Monday, July 15, 2013

Château et dépendances

It feels palatial to me, the new chez moi. There are solid hardwood floors in herringbone (grandly called point de hongrie in French) in the living room, and two real (!) bathrooms. There are eight full-length casement windows in the guise of French doors, four on each side of the apartment.  Through them we look out over greenery on both sides: on one side the downstairs neighbor's garden, complete with a yapping dog and drying laundry.  On the other, the shared garden and entryway, with a screen of trees that filter in the afternoon light.  I can hear birds, and the occasional summer fireworks over the park of the chateau nearby.  "It feels like we're on vacation," my husband keeps repeating to me in wonder, and I agree.  In this new space we can breathe, and it isn't just the improved air quality from all the green leaves: we've gone from roughly 700 square feet to over 1200.  We've found room for ourselves, the kids, and our oversize library.  

We've found a place that resembles us.  

Meanwhile, I'm getting used to the ubiquitous remarks whenever I mention I live in Versailles.  People hint at the stereotype: large, rich Catholic families, living in the past.  Close to their money, lost in tradition.  To hear it told, the Versaillais haven't digested the Revolution or even the Enlightenment.  Better get used to it, my colleagues imply, with a wink or an eye-roll.  I'm American, so they assume I'm blind to the quirkiness, and almost certainly hopelessly naive. (For my part, I tell them I hope my children will marry well, and one best plans these things when they're young.)

Our new apartment is on a busy boulevard.  To access our unit, you pass through a nondescript 1970s entryway into an unexpected garden beyond.  Once inside you can barely hear the traffic.  I marvel now that when we'd learned the address from the real estate agency, we almost refused to visit it at all.

We're a 15 minute walk from the center of town -- our compromise to find such a large place within our budget -- and along it, there are a few flags from the Manif pour tous hanging from windows.  No more than we saw in Levallois, or in Paris, for that matter, which is sadly reassuring.  But prominently placed in another window, I also spied a homemade "Gay Friendly" sign, the first I've seen in France.

I've been watching my new neighbors warily, hoping to decipher them, hoping to fit in. True to form, we spent much time worrying about this before we even moved here.  I suspected -- hoped? -- that hidden among the traditionalists and the snobs we'd find a few eccentrics like ourselves; the sort of people who'd be immune to the idées reçues that tell us we shouldn't want to live here.  After three short weeks of close observation... I have no idea what to think.  Except that I think somehow that I fit in.

To celebrate the 14th of July Versailles had fireworks, like every self-respecting town in France.  The city hall chose the most logical location for the show, a wide, centrally-located spot free of buildings with plenty of room for spectators. 

You guessed right: the Bastille Day fireworks were fired off in front of the chateau.

I've learned already that my new home isn't afraid of a contradiction or two.


Cloud said...

I'm glad you are liking your new place! And I love the story about the fireworks. That is just awesome.

Sylvie said...

So happy that you are loving your new home! It's so important to have a home that feels homey....