In moments of complete quiet- sitting on a bench outside looking at the magnificent structure of Château de Puy Vidal and its gardens - I am struck by an overwhelming feeling of recognition and simultaneously amazement and disbelief.
How did we ever get here?
These two opposite perspectives give way to a deep sense of gratitude.
More than half a year has transpired since half of the family moved here and a full year since we bought this beautiful Château in France. Each day I wake up to a new day, a new life, and a new language, and I am delighted by not knowing precisely what the day will bring.
I realize that I am truly living in France whenever I drive to my French teacher’s home. It is the green fields extending to the edge of the forest and beyond that even more green... then there are stone homes, the small river crossing, and an expansive sky that changes colors and shapes throughout the day.
Often I find myself in a dream-like state as if I had woken up to this new reality without any of the pains of the move that brought us here. Dream and reality weave, combine, and fuse. It is the seasons that are a reminder that I am not in California anymore.
Anyone watching our YouTube channel, Dreaming of a Chateau, can see the immense effort that moving a family of five adults to a new continent has been.
Two years of interacting with real estate agents, notaires, banks, lawyers, accountants, translators, visas, movers, shipping companies, and national and local government offices, all to make this dream come true.
How and why did we decide to make such a move? And what exactly does "making a dream come true" mean? The answer varies with each of us - but when I sit quietly watching Puy Vidal in the state of recognition and newness, embracing the known and the unknown- I feel how this endeavor has changed our sense of reality and possibility.
I realize this is, perhaps, what we are all seeking in chasing a Dream- that the Dream becomes a Reality and the Reality then becomes a Dream.
Today, with Thanksgiving behind and Christmas this weekend, we rest at a point of stillness and gratitude with a concrete perspective of the gift this move has given us.
We have been welcomed by the people of the Charente with a warmth that exceeded all our expectations. When the former owners of Puy Vidal told us, “We are so happy it was you who bought the Chateau” we were shocked and delighted.
It was hard to believe that a family from California would be the ideal people in their minds to purchase their beloved home of 50 years. But we learn that the former owners loved that we were living in Puy Vidal as a multigenerational family, with the young people in our home being the movers and shakers behind this family dream.
To ensure our success and future happiness, we were entrusted to the groundskeeper/gardener and his wife, Monsieur and Madame Gainteille, who knew and loved Puy Vidal and the family for more than 20 years. The arrangement was to be temporary, so we could have someone to answer our questions and get advice. This arrangement, however, did not end after a few months as expected. Their generosity has gone beyond the call of duty - welcoming us into their home for feasts, checking on us during big storms, inviting us to traditional town festivities, and introducing us to vendors and artisans who have proven to be honorable and reliable. The list goes on and on.
Monsieur Gainteille stands guard next to us- protecting us from the opportunistic merchants who might "take us for Americans," as the saying here goes, or offering cheaper solutions for repairing broken machines or looking for better alternatives. At some point, it became clear we all wanted to continue to work together and wanted to postpone his second retirement. They have been responsible for much of our success. They not only support and sustain the Chateau, but they are excellent diplomats between our family and everyone in town who were curious to learn who we are.
Another blessing from heaven has been Corinne, our new french teacher. Unlike the Ganteilles, she had no prior connection to the Chateau or us. Born in Orleans, France, she studied languages. In 1982 she moved to California, where she spent the next 30 years raising a family and teaching french in the international baccalaureate program at the high school level. Nine years before our arrival, she moved to back to France to the Charente area, only a few minutes away from our new home.
In her, we have found a wonderful and caring teacher and a friend who bridges cultural gaps and shares her love of language and culture with us.
Through her, we met Manu, her partner, a talented organic chef specializing in local cuisine and seasonal foods. It was he who graciously accepted to help us to cook for our first painting workshop.
Our new friends here have introduced us around town. We met the local mayor, the journalist who wrote an article about us in the local paper, the owners of Rochefoucauld castle, other Château owners in the region, and immediate neighbors. Our circle of friends and acquaintances has grown and expanded. Now, whenever we go out on an errand or dinner, we often meet someone who greets us, making us feel part of the local community.
Our year is coming to a close, and our family has experienced more change as a family than we have in our whole lives- thankfully, it was self-inflicted. We will be celebrating Christmas and then New Year on two different continents. Roberto and Penelope, still in San Diego, will be applying for their visas, packing the rest of their belongings, selling and giving away our final pieces of furniture, and tying all the loose ends left behind.
Most importantly, they have the task of shutting down the business that supported and nourished us for the past 28 years. They alone have been entrusted with the painful task of saying goodbye, hosting and visiting loved ones in San Diego, and reassuring all that there is a place in our hearts for each of them.
In France, Carolina, Julia, and I push forward transforming Puy Vidal, working on the business, seeking advice for future remodeling, thanking our new friends for their help, and preparing for the arrival of Roberto and Penelope and our lives ahead.
On two sides of the world, we work as a family towards one goal, our reunion.
The year 2023 will bring that reunion under one roof, one family learning how to be a family in a new land. Each step is a new adaptation and discovery of who we are, who we are, and who we can become.
We are very grateful to all our friends and family in San Diego and the US who have been rooting for us. To this new community of followers on Instagram and Youtube who pour their hearts and mind into the comments sections and in private messages, we say thank you. We read every message, and it means the world to us. Thank you for witnessing and acknowledging our efforts and courage.
And finally, thank you to our new friends in France who have generously welcomed us.
Indeed we are richer and braver for this move, and we have not done this alone. So thank you all for your part in this leap of faith. We send you our love, gratitude our warmest wishes that you too discover a new life full of possibilities. From Château de Puy Vidal, a very Merry Christmas/Holidays and Happy New Year to you and yours.