Originally written on June 20th
Up until that point, we had been just looking at listings, we hadn’t actually taken any other steps in procuring a home abroad. No talks with banks or real estate agents. No deep dives onto Reddit or google about “how to buy a home abroad.” Until the point of finding the watchmakers home, everything was light and fun. A very half foot in half foot out approach to buying abroad.
The first photos of the watchmaker’s house drew you in. The facade, with its lovingly maintained original woodwork, popped in a cheerfully vibrant robin’s egg blue. The rez-de-chaussee (or ground floor) was being used as a tea house, serving lunch to the fortunate few who got one of their five petit tables. Past the dining room, through a large rounded passage cut into the centuries-old stone, was an absolutely charming kitchen. The space had all the allure of modern American practicality along with the charm of traditional French antique cottage decor. Worn market baskets hung from the ceiling and old nicked cutting boards of all shapes and sizes lined the backsplash around the deep porcelain sink.
But it was upstairs that stole our hearts. On the premier ètage, there were two bedrooms that were reminiscent of the Belle Epoch era. Beautiful gilded fireplaces rose from the herringbone-patterned original wooden floor boards and cascaded onto the ceilings above.The beautiful floor to ceiling windows, magnificent on their own, allowed large pools of light to spill into the rooms, illuminating all of their continents and bathing the rooms in a soft glow, bringing them to life. Large marble wash basins steadied themselves against the deeply carved wooden walls. Beautifully upholstered Louis XV beds were neatly dressed with provençal-style quilts. The charm of the home was only exemplified when we began to hear more about its past. It was the original home to the town’s watchmaker, who, at that time, was prosperous enough to afford such lavish sleeping rooms, tipping us off to his success.
“Wouldn’t it be really cool to own TWO homes with a unique history?” Andy asked.
Here in Pittsburgh, we ended up searching for a year before finding a home that was built by a saddle maker in 1865. After his death, the home was sold off and its rooms were rented out to multiple families, while the basement was used as a speakeasy by locals looking to indulge in secret. In the 1930s the home was briefly used as a VFW before falling into the hands of the Polish Falcons and becoming one of their “nests” for the next 30+ years. During the 80’s the home sat vacant until a kind and creative couple reclaimed the space as their home. Staying true to the home’s past as being used in many different contexts, Tom and Jean used their new home as a meeting place for the new church they founded, an artist haven, allowing struggling artists to stay for free in their attic, a campaign headquarters for Obama, and a concert hall where many musicians recorded their music because of high ceilings perfect acoustics. Their colorful stories only added to the allure and our interest when touring the home, as did the original bar in the living room equipped with taps from the 70’s.
But the watchmaker’s house was what started it all, the looking into our finances, the endless emails with French banks, the handful upon handful of loan declines from said French banks. It’s funny to be sitting here now a year and a half later at the airport with three months worth of personal possessions stuffed into two large suitcases and one backpack ready to board a flight to France for the summer. Lugging these insanely heavy bags through the airport definitely made me wonder if I really needed to pack a tub of Jif peanut butter or the three cans of my favorite pizza sauce. I keep telling myself that I will be in heaven one day when I am really craving a taste of home and that moment will be worth all the current suffering.
**Above is our journey from the Spanish boarder through the whole south and all the stops in between. You may notice Vaison is not marked, it was a totally by chance we ended up there!
Bonjour, Ciao, Salut! I'm Rachel and this is my story documenting our experience buying a home in France. If you are looking for advice on home buying, feel free to e-mail me or check the bottom of the home page for a link to a basic guide.