Monday, May 13, 2019

The Nomad-ist of the Nomads

When Grace was a toddler, the Disney movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame had just come out. One day riding in the car, she asked me, "What are gypsies?" She'd heard of gypsies because of the movie.
"Gypsies are people who travel from place to place because they don't have a home," I told her.
"Oh, like Nena and Gran," she said, referring to my parents who had several homes by the time Grace turned three.
Grace age 4, putting it all in perspective
No doubt, if we had grandchildren, they would believe that Earl and I are gypsies.
Since I last posted, we've moved to yet another apartment and we pull up roots again this week.
It's getting a bit ridiculous.
It all started with the Ginoles apartment where we planned to live for a year, but when the WiFi (which the French call wee-fee) didn't work properly, we had to make some changes.
We moved to the apartment by the river for a month where I stayed while Earl went home to the States.
The house overlooked the river and Quillan's infamous blue bridge. 
We had options; we could rent an apartment in town with two bedrooms and no outdoor space for the rest of the year.
It just felt kind of sketchy.
I hated the toilet room which had no windows, just a toilet and a door that would probably hit Earl in the knees.
Then Earl started leaning toward buying a house rather than renting. We didn't want to get into a long-term contract if we might buy a house.
With the summer looming and prices going up everyday for rentals in this touristy area, I turned to Trusted Housesitter and looked for a housesit that lasted at least a month. I found one in a place Earl dreams of -- the Berkshires in Massachusetts.

And that's where we will spend our summer. We fly back to the States June 14 and will be there through September 10. The minute I agreed to that, I felt a bit queasy, imagining all the things I will miss here -- the Tour de France, the 14th of Juillet, the festivals and festivals and festivals. Sun-filled days and languid evenings. How could I give that all up?
But, I promised myself not to whine about it.
I got busy arranging the next month and a half so we wouldn't be homeless.
We'd stay in the 2-bed apartment with the claustrophobic toilet for a month before our scheduled hike in June.
I paid the 650 euros for the apartment as the owner and re-habber assured me everything was completed except the gas hook up. We needed gas for hot water and the stove.
The day before we were to move, I got an email saying the gas wouldn't be ready after all.
Yikes. No place to live!!!!
I mean, that is short notice.
Luckily, the woman who owns a place we rented before (the one where we froze during the winter) said we could stay at her rental for the month of May. So we're in a two-room flat but it's fine. We're out and about with friends a lot and have managed to squeeze six people in for dinner when the weather turned and prevented us from eating outdoors.
But last week, an acquaintance knocked on the door to our rental apartment and asked whether we'd do a housesit for them. Their housesitter is ill. We jumped at the chance to expand into more than two rooms, so we'll be moving again.
This time though, I have most of my winter clothes packed into my big suitcase and we're going to store it at a friend's house rather than continuing to move it from place to place.
So tomorrow, we'll visit Graeme and Elizabeth's to store things in their spare bedroom for the summer. Then we're moving on Thursday, just across the bridge and down the road, to a lovely house with a pool and a cat.
On June 2, we'll meet Linda and Maurice for our hike along the Camino de Santiago, although in France they call it the Chemin de St. Jacques de Compostelle. You might recall we did part of it last year with them. Here's the link to one of the posts.
One of the sights along our route last year. 
We hike from inn to inn, eating lavish dinners in the evening. Last year, Linda and I drove together during the day while the men hiked because the weather was bad. I hiked a bit and I hope to do more hiking this year.
We're going from St. Jean Pieds de Port to Logrono in Spain. This website has some details about the hike, but we aren't going through them. Maurice planned all the inns and stops we will make. But this tour follows basically the same route we'll be taking.
After our hike, we return to Quillan to leave our car and our belongings. We'll take the train to Paris for one night and fly back to the States.
But don't worry, I already have our return flight for France in September.
We might be having a Thoreau summer, tucked into the woods, but we'll return to a Moliere autumn in France.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

French Forms

The morning was punctuated by rain on one side and high wind on the other,
but the bridge, the river and the mountains persuaded me to go for a run anyway. 

Just when you think you're out of the French form business for another year, with both a driver's license and a carte de sejour tucked in my wallet, a minor accident and a car purchase send us back up to our necks in forms in French.
Truthfully, the forms aren't so bad, it's trying to figure out what to do with them. Can I take a picture and email them? Do I need to fax them (are there still fax machines)? Should they be mailed?
During the past month, since our departure from the apartment we thought we would be in all year,  we lived on a narrow street where cars insist on driving quickly. I was sitting at my computer by the window on the road, preparing for my class to start at noon when a car zoomed past and I heard a crunch. I just had a feeling.
I walked out of the house and saw something strange hanging off the front of the car. The headlight. Pretty sure it's not supposed to look like that.
A car was parking in front of our car, so I waited until the woman got out.
She was nice about it. She had cut too close as she tried to park.
I told her I had to get inside to teach so she gave me her name and number and said she would be back home, just down the street from me, at 6.
In between classes, I contacted a few French friends. I barely know what to do in an American accident, much less a French one.
One friend sent me a form to be filled out. It's an "amiable" form, which means both drivers agree on what happened.
But the woman didn't get home at 6 or 7 or... well, I quit watching for her and texted. We agreed to meet the next day at 4 at her place.
So she cordially offered me coffee, but I declined and we filled out the necessary forms. It was Friday afternoon. I had no idea what to do with the forms. She suggested I call our insurance company, which is also our bank. I tried but got stuck in the "Press 1 for xxx" and "press 2 for xxx." Speaking French to a person on the phone is hard enough. Figuring out what a machine says is even more difficult. I decided to head to the bank branch 30 minutes away on Monday.
Come Monday, I checked the hours and saw that the branch is closed Monday. I knew Wednesday was a holiday, so my only option was Tuesday.
The bank was open until 5:20 p.m. and my last class ended at 4. I would have time to drive half an hour before it closed.
Then I got there at 4:40 and saw that it was closing early (exceptionelle) at 4:50. I barely made it. The woman who helped me, after a 5-minute wait, had no idea what to do with the form. The bank does not have an insurance branch. She searched online. Then she went to her manager's office and he suggested they would send it for me. So whether it was mailed, emailed, faxed or simply struck in a drawer, I have no idea.
The car accident reminded me that I had never received my carte grise for the car. The carte grise is like the registration. Our friend who sold us the car did all the French paperwork online, but we never got the form.
I hopped online and claimed that it was lost, even though we had never received it. They asked for 99 euros, which I paid, and said they were processing the request. Then I got an email that listed about 10 documents I need to send in before I can get my carte grise.
It's all a little overwhelming. I need to print out the forms and mail them in.
Technically, it's illegal for us to drive the car without the carte grise, so we need to be super careful not to get pulled over before we receive the paperwork.
But, the good news is, that my husband has safely returned to France, so anything I'm dealing with now is not on my own.
The weather was so cold today, I feel like I might be in a Nordic country rather than the south of France, with temperature in the 30s (4 C) and high winds that endanger pedestrians from flying market umbrellas.
These fabrics are beautiful, but expensive. They said they were hand-loomed. 

No matter, we're still enjoying life.
As for our living arrangements, they become more nomadic by the week, so I promise an update soon.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

"Oh, the Places You'll Go!" as Dr. Seuss might say.
Yesterday I went on an 18-mile bike ride (that's 28 kilometers for those using metric measurements) with a French friend. It adds an element of skill to try to maintain a conversation in French along with riding up steep hills in the countryside. (She speaks excellent English so we only speak French to help me practice my language skills.)
The places we came across within a 10-miles radius of my adopted home. I had never been to the village of Montazels, but a climb up a fairly steep hill took me to the charming village. My friend pointed out a former chateau, but all I saw was a petanque pitch. Apparently, you can only see the chateau from below.
We stopped for a picturesque selfie.

That's the chateau behind us up on the hill and you can see mountains beyond in the split of the nearby mountains.
Next we coasted down the hill into Couiza where I caught a glimpse of another chateau I'd never seen. Duc de Joyeuse is a bed and breakfast now.

This isn't a great picture, but the sky sure is beautiful.
And in the other direction is the expected row of plane trees.
We saw so many gorgeous landscapes, but I couldn't stop all the time to take pictures.
I did get a shot of some poppies blooming. Yes, it's the beginning of poppy season here.

And this garden is very well maintained.
We stopped for coffee and pain au raisin, because what's the point of riding through the French countryside if you can't enjoy a pastry and coffee.
What a lovely morning exploring and enjoying life in France!

Foiled Travel Plans

Is it just us or are travel plans always complicated? We had planned to go back to the States for Christmas and stay for Grace's weddin...