Chris and Suzanne
A Tower of Dreams.
Chris and Suzanne, who live in the French Alps not far from Grenoble, love Europe all year around. They ski, so winter is a delight.
And where they live is really extraordinary. They have bought a stone tower built in the 12th century.
La Tour du Treuil (The Tower of the Trellis) was a treasury house as well as a tax office, thanks to its location right on the crossroads of three main trade routes in the Alps.
Its six foot thick walls, built out of marble with traces of quartz, have been standing since they were first built in 1170.
Almost all the wooden structure of the roof and ceilings presently in existence dates as far back as 1355.
Chris and Suzanne acquired La Tour in late 2010 and are in the process of making it accessible to the public again, for the first time in decades, as exclusive boutique accommodation.
Yet, their journey to France and the big move was unplanned. And the French Alps are a long way from Coolangatta in Queensland.
They just fell in love with the country, the Tower and the difference in lifestyle.
“We came for a holiday – took a year out – and we didn’t know what that would create or bring.”
Initially, they settled for a year in the lakeside town of Annecy in the French Alps.
“One day in April (a few years ago) Chris was cycling in a place called Tone. It was the perfect day. Around Annecy there are these huge mountains that glow in the sun – just a perfect day. I was driving a car to pick him up. It was then that he decided he didn’t want to live in Australia any more. He wanted to live here,” said Suzanne.
Chris added: “It was just the richness of it I think. At that stage we had exposure to French life as an outsider. We had made many new friends - mostly English. Annecy has a lot of expats. But when we made that decision, life really turned and it started serving up all sorts of things. Like this (the Tower) is in the middle of nowhere and this area is incredibly special.
“I like the culture, I like the diversity of it and I love the seasons which we don’t tend to get in Queensland. I had lived in Brisbane since I was 12 – born in Sydney. We were at Coolangatta before we came here,” said Chris.
Suzanne is a real carpe diem sort of girl. She argues that we must live our lives to the full and not be scared of the future.
She was rocked by a recent event.
“There is another Australian woman around here – she was married to a heart surgeon and they had just retired and bought a house here. They were here just a week and he died. Don’t wait until you retire, live for today,” said Suzanne.
Suzanne believes that everyone should strive to really enjoy life.
“People, from what I have witnessed, need to have their ducks in a row. If the ducks aren’t in a row, then they can’t do something. They wait until they can say ‘I have got my pension, I have my super, I have sold my house, my daughter got married, my second daughter has a boyfriend, or the grandchildren are in school’. Then the ducks are in a row but ‘oh by the way, I have got breast cancer’.”
She added, “People get really frightened about making a move into the world of uncertainty – not knowing what it will look like.”
Their move refocussed Chris and Suzanne on the big issues. It took them away from the mundane and the small things of life that they had tended to focus on in Australia.
“In our own country or here, people don’t embrace the simplicity of life. But when we move away we tend to. Life becomes clearer. You tend to do what you want to do,” she said.
“When we move or when we run away or when we make dramatic change, we look to create. The routine (of normal life) binds you - like the Sunday family lunch or the drink in the local bar at 6pm each night. I think it can be detrimental to people’s personal well being because it becomes obligatory and they lose that flame. You know that flame, when someone talks to you about what they are passionate about and their whole face just shifts. They are uplifted”.
When Suzanne and Chris complete the conversion of La Tour into a 6 star boutique hotel, they look set to join the hospitality industry.
They have found a new life, a new country, a new culture, a new language and a new career.
That is radical.
Retirement for them was discovery. And they have the passion that Suzanne was seeking. They talk like 40 year olds. They are a stark contrast to the old folks having fish and chips at 6.30 pm at the same RSL club with the same people each and every Thursday.