April 26 – May 7th Venice by way of the French Riviera 

Our container finally arrived – two weeks late and a day before our vacation to Venice by way of the French Riviera (Cote d’Azure).  

The driver showed up an hour early!  The rest of the team arrived soon after.  

Though we had permission from the mayor (Marie) to block the road, we didn’t take into consideration the school bus so needed to do some maneuvering. Fortunately none of the farm tractors came our way so they must have gotten the message.  

The French movers were a delight and they managed to correct my pronunciation as I directed them where the boxes needed to go.  It was great practice!  The gite is now a storage unit while the house has become a healthy repository of boxes we will be madly sorting through when we get back. 

We realized we couldn’t get much of the furniture up the spiral staircase – but voila! The ladder had arrived and Bob, and with the assistance of our courageous peeps, were able to haul some of the pieces through the window of the pigeonnier.

You have to do what you have to do!

All went well, and we were pretty depleted by the end of the day; after taking a break and offering whiskey and pizza to the team our last mission was to find the feet to the sofa – I really wanted to flop on my dear friend in front of the TV.  Luckily, we found the “tool box” the movers had left –  thank god!!!  We both sighed a collective ahh as Bob leaned back in his recliner and I sunk into the sofa.  OMG – is this for real? 

I poured myself a healthy dose of Suntori Toki Whiskey that I found in Perigueux (my favorite, yes!!!), and zoned out – bliss.  

Thankfully the movers got our dresser through the downstairs master bedroom window as it wouldn’t fit through the door – and then they assembled our bed😴.  I love this bedroom set and you don’t find this style much here in France.  It was amazing sleeping in our own bed and the mattress was a slice of heaven; the mattresses here are hard and I think it has caused me more aches and pains than I normally have (aging doesn’t help of course) 

The next morning we managed to get a few things unboxed, and the house tidied and in some semblance of order before we left for vacation.  

In a way I wish I was still there going through our stuff, yet with all our transition challenges and prepping for the arrival of our container I’m glad for the break; we will be away from our chores and distractions and we truly needed a respite from the transition fatigue. We are coming to the tail-end of chaos and heck, it isn’t like our stuff is going anywhere!!

Fortunately we had packed most of our travel luggage for vacation prior to the container arriving so we had to just throw a few items at the last minute and then toodled off to Perpignan near the Mediterranean coast.  And…it was also my birthday!!  My sister-in-law called from the UK and later my brother and sister-in-law in Seattle the following morning – such is our life overseas.  

We didn’t do any real touring in Perpignan as we were too tired but we got a good look at Carcassonne and the “King’s Landing” cathedral ……we will be back as it’s only a few hours away and deserves closer inspection.  

On our way to Nice we meandered along the Med and stopped in La Ciotat just north of Marseilles, and had a fabulous meal on the beach; I wound up having a hamburger and fries as I hadn’t had one forever and it was really good.  It felt like “homey” food. The weather was in the 60’s which was perfect for just relaxing.  

We got to our hotel in Nice with a view of the ocean. 

Palm trees are always a good idea

After getting settled in we went for a stroll along the promenade to the huge shopping center that boasts most of the major designers and smattering of unique and familiar shops.  I made a stop to the Body Shop and got myself some eau de cologne and bubble bath – it was time for some self care! 

The landscape here reminds me a lot of California but the water is definitely bluer – hence the name Cote d’Azure.  I can see why it would be a hotspot.  

We were several miles from the center of Old Nice, so we caught an Uber (yes they operate here!) and headed to the downtown hotspots, the first stop was the flower market that did not disappoint.

Flowers galore….

There is also a smattering of unique shops with a conscious restraint from the kitsch – minimal casinos (there is a Hard Rock Cafe)  and the tacky souvenir stores are kept to a minimum.  The architecture is spectacular with beautiful fronts along the Promenade de Anglais, a mix of Parisian, art nouveau and the historic blue and white striped umbrellas on the beach.  

Nice at its quintessential best – right before the hoards arrive

We hiked up to the gardens and cemetery for a view of the city and listened to the noon bells as they permeated the air.  

The crowds were pretty thick and it was even high season, but we managed to squeeze in a nice lunch and finish promenading along the waterfront.  

We loved Nice but like other popular destinations, it definitely gets crowded.  The area around our hotel, which is more off the beaten track, was much quieter.

We headed out the next day to Verona, we had already dodged Cannes as the film festival was in full swing and was-to-be-avoided and headed towards Monaco – the land of the mega-rich.  The landscape became dramatic, I mean up there with Zion and the Columbia Gorge.  We passed by Menton and its “King’s Landing” cathedral overlooking the Med, stopped to pay our dues at the interminable toll stations and motored through to Italy and yes, another language.  My mind thought it was going to explode as France was now my “new familiar.”  It seemed odd to think of it that way!  

Rest stop in Italy – supersized wine!!

The landscape was no less dramatic but this time there were green houses hanging from precipices and of course vineyards scaling impossible escarpments. We switched the radio to the Italian stations with their lively commentary.  Then we passed a sign for the 45th parallel; we were miles away but on the same line as Oregon wine country. 

We soon found ourselves in an agricultural area much like where we now live, with the  Alps poking out from the North.  There were rolling hills of vast fields with their churches enthroned atop the occasional villages and…then there were castles.  I guess it wouldn’t be Europe without castles!  

We passed by ruins – barns entwined by vegetation, in the middle of a perfectly manicured fields of barley. Besides the few RV’s we passed we suspected we were on a road not normally touristed, and like our adventure in the RV it was lovely to get the backroads perspective of this part of the country. 

We arrived at the Crown Plaza in Verona, and set out the next day to navigate the old streets known for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  We were once again blessed with good parking karma as we found an obscure garage near the center😍

The arena, akin to the coliseum in Rome, with its ruinous facade just as equally captivating, was also a popular venue for famous operas and singers; sadly Peter Gabriel was to perform on the 20th of May!  We vowed to come back to experience either a concert or opera.  

Just a few tourists….

The city, like so many others, is the usual retail mecca of big box stores. We pushed our way through the throngs of foreigners like us and found a quiet corner with a fabulous view of a nearby cathedral.  The coffee in France and Italy is so good it will be difficult to go back to Starbucks – not that there is much in the offing in this area of Europe anyway☕️

Why I can never go back to Starbucks

We passed over the Ponte Pietra that was first constructed in 100 BCE and hiked up to Castel San Pietro.  After taking in the sights and sounds, and also working up an appetite, we decided to grab lunch on the way back down at Re Teodorico with its incredible views of classical ancient terraces and structures that define Italy like no other country, such as the spires of cypresses that offset the homes and villas.  

Poor resolution of a great view gave the image a painterly affect!

On our way back we wondered if was even worth trying to find “Juliette’s Balcony,” made famous by Shakespeare’s play.  It’s not really something that existed except in someone’s imagination and was built specifically to tease up more tourism.  As we approached the site, we were met with wall to wall bodies lined up to get their chance to view the “famous” balcony –  we both decided to pass on the opportunity.  I don’t typically need bragging rites on where I’ve visited anyway; I prefer to journal my experiences and share them with those who are interested. 

The next day, on our way out of Verona we stopped by Soave (yes, you guessed it, the famous wine region)  with its castle and vineyards; we picked up some wine for drinking in France since you mostly get only French wine in the shops 🧐.  We stopped in for a simple lunch and then headed for our next stop – staying at a villa complete with a vineyard and not far from Venice.

Soave, Italy

Bob had been recovering from a sinus infection that I apparently had acquired and I was feeling pretty wicked by the time we reached the villa – Castello de Roncade; I was concerned I would have trouble visiting Venice which has always been on my bucket list.  Luckily, after a good night’s sleep I was feeling better and we set out to navigate one of the most popular venues in Europe. 

I was a baroness for a fleeting moment

Our private garden

A rain front was coming through and we had planned a dinner at the upscale Danieli Terrazza Restaurant and had to figure out how to get dressed for a formal dinner after touring Venice in the rain🫣, but not to be daunted we carried an extra bag of clothes (wrinkle free!).  

The weather certainly didn’t seem to deter of the tourists too much, and we pushed our way through the narrow alleys and crowded bridges, the chaos supplanted by a vast array of umbrellas.  

When we finally arrived at the famous Piazza San Marco, the crowds had appeared to thin out so we took a time out for some tea that turned out to be 15 Euros a cup!!!   I guess because you can sit and enjoy the view while listening to the live band play popular movie themes.  

After I cleaned up in the hotel bathroom (a rather posh one as well) we had a lovely dinner; we were a bit disappointed that it was raining as we had hoped to sit on the terrace and watch the world go by – but no complaints, we enjoyed a fabulous meal that topped off our culinary experiences in Italy.  

We took a “water bus” back to the Pizzale Roma where the parking structure is.  Note that it is pretty simple to drive into Venice, park your car and walk into the city.  Or you can catch one of the many water buses or taxis at the dock.  The water bus takes longer but is much less expensive than taking the cool looking taxis that zoom along the canal – like those in James Bond movies. 

The water bus proved to be a revelation as we were able to see the city at night which is quite something.  You could spend days wandering around, experiencing the many hidden gems that Venice has to offer.  

The next day proved to be clear and we set out to do some shopping and also had booked a tour of the basilica and the doge’s palace.  

As we wanted to do a gondola ride (really, as touristy as it sounds it’s a great way to get a different perspective on Venice) and snagged one just off one of the canals.  They were being scooped up fast so we were glad to get one and opted for a longer ride through the back “alleys” then onto the grand canal. 

The idea of Venice is simply mesmerizing when you think of it being an ancient trading hub, and how the buildings were constructed around the concept of water.  There is a conglomeration of cultures here, a melding of Roman, middle eastern and african cultures, like an exotic spice that can’t be categorized so easily.  Venice’s cultural influences are as intricate as the filigreed facades and walkways that terminate at the water’s edge.  

Our gondolier told us that up until the bridges were built, the only way Venetians could reach their homes were by boat.  Floating by the houses we saw doors to what could only be a “water garage” – many had decayed at the bottom; there was probably no reason to replace them at this point.  

After we departed from our excursion, we headed to our tour of the basilica.  St. Mark’s Basilica is as incredible on the interior as it is on the exterior with gold mosaics reflecting a warming glow in a heavenly manner – as I suspect was intended.  The terracing of different levels is something out of a dream and to imagine the engineers who masterminded all this centuries ago is simply mind boggling.  This could have been just another European cathedral; after a while one looks much the same as the others.  But no, this is in a class all by itself; a fitting reflection of what makes Venice so unique.  

As we wound through the different levels we came to the bronze horses that were no less mystifying when you consider their scale and age.  

We finished the tour at the doge’s palace which proved to be exceptionally ornate, but not as fascinating as the basilica.  

Now that we were done with our tour, we decided to visit La Commedia where authentic Venetian masks are made…and of course picked one up.  You have to be careful as there are plenty of shops who will gladly sell you cheap knockoffs made in China.  The one we purchased is made out of paper mache with a lovely crown of feathers.  I also managed to grab a Murano glass bead necklace and bracelet.  These purchases weren’t overly expensive and came with certificates of authenticity and will be welcome reminders of the beauty and uniqueness of Venice. 

We finished the night at a restaurant recommended by Stanley Tucci’s – Searching for Italy called Osteria AI 4 Feri Stoti tucked away by one of the canals; a lovely setting to round out the day.  We had the ubiquitous Aperol Spritzer which is quite good; mixed with prosecco and sparkling water it makes for a lovely warm weather cocktail.  It is quite popular here and seeing so many folks drinking it we thought we would give it a try. We of course wound up buying a bottle of Aperol.  

The next morning we bid farewell to our stately villa and its lovely grounds, and headed out to Milan – the final stop on our tour.  

You can view our tour of Venice here:

Visual Tour of Venice

On the way to Milan we decided to visit Padua for lunch.  While not a city many would consider visiting, it turned out to have some pretty impressive cathedrals and canals.  The weather was lovely and we stopped for lunch with a fantastic view and then headed for our hotel in Milan.

Padua and really cool looking cathedrals we were able to stare at during lunch

There is a certain level of madness that comes with Italian cities such as Milan; we drove through the maze of cars and too many scooters and motorcycles until we reached the cathedral or Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of the Nativity of Saint Mary.  Yet another impressive structure but we decided not to enter as we hadn’t thought through booking ahead.  

Stunning cathedral with really long name in Milan

We strolled through the famous Galleria Victtorio Emanuele II, the super elegant shopping center with stores out of my price range; Gucci, Chanel what have you, they are there as installations as well as being stores. 

Coolest shopping center in the universe

Being a fashion capital Milan cannot be outdone along with tour buses galore with many visiting from Korea or Japan, their passengers dressed vogue-style. After wading through the crowds,  we shuffled off to a quiet bistro for lunch – out of the noise and constant stream of cigarettes and vaping which wasn’t doing my sinuses any favors. I was starting to feel pretty ragged and wound up spending the rest of the afternoon napping at the hotel.  

We headed out the next day for the first stage of our trip back to France via Mont Blanc and its famous tunnel that connects Italy to France. The alps and their chalets were post-card perfect, complete with alpine meadows.  The arid, clear air was a welcome relief and the landscape stimulating.  You can view the video here:

Visual tour of Mont Blanc

Arrivederci Italy!! Until next time.  

Mar 1 – April 25 2023 Beausejour – Part Two of our French Integration

It’s early March and the weather is cold…as in biting cold, but it is clear with a layer of frost dusting the nearby fields.  I take a moment to survey my surroundings, but my revelry is suddenly interrupted as I find myself running frantically out to the road to flag down the Darty (appliance store)  delivery truck.  They are here to deliver our new washer, dryer, freezer and small appliances;  apparently our home is a bit difficult to find even when they have the address plugged into the GPS…seems I don’t have to worry too much about being stalked in this part of the world.  I have now learned, through trial and error, to add the GPS coordinates in addition to the address in the delivery instructions, otherwise I get somewhat frantic calls in French from the drivers who apologize for their poor English (while I apologize… tres desole…sorry for my poor French). I also went as far as putting a sign on the front door to leave the packages in our absence (in French of course) –  unlike the delivery methods used in America where the UPS or Amazon truck shows up and delivers your items on the front porch sans your presence, France seems to have a love for a vast variety of delivery services who require signatures upon arrival. This limits my options of being out and about as they don’t always commit to a time or day, and if they do, they don’t always abide by that commitment (we had been warned about the “French way of doing things” and they are living up to their reputation).  So this “hack” of leaving a sign turned out to be the biz, and serves as permission to just leave any packages on the terrace (assuming they can find the place).  The one company that has demonstrated reliability is Ikea, who definitely gives you a date and a window which works out well assuming they can even find our house. I also keep the GPS coordinates handy to text the drivers back once we politely conclude at the end of the conversation we can’t understand one another:  Je text les coordonnées GPS etc. 

Ahh…but we have finally arrived to Beauséjour – meaning “beautiful stay” and the road sign even confirms that we are indeed in a special part of the world.  On the day we were scheduled to sign off on the house we did a “walk through” with our realtor and the previous owner.   We learned some interesting stories about the history:   For insurance purposes we had stated the structures were built in the early 1800’s as there weren’t any official records going back before the 1900’s.  Urban legend has it that the fleur-de-lis and shield carved on both sides of the rather large fireplace was placed there during the stay of King Francois the 1st back in the early 1500’s – if this is true (since the symbols depict royalty) that would indicate that the house was built in the 15th century and around 400 hundred years old! 

Though we are not even close to being a grand chateau (technically meaning castle) by any means, in rural France a pigeonnier is a sign of wealth along with the scalloping accents on the side of the house.

Subtle scalloping on the side of the house

We were also advised that the surrounding farmland used to belong to this particular maison; so while the house itself has similar proportions to our home in Portland, due to the pigeonnier and the accompanying symbology, it used to belong to wealthy landowners.  

The ancient Colombage timbers that sustain the structures have since been reinforced without losing any of the original character and are treated for termites. We have also found our recent furniture purchases from the “Brocantes” (antique market furniture and so much fun to shop at those!) to be a bit wobbly as the floors aren’t exactly level in some places. Add to that the flaws that come from our “new purchases” and we find ourselves retrofitting to give our surfaces a bit of stability.  The china cabinet is a great size as most we’ve seen have been quite large. The rustic workbenches are popular and this one was actually refinished and is a perfect addition to our entryway!

I am now also being indoctrinated to the idea of radiators and how this whole system works. The boiler is down the “cellar” along with a large community of spider webs.  It is here we have also deposited the extra freezer and washer; we are on a septic system (known as a fosse here), and the washer was built to drain from the cellar to the septic.  Yes we do have to walk around the side of the house but we are, after all, in the country in a several-hundred-year-old maison so you have to make some concessions.  We will eventually be upgrading to solar and split air conditioning units in anticipation of the long warm summers – with climate change we are told the temperatures are on the rise and will also reduce our personal drag on the grid.

We have a little under an acre of land and Bob was chomping at the bit for a rider mower, also known as a “tandeuse.” Yes, we are back to the gardening frenzy we’re so fond of and we have plenty of work to do.  Unfortunately, our gardening tools are in the shipping container that isn’t scheduled to arrive until mid April, so off we go to “Jardiland” (jardin is garden in French so do the math) to pick up a few odds and ends to tide us over.  Bob managed to snag a nice mower that was soon delivered and he disappeared into the ether of gardening bliss, trolling the property from the lofty heights of his new toy while cursing the interminable dandelions.  

I have been busy painting and kitting out our new utility room; there isn’t much in the way of storage in the main house so I took one of the bedrooms (there are four and just the two of us – much like our house in Portland) and am designing a laundry/pantry/general storage room.  I soon discovered (as many have here), that paint is quite expensive for whatever reason and the mat colors aren’t up to much when it comes to coverage.  So while we are eating on the cheap because the markets and general cost-of-living are just so insanely good here, we get dinged in other departments.  

The dryer we bought does not require venting (it collects the condensation in a plastic basin that you discard down the drain) so you can plug it in anywhere – a clever euro design. We also ordered IKEA units to complete the storage area; you can always joke about IKEA but the storage units we ordered are of good quality.  And an extra refrigerator because the one we have is pretty dang small. 

Voila!  A few more touch ups and additions and we will be in laundry and storage domestic bliss.  I love getting new appliances as the ones we divested prior to leaving Portland were getting a bit worn anyway.  

As spring is starting to roll in, we have experienced some pretty epic thunderstorms – I mean thunder, lightning, wrath-of-god type stuff – thankfully the shutters are really effective for keeping the rain at bay; I mean it gets really horizontal and blows a gale.  But France, like so much of the rest of the world, really needs rain and we are glad for it when it arrives.  The trees are starting to leaf out and we are seeing blossoms in the garden.  And bees, we are surrounded by them and they are starting to inhabit the mason bee houses we bought. When we are not outside listening to the music of nature we are enjoying our new hi-speed fiber connection; it’s amazing that they have run these systems out into the rural communities.  We are starting to feel more grounded and can crash on our (temporary) sofa and watch our favorite shows after a long day working on the property = spoiled.  

We are on the 45th parallel so we see many of the same plants as you find in Portland.  Our garden is large and the prior owners were British and planted a cornucopia of plants that are unfortunately being invaded by weeds; luckily we are retired, but even with that notion the tasks ahead of us seem a bit overwhelming. 

When we take a break around noon, with our tea on the terrace, the birds and bees are performing their orchestral obligations and we can hear the bells toll from the nearby church of our local commune.  It is times like these that we look out of our property into the vast farmlands and says yes – Beauséjour!! 

View from the kitchen window

In rural France we are oblivious to the rioting in Paris sparked by new legislation to the raise in pension age to 64…we are so far removed and frankly had enough conflict in Portland a few years back.  Experiencing this level of peace and quiet is like developing new senses.  

Of course, it’s not all bliss; as we are now officially grounded with a permanent address, we are now receiving  mail at our new place.  I have a mail forwarding service in the States and we had to have a few packets of important tax docs sent to us.  The La Poste lady (very cheery as well) shows up one day with one of our packets and asks for 9 euros.  We are a bit mystified, and we come to find out that “registered” mail, or what they perceive as “registered mail” is subject to additional fees.  So we had to dig up 9 euros in change and if you don’t have exact change she will take what you have, then leave what is owed in your mailbox.  Fortunately this hasn’t happened with any other mail🙄

Then…our French HSBC banking cards finally arrived (after five months!) and we had to drive to Bordeaux to gather them only to find out that we didn’t have the correct PIN codes.  Long story, but they have PIN codes for online purchases, for your app and for your credit card and you can’t change them.  Our sister-in-law in Seattle took time out of her busy day to convey the information we needed…while I was told all the information would be sent to Bordeaux, they sent the PIN codes to the address in Seattle. C’est la vie accompanied by a shrug – it’s France.  This is the contrasting nature of the place we live in. So now we have two bank accounts which is not a bad thing considering the state of the banking business overall – due to the dual taxation and reporting laws, some Americans have difficulty getting a single account set up when they arrive here.  And though we had our BNP Paribas cards we didn’t get our checkbook for another month and that wasn’t until we checked in and found out they hadn’t gotten around to “processing it yet.”

We are also still grappling with getting into the healthcare system; they must have misplaced Bob’s birth certificate (during the appointment we specifically handed it to them of which they made a copy) yet like our banking process, they are requesting it once again – via snail mail.  Considering the delicate nature of a birth certificate we are opting to drive to the office in Perigueux to  (once again) present both the original and translated version so they can process the file…sigh.  They did confirm they received the document but then I received a letter stating they needed information for my file that I already gave them – as they say in Mandalorian “it is the way.” The hotline did confirm I do have a number and we are finishing up the processing on Bob’s number. Soon we will have a “Carte de Vitale,” and will be in the French healthcare system!

But….of course…there’s more!  I have been scheduled for my Visa appointment to get my official Carte de Sejour (official long stay Visa card), but Bob hasn’t received his yet.  Fortunately they have an English-language help line – even with that the French bureaucracy is not for the faint of heart. Bon courage – we will get through all of this in the next few months.  

In France the 80/20 rule is definitely in full swing:  Americans relocating here should not come with lofty expectations on when things are due to arrive or be processed – this is true 80% of the time. We are surprised when something arrives when scheduled such as Ikea, or when our Orange hi-speed internet was installed and has been working like a charm – the exception rather than the rule!  No American entitlements here!  

Quirks aside, what I do find impressive is being able to recycle everything here; just down the road we have a garbage and recycling center that we visit a few times a week to drop off standard stuff.  For batteries, light bulbs, ink cartridges etc. we take those when we go shopping at one of the bigger cities (Bergerac or Villeneuve-sur-Lot) and they have them in the shopping centers.  For bigger drop offs we go to the local “dechetterie” and deposit cardboard (for all the new stuff we have been acquiring), yard waste etc.  The French love bureaucracy and it spills over into their love for the environment; it’s incredibly impressive. 

I continue to do painting to freshen up areas of the house so when the furniture arrives we won’t have to move it for a while. The upstairs floors were gasping for some TLC and I stained and waxed one of the bedrooms so again – when the furniture eventually arrives it can have a stationary home. They came out beautiful!

Our container has finally arrived!!!! As always seems to be our luck it will be unloaded the day before we leave for our vacation so it will be “a dump and run.” This will be a story for another day as we are off to Venice by way of the (Cote d’Azure) French Riviera😍🍝🍷 for a much needed break from our “transition challenges.”  Stay turned for updates on our European road trip!

Feb 2023 – Ode to Prats du Perigord, Bonjour Nouvelle Maison 

Every morning at 7 a.m. the church bells ring down in the village of Prats du Perigord, the echoes are permeable as the sky is clear and frost grips the land, remaining polar until the sun rises to loosen the ribbons of sleep.  Then formations emerge through the orange and blue, awaking the kaleidoscope of day.  

It’s February but It feels more like spring, more like what March would feel like in my former city of Portland, Oregon.  There is no rain in sight for the coming days.   The garden (jardin) centers are coming alive and the locals are even threatening to cut the grass.  It is still technically winter but no one has apparently informed the inhabitants of Southwest France; except for those who still had their Christmas decorations up until the end of January.  

Here we remain unconcerned about the protests in Paris, the insistence that raising the retirement age to 64 is certainly the end of civilization as we know it, and many of the French insist they will be too old to enjoy their golden years.  France has the lowest retirement age in all of Europe, and they enjoy some of the best systems such as their healthcare, but it certainly doesn’t come for free.  Paris has been in a gridlock for weeks now as the unions take to the streets and halt services such as le metro (Mon dieu!!).

One of the highlights of our continuing integration is that we finally figured out how to use the car wash – this was accomplished by spying on the local population:  Unlike the system in the US where you pay and then drive through, here, you drive up to the wash itself, make sure you are secure against “bump ” that triggers the green light, exit your car and the pay at the kiosk.  We were wondering why people were lounging around the waiting area while their car was being washed.  The system is rather clever as the mechanism runs back and forth over your car while it remains stationary.  No more fun of driving through!  We now have a clean car💖

We decided it was time for another side trip to visit the local sites – this time we ventured to the medevial city of Belvès, spending the afternoon wandering around and then settling in for a cup of coffee.  Much is still closed up and we are wait in great anticipation when the cafe and shop owners start to open up and their wares spill out into the streets.  

Meandering the ancient streets of Belvès

As we forge new relationships, we found ourselves spending a post-Valentines Day brunch at our friend’s lovely country house (once again),  indulging in her local dishes, learning the French way of dining and surveying the garden with ideas for the impending spring.   

We continue our daily french language studies complemented by a weekly visit to Monpazier (which we discovered was part of the set of Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel” and is now a set for a french film) for a more interactive lesson.  We have cultivated some new acquaintances and are becoming a local at a cafe that sports a fair amount of American retro art deco-like posters that makes me feel right at home. 

We hadn’t ventured much into the fast food arena here and then much to my horror: Krispy Kreme and Popeye’s announced they will be opening up their fast food joints here in France.  I was never a fan of Kristy Kreme, and well the patisseries are to die for here😍 so do the math!  Yet, McDonald’s is seriously popular in France, especially with the youth.  Upon further research they source all their food locally, it’s organic and they are highly regulated by the EU meaning sans the preservatives, hormones etc….so a bit better than the overprocessed American version.  But still!  But we got curious and had to check it out and the food tastes much less processed than in the states; even the salads are something you would find in a nice bistro.  While they do drive-through, the french are fond of their two hour lunch and you will find them lounging at the local McDonalds while they are being served their food in recyclable containers – even the french fries come in a signature McDonald’s plastic molded cup! 

The Royal Collection!

Another hurdle we finally overcame was the opening of our French bank account at BNP Paribas.  It was a welcome relief as all the French government systems require this and setting up our house for the electrical, heating etc. requires an account as well.  While this came as a welcome relief we still hadn’t seen our bank cards for a couple of weeks.   I called our agent’s office and got her assistant who spoke a little english but managed to navigate me through the phone app to get a message to her.   Alas, this is France and our agent profusely apologized saying the drugs from her dental appointment caused her to somehow lose her memory.  We were running low on Euros and don’t like using our American credit cards as we get dinged with the current conversion depending on the strength of the dollar.  We can however do direct transfers from our bank to certain retailers, more so at point-of-sale rather than online so we have been able to maneuver around our current handicap – at least for now. 

As we were in Bergerac it was the perfect day to meander the historic town center, accompanied by Cyrano himself.  We will be spending more time here with friends, shopping, enjoying cafe chats and long walks along the river.  

Our cards finally arrived in a few days and I was able to go on a bit of a shopping spree as we had furniture we needed delivered to the new digs.  

March 1st marked the closing of our house followed by the appointment with the local office to enroll in the French Healthcare system.  Once we get their version of a social security number (not to be confused with the American version), which is used specifically for healthcare, we will be issued our Carte Vitale and be able to finally set up an appointment with a general practitioner.  This will get us into the network of specialists we are eager to connect with.  

We will miss the hikes through the woods and green spaces of Prats du Perigord, surrounded by working farms, the horses, donkey, dogs and goose (just one!). Our initial immersion into France has been as equally lovely as it has been frustrating; the difference is the latter is temporary while the former will be an enduring experience for the rest of our lives.   

The weather turned cold again, with heavy frost and even a dusting of snow but nothing compared to what the west coast of the United States was enduring.  Reflecting on our situation this time last year, I realized we could have been stuck in Portland or in Santa Rosa as we wouldn’t have been able to get through to the Alabama Hills in California with our RV.  Back in the 70’s I remember one storm that blasted through Southern California and for the first time you could see the mountains – we had a small respite from the horrific Los Angeles smog of that era.  

The day of our signing finally arrived and we powered through it at the Notaire in Villereal with no incident and were handed our keys.  Voila!  We owned a house in France! 

Yet we couldn’t go play at the house as we had an hour drive for our healthcare appointment, and we had to finish packing up and cleaning up the gite. That took up Thursday and Friday and then we finally arrived for good on Saturday morning; it was early and crispy cold, but here, the landscape sweeps you along its sensual curves to deposit you at its doorstep, ignoring your protests.  The sun was also very accomodating; it decided there would be no contest as it emerged to celebrate this glorious day. 

After years of dreaming, copious amounts of planning, being in a constant state of (and many times exhausting) transition for a year….we had finally arrived.  More to come on our homeowner experience.  

After managing some delivery faux pas (like a bed), we settled in for our first night and even managed to get the Wi-Fi going, averting a potential disaster🙄

I awoke early on Sunday, and as I walked down the hallway I could hear the crowing of a rooster, the national symbol of France. 

A Glorious Sunrise to Greet Our New Life

French Integration – Part One cont’d

It’s amazing to think we have only been in France for a little over two months!  It started off with such a whirlwind of activity in our attempts to get ramped up quickly – driven partly by mitigating expenses related to car and gite rentals.  We had literally been all over the place in 2022; our RV trip through US and Canada including a break in Hawaii, then onto France, then onto the UK for holidays.  Though it has been a profoundly great adventure, we are looking forward to a more stationary lifestyle in 2023😍

The exciting news is we signed the sales agreement for our house!  We are hoping to take possession by the end of February or beginning of March.  The shipper has also informed us that our household goods are scheduled to be delivered at the beginning of April.  We are excited about the prospect of getting settled in🏡

In the meantime we are catching up with new friends, taking long walks, working on our french lessons including the rather involved process of getting a license, and of course further exploring our new surroundings. 

On Bob’s birthday we attended the truffle festival or “Truffle Fete”  in Sarlat.  The majority of attendees were sporting a glass of wine and partaking in the “street food” where local chefs whipped together culinary delights using the famed black truffle found in the Perigord region.  It was a cold but clear day – the French are hardy people and endured long lines and outdoor dining to enjoy this rather indulgent event.  It is a great social gathering for the area, evidenced by the groups of friends huddled around the wine barrels. 

This exploration resulted in a weekend of culinary experimentation that included fabulous omelets and linguini with white cream sauce and shaved truffle.  We of course acquired a “Truffle Shaver” that is also great for shaving hard cheeses and chocolate.  

Truffles Galore!!

I also did the very French thing of driving to the local boulangerie in St. Pompon (a small lovely village not far from us) to acquire a banquette for dinner as we wanted a fresh one (of course!!). Much of rural France shuts down on Sundays – even the major stores are only open until around noon.  Many of the smaller stores are closed on Monday as well so you have to plan accordingly.  As it was Sunday, I needed to get to the boulangerie before noon.  St. Pompon was virtuallydevoid of people when I arrived; I think the only activity is Sunday services but even that seems pretty thin.  

The French keep their Christmas lights up for the first few weeks of January and when we found ourselves driving back in the dark, we were delighted by the light festivals we encountered; the local villages take pride in the festival accomplishments!

Later in the week we ventured off to Villeneuve sur Lot  to take advantage of the bi-annual sales in France.  Here they hold them twice a year to move inventory that is marked down but not allowed to go below the price they purchased it for.  It’s not like they don’t have sales, but this is when they really blow through their inventory. 

Our realtor had referred us over to some great bilingual contacts at local appliance and furniture stores in Villeneuve sur Lot who would allow us to buy now and then ship when we get into the house.  

Since we couldn’t bring our American appliances and of course, the larger ones were out of the question, we bought a good quality washer and dryer, a small “cabinet” or upright freezer with pull out drawers!!!!! I really hated sorting through our chest freezer back in Portland…. We also bought an air fryer, food processor, LG Smart TV (a really nice one to enhance our viewing experience!) and a temporary platform bed and mattress to transfer to the gite when our stuff arrives from the US.  With the new (yet seriously old) house we are doing a much needed reboot of everything that should last us for quite a while. 

On our way back to the gite,  we drove through torrential rain that turned to slush and then to snow.  We got home just in time as the snow was just starting to stick to the back roads.  We lit the fire and watched the snow come down in an ethereal waltz.  We woke the next morning to bright blue skies and several inches of snow.  We saw the local farmers plowing the backroads as they are not managed by the transportation division who were focusing on the main roads.  

We took a delightful walk with the snow lighting up the already arresting landscape.  

We have been keeping moderately busy.  I’m still processing my surroundings; there are days when it’s clear and beautiful and I walk along the insanely quiet country trails and roads – only occasionally interrupted by a passing car.  The area is mostly deciduous, but there are copses of large beautiful pine trees, reminiscent of cedar with their draping bows.  The smell of pine permeates the air as I stroll by – reminding me of the Pacific Northwest.  

Anywhere we drive there are chateaus and farms; even on days of inclement weather, especially when the fog clings to the lowlands, we are surrounded by an other-worldly mural. It seems more like a time warp as we meander through the ancient communes, some so small they don’t even have a boulangerie!  

When we pass by crumbling buildings and walls, we often wonder how old they are and did they house farm animals?  Have these same pastures been tended for centuries?  

Then we take an alternative backroad and find ourselves approaching a thriving metropolis of grand buildings, cathedrals and cobblestone streets that beg to be explored.  Then a chateau emerges in all its glory.  

We took an afternoon to explore one such structure – Castelnaud – a huge castle harking back to the 12th century. 

We had floated by it when canoeing down the Dordogne in 2020; it is constructed at a towering height, emerging from the cliff itself.  It is a true medieval marvel complete with a museum displaying armor, weapons and the “vogue” fashion of the day.  With its sigils buffeting the wind, and the towers overlooking the breathtaking Dordogne valley, you are taken back to a time of chevaliers (knights in shining armor) and princesses.  

One of the things I love about retiring, besides the freedom, is being able to sleep in.  We are both early birds but the idea of not being on a compressed time schedule and rushing to catch the bus or light rail, and then enduring a long day at work – which then required an additional hour commute – is a blessing I embrace with gratitude daily.  

Upon reflection, when we were in the RV, we were always on the go; we could sleep in but typically had to pack up in a few hours and head out to our next destination.  Now it seems we are spending more time “putzing” around, working on our house plans, studying and attending french lessons and other items necessary for our French integration.  

It is not without its challenges as we work to enroll ourselves into the national healthcare system and work on our driving licenses, and being otherwise impatient to get into our news digs.  And we finally connected with a local bank in Bergerac; BNP Paribas who is opening up accounts for us (we were referred through an American contact we met through our network). We are still waiting, yes waiting for months, for HSBC to open our account; they hadn’t processed our paperwork from October, resulting in us having to resend the information.  We have been told that was all they needed and will let us know when it’s done being processed; they will then send the documents to the branch in Bordeaux.  Sigh.

You hear many Americans lamenting about finding a bank who will take them; the FACTA rules are such that reporting can be a burden that many reps at French banks do not want to take on.  

To further occupy our time,we have also been spending time in local cities that are not far from us to get a feel of the place; the bistros, shopping areas and green spaces that run along the many rivers.  We visited “Mr. Bricolage” which is actually the French version of Home Depot!  It’s fascinating walking through the tool sections and seeing name brands such as Stanley, Black and Decker and Ryobi, then discovering the eccentricities of how the French do things such as lots of vinyl material for making your own window blinds.  We will need to make our own fly screens here as the windows open inward so you can reach the shutters to block the light on hot days.  Our new house has some blinds installed already so we can be less reliant on the external shutters if needed; but while the French don’t mind flies in their house, we are not so accommodating!  

We hope to be in our house within the next 4-5 weeks – stay tuned!  

December 31, 2022 Recapping an Extraordinary Year 

It has been a year since I officially retired from the workforce.  After 48 years it came as a welcome relief.  Yet, there were several challenges ahead that included selling off furniture and appliances we did not need for our relocation to France, and prepping the house for sale.  We had lived in St. John’s for 22 years in our lovingly renovated 1923 Craftsman Bungalow.  Anyone who has gone through this transition can understand the emotional ups and downs associated with relinquishing the nostalgia of time spent in a place you have dedicated so much of your life to.  

We then set out for what would be a 27,000 mile long journey through the US and Canada, all of which is chronicled on my blog.  

I have compiled a slideshow highlighting our travels:  We are often asked “what was your favorite place?”  It’s not something that can be answered easily – the national parks, monuments and sites we visited were all incomparable; they are unique unto themselves and I urge everyone to travel to as much of North America as they can.  You will realize the conundrum of that question when you see where we have been! 

One of our more significant stays was on Oahu where I was able to trace my father’s WWII legacy from the Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki Beach to Pearl Harbor:  I dedicated a special write up on my blog for those interested!  

Part of the challenge also included selling our house – we managed to close while we were on the road in Canada, signing the final papers in Fairbanks, AK right before the market started to cool down; we counted our blessings on the timing!  

At the end of September, after months of being on the road we were able to take a breather upon our return to Portland.   We had a bit of a fretful wait while waiting for our French long-stay Visas. Fortunately, we had given ourselves enough time for the French to do their processing which allowed us enough elbow room to wind down our life in the U.S.; visiting friends, family and familiar haunts…and bidding our final farewells.  

We landed in France mid-November and got ourselves settled in a gite, traversed the Dordogne until we landed on a lovely Colombage house in Lot et Garonne (about two hours from Bordeaux).  We then set out to spend the holidays with family in the UK where we celebrated and English-style Christmas with family and spent time hiking through Malvern with its beautiful priory and countryside. 

The Priory – Darwin’s daughter is buried here

We also visited famous sites such as Stratford on Avon, the home of William Shakespeare and its amazing holiday lights. 

Stratford upon Avon

Finally, on New Year’s Eve, we motored around the English countryside in Kathryn’s Mini. We ended 2022 with a traditional cream tea followed by fish and chips – wrapping up the year in an authentically British manner!

A Very British New Years🇬🇧🎆

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and wonderful 2023!!

November 12 – December 2 Our French Immigration: Part One – France by way of Seattle 

We arrived in Seattle and landed at the funky downtown Kimpton Hotel. It was a good location as we were walking distance to Pike’s Market and the Piers.  The hotel sports military style paintings ranging from Jimmy Hendricks to Kelsey Grammar and free wine tasting for happy hour.

Strange Bedfellows at the Kimpton

So much had changed since I last visited the waterfront; the viaduct was no longer and much of the area has been modernized, but the smell and feel of the area is eternal; the play of smoked salmon on my senses and the elixir of big sky, the bay, the stir of oceanic breezes that are unmistakably Seattle.  

We spent Sunday afternoon on the Seattle Waterfront catching up with my brother and sister-in-law, Duane and MaryJo, and browsing through some of my childhood haunts such as “Ye Old Curiosity Shop” down at the pier. 

Checking out old childhood haunts with the family

We then had lunch at the Edgewater where we were married back in 1996! We scored a table with a view; the sun shot diamonds across the bay with Mt. Rainier’s unmistakable silhouette in the background.  

The following day, which was our final full day in the U.S., was spent visiting with the Leingangs who treated us to lunch at the Athenian. We then traced the “Sleepless in Seattle” nostalgia as we wandered through the Pike’s Place Market.  We were blessed to have fantastic weather and views of the Olympics across the bay.  

Ahh the memories

Back at the hotel, we packed up our bags (too many, but we were relocating after all!) and headed for the Crowne Plaza at SeaTac, performing one final sort of our “stuff.” This was followed by a trip to Redmond for a farewell dinner with Duane and MaryJo; a wonderful home cooked meal of pork stew and cornbread to send us off.  We bid our final farewells, which would be our last in the U.S. with the understanding they would come and visit us in France.  

It was all so very bittersweet.  

We drove back through downtown Seattle with its iconic skyline, lit up like a constellation against the night sky – the Space Needle refusing to be overshadowed by the unrelenting progress.  

It has been a great way to end our residency in the States; I was born in Seattle and would be departing to another life from there.

The next morning we headed for the airport, where our plane was unfortunately delayed but it didn’t really matter; we had a direct flight to Paris and plenty of time to get to Orleans for our first night stay. 

The flight was delightful as we had upgraded to Delta Comfort and it wasn’t too full.  When we landed, we breezed through passport control to get our Visas stamped and voila!  We are now feet down in our new country.  

We picked up our luggage (lots of bags so that was an experience by itself), but did not need to stop in customs which was rather odd, and the airport wasn’t crowded at all.  As we waited for our luggage, we swapped out our SIM cards which got us immediately onto the French cell “Orange” network, then proceeded to Avis which was across the street (all so simple!!).  We took off for Orleans, just south of Paris.  As it turned out the navigation in the Peugeot we rented was tragically incompetent and had us meandering through the back streets of Paris instead of taking their “freeways.”  After an hour of sheer frustration we popped up Google Maps and we were soon on our way; glad to be out of the Parisian gridlock where it seemed the traffic signs were simply a suggestion.

Orleans is the home of Joan of Arc sporting a large statue in a rather posh square.  It had been raining and the street lights reflected a painterly glow against the historically crafted buildings. This area is the hub of Orleans and was pristine with an upscale flair to it.  Much to my surprise, they were setting up for Christmas and lovely displays in the works.  I had thought they didn’t start any Christmas activities until a few weeks before.

Cool architecture and art in Orleans

As we were tired, we settled in for a simple meal of stew and then registered our visas online that as is customary. The French system wasn’t entirely clear but we powered through it; we are now officially residents – not yet permanent but that’s our eventual goal.  We soon found ourselves fast asleep around 9:00. 

The next morning we strolled around the gorgeous avenues but were anxious to get to our BNB in the Dordogne; it would be a seven hour drive. After a few hours on the road we stopped off in Limoges (yes – home of the famous ceramics) where we started seeing all the culinary delights such as truffles and Foie Gras courtesy of the verdant Dordogne Valley. When we reached the valley, the roads began to unfold into the dreamlike landscape with stone farmhouses and the occasional chateau – the countryside we had been pining for.  

We stopped by the supermarket (Carrefour) in Sarlat to pick up necessary items; it’s difficult not to linger as grocery shopping in France is a whole new experience! But  had been a long day and we at least had some necessities for the BNB (called a “gite” in France). 

We reached our gite, just outside the small hamlet of Prats du Perigord, and were greeted by the lovely Aurelia who spoke little English so we reverted to our very practiced sign language. The gite was a converted tobacco barn; much like the last one we stayed in last September. It had all the amenities we could hope for plus two bedrooms – one we would be using for storage that would also double as our “kitchen pantry” for the goods we had shipped from the US via special carrier. 

I had been working with realtors for several weeks prior to our arrival and we had our first viewing on Friday – the next day!  The house we visited was lovely; a classic French Country home complete with a pool in the peaceful countryside – the problem was that it needed way too much work as the owners had “let it go” and the roof was in desperate need of repair.  Repairing roofs in France is not cheap and no small feat; these are tiled roofs specific to the region – you can’t just slap on the usual roofing materials you see in the U.S.  Some of the quotes we had seen were upwards to 60,000 euros.  

We departed the viewing and went to the Leclerc Hypermarket – think of it as one of the larger Fred Meyer’s but with better food options😍 Including two long mind-boggling refrigerator rows dedicated to yogurt.  The wine and alcohol section takes up a good fifth of the area (of course!). Many of the options are organic and the vegetable section is a display of commercial and locally grown produce. 

We found the “Demi-lait” which is their version of half and half – organic and creamy – just lovely.  

The baking area was an array of fresh baguettes (the basis of the French diet) and an incredible display of artfully crafted tarts and donuts – or as they say in New Orleans “beignets.” They even had a boutique tea section that had Lapsang Souchong which is difficult to find in the markets in the U.S.  

What a delight it all was!

But when we tried to check out we got an earful from the cashier that thankfully a bilingual customer clarified that we weren’t allowed to take our small rolling cart through the checkout area;  ah ha!! So no one will steal them I guess, but this area was pretty middle class and we hadn’t seen any homeless at all.  They also have a clever system where you have to put euros in to “rent” a large shopping cart – when you return it it gives you the euros back.  

The French are very conservative if not downright chic even when running simple errands.  It was a lot like Japan; no sweat pants or sportswear – usually jeans and a jacket and in many cases well matched leggings and sweaters.  And a lovely scarf.  

After that experience we decided to torture ourselves further – we then decided to venture out to a home goods store which was a hodge-podge of crafts mixed in with furniture and decorating.  We found some Christmas paper hoping to ship items back home if we can ever find boxes and figure out the postal system here.  

We then stumbled into “Boulanger” that was next door (curiosity kills the cat) that turned out to be an appliance store with a lovely KitchenAid Artisan Mixer on a Black Friday sale – bingo!  This was our first new edition for our forever-home; and a handy appliance for making bread in the meantime.

We headed back through La Roque Gageac (where the homes are built into the cliffs) which was practically shuttered as it was the end of the tourist season, but it was achingly lovely just the same.  We are looking forward to hikes and picnicking in this area come spring and summer!  

We survived our drive back to the BNB, having had some experiences with the manic French drivers who are thankfully not too much in abundance on the otherwise quiet country roads.

Thankfully Saturday was a break day and we headed to the Sarlat Saturday Market where we indulged in some Foie Gras, picked up vegetables and duck (duck is like chicken in France, lower fat and healthier!).  We had coffee at a bar near the historic center where they were playing American rock music.  Whatever the French say about Americans, our influence is everywhere – much like the French influence in America.  

The Saturday Market in Sarlat

We spent Sunday getting organized and exploring the neighborhood.  We heard the church bells go off as we meandered around the village. We were still adjusting to the dark and the quiet; something we rarely experienced even when we were traveling in our RV.  

We spent most of the following week motoring for hours all over the Dordogne looking for houses.  Though we marveled at the countryside we were getting understandably exhausted.  On Thursday morning (Thanksgiving Day) we visited a home that based on the photos we weren’t entirely set on.  It was a bit further south in the Lot et Garonne but still part of the Dordogne Valley. 

When we arrived we were completely taken with the architecture which is known as “Colombage.”  It had an English Tudor feel to it but with whitewash throughout.  These are known as “timber homes” with a unique style; very light and airy. The house is a few miles outside the “Beaux Village” of Villereal known for its Saturday Market that has been around for centuries.  This area also boasts some of the largest assortment of stunning villages and is a half hour to Bergerac which is a main hub for getting major appliances, furniture, groceries et.al and has a small airport for local flights.  Just far enough away to not be disturbed by any city hub-bub.  

Our New Home!!!!!

We are also just southeast of Bordeaux as an alternate flying route and we will look forward to exploring🍷

More info on the region for those wanting to know:


The main house has 4 bedrooms and two bathrooms, one with a tub (yeah!), the huge dining room/lounge also called a “Sejour.” The kitchen is new but we will need to retrofit into our own style. There is a cellar that holds the oil heating (hoping to change that as well but it’s pretty prevalent wherever you go).

The property encompasses nearly an acre surrounded by farmland that rotates sunflowers and wheat…I try to imagine sitting on the terrace overlooking fields of sunflowers.  The country road is quiet and dark – except for the occasional truck and mad driver.  We would need to install a pool which is well within our budget.  

The veranda is east facing so we get the morning sun and the afternoon shade as we anticipate it getting hot in the summertime which is standard for this region.

Happy Hour will never be the same – ahhhh

The gite is a beautifully converted barn – what an added and stunning bonus.  We left with a lot to think about.  

We had planned to roast a duck for Thanksgiving (our first away from the states), but wound up in the Sarlat Renault dealership, buying a lovely Renault Captur Hybrid and didn’t get back home until late.  We went with a new build that was sitting on a lot not far away as the used models weren’t much cheaper, and the other dealers weren’t as accommodating.  We scored as I had been pining for one with gold accents and voila!  It magically appeared. 

Renault Captur Hybrid – what a cutie

The purchasing process involved a go-between interpreter/sales agent as the primary agent, the charming Enzo, didn’t speak much English. Adam, our interpreter liked practicing his English so we were extremely lucky. This went back and forth for two hours until we finally got the papers signed and agreed on a delivery date.  Our next step was to get the funds transferred from the US to the Renault bank via international transfer.  This became rather involved as Bank of America required two factor identity and we had just switched our phones over to France. Bob popped his Verizon SIM back into his phone so we could muddle through the process. 

On our way home we discussed the house and asked to see it again on Friday.  

For dinner we settled on a simple salad and FaceTime with Duane and MaryJo.  We were visibly exhausted but happy to connect with relatives on such an important holiday.  

On Friday we ventured back to the prospective house and after further viewing, photographing and discussion we decided this really was the place for us.  All the boxes checked off and most everything fell into place on our wish list (not everything like a water well for example, but we can manage around that and add a pool).  Luckily, the Mairie was in (the local mayor) and we reviewed our plans with them by way of our French-speaking realtor.  He confirmed no problem on the pool and additional solar panels as well as a carport – we were ready to rock.  We made the offer that afternoon and it was accepted and signed over the weekend.  We got such a deal on it as the owner had bought another property and needed the proceeds to move.  We had the added benefit that homes in this region outside the heavily touristed areas can sit on the market for months even during a hot real estate market.

The process will take a while as we need clearance from the local agricultural committee that they don’t wish to buy the property; we are located in farming territory and it’s highly regulated.  Then we go through the usual French process using a “notaire,” much like an escrow agent that may got a bit speedier as we are paying cash.  The realtor let us know that we could actually obtain possession of the house by the end of January which would be a delight.  

What a week it had been!! We purchased a car and a home, all meeting and or exceeding our expectations😍

On Saturday, we did some more reconnaissance of the area not far from our forever-home, including the lovely Saturday Market in Villereal where we sat and had coffee – watching the world go by.  There are no drive-through Starbucks or the like here; you basically sit down for a chat and respite at the cafes.  On a sunny day people just bundle up as the preference is to sit outdoors.  When the sun is out it becomes pleasantly warm.

We will soon be regulars – note our new french shopping basket

The next challenge was getting our funds moved into Euros. On Monday and we had the accounts prepped and by Thursday Morgan Stanley had our funds in an international account ready for conversion to Euros at our signal. In the meantime we will keep an eye out for the fluctuating dollar to work in our favor.

For the car purchase we wound up using an international transfer service known as WISE, but it takes a few days for the transfers to push through and they sometimes ask for more backup info. The money arrived in time to the Renault dealership for us to pick up our new baby on Friday.  Whew!!

Additionally, once we get our French HSBC checkbook and cards (we have been waiting for six weeks) then we will eventually shut down B of A as it’s too much of a hassle managing funds overseas; they do not allow international phone numbers for two-factor ID which makes navigating their systems that much more difficult. 

In the meantime we can set up direct debits through WISE to pay for incidentals through euros so we can manage the exchange rate as the dollar possibly weakens.  

Sigh…we now had time to check out the area around our gite by way of the “groomed” trails sporting old farmhouses and châteaus.  Such a different pace and environment from our haunts in Portland.  

On a sunny day on Friday December 1 we collected our new wheels, headed to Bergerac to drop off the rental and kicked around the city for a few hours; celebrating our good fortune at finding our new forever home as well.  

Proud New Owners!

In the meantime, our other challenges included the switch from Amazon US to France.  We finally got it transferred but we were required to buy the French Prime membership and then let our US membership expire.  Somehow this messed up the app on our phones and it started to show up as Amazon India (it’s these quirky things that you spend your time troubleshooting). After deleting and reinstalling the app we were back in the French app – which does not have English as an option😂. Even the translation options choke on some of the pages.  Then we get on and off French speaking US programming on our Prime Video.

But we concluded that it’s a great way to get to learn your French – when your forced to do shopping in a foreign language!

Then to add to this goat rodeo, I kept getting notifications from Amazon that our shipments had been delayed or aborted.  It turns out they use La Poste (which would make sense as that is the primary French postal service) but we were mystified that our goods were sitting literally five miles away and they couldn’t seem to find the gite. 

Then miraculously… Mon Dieu!!! Amazon showed up with all of our goods at once; I suspect they delay and consolidate shipments in remote areas to economize on trips.  It was like Christmas (but not really but just as exciting) as we opened the boxes and retrieved items we couldn’t find locally – things like calcium supplements, psyllium powder, meat thermometer and a new blender that was cheaper on Amazon than at the local appliance stores🤷‍♀️

Alas, after all this international intrigue, we were now entering the “dead zone” going from a frantic pace to “what do we do today” 😒

Well…there is still plenty to do: Make new friends (in progress), work out, hike, do our French lessons, make healthy meals with our new appliances, go on day trips to cool-looking villages, explore the local markets, figure out how the Captur works using a French car manual — things like that.  Oh yeah, and I have to go to battle at La Poste to navigate their overseas shipping system – I needed to fill out an online customs form apparently – assuming you can find it which I eventually did and then you need to visit the post office and see if you got it right or if they throw you another curve.

Suffice it to say, even though we have made exceptional progress on our goals thus far, navigating some of the quirks in France can be understandably exhausting – as we were warned!

For those familiar with my past know that I’ve had a difficult life and I think it prepared me to meet these challenges; turning adversity to my advantage – if I can survive what I have then I can get through these current challenges. I am equally grateful that I am getting established in a new dream life – more than I could have ever hoped for.

Likewise, I’m thankful for the downtime – it’s been a particularly busy year that we will close out with family in the UK🇬🇧