It used to be our dog, Jolie, that introduced us to our village neighbors. Now it is our house. Which is a bit unusual as French etiquette discourages casual drop-ins on new homeowners. Actually, French custom dictates that the only time you see the inside of someone’s home is if they just got married or they’re dead. (This is not really the case any more, but the concept of the welcome wagon has not arrived yet either.)
But this is not exactly a normal house, as viewed from street level at least. Nor, as Americans, are we normal new comers. For the French, we funny people live in a funny house. The not-so-typical things for this house on the cusp of the village and countryside include: walls of white cut stone, arching windows, narrow Doric columns on the sides of the front door, funny metal trellises and a wild assortment of roses during the summer months. And all this in an architectural style that has nothing to do with this area, not even anything to do with France. It’s original builder wanted to evoke the architecture of the Middle East. The locals didn’t really get this because the look of the house reminded them of something. Even before we Americans bought it, the locals to called it La Maison Blanche. You know, that white-stone structure on the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue.
For years I tried to peek over the wall of this house, so I’m not the least surprised that others are trying to figure out what lurks behind this intriguing façade.
Now when the gate is open, passing couples strike up a conversation with us. When we ask if they would like to come up and see the house and property there is a bit of hesitation, and then at the same time that the husband is saying “no thank you”, the wife is saying “oh yes please!”
Some people have stopped to ask what is happening in the garden and then ask just enough questions so that it is apparent that they’d also like to see the house. So up we go starting with the front yard and working our way around to the humbler backside.
Last weekend a sweet lady plucked up the courage to come in the gate to find us. Her cover was to say she wanted to know if we had the plant “hens and chicks” in the garden yet – if not she’d bring some over later, but oh! yes! since she was here she’d love to see the house.
We’re glad to make these new acquaintances and secretly we are glad that we have a few ambassadors on the streets that can tell other yet-to-be met villagers the humble truth about our house: The front of the house is quite something, but the back, well the back is just a normal village house. There isn’t even a second floor. No presidents ever have or ever will sleep here.
It would probably be more romantic to keep the world guessing, but then they might expect something grand from us. We’re a little short on grandeur, but we do like the notion of having a little bit of je ne sait quoi.