October 1 – November 12 Portland, Oregon…The Long Goodbye 

A long post for a long goodbye.  After living in Portland, Oregon since 1994 we bid our final farewell.  Despite the scars of recent years, this city has an enduring charm; it is a lovely place to behold and the Oregon landscapes are unparalleled.  

We started off the next leg of our transition by putting BigB into storage, feeling fortunate to land Debbie and Mike’s beautiful home again with a separate apartment downstairs; they were away on vacation so the timing was perfect and we got to take care of their gorgeous kitties.  We spent the first weekend divesting BigB of all our “stuff” as we had a buyer looking at her on Monday.  That turned out to be more than we bargained for; we wound up with several boxes packed up in our friend’s garage.  To top off this challenge, we needed to pull items we would need for interim time in France; what we called the “transition box.”  We had to think through our situation; after we buy a house in France it will take about three months for our things to be shipped over; we can’t store our container in France as it’s expensive and they will also charge us duty.  So we are taking a few necessities with us; fortunately we have no appliances to worry about and can buy all new when we get there.  While we’ll be living rather minimalistic for a while, we can start getting things done around the new property. 

After we purged and did the final cleaning on BigB, we drove her down to Dundee where we met a pleasant woman by the name of Robin who fell in love with the rig.  She had her “RV Guy” inspect her and she came through with flying colors.  Robin wrote us a check for a down payment and will collect BigB towards the end of October when she is back from Costa Rica.  

We were elated to have found a good home for the RV, especially to someone who had plenty of experience RVing and who would take good care of her. 

We headed back and finished sorting through all our “stuff” as we needed to clear out the garage before our friends got back from vacation; we were essentially blocking their cars!  Fortunately the weather was warm and the seasonal rains hadn’t yet arrived. 

After we went through the laborious process of sifting through our things, we took the boxes back to the rig for storage.  Fortunately the RV storage facility is close to Chipman (our international shippers).

While all this was happening our Long Term French Visa’s arrived – quicker than we had figured and we breathed a sigh of relief!  We had in the back of our minds that with the French bureaucracy being what it is, that we may have slipped up somewhere.  Now we had to wrap our heads around the idea that this was for real!!! 

I visited my dear friend Rolia from Liberia who had a lovely African style birthday party!  She is a local celebrity who is known as the “Dancing Lady” and is seen frequently at Blazer games and performances with her African Children’s Dance Troupe. 

My friend Rolia still has the moves!

We then had a lovely dinner with my Chinese friend Lin and her family who I also went on a subsequent hike with later in the week. We were also treated to a fabulous curry dinner with dear friends Jim and KC, Terrence and Ashlee and her parents in Lake Oswego – it’s been a bit of moveable feast!

Between all the grazing, Bob and I continued to wrap up our final doctor visits and prescriptions to hold us over until we roll over into the French healthcare system; this included getting the latest Covid booster and flu shot.  We apply for our Carte de Sejour post arrival and we should have our medical cards in about three months. This allows us to roll into the French healthcare system – we still need to get top off insurance for the 30% they won’t cover until we are Permanente residents, but even with that it is generally cheaper than the U.S. with better medical coverage.

We also had to take BigB in for repairs in Sandy, Oregon and decided to visit Timberline Lodge up on Mt. Hood since it was on the way.  It was busier than we thought and there were plenty of hikers on the mountain; we even saw a few with heavy backpacks ready to do some overnight camping on the Pacific Crest Trail.  The temperature was insanely perfect, but tragically Mt. Hood was mostly devoid of snow; we usually come up to Timberline for snowshoeing and it was a revelatory experience to see all the exposed hiking trails. For those not in the know, the exterior of Timberline Lodge was featured in the movie “The Shining” with Jack Nicholson; that gives you an idea of how much snow piles up around the Lodge.  It is stunning when they’ve had a fresh coating of powder and the weather clears – it truly defines a winter wonderland.  

On our way back we took the route through Hood River and down the Columbia Gorge.  We stopped at Multnomah Falls for coffee and to take in the scenery. Because we have lived here since 1994 we had never bothered to pick up any souvenirs; well we got magnets at Mt. Hood and one for the falls to complete our collection!  

Multnomah Falls

The last piece of heavy lifting was completing the setup of our French HSBC Account that required a visit to Seattle on October 14 to sign off on the paperwork.  It’s not that simple to just go to France and open up an account; the US international tax laws are such that the French banks don’t want to do any reporting on these bothersome American tax requirements. We had heard that other Americans had set their accounts up in the U.S. with HSBC (who don’t have an issue with the tax reporting).  Once we power through this one last challenge, we will be able to seamlessly draw our funds from the US to France which is important as we need to buy a car right away and put down earnest money on a house.

I had to collect paperwork from my brother as we are using his address for residency purposes, so logistically it turned out to be a lot of running around as he lives in Redmond.  We then completed our paperwork in downtown Seattle that turned out to be a pretty seamless process. Thank God!  But now we wait for several weeks – argh. 

After completing the paperwork, we booked into our hotel and relaxed; this was the last piece of the elaborate puzzle that was our transition to France.  I had also gotten news from Chipman – our international shipper – that they had found my misplaced luggage we had instructed them to set aside for us when we returned to Portland.  

We had a lovely dinner with my bother and sister-in-law and visited their new kittens that were – of course – adorable.  MaryJo (my sister-in-law) made a great statement:  “It  has taken a village to get you guys to France.” What a perfect way to describe this whole adventure! 

Upon returning to Portland, we departed our friend’s house and relocated to an Airbnb in St. John’s – our old hood.  The rent was cheaper than other areas, and we we were in walking distance to town including a theater and restaurants.  

We busied ourselves with further purging and organizing on what we needed to consume from the RV and pack for one final drop off to Chipman.  When Robin returned from Costa Rica we dropped BigB off; it was a misty farewell as we pondered the epic journey she had taken us on.   

We spent an afternoon visiting friends Kevin and Chris out by Camas, Washington and got in some kayaking- the water levels were amazingly low😩

We then paid a final visit to the St. John’s Farmer’s Market before they closed down for the season. I always loved the flowers and collected them weekly during the spring, summer and then glorious dahlias in the fall.

St. Johns Farmers Market

Back to the final housekeeping; we set about getting our marriage and birth certificates translated to French in anticipation of them requiring these documents for various reasons as we established ourselves as permanent residents. We also got our international driver’s licenses that are good for a year once we arrive; we will need to have our official French licenses before they expire.

We then found the equivalent of Carmax in France so we will be able to get a slightly used Renault Captur Hybrid SUV not long after we arrive (thank god as the car rental fees are steep).  We decided on this model to keep the gas prices down and as they are manufactured locally keeping the cost of ownership low.  They are pretty vehicles.  

We purchased  an Amazon Firestick and a VPN (NORD VPN) so we can continue to watch our favorite streaming channels; the VPN will give us a U.S. IP address.  This VPN works better with the Amazon Firestick and we have been using it with no problems so far.  We won’t retire our ROKU but it will be require the VPN to be installed on the router so we will wait until we get settled in our new home.  

I also got a SIM card for France that covers Europe and even texting to the U.S.  – it’s through the French Orange network in France and we simply need to swap cards when we land in Paris and we’re off to the races with a new number.  

We filled our time catching up with friends and also visited one of our favorite haunts:  The Portland Japanese Gardens.  I used to be a photo member there and it was nice to just bide my time without any distractions; walking around in a zen-like trance, enjoying all the beauty these gardens have to offer; it has been hailed as the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan.  We stopped in the Umami Cafe for tea pairings and some Miso.  The Roasted Green Tea (Hojicha) is absolutely to die for and the best I’ve had since we were in Japan.  Though I order it off Amazon, it never seems to taste like the type I had in Kyoto.  

We then headed off to the coast and were welcomed with a beautiful day. We browsed though Astoria and then onto Cannon Beach – one of my favorite coastal towns with galleries and an array of shops complete with a walk along the famous Haystack Rock.   

Fall arrived with a bang including a washed-out Halloween; we had planned to walk around the neighborhood and enjoy the kitsch and kids trick-or treating, but found ourselves huddling into our dry abode instead.

Witches in Astoria!
Cannon Beach

One afternoon I walked to the St. John’s bridge during a break in the weather; there wasn’t a soul to be had in Cathedral Park – it was as if this moment was set aside especially for me. I was given the space to contemplate the passage of time and all I had endured up to this moment.  This time I felt an epic balance as the flaming maples protested the graying horizon and I felt at peace – it was a resolute peace. I took in the view of the cascading portal and the massive pylons that many times descended into the fog of the unknown.  This is a place I have immortalized on film – before photography was tsunamied by the digital era.  

Cathedral Park, St. Johns Bridge

Then came the grand idea of tattoos – I have wanted one for years and now was my chance.  Then Bob decided he wanted one too. 

I settled on Ganesh, with the Aum symbol in a Mandala. The image was poetically rendered on the back of my arm that will supposedly be less prone to wrinkles.  I have a fondness for elephants having logged over 160 miles on these lovely pachyderms through India and Nepal.  Ganesh symbolizes the removal of obstacles and I have carried him with me throughout my journeys.  For me, this move to France is a chance to reboot spiritually; I am no longer constrained by anyone else’s idea of what or who I should be.  There has already been a lot of unraveling from my cult conditioning and surrounding myself in a beautiful countryside and immersing myself in a rural culture that celebrates life as art will be – I hope – a transcending experience. 

Then the fall storms arrived with a bang, whipping the trees to and fro, scratching the surface with a desire to break in – it’s gotten pretty loud.  It reminds me of Wuthering Heights though I don’t know what restless spirit such as Cathy would want to be bothering with me.  I’ve been bothered enough already!  

And then the inevitable happened and the power went out; the place we are staying is all electric including the induction stove so we were pretty much stranded with our devices running out of battery.  Since the power wasn’t set to be back on four or five hours we decided to hit the local pub for some grub.  The cider flights turned out to be pretty big! 

The power eventually came back on and the weather cleared the next day so we headed to the coast with our friend Rolia.  We visited the Bronze Gallery in Cannon Beach not realizing that they had sold actual bronzes of Rolia in the past; asI mentioned earlier, she is a bit of local celebrity and is known as the “PDX Dancing Lady,”  – artists including myself have been enamored with her beauty. 

Sista Rolia!

I bought a couple of stunning pendants from Robert Rogers – they reminded me of Bill Worrell’s work and when I mentioned this to him he said he was a good friend of Bill’s up until he passed on.  Robert was apparently showing his pieces at the Worrell Gallery in Santa Fe but I somehow missed those – I’m grateful I made the connection here in Oregon.  Serendipity – what a small world!!  

Robert Rogers Bronze Pendant

We then chowed down on seafood and topped of the day with ice cream.  It turned out to be a fabulous day all around.  

As we headed into our final week, we explored local sites such as the Lan Su Chinese gardens that was inspired by the famous Chinese Gardens in Suzhou; we had visited China back in 2005 and this ancient wonder is a site to behold; canals run through the city and it’s been called the “Venice of China.”

We were otherwise filling days with long walks, visiting friends, dealing with French real estate agents, catching up on movies at an actual theater, getting haircuts and pedicures.  Oh, and surviving three power outages in St. John’s. 

We spent a fair amount of time looking at French real estate in the Dordogne. I soon realized that the French system is pretty different from the American one; there is no one aggregate system such as MLS like we have here in the states.  As a result you need to dig around different sites and engage realtors so you have a fighting chance to get what you want.  

Thus far I have four agents and seven properties scheduled for viewing once we arrive.  It is going to be quite the adventure finding a dream home and it will be like Christmas when all of our goods finally arrive at their final destination!  

After what seemed liked forever, the day of our departure finally arrived; we loaded our bags and bid a bittersweet farewell to Oregon as we drove across the Interstate Bridge into Washington one last time.

We will spend our final days in the U.S. in Seattle visiting my brother and sister-in-law before boarding our flight to Paris on November 15th.

As I contemplate the intense sweep of change we have experienced throughout this year, and the commentary from our friends who admire our ambitious goals and travels, I reflect on a concept I learned in Japan:

Mono No Aware

Appreciate the moment, because the beauty experienced in it will never be the same. It will pass. It will end. And that is okay because as life changes, new beauty, perhaps of a different kind, will arrive. Every season the cherry blossoms die. But every year, they come back to, once again, coat the streets in their ethereal and incomparable demise.