ‘A demain.