Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
When we first looked at our new/old house we liked it and it didn't take a second viewing to sign on the dotted line. However, when we accompanied the home inspector on his tour, we noticed a foul odor in the house. We made the incorrect assumption the methane gas smell was coming from a dried up p-trap. A little water to the suspected trap and a infusion of fresh air and the odor was gone.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Boxes are everywhere, loaded and unloaded. Tabletops and counter tops are full of stuff. But moving in is more fun than moving out, that's for sure.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Snow is falling in Moab and Montrose and the adventure resumes tomorrow when we head for our new town.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Today was supposed to be the day we closed on our new house in Montrose. Yesterday was supposed to be the day we closed on the sale of our place in Moab. None of it happened.
Our buyers, through no fault of their own, found themselves without the funding they had arranged for months earlier. The credit union association had picked last week to do an audit on 13 credit unions in Utah. Funding was frozen. Our sale and purchase were on hold. And as I write this, they still are. There are rumors that the funding may reappear at any moment. Until that happens, we are living in the land of limbo. Most everything except our toothbrushes are packed and ready to go. But there is nowhere to go.
Our buyers have scrambled to find alternative financing, both private and with other financial institutions, but it all takes time. A week ago, when we found out that everything was on hold, we were sure the entire sale would fall through. But now, I know it will happen. We just don't know when. Tentatively, we are set up to close on the 14th in Moab, and the 15th in Montrose. If the funds from the credit union re-appear, it may be sooner. Try arranging your movers with those parameters, not to mention your life.
It was a stressful week and we can hope the worst of the shit has already hit the fan. If it hasn't, were standing by with shovels.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The letter contained some very sad news as well. I’ll quote Gwenda……“I guess you will have heard that a nice man in Rue de Four has died. Can't remember his name but he lived opposite Alan and Eileen and had a wife who was blind. He used to ride a bike and had an allotment. I hope that this isn't all old news to you.”
We hadn’t heard this news from anyone else and so it was very sad for Nancy and I to learn this old gentleman had died. If you have visited us in Leran, you will no doubt remember this old fellow and know exactly who Gwenda was referring to. Nancy and I called him “the little old man”. He always wore a blue beret, blue French workman’s pants, and generally a short sleeve plaid shirt. I never, ever, saw him without his blue beret and I thought I had all the time in the world to take lots of pictures of him. Sadly, I never took one shot of him even though I wanted to very badly. But I thought it would embarrass him to be the subject of my attention. Yes, stupid, I know. I had introduced myself one day, not long after we bought our house, and asked him his name and he told me. Tragically, before I walked the 100 feet to our house, I had mangled his name in my memory. It was something like ‘Pascal’, but I wouldn’t swear to it. I was so embarrassed to have forgotten it, or mangled it, that I could never work up the courage to ask him again for his name.
He had two garden plots and three or four times a day he would walk by our house on his way to get his bicycle and ride the two or three kilometers out to his plot. He would reappear later in the day with products from his garden piled on his bike. In June the pickings would be slim, but by the end of August he would bring home quite a haul. Leeks, onions, lettuce, turnips and all kinds of garden goodies. We were very envious.
In the evening, he would sit outside their house, in a chair or on the windowsill or curb, often with his wife, and they would get some sunshine and fresh air and chatting with the neighbors. Nancy and I would always “Bonjour” and “Ca va?” as we walked by. I had a few conversations with him, very limited on my part and we generally discussed the weather. I doubt he spoke even a single word of English. I never saw him at the bar, or in Mirepoix, or anywhere else for that matter, except on the Rue du Four and at his garden plot out towards Lac Montbel.
I suspect he lived on a pension and he must have survived on very little. They didn’t have a car and I never saw him riding in one. He must have used the services of the meat, fish and grocery trucks that show up weekly in Leran. The items from his garden were most likely a very important part of his diet. He must have been on the far side of 80 years old, but I thought he would live forever. He was thin as a rail, getting lots of exercise on his ‘velo’, eating food fresh from the earth and he was always seemed happy as a clam (there must be something happier than a clam).
I only saw him once without a big smile on his face, and although I couldn’t follow the French, he was angry at our next door neighbor for the crass language, the noise, or something our neighbor had said. Whatever they were arguing about, I was on his side, because he was always a perfect gentleman.
So, here’s to you Pascal, if that was indeed your name. May you Rest in Peace. You had no way of knowing how much we enjoyed your presence and how much we’ll miss you.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Our old friend, Smokey, the Toyota pick-up has been sold and it's all over except the transfer of money and paperwork. Smokey served us admirably, but it was not a vehicle well suited to travel around Europe, so it had to go. Our renovation is over for the most part and we no longer have a use for Old Smokey. We'll rent or lease a car next time we go to France. We'll get better gas mileage, not have to maintain it, and be able to carry more than two people. We won't have to buy insurance or worry about where Smokey spends the winter. Nonetheless, we'll miss you old buddy.
We're not sure about when we will return to Leran, but possibly next September, or late August. We have other things on our plate right now. As many of you already know, we've sold our property in Moab and need to find a new place to dwell. Where that will be, we are not yet certain, but a lot of this fall will be spent looking at houses. Houses in Santa Fe, New Mexico to begin with. If that doesn't feel comfortable, it may be elsewhere. We have come to a point in our lives where access to extreme outdoor recreation no longer dictates where we want to live. We want to take into account better summertime weather as there might come a time we won't go to France every year, as well as a little better access to medical care and more cultural opportunities. Santa Fe might work just fine, or not. We'll see.
And lastly, do not expect many posts until we do return to France. We might feel inspired write about the upcoming move, but don't count on it. In any case, thanks for stopping by and see you soon.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The Allies had invaded southern France on August 15, 1944 for a number of reasons, but they are complicated and I will not try to explain them here.
Lieutenant Swank was part of a small party parachuted into the area as the Germans retreated. The Germans had invaded Vichy France shortly after the D-Day landings. According to local legend, Swank and his co-Lieutenant had planned an ambush along the road in this narrow river canyon, intending to block the German retreat and attack the convoy. The Germans, expecting an attack, and being the ruthless bastards they were, took hostages from the nearby town of Couiza, (citizens who volunteered under pressure knowing they would probably die, and if they didn’t volunteer knew the entire village would die) and strapped them to the roofs of their vehicles, intending to frustrate or stop an ambush. Rightly undeterred, Swank descended to the level of the road and attacked from there, hoping to kill Germans not hostages but exposing himself and losing his life in the process. Reportedly, Lieutenant Swank had said he wanted to be buried where he died, wherever that happened to be.
He was buried nearby but the US Army insisted on bringing the body home, as is the custom in most cases. The family later disinterred Swank from his resting place in the States and re-interred him in Alet-les-Bains.
The entire story and the report on the mission in which Swank lost his life can be found at this website. http://www.languedoc-france.info/1016_ww2.htm
I recommend you go there and learn all about Swank and his mission. Please scroll down or read as far as "Operation Peg" for a history of the mission itself.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Not too far out of Chalabre, on the way to Limoux, is a sweeping U-curve in the road at St. Benoit. It courses around a crop that I haven't been able to identify. Every time we've passed this way, I've anticipated another glimpse, in hopes of yet another clue. The other day, with Bill and Kathy in tow to the Limoux market (and lunch at Alaigne), a monsieur was out tending the crop. When I asked for the group's opinion and no one knew, Kathy suggested stopping and actually asking.
"Tabac", he identified as he proudly plucked several of the flower stalks and presented them to us, as if pinning a corsage on our prom dresses. The thought of tobacco leaves had fleetingly crossed my mind, but I asked him if this was not unusual for France. In this neck of the woods, everything is either sunflowers or vineyards. His reaction seemed to imply NO. Through "20 Questions" we determined that his tabac was used for cigarettes---and not just any cigarettes, mind you---MARLBORO! Quelle bizarre.
Flying in to Toulouse (pronounced “Too-loosh”) looks like flying into Oregon or Ireland compared to our home in Arizona. Lush, rolling hills, much of it farmland, beautifully groomed and billboard and trash free.
Upon arrival in Leran (the story of the toll booth is a whole story by itself – as was just trying to get out of the rental car lot) Nancy prepared a delicious tomato based spread for some of that famous French bread they buy from the la boulangerie (pronounced “that bread place down the street”). Doug even had a bottle of the Famous Grouse (pronounced “scotch”) waiting on ice.
So far we’ve visited Mirepoix and Limoux (pronounced “Mirapocks” and “Limocks”, respectively), Chalabre and a wonderful little café in the small town of Alaigne where they were preparing a 40th anniversary celebration of Woodstock.
Marek and Shirley’s Le Rendez’vous is right around the corner and they, too, had stocked a bottle of Famous Grouse. Great place to meet Doug and Nancy’s neighbors.
It’s quiet here…no background freeway ambient noise. I’m sure Doug and Nancy would like some peace and quiet before they head for Moab but we’re here for at least five more days. Stay tuned for further pix.
It really is beautiful here.
Friday, August 14, 2009
pleese edit for grammer and punktooashun. And speling. Thanks.
Well, our first trip is on the books. But our first blog post isn’t, so here it is. With the bar set high by cousin Kate I will attempt a guest post. This was our first time in Leran, and what a place…. Little Britain as we have called it has treated us well. The town itself is so small I’m not sure more than a handful of Reids should visit at any one time, or they might not all fit. It has everything you need, a bakery, a mayor, a castle, a river, an old lady (or two, or three) who watches you from the doorway and says a kind bonjour, and even an old man who rides his bike back and forth from the garden to his girlfriends house. Outfitted with the iconic beret on his head, he would ride by a few times a day looking like a postcard each time. Once with a bunch of carrots and lettuce in the basket, once with a loaf of bread, and once with a bottle of wine. ALWAYS smiling. This guy broke our hearts he looked so sweet. He also marked the passage of time for us as we sat around in the apartment doing absolutely nothing but reading and talking and staring out the window together.
We had ambitious plans when we arrived. A side trip of four days in Marseilles, a night in Arbois, lots of wine tasting, but we cancelled them all when we arrived in Leran. We decided to take it easy and get to know the Midi Pyrenee instead. The first day Kari caught up on three months worth of sleep and by the second day I was struck with a fever. A few days into it we had it diagnosed as swine flu then in a frightening moment (with a stiff neck and terrible headache) I figured it was maybe meningitis. We were discussing contingency plans on how to get me to a hospital, and when to make the decision when Sally stopped by. In that wonderful way the Brits have of reducing you with a smile she just laughed and said “Just like a man. You’ve only got a touch of what was floating around”. She then teased me every time we saw her by asking how my “Man Flu” was progressing. Proud to say, it wasn’t meningitis after all, nor was it swine flu. Most likely just a touch of Man flu I suppose.
So, it ended up being a week of sleeping, reading, navigating French pharmacies and laying low. Which in the end was exactly what we needed anyway. In spite of this we made it to dinner at the abbey in Camon, which was an absolutely lovely night. We also managed to drop the key down the grate in front of the door to the house. Something I had worried about the whole week. When it finally happened we could just see the glint of the key down the little shoot to who the hell knows where. We asked a neighbor for a coat hanger or something, and he came over to help. He arrived with an antique looking pair of fire tongs, and managed to grab the keys, get them right within reach and then drop them again, this time sliding away into oblivion. I figured the key (which had the front door key, as well as the rental car key) had slid all the way down into some sewer or storm drain runoff, and that we were screwed royally. The neighbor who was helping felt so bad about dropping it a second time that he rallied the whole street, which caused a wonderful neighborhood wide council on what to do. This culminated in a neighbor who is employed by working under old houses being remodeled. We climbed into the window (which was unlocked thankfully) and found a trap door in the kitchen. This nimble little kid scrambled down a set of rotten steps, past Fergie’s kennel, grabbed the key and hopped right back up. Everyone cheered when he emerged with the key.
I baked about ten tarts and gave them to some of the neighbors; we attended the Marche Gormande in Leran on our last night. We ate mussels, frites and snails, and watched a torrential rainstorm move through. Everyone was either safely inside the garage of city hall or across the street at Marek’s watching each other from across the street. All in all it was a wonderful week of relaxing and getting to know this beautiful little town. Thank you both for your generosity and kindness. We were amazed at what you’ve created and all the hard work it must have taken. We love you both.
Noah and Kari