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Ohio Today

Summer dreams
Building a dream home in France

By Katie Fitzgerald

A chance opportunity to study in France as an undergraduate led Michael Hinden, AB '63, to discover a beautiful valley in little-known Perigord. Years later, he returned in search of a summer home.

"I used to hitchhike through the country when I had free time," says Hinden, explaining how his lifelong interest in France began with his year abroad, encouraged by his French professor, Bertram Renkenberger. "I went through Perigord and just thought it was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen, and hardly anyone at home knew about it. I thought it was a wonderful discovery."

While on a delayed honeymoon in France, Hinden took his wife, Betsey Draine, to the area. They ended up off the beaten path - only to discover a number of houses for sale.

"And that is where everything began," he says. They returned the following year to search for a summer home. "We looked at 40 houses, and I wanted every one of them."

Hinden and Draine, both English professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, ended up purchasing a cottage at the foot of one of the medieval castles. They wrote a book, "A Castle in the Backyard: The Dream of a House in France" ($24.95, hardback, University of Wisconsin Press) to take readers through their house-hunting experience. The book also offers an intimate glimpse of the area and reflects on the challenges tourism and development pose to its graceful way of life.

"It's a memoir about falling in love with having a summer home in France," Hinden says. "We talk about what it's like to live there - our neighbors, the food, the landscape."

Katie Fitzgerald, BSJ '04, is a former student writer for University Communications and Marketing.

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