The Dream of a House in France
by Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden
pub. by The University of Wisconsin Press
If you’ve been dreaming of what it would be like to live in a European castle, Betsy and Michael’s memoir about their experience in purchasing a summer home- next door to a real castle- is sure to please and inform you. This lively pair of American university professors made their wildest fantasy become a reality back in 1985. In this book their adventurous quest isn’t easy and they navigate the difficulties and overcome minor misunderstandings with aplomb, a lot of humor and an adventurous spirit.
By reading their story you will come to understand some of the differences in buying real estate in France, such as making a bid for properties and avant-contrat (a preliminary agreement prior to the actual sell.) After resolving to buy a castle, Michael purchases a wonderful paperback book, "Achetez Votre Maison Sans Surprises",( lit. Purchase Your House Without Surprises ) which aids them in understanding the ins and outs of purchasing and recognizing disrepair of a home or property in France.
The area of France they choose would make any castle enthusiast green with envy. This is the Dordogne region, just south of Sarlat, a bustling medieval town. At the Chateau de Castelnaud, a savvy real estate broker, who just happens to become their "next door neighbor", shows them the castle of their dreams and they both fall madly in love with their ‘second home’.
A description of Aveyron, given early in the book gives an account of "castle valley", an area of southwest France long unknown by tourists. This vista boasts castle neighbors on every mountain-top in the area. No less than five massive storybook castles, in plain view, grace this lovely, rugged terrain and there are more castles close by, such as the renaissance Chateau des Milandes, built and owned by Josephine Baker, in the nineteen-fifties.
What follows their purchase of a home within the castle walls are the accounts of how the couple learn about the customs of the region, absorb the rich Perigord culture and have one adventure after another each summer when they return to their home at the castle ! You will come to know these wonderful people who have lived all their lives in this part of France and how they embrace their neighbors as "les Americans". Delightful from start to finish and packed with useful information, this book should be read thoroughly before purchasing your property in France.
A vos desirs, The Castle Lady !
Bon appetit !