Friday, March 30, 2007
And that's the tip of the iceberg. Each task is more involved than it sounds, of course, because each task has some pieces and parts, some in a language we don't really understand. Then all the pieces have to fit together into a jigsaw puzzle that we can't see very well. Don't know what we'd do without the internet.
Nancy has taken on the bulk of these tasks, because she is Nancy. So, she needs some positive mojo to come her way via some kind of cosmic pipeline (or the internet). Give up some of that mojo, folks.
There are all kinds of books at the Carcassone airport and a bunch of them tend to be written by British and a few Canadians and Americans about packing it all in and moving to France. I suspect they gloss over some of these less glamourous details.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Your blog discussion of paint colors reminded me of a window in Provence that lingered indelibly in my memory with its lovely skyblue shutters, wild flowers, and stones. I just ran across the photo. The blue shutters have turned brown! However, it remains beautiful. Enjoy!
Sunday, March 25, 2007
"Why does everyone in North America live life at such a pace? This question often comes up for discussion when we're in France, usually over a lengthy meal. Here, with just about everywhere closing for lunch for two hours, you can't shop or see your bank manager, so there's little point in rushing through a sandwich. And somehow, I can't picture many French business types eating salade de poulet sandwiches at their desks, except maybe in Paris. What we were learning more and more were the virtues of slowness, whether it was a way of getting around that let you really see the countryside or lingering over a dinner that took long pleasurable hours to prepare."
When I look at it that way, maybe I can begin to appreciate the virtues of slowness. (I am certainly learning French slowly.) I recommend the book if you can find it. We got it from Amazon.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
This is the Canal du Midi in Southern France. We rented a canal boat and cruised up and down a small portion of it just before it closed for the season. It was a peaceful and relaxing trip. Were we to do it again, I think we'd get a bigger boat, go with a few more people and take bicycles. You can ride alongside the flat canal path, and bikes would be good for heading into town to get supplies and seeing the countryside.
The locks were and experience, one which Nancy should write about at some point. These are all her photographs, by the way. The locks would operate with one lonely boat or as many as they could cram into the space. And if there were four canal boats with the sailors speaking, say Dutch, Italian, German, two Americans speaking English and the lock keeper speaking French, it was quite a zoo with ropes flying, water flowing and rising or falling and spectators laughing. The canal at one point goes under a mountain, through a tunnel a quarter mile long. If you wanted to you could go from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic on the canal.
The photo of the seaside is at Grau de Agde, where we set sail and ended our trip. If you want any information about renting a boat and cruising the canal, let us know.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
The young fellow pictured is my nephew, Noah, who came all the way from Seattle, Washington to Provence to cook his uncle a birthday dinner on October 12, 2004. He was prepared to cook anything in his chef's repertoire from his extensive training and I ordered hamburgers. May I say how excellent they were.
The other pictures are from the region around Vaison-la-Romaine in Provence. As always, click to enlarge.
The photographs are all by Nancy. The mountain is Mount Ventoux' highest peak in the neighborhood, taken from Le Crestet. The church bells are at Le Crestet, I think. I don't know where the stairs are but they appear to have gotten a fair amount of use. What do you think of the color of these shutters? Would this work in Leran? Stay tuned for some pictures of the canal boat tour of the Canal du Midi later on that same year. As always, comments are appreciated and will result in more frequent postings.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Monday, March 12, 2007
The other thing you should know is that if you click on any of the titles of the blogs, it will bring up a new window with all the comments at the end. You can also click on the title over at the left hand side of the screen and it will bring up a new window of that post including the comments.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
So, we thought we’d introduce the opportunity for you to be our next "Guest Blogger". Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) your story or adventure about travels in France (or somewhere else) and we’ll incorporate it into the next Post. How’s that for your 15 minutes of fame? Feel free to include a bio if you’re so inclined, or we’ll do it for you. I’m sure you all have some amusing, sorrowful, skeleton-in-the-closet or rolling-on-the-floor story that merits more than a "comment" box. Let ‘er rip!
But, now, sit back, and listen to Harley Williams.................
Hi, Nancy and Doug,
So much of what you recounted brought back recollections of 1960 in southern France. The area you are in sounds much like Provence of 47 years ago! I was in Aix from the summer of 1960 through the summer of 1961 as a "strange student" at the Aix branch of the University of Aix-Marseilles. All classes in French. Horrors! I had had one year of French at that point. My accent came from Laval University in Quebec, Canada, where I began French with an immersion course. Bad idea--wrong accent. Like Brooklyn talking to Georgia. My next bad idea was choosing a course in Russian novels. Imagine reading "War and Peace" in French. I didn't begin to have the vocabulary to keep up, so I ordered the books on the list in English from Blackwell's (?) in England, read several chapters of each book in French, and the rest in English. Ya do what ya gotta do.
The good choice I made was to take a 12 credit hour (6 per semester) course in Art History, which included incredibly wonderful field trips in a rickety old bus many weekends. We went very far afield, including to Carcassonne, Grasse, Arles, Nimes, etc., etc. The rest of my courses were in French literature, of which I remember practically nothing. We ate lunch and dinner at the student cafeteria for one franc (20 American cents) per meal. In the evening there was often a tasty stew, cooked with wine in a variety of ways. I had been there three months before I discovered it was horse meat.
I well remember setting up my bank account in a very serious interview with the manager of the Societe Generale. (Each transaction was entered into a huge ledger in absolutely beautiful handwriting. There were no calculators or adding machines!) Some things French remain incomprehensible.
I remember puzzling over the separate toilet rooms. At the local Renault dealership, there were two restroom doors side by side, separately labeled for men and women. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the two doors led to the same toilette! I lived with an Algerian French couple who allowed me roughly one gallon of hot water twice per week. We froze to death in September and October during uncommonly cold weather because there was an inviolable rule that the heat is turned on November 1. On that date, the heat went on, despite the 60 degree outdoor temperature. Oh, what a flood of wonderful memories! Somehow, I was charmed by the sheer illogic of it all.
I loved Aix and, remarkably, still do. We went back a few years ago and it is still delightful. The outskirts have grown enormously, but the inner city is rather unspoiled, if you overlook the tourists (not including us, of course.) They have wonderful fountains, sidewalk cafes (including the ones where Picasso and Cezanne hung out,) and markets. I went back to my old bank and they (gasp!) now have computers, having replaced their beautiful old ledgers.
I can certainly empathize with your comments and those of your friends about using your not yet fluent French reminded me of meeting Jim (Harley’s son) in Paris one time. He had graduated from college at midyear because of having taken a semester off to volunteer in Appalachia for Habitat for Humanity. Jon (Harley’s husband) and I gave him a bare bones amount of money as a graduation present so that he could backpack around Europe. Somehow he made it last five months. In April of that spring, Jon was at a training program so my sister Nancy (a different Nancy) and I decided to go to Paris, Giverny, and Normandy, a perfectly logical decision we thought. We flew over and Jim, who had arrived a week or so earlier, met us at our hotel with his enormous backpack, filled with hard back books and little else. He became our instant guide. I cheerfully ignored the fact that I had been to Paris many times (some as a flight attendant for TWA) and that I had some barebones knowledge of French. We had a marvelous time! When we needed directions, Jim was always the one to approach the French person with his gawdawful, mostly forgotten, high school French and a respectful, engaging manner. It was fun watching from a little distance as his French victim would at first look annoyed, then perplexed, and then, finally, a big smile would slowly spread across his (or her) face. This would be followed by a flood of French, shortly thereafter repeated very slowly with vast gesticulations. Somehow they communicated and formed a brief bond, with warm parting handshakes. This happened time after time. Can you picture him? Jim was not exactly a picture of sartorial splendor, I might add.
Feel free to quote anything folks might find interesting. I will continue to follow your adventure with great interest and some serious envy!
P.S. I shipped a car from France to the US. It lost some of its contents enroute. I wish there had been a way to shrink wrap it. Is that possible?
Friday, March 9, 2007
I’ve run into some obstacles that have me scratching my head in disbelief …..so I’ll take a few minutes to share a few with you….
Some of you may already know that I was married once before, divorced nearly 30 years ago. Apparently it is a quaint custom of the French government to ensure their homeland that I am not a bigamist, and I am required to produce a copy of the divorce decree---which I probably round-filed on the day of the dissolution. Now, to get Boulder Co. Courthouse to call me back. No proof, no house?
Very accidentally one day I came across information on passport restrictions in the Schengen countries (most of Western Europe) and discovered that we were only legally able to remain in France for 90 days without a visa (and I don’t mean the credit card). I have to admit that just the fact that such a restriction exists ticked me off, limiting my option to stay longer if we wanted. So, what could be so difficult about getting a visa?
I eventually located the French Embassy website listing locations, hours of operation, and most important: Who Needs a visa? The Visa de long Sejour made opening a French bank account kid’s stuff. First of all, no visa is issued by mail or over the phone---only in person---period. All the documents submitted in English have to be translated into French. Allow 2 – 3 months for processing. Four application forms and 5 passport photos. Include dates of arrival and departure. Attach a letter from your health insurance company confirming that you are covered for those very specific dates; if not, purchase travel insurance. Attach bank statements and brokerage statements guaranteeing at least 1800 Euro per person per month. Include property deed. Include Letter from local police stating that you have no criminal record. Lastly, write a letter certifying that you will not have any paid activity in France, the purpose of your stay and your motivation. Oh, and make 3, no, 4, no better make it 5 copies of everything just to be safe. Then make your online appointment, but be certain because once you make the appointment you can’t change it! Gotta love the warm, charming reception of the French.
So, I’m thinking after reading this, IS THIS A JOKE? I try calling the San Francisco Embassy, keep getting a recorded choice for “Press 2 for English” and that’s the last English I ever hear. I go back to the website and learn that they only take phone calls 2:30 – 5:00. I call the Houston Embassy, thinking that since we are going to ship our Toyota truck out of Houston, they would be the one to go to anyway. Right? Wrong. Utah is not under the jurisdiction of the Houston office. There is no way my residency in Utah could possibly be verified by anyone in the Houston office. RULE #1: Do not ask the French government to change any rule.
Back to waiting to call San Francisco, finally. Just by chance, I ask them about switching the venue to Houston. It doesn’t go over well. Oh well. San Francisco it is. But the good news is, they have added yet another visa not quite listed on the website, a Sejour Temporaire, which accommodates us non-terrorists better. We can stay up to 6 months, can produce our papers in English, only a couple extra copies necessary, no police clearance, and may get the visa the same day. But we still get to write the letter about what we want to do on our summer vacation. And, as they say on their website:1 passport = 1 visa = 1 appointment, so I had to make two separate appointments for Doug and myself. Changes in appointments are now being accepted.
The old Toyota pickup is going to have a new home in France. We are arranging to ship it in a shared container from Houston to Rotterdam. There is also a RO/RO “roll on/roll off service where cars are loaded like on the Seattle ferries, but the lead time is longer, they sail less frequently, and the vehicle must be 100% empty. In a shared container, we can load up the camper shell and passenger and jump seats with tools, clothes and other personal possessions. The crossing takes on average 28 days, so at some point we will either drive, rail or fly to somewhere in the vicinity of Rotterdam to pick old “Smokey” up. I don’t even want to think about going through Customs at that end. Once we have it there we’re committed. Then the next hurdle is navigating through the red tape of getting it registered and licensed in France. Which, because it is an older vehicle, will probably require some sort of major transplant sanctioned by the French government.
Renting a car or the supposedly cheaper lease buyback option for several months every time we come will get expensive. And buying an “unknown” vehicle is always dicey, whereas Smokey has been like a Boy Scout all these years: trustworthy, reliable, etc.
One last comment, faithful readers, I find the discourse about ‘americanizing’ our French house very interesting. I guess you’ll just have to come and judge for yourselves.
Thursday, March 8, 2007
Friday, March 2, 2007
Nancy is working on getting airline reservations which originate in Houston. We may be shipping her truck in a container from Houston to Rotterdam around mid-May. That would mean we could load up the truck with some belongings if we wanted to. It also means we have to drive it to Houston and fly out of Houston, and also we would have to get to Rotterdam sometime in June to pick up the truck. This is all up in the air right now. Shipping the truck does seem like a good idea because Nancy hardly puts any miles on it all here in Moab. She rides her bike almost everywhere except to the grocery store. It would save us on insurance to not have it here and we have considered selling it but we probably wouldn't get what it's worth to us. But it's a good truck and we do need a vehicle in France, and a four-wheel drive truck would be nice to have over there to haul building materials around in. Considering the hassle of buying a used vehicle in France and what we would get for the money we'd sell the truck for, ahhh.... it doesn't seem like a good trade. It would also mean we could equip a kitchen with the stuff we have here and throw it in the truck, and we could toss in a lot of tools as well. All in all, it seems like a no-brainer. What do you think?
The next problem I am puzzling over is what to do with the third floor, or the second floor as its called in France. We need to put down a finished floor and bathroom and leave room for a stairway to the proposed roof terrace and leave room for a couple of bedrooms. I have a British English/French dictionary of building terms but its really two foreign languages as we Americans and the Brits can't seem to agree on what to call any tool or particular part of a building, or any building material. And then of course I need to learn to build in the French style, with French materials, with metric measurements, with French plumbers and in the French language with my American hands. Anybody want to come and help?
Then we need to buy a refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave, stereo, coffee maker, some lamps, and possibly a dryer, a tv and dvd player. Power tools. Virtually anything that plugs into the wall with the exception of a computer. And of course a couch and a few chairs, etc., etc.
By the way.....I read in my French renovation guide that they advise me not to put a toilet in with the bath because the French find it particularly unattractive. They do not explain why, but they postulate that if you are going to sell the house eventually, and want French buyers, isolate the toilet in it's own little room. So its a French thing. Any ideas on why this is? Without being too graphic of course.
Some observations from the trip:
Most French in Aude/Areige don't speak any English.
Tile roofs as in southern France are very green (not in color). It comes from the soil and eventually goes back there. Low energy embodiment, that is it takes little energy to manufacture. Compare that to making shingles out of petroleum and gravel, and imagine them in the landfill in 40 years later. In fact, buildings in France are altogether greener, made of stone or block rather than wood and plastic.
I'm told there was a story on NPR the other day about the numbers of British moving to France. We're told by people who ought to know, that France is number ten on the list of countries getting an influx of the British. Spain, Australia, Italy and New Zealand all get more emigrants from Britain.
And oh yeah, we will be continuing our postings on a regular basis when we return to France. I think it's better to communicate by blog rather than e-mail but I have no idea who is reading the blog other that those who left comments or e-mailed us. There are some who only looked at the pictures and some who seemed to have trouble connecting up to the blog and some who didn't bother to check in at all. I hope you find it worthwhile and interesting, and not too self-centered.