We first moved into the Chateau de Lalande in October 2005. There was a glorious late summer that year, and nothing prepared us for the winter ahead. There was no central heating at all, the wood-fired range in the kitchen smoked out the house, and the chimney in the grand salon didn’t work.
The temperature inside started to drop – fast. We’d awake to find the condensation on our windows had turned to ice – even the water in the glasses by our beds was ice. It was -10’C in the downstairs corridor.
Washing became a hated chore, as the few seconds between getting out of the warm bath and back into clothes was unbearable! And there was only one working loo in the house, at the opposite end from my bedroom, and no working light in the long corridors. I dreaded having to leave my bed with its precious electric blanket to make my way along endless freezing corridors by the light of a torch!
But then…it snowed! Lalande was suddenly a winter wonderland and I felt renewed awe at the beauty of my home. The hardships didn’t matter anymore because I remembered what we were working towards – a comfortable home in this magical place. The beauty of the snow reminded me to keep on going till I got there.
Stepping into the forest was like walking through the wardrobe into Narnia. I couldn’t believe it was real.
Now the home is much more comfortable, though even with our geothermal heating we struggle to get the interior much over 10’C in winter. But that’s luxurious after what we lived through and I’m used to it by now, so I just dress warmly and strap a hot water bottle to myself.
The chateau animals and inhabitants just get on with keeping warm (and playing in the snow when we’re lucky enough to have it) until the days get lighter and warmer. No home has ever made me feel so in tune with the seasons.
Strangely, I find that I enjoy walks outside even more in winter. The landscape seems to change daily, sometimes dappled in snow, or muddy and sloshy and drizzly, or – my rare favourite – covered in ice crystals like the snow queen’s garden.
As life at the chateau has become busier and busier in the summers, our winters have fallen into even sharper contrast. They’re a time for reading, making music, and enjoying intimate gatherings with friends, hot stews and long talks by the fire. Each season here brings its own pleasures.