Castle hunting is a bit like mushroom hunting except you need a bigger knife! :)
I grew up thinking that the phrase ‘castles in the air’ is descriptive of something real – of course they are in the air… when you dream about them they are in the air, when you set a goal to one day live in a castle it’s in the air… mostly hot air.
Now I know that castles LOOK like they are also in the air.
When you drive down the winding roads of the southern French countryside, you look up and castles appear out of the mist, out of the woods, and sometime out of the air in front of you as you round a bend in the road.
My dad and I went on a little ‘castle hunting’ trip last week.
He’s been dreaming about castles and owning castles since I can remember. Which is quite a while since, as my ex-husband will attest, I have a LONG and detailed memory. And now that the farm in Belgium is up for sale… well… we gotta look! (For more on the farm in the Belgian Ardennes…)
Somewhere, somehow – the idea of owning a castle has also blended into my DNA. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a dream, a goal, that is so often discussed that it morphed into part of
my dreams as well… or if it comes from my study of European history… or my love of antiques… or my distaste at modern cookie-cutter homes… or if it comes from the fascination with the mystique of a castle turret on top of a hill.
Wherever it’s from… my dad and I drove thousands of kilometers (sometimes 10 hours a day in the car) and through seemingly hundreds of little towns… and we kept exclaiming in unison over and over, fingers pointing into the air – “Look, a castle!”
I think at one point I was reduced to simply muttering “wow, wow, wow” over and over. Castle over load :)
We had a few appointments to see a few properties. Now… before you think we can afford a castle… let me tell you that there are different levels of ‘castles.’ There’s the big stuff with turrets, there’s the big fortifications, there’s the small ‘donjon’ style ones with a tower, there’s ones that are really just big houses to which someone added a turret. Some are called Chateaus, some are called villas. Some of them are small in terms of living space – especially if you compare them to the ‘castles’ that abound in the California neighborhoods of the wealthy!
But my dad is looking for something that has some land, some history, some great spaces, preferably a tower or turret… and preferably a chapel on the grounds or nearby. Oh… and it would be great if there’s a moat.
Point being – lots of shapes and sizes. And lots of condition levels and lots of variation on how much it will cost to remodel some of these drafty spaces.
Whether he and I were busy building more castles from air on this trip or working towards making it a reality… what we got from it was a very special time of just us hanging out together, special time laughing together, special time looking at beautiful places. I’m thankful to have been able to be part of that… thankful to be included in this fun process. Thankful for the relationship that has made this father-daughter trip possible. Thankful for the laughter when people realized we were father and daughter! Lol
The landscape in this region of France is beautiful. Dotted with names that makes one feel at home and welcome with their familiarity – Armagnac, Cognac, Gascoigne, Bayonne, Biarritz, Toulouse – it’s about rolling hills and sunshine and history on every corner.
And of course… great food! (For the food you’ll have to check back!)
What this trip also reminded me of is the importance of dreaming – of having something that you work towards that is more than about career or money in the bank. For my dad – I am assuming… actually… so let’s say ‘for me’ – the idea of looking at castles is about the idea of building something long lasting ON TOP OF something that has already lasted a long time. It’s about having something that is
solidly home, a space that is your haven and protects you from the distractions of outside. It’s about a place big enough for family and for making histories in that family.
Plus… I like moats :)