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  • Writer's pictureCarsten Sprotte

Have you got the guts for the grandeur?

One château that pulls a serious punch...and a punch line

The wildest tales I could tell about househunting would have to be about châteaux, and the wildest of all those tales would have to be about the Château de Touffou. There are about 11 000 château in France classified as historical monuments, but one as magnificent as Touffou doesn’t come up for sale very often. This is why, entering its gates for the first time, I felt privileged. I also remember telling myself that a château with such an odd name would surely have some tricks up its sleeve. That would be an understatement of epic proportions, like the edifice itself: 3000 square meters of living space on 150 acres of land. The name Touffou, wherever it came from, sounds exactly the same as the French expression tout fou, meaning completely crazy, or "they're all crazy" (ils sont tous fou !) It also sounds way too similar to ‘tofu”, an unfortunate association for a castle of such grandeur. If we can get past the words, through the gates, and into the Italian-style Rennaissance garden with its sweeping view over the river Vienne, this castle has the power to leave you speechless. As with many French châteaux, Touffou reveals multiple layers of history–from Medieval to Rennaissance–all present at once. It possesses exceptional original features, such as an elegant spiral stone staircase, ornately painted six-meter-high ceilings in the tower room, and the aforementioned gardens. It is everything it pretends to be: a worthy monument to the history of France. This is not the place to tell the full Touffou story. A few lines will give you the gist. I was assisting the potential buyers, who had fallen in love with Touffou’s magnificence. They planned to parachute in from the USA, and make a new life and a permanent home of the château-–without any previous experience living in France. Well, that in itself you might call crazy, but I had done the same thing over twenty years ago (just without any château). Each of us has the right to make unreasonable decisions that may lead us to an extraordinary and unexpected life experience. Against craziness, there is no law.

Four months down the road, after a purchase offer had been accepted, we were dealing with issues as messy as how to update the sewage system and how to clean up a half-century of pigeon poop under the tower roofs. It was bothersome figuring out what do with the butler, and complicated to understand what and how to renovate or modify it (given its classification as a historical monument). Yet, for all such problems, there are solutions. Joker. On the day that preceded the much-anticipated signing of the pre-sales agreement, the only person with legal authority to sign on behalf of the Seller suddenly submitted his resignation, leaving all parties in shock. A lengthy legal procedure would now be required to designate someone else. Meanwhile, my clients had planned their life around their acquisition of this château, and would be settling in France come hell or high water in three month’s time. There came neither hell nor high water…but something entirely unexpected called Covid19. Joker.

Three years down the road, I notice with a certain nostalgia that the château is still for sale. It’s not mine to sell, but having charted its marvels, I feel like putting in a final word–a call to preserve what has so painstakingly been passed down over the centuries. I am pleased to share with you, my readers, a private video presentation of the château with permission from Christophe, an agent with Christies, thanks to whom I have visited every nook and cranny. To access the video, click here or on the image below and type the password “mb" when prompted.

Do you have the guts for the grandeur of a château? Rest assured, there are plenty waiting to be adopted of a lesser scale than Touffou. Becoming a chatelain (château owner) requires not only guts but also humility. The château and its history will, in some sense, always outdo you. The edifice will remain after you pass on. After all your efforts, you will never be more than another more or less illustrious steward in a long lineage. Can we ask for anything more?

Purchasing a château is a complex decision. Allow me to bring my experience in château-hunting to your own search.

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