Tag: moving to france

Marseille, Resilient After All

Admittedly, my old view of Marseille came from mob and war stories in books, on TV and movies.

Now after visiting the city, I’m impressed. To me Marseille’s story is one of resilience. It shows how perseverance conquers adversity.

Marseille’s Story: Prehistory and Ancient Massalia

Marseille’s StoryThe earliest settlements in the area, now know as Marseille, date back to the Paleolithic period (60,000 BC). Residents lived along the Marseille basin which was about the size of the current city. The location was ideal for all types of sea activities. It was protected on the opposite side from the strong northerly wind, Les Mistral, by a range of tall mountains.

Around 600 BC the Phocaeans, Greeks from Asia Minor, arrived in the area to be close to their trading partner, Gaul. They named the city “Massalia.”

Marseille’s Story

Remains of Greek temple

A popular legend is that Massalia was a wedding gift from the Gallic king, Nannos, to his daughter upon her marriage to a Greek sailor. The story supports the belief that the nations were peaceful at that time. We do know the blending of the two cultures resulted in the introduction of olive oil, wine, ceramics and Grecian gods into the Gaelic world.

Marseille’s Story

From 600 BC to 49 BC the independent Greek city of Massalia grew into a prestigious seaport. Its sea trade, its infrastructure and its political system dominated the trade routes. They distributed goods along the coasts of Gaul to Iberia.

Marseille’s Story

Model of early Massalia

Marseille’s Story: The Roman City

Caesar captured Massalia in 49 BC. Artifacts unearthed at a site where the History Museum now stands attest to the Roman influence on the town. Massalia’s habits and customs, however, remained strongly Greek. Even the language.

Marseille’s Story

Marseille’s Story: Sacked, Ravaged, Back on Track

From the Roman age through medieval times, the city that became Marseille saw great prosperity and near-total destruction. The Visigoths captured Marseille and the Franks sacked it. In the early 10th century, Marseille experienced a revival as part of a Provençal territory which was divided in two. Arles and Marseille were the capitals.

During the twelfth century, Marseille was an independent republic with strong trade relations and naval prowess. A currency of its own boosted the city’s stature as well.

Marseille’s Story: A French Center of Commerce

Marseille’s StoryMarseille maintained political autonomy until it was absorbed into the Kingdom of France in 1481 along with Provence. Through years of religious wars and changes in French rulers, Marseille maintained its role as a major center of commerce and a vital port for defense. The city had an arsenal and fleets of warships.

Marseille’s Story

Fort Saint John

Under Louis XIV, Marseille was given “free port” status. To affirm his political power, the king ordered a new urban plan for the city. The size of Marseille went from 65 hectares to 195. Straight streets lined with mansions appeared, including the Canebière that leads to the Old Port. The new city had a fort and a new town hall.

The Great Plague

Thought to be carried from Central Asia through ship crews, the Great Plague of 1720 devastated Marseille. Over 30,000 out of the city’s population of 90,000 died from the outbreak.

Marseille’s Story

Marseille’s Story: The Revolution

The people of Marseille supported the Revolution sending hundreds of men north to Paris to fight. Along the way the rebellious marchers sang a song that is now the French national anthem, La Marseillaise.

Marseille’s Story

Troops from Marseille as depicted on the Arch de Triomphe in Paris

Marseille’s Story: Boom Time and Gangs

The middle of the nineteenth century was a “boom” time for Marseille. The port became a maritime hub for the rest of the world. Trade with the Far East and major shipping lines boosted the creation of a modern culture. At the same time, prosperity cut a deep wedge between the already divided city. The rich against the working class.

Marseille’s Story

Refugees, expelled or fleeing from their countries after WWI, brought droves of Italians, Corsicans, Germans, Armenians and Spaniards to Marseille in search of work. The world of gangsters and the underground grew under leaders such as Carbone and Spirito.

Marseille’s Story

Paul Carbone (top) and François Spirito

Marseille’s Story: Modern War and Destruction

The image of Marseille as a den of violence, drugs and crime is persistent in the eyes of many. Big screen movies and TV series, still today, such as “Marseille” help perpetuate the city’s reputation. Marseille is the second largest city in France today, so an element of such activity can be expected.

It’s how Marseille survived the apocalypse during World War II that is nearly incomprehensible.

Marseilles’ Story

German troops seal off the Old Port quarter of Marseille, the harbour side community.

The Old Port and surrounding districts were bombed and destroyed. The Germans, the Vichy government, the Militia and the French Popular Party actively suppressed the people. In January, 1943, more than 2,000 Marseillais were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. 

Like a phoenix, Marseille thrives. 

Marseille has an enduring charm. The metropolitan area of 1.5 million people consists of a melange of people of all races, creeds and nationalities. It is a place of huge economic, social and cultural significance to France. Marseille is proud and it shows.

Marseille’s Story

For more about Marseille:

The Doors and Windows of Marseille

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseille: A Stormy Past. A Brilliant Future.

Today’s French Lesson: “Parler de l’Amour”

It’s St. Valentine’s Day. What better time to learn French, the language of love?

In French class today at IS Aix-en-Provence we dove into a treasure chest of words and phrases the French use to express their feelings of love.

Would your heart go pitter-patter if your loved one called you “ma Puce” (my Flea)?

If someone said “avoir un cœur d’artichaut*” is it a compliment?

(*fall in love easily)

French the love language

I was surprised to be told that perfume tops the gift list for Saint Valentine’s Day in France, not a heart-shaped box of chocolates. Flowers are always good. Lingerie is even better –in red, of course.

Restaurants and cafes are packed for the occasion. Boulangeries are stacked with heart-shaped, chocolate-filled, cream-puffed, decadent delicacies of every description.

“Croyez-vous au coup de foudre?” Do you believe in love at first sight?

I do.

Click here for information on the French language school IS Aix-en-Provence

Moving to France: Patience

I’m not a very patient person. Never have been. When I moved to France, I knew it would try my patience.

Moving is one thing. Learning a new way to deal with bureaucracy and red tape takes frustration to a whole new dimension.

It takes patience

My move to a new apartment in Uzès, on top of recovering from my September 18th nightmare, has brought back to mind how difficult it is to do simple things in my new country… like having WiFi and telephone installed, or expecting dependable heating and hot water. You know, the essentials. I’m now two weeks in my new place and I’m still struggling with all of the above.

When I recently complained in an email to a new friend and blog follower, she reminded me of a post published five years ago. “You sound just as frustrated as you did when you first landed in Uzès,” she said.

Yep.

I must say, it’s worth a bit of agony to be here. I’m literally one step off street level. Three steps from my front door into the living area.

France takes patience

While the magnificent view of the Duché is no longer outside my office window, and the Medieval Garden is missing from my bedroom view, I’ve gained a regal courtyard and easy access. The latter is a godsend.

France takes patience

A new perspective

The September 18th nightmare wasn’t supposed to happen for at least five years. Five years from now I would have said “it’s time to go back to the States.” My whirlwind adventure in France would have ended with a big grand finale. 

That’s not how it’s going to end now. I haven’t had my fill of France.

Instead, I’m looking forward to stepping out this street-level door to spend more time with French neighbors and friends. After five years of watching the French enjoy their special kind of lifestyle, I’m going to try to participate. 

Yes, I’m going to be out there and I’m going to be speaking in French!

Stay tuned for next week’s news and another great adventure. A French language school in Aix-en-Provence. I’m so excited and you’ll be coming along, too! 

France takes patience

Moving to France: The Visa

Looks like lots of folks are thinking about moving to France. First, the visa. This post was #1 among blog followers in 2018. Bonne chance!

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Time to renew the French Expat Visa. It’s a gift from France that keeps on giving.

Wish I could say that everything about living in France is wonderful. But when it comes to dealing with French bureaucracy, frankly, it can be a nightmare.

As an American expat, I’m required to renew my long-stay visa yearly.  It allows me to stay in France 12 months. When renewing a visa you have to make an appointment at the local Prefector. You have to make the appointment online no earlier than two months before your visa expires. You can’t submit documents online. Most aggravating, the information you have to provide is the same your gave them the year before. You can’t just update it. You have to start all over again.

Here’s the list of items I have to produce this year. Mind you, not all regions of France have the same requirements. Wherever you are, however, materials except for your passport must be translated to French — including bank statements and proof of revenue.

  • Current carte de séjour
  • Passport
  • Birth certificate and translation
  • Proof of address (less than 3 months old)
  • 3 ID photos
  • Proof of revenue (proof that you have at least 1149 EUR per month)
  • Written statement (in French) that you will not work in France

Once your card is ready to pick up, you pay €269 in fiscal stamps. 

Renewing a French Expat Visa

Renewing my visa last year was a real pain. It was to expire in August. So I went to the website of the Prefecture in Nimes in June, two months in advance, as instructed, to set up an appointment.

“No appointments available. Try again,” it said in French, of course.

Moving to France Visa

I tried the website again the next day. Same response. And the next day. And the day after that. The same screen appeared each time. “No appointment available. Try again.”

By the end of July, with no appointment, I was beginning to worry. I was told by others they were having the same problem.

“No need going to Nimes in person to ask for an appointment,” they said. Online only.

French expat visaOh, what to do? Visions of gendarmes at my door were running through my head. Worse yet, what if I finally got an appointment, and it was in September?!  I had plans to be in the Dordogne! How could I be in two places at one time? All those non-refundable reservations! Panic!

I started asking around for help. That’s when I heard about a company that helps expats cut through French red tape. Renestance. They literally came to my rescue.

The Renestance office is in Montpelier.  They can help expats wherever they live in France. Jennifer, whom I got to know quite well, lives in Nimes. We met more than once. She could easily go with me to the Prefecture in Nimes. Whenever we could get an appointment.

Renestance was having the same problem with the Nimes website with all their clients. Nevertheless, we persisted.

Renewing a French Expat Visa…finally

Finally, after sending a registered letter to the Prefecture explaining my carte de séjour had expired, I had an appointment. November 29th at noon. By that time I’d spent a vacation in the Dordogne agonizing that I might miss an appointment date. And I’d cancelled my plans to spend the holidays with my family in the States. Oh, the frustration!

During all the waiting, Renestance was busy working on my case. They were online multiple times each day and night checking to see if the website was accepting appointments. They were managing the translation of my documents. Most of all, they were dealing with me!

For example, the “original copy” of the birth certificate that I ordered from the courthouse in North Carolina, where I was born, the one my son hand carried to France when he visited, was lost. Bless his heart, my dear son went to the county courthouse, in person, picked up another “original” birth certificate for me, and sent it by FedEx to France.

By the time November 29th rolled around, everything was ready for the appointment in Nimes. Jennifer met me at the train station, guided me to the Prefector’s office, which had moved sometime over the past year, and she walked me through the whole process. Which, by the way, would have been impossible for me without speaking the language. Yes, American Jennifer speaks perfect French. It was another three months before I actually had a new carte de séjour in hand, but I had a signed government document that served the purpose.

So now, when anyone asks me if there’s anyone in France who can help Americans or other English-speaking expats through the French bureaucracy, the answer is “Yes!” Renestance. They help with visas, drivers’ licences, relocation issues and more. Jennifer is helping me again this year. She’s already made an appointment at the Prefector on March 5th. It’s all under control.

Thank you Renestance!

 

Read about the first experience with a French Visa

 

Moving to France drama

Moving to France: The Drama

Five years ago the Barefoot Blogger started her extraordinary journey to live in France. Remembering some of my early days moving to France, the drama and friends is so much fun. This is one of my favorite blogs 2013 … enjoy!

If “Dancing Queen” from the movie “Mama Mia” came into your mind last Friday, it was me blasting the music from iTunes through my rooftop in France. I was celebrating that my internet connection and phone in the apartment were finally working!

To tell the truth, before then, I was close to a meltdown. My lack of French language skills was about to get the best of me. Imagine trying to place a service call to the cable or telephone company if you can’t communicate. There’s o way to get through an automated phone answering system if you can’t speak French!

The drama

Move to France dramaEveryday I was showing up at my friend Geoffrey’s house with a “Deborah-do” list. He’s the only bi-lingual person I know that I’ve felt comfortable asking ffavors. However, depending on him to deal with my never-ending household issues was getting to be a bit much. Even for me, the “Queen of do-me-a-favor ple..eee…ase.”

So last Thursday morning I stopped by the town’s tourist office to ask about a newcomers group I heard about last summer. The receptionist gave me verbal directions to the newcomers’ office. Wasting no more time, I set out to find it. After a few wrong turn I came to the athletic field mentioned in the directions.  A sign led me to a tiny building inside the fence at the far end of the playing field. The squat, stone structure looked like a baseball dugout shelter; except it had a door at the end closest to me and barred windows on the sides.

The fence gate was open and just inside the gate a dirt path led to the entrance door. When there I turned the worn knob and pushed my weight against the heavy, wooden door.  Expecting to see a reception desk inside, or at least to hear a “bonjour”, I saw only a hallway of closed doors and heard muffled voices coming from behind one of the doors.

Moving to France dramaWalking towards the voices I reached the room that, I hoped, would be full of English-speaking people. Opening the door and sticking my head inside the tiny, dimly lit room, my eyes met the glares from at least a dozen men and women, all sitting around a table. They were probably conducting a very important meeting of some kind, which I rudely interrupted. But surely they would understand. I was on a mission.

I needed someone, anyone, to come to my rescue… to speak English.

Before I was totally into the room, a kind young woman stood up from behind the table to greet me at the door . But by then, I had blurted out “does anyone speak English?”

No one said a word. They just looked at each other, waiting for someone to speak up.

Silence.

“What??” I said to myself. ” No one speaks English? What kind of a “welcome”  group is this?!”

Fortunately, none of that ‘head-talk’ came out of my mouth. Nevertheless, I’m sure every person in the room, from the look on their faces, got the message and said in their own heads: “Ugly American!”

Meanwhile, the nice lady who was standing with me quickly grabbed my hand, pulled me into the hall, and closed the door behind us. With sign language and a few French words that I could understand, she managed to communicate that I should come back the next week for French lessons.

In total despair, I walked home. Right past Geoffrey’s house.

As fate would have it

Friday morning I was surprised to hear my new cellphone ringing. I’d purchased it for calls in France and I couldn’t imagine who would be calling me. It was Geoffrey. He announced he had found the perfect person to help me with my phone and internet problems. His English friend, Andy, could help me out for a few hours — for a small fee.

Eureka! Within a couple of hours of showing up at my apartment, Andy worked miracles. The internet, the landline, the wifi connections … all were up and running. On top of that, the plumber was on his way to find out why I had no hot water, and to turn on the radiators. I had been taking cold showers for five days and the apartment was cold at night. No wonder I was getting hysterical.

While my new best friend had fulfilled his intended mission, he inadvertently informed me he had a van.

A van! A strong, young man with a van! My prayers were answered. Now my ten boxes that were stuck in a warehouse in Marseilles could be rescued !The boxes filled with clothes and household items were shipped from the States in August and had been “held hostage” since early October. I was having a spat with the handling company and customs agent about taxes. (Another story, another time.)

Quick trip to Marseilles

This tale is best told by pictures.

Driving the two hours to Marseilles was no problem. Finding the warehouse where the boxes were stored was another story. Our GPS map didn’t take into consideration there is massive construction work underway around the port in Marseilles.

Moving to France drama

 

At the warehouse everything looked orderly and well-managed. Then my boxes were trucked on a forklift to the door.

Please no! These can’t be mine!

Notice there are no pictures of Andy hauling the boxes up the 55 steps to the tower apartment. I didn’t have the nerve!

Moving to France drama

Home at last!

Moving to France Drama: Stress, yes. But fun along the way

When I look back on my first month living in France, I can easily say the “good times” have outnumbered the “bad”.

Hanging out with Geoffrey almost every day has been an adventure in itself –with enough stories to fill a book. It’s given me a great chance to meet some interesting “characters”. These are not the kind of folks you’d meet at fancy social gatherings. They are the people you’d pass on the street. Luckily I’ve had a chance to get to know them and experience their ways and antics. Here are just a few …

Rugby Reggie

Reggie is from the French Basque country. “I’m Basque” he proudly proclaims in his raspy, deep voice to anyone within listening distance. He lives on the same street as Geoffrey and spends a lot of time on his doorstep. When he’s not teaching the young boys in town how to play rugby. Reggie (shown on the right) and his good friend Matthew gave me permission to use their names and pictures in the blog. I told them they could say “Hi” to the many women who like to read about life in France.

The day this picture was taken Reggie and Matthew moved a mural and wrought iron patio set  I bought from Geoffrey from his house to my apartment. Little did they know that, aside from carrying the mural and patio set through the streets of Uzes, with no vehicle, they’d also have to climb the 55 steps to my “tower” apartment.

The part that no one knew was that the mural was too big to come up the winding tower steps.Did that stop Reggie the Basque? Of course not! With a stroke of shear genius, Reggie figured out how to hoist the mural up the side of the tower wall and maneuver it sideways into the upper window of the apartment. Voila!

Michel and Nicholas come for dinner

Perhaps the two most delightful characters I’ve met in Uzès are Michel and Nicholas. Both were invited, along with me and Geoffrey’s girlfriend Nandine, to have dinner with Geoffrey on a Sunday afternoon.

Geoffrey prepared a special French meal for us with the Mont d’ Or cheese I bought at the Saturday market.  “Mont d’ Or” means “mountain of gold” in English. It tastes like honey from heaven.  The cheese comes in a round bamboo container with a paper lid. To prepare Mont d’ Or you remove the box lid and stuff two or three cloves of garlic deep down into the middle of the cheese. Wrap the container in aluminum foil and bake the cheese for approximately 30 minutes, or until it is nicely melted.

Geoffrey served the Mont d’ Or with boiled potatoes, a salad with vinagrette dressing and fresh baguettes. For dessert we had formage blanc with rum raisin sauce, sprinkled with roasted almonds.

It’s hard to decide if the meal that Sunday, or the company, was more entertaining. Geoffrey’s friend Michel is quiet and introspective. Nicholas is rowdy and comical. Most of the conversation around the table was in French. Nevertheless, I could understand a lot that was said from the occasional French words I know and from the animated facial expressions and laughter.

Who wouldn’t have fun with guys like these?

(RIP Nicolas – 2018 – We miss you)

Stay tuned. More friends to meet. 

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Provencal lifestyle

Big Life Changes Ahead? Consider A Provençal Lifestyle

What does the Barefoot Blogger think about the Provençal lifestyle after moving to the south of France?

Perfectly Provence‘s Carolyne Kause-Abbott asked questions you’ll want answered if you’re considering a big change in your life after retirement. 

Choosing the Provencal Lifestyle to Embark on a Retirement Adventure

Deborah Bine spent her childhood in Charlotte, North Carolina dreaming of “faraway places” (her words). Her early travels included visiting her Aunt Rose in exhilarating Manhattan. “Aunt Rose owned New York — or so this sixteen-year-old ingénue from the Carolinas assumed.” On this voyage, Deborah learned some travel lessons that she continues to follow today:

#1 Take a guided tour of the new place you’re visiting (ideally the first day).
#2 Wear comfortable shoes
#3 Life is an adventure

Since those early days in New York City, Deborah’s thirst for travel has taken her to Asia, West Africa, Central America and well beyond. Newly retired from her corporate marketing job and recently divorced, Deborah followed a dream and moved from South Carolina to Uzès in France.

Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure

The Barefoot Blogger is Deborah’s blog, which she launched as the reservoir for her travel stories. The blog posts are records of her approach to life and adventure as a solo, female traveller – a dose of humour, a quest for discovery and mostly lots of fun.

We asked The Barefoot Blogger to answer some questions related to the lifestyle in Provence and her experiences as an expat living in the South of France.


What is Provençal Lifestyle?

How would you describe the lifestyle in Provence to someone who has not visited?

To me the lifestyle in Provence is like life was in the 1940’s and 50’s, or as it was portrayed in movies and images. In the small towns and villages of Provence, shopkeepers know you by name. You can walk to most of the places you want to go. People are generally friendly and smiling. No one seems to be in a particular hurry, unless you’re driving on the roads. That’s an entirely different experience anywhere in France!

When you think of Provence what are the words that pop into your head?

History, flowers, wine, olives, and blue skies.

To some degree, Provence lives on its clichés in photos – scenes of lavender, sunflower fields, and boules players. Is this your Provence?

Yes, the clichés work for me, but, of course, Provence is so much more than cliché. Most important is the fact that Provence changes with the weather. Summers in Provence are busy, bustling with tourists and holiday vacationers who fill the cafes and markets. There’s a constant buzz of noise and activities.

During Autumn and Spring, the rhythm of life in Provence is calmer, cooler and less frantic. Everyone and everything slows down to a pleasant pace so you can enjoy the beauty of the villages and the countryside.

Provence Autumn Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger

In Winter Provence is asleep. It’s a peaceful time of year that’s perfect for cocooning, for taking stock of your life and for planning your year ahead. Only a few of the cafes and shops are open during winter, and that’s OK. The atmosphere is warm there and oh, so French. It’s like a scene from an old French movie.

What does Mediterranean climate mean to you?

Mediterranean climate means “warm” to me. I’m from the southern part of the United States, so the weather in Provence is much like it is back in the Carolinas. It’s hot in the Summer and not too cold in the Winter. It rarely, if ever, snows. The most significant difference in the weather to me is the wind. Le Mistral is ferocious and seems to last for days if not for months.

What is your favourite season in Provence?

My favourite season in Provence is Autumn. There’s something unique about the colours of Autumn here. Perhaps it’s the way the shades of brown, beige and yellow meld into the stonework of the houses and buildings. When the leaves of grape vines are turning red and gold, it’s magical to drive through the countryside where vineyards stretch out as far as you can see along the roadway.

What is your favourite activity in Provence?

I love to go to Sète in the Summer, to eat all the seafood I can possibly hold, and sit under an umbrella at the beach — attended to by handsome and lovely young bar staffers who are serving icy, tall drinks, of course!

Sète Seashore Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger

When you first return to Provence what aroma “says” I have arrived?

I know when I’m back in Provence when I smell the fresh, clean air. There’s no pollution where I live in France because there are no large industries, only a candy factory – Haribo. Highways are far away, and streets are mostly one-way with speed limits of 30 kph. So, no smelly gas fumes. Vineyards and olive groves surround the old town of Uzès.

When you leave Provence what is the thing you miss the most and wish you could take with you?

When I’ve gone back to the States to visit family in the past, I’ve tried to take some of my favourite foods from France with me – tapenades, truffle oil, sea salts and the like. For some reason, the things I love in France don’t transfer to my life outside France.

When you hear or see the term “Provence-style” what is your first thought?

The term “Provence-style” stirs thoughts of brightly colored things in my mind – bright yellows and reds, blue shutters on stone houses and rows of stately white and green plane trees.

Provence and the Cote d’Azur appear to evoke a decorative (home decor, restaurants, hotels) style – how might you describe this trend?

To me, Provence decorative style is ageless. The decorations and colour scheme of a simple farmhouse can easily adapt to the living spaces of a country estate or the veranda of a seaside resort.

Antibes Doors Windows

What about fashion style in Provence?

I never realised how much my fashion style has changed since moving to France until I posted photos of myself and friends say I look “so French.” To me, my style here is simply practical and suits the climate and my activities. Yes, I do wear lots of skirts and slippers instead of jeans and sneakers, but that may have more to do with my age than a fashion statement. Hats are a “must” nearly year-round. Read French Fashion: Bobo Style.

BFBlogger Bobo Fashion

The Provence that many imagine today is relatively “new” thanks to the likes of Peter Mayle and others. What is “Authentic Provence” to you?

If I could label anything or anyplace in Provence as “authentic,” it would be Arles. The tiny town with its Roman arena and amphitheatre, the shops with brightly decorated linens and gift items, the outdoor cafes, the festivals, the food – it’s all so Provençal. To me, Arles seems the way it has always been and how Provence is meant to be.

Arles Roman Arena Explore Provence @PerfProvence

Food in Provence

Life in Provence seems to revolve to a degree around food. How would you describe the food in the region to someone who has not visited?

The foods of Provence are influenced by geography and by the cultures of its bordering countries. From one end of Provence to the other you see, experience and taste foods that originated in Spain or Italy. The diet is influenced by the Mediterranean, featuring fish, poultry, fresh fruits, vegetables, goat and sheep cheeses and lots of olives and olive oil.

Sète Seafood Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger

What are your favourite things to eat in Provence?

I could eat fish every day. The easy access to fresh fish, along with local, seasonal produce, makes me love to dine and cook in Provence.

Sète Seafood Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger

Is there a food or ingredient that you wish you could find outside of Provence?

I crave anchovy tapenade! There’s nothing like a dollop of “tapenade d’anchois” on a thin cracker and a “verre de vin rosé.”

Expat Living in Provence

How important do you feel it is to have a decent level of French comprehension and speaking skills in Provence?

Those who follow the Barefoot Blogger know that I have a love/hate relationship with learning the French language. I know how important it is to be able to communicate in the language of the place I live. However, I continuously resist the discipline that comes with learning the language. Fortunately, I’ve been here long enough now that a bit of the language is rubbing off on me. I can hold my own ordering food in a restaurant and, with the help of sign language, I can pretty much make myself understood when I need to.

What resources might you recommend to others to improve their language skills?

I discovered the audio tapes of Michel Thomas this year through a friend. Thomas’s approach to teaching and learning French is unique. It speaks to me. Now I’m hoping to get the nerve to enrol in a French immersion class.

What resources might you recommend to expats and those considering a move to Provence?

There are lots of blogs written by expats like myself who have gone through the experience of moving to France. Check them out. Don’t hesitate to write the author for suggestions and information. When you relocate to France (or anywhere), be open to your new home and environment. Don’t try to make it like the place you left. Embrace the new, enjoy the differences and get out and travel as much and as often as you can.

Behind French Garden Walls: A Bit of Silk Mill History

When driving down the backroads of France near Uzés, it’s a common sight to ride alongside tall stone walls. You know these beautifully laid stones must conceal something amazing. Perhaps behind French garden walls there’s a story to be told.

Behind French Garden Walls

Not too long ago I was privileged to be invited to visit inside the stone walls of a property I’d passed by often. I was given a tour through the magnificent seventeenth century home and the gardens, as well.

It was everything I’d imagined. And more.

Behind French garden walls

The home is owned by a charming Belgian woman whom I’ve been privileged to know over the last two years. She bought the property in 1992.

Behind French garden walls

Built in 1684, the house was part of a farm that later was devoted to the production of silk worms. A “Magnanerie” to the French.

Behind French Garden Walls

My friend was unsure of the dates the property was used for silk worm farming, but during a period of time after the house was built, the silk industry in France was heavily supported by the government. “There were 2000 mulberry trees planted on the property at one time,” she said.

Behind French Garden Walls

History shows that under Louis IV, grants, free water usage, interest-free mortgages and more were offered to encourage silk production.

Behind French garden walls

By 1815 the French were dominant suppliers of silk traded around the world. There were over 2300 communes in France that cultivated mulberry trees and milled silk, employing up to 350,000 people. More than half of them were in and around the Cevennes.

In 1809, the Prefect of the Gard counted 1,140,680 mulberry trees and 4,713,000 in 1831.

Silks from France experienced a blow in the mid-nineteenth century when an epidemic fatal to silkworms hit the region. Never fully recovered from the setback, the Franco-Prussian War, the opening of the Suez Canal, and the introduction of nylon, were the final death knell to the silk industry France had known.

Behind French garden walls

Behind French Garden Walls

A vineyard of 1200 apple trees replaced the chestnut trees behind the garden wall sometime during the twentieth century, my friend said. She removed most of them to install an array of gardens, filled largely with roses.

Behind French garden walls

Today the garden and house are open only to invited friends and visitors. I visited in the Fall then asked for photos taking of the gardens during the summer. So you can see how the seasons change so beautifully around the Magnanerie.

Behind French garden walls

The interior of the home is arranged and decorated just as artistically as the massive property.

Behind French garden walls

I hope you have enjoyed this visit behind one of the garden walls of France. For any who might be more than intrigued, the home and property are for sale.

Behind French garden walls

Perhaps it’s your turn to live the “dream.”

Behind French garden walls

Why You Should Care About Healthcare This Election: Part 2

I fell while crossing the street in Aigues-Mortes, France on September 18. I broke my hip and shoulder on the right side. Since then, I’ve sampled how healthcare is delivered, French-style. (Why You Should Care About Healthcare This Election: Part 1)

As crazy as it might seem, several years ago in the US I experienced an almost identical injury to the one in France. Except it was on my left side. This post is about my US healthcare experience.

The accident eight years ago happened in my home in South Carolina. I had just separated from my husband of 40 years, so I was alone. As I had been warned not to do many times during my marriage, I was standing on top of the kitchen counter. I fell off.

“Why was I standing on the kitchen counter? ” you ask. My most popular answer is “pole dancing.” Believe as you will.

When I fell from the countertop onto the tile floor in the kitchen, I landed on my left side. Immediately I knew I was in trouble. My left leg was crooked at a 45 degree angle. My left arm was killing me. I was nauseous.

There was no one around except my labradoodle, Bentley, so I had to find my cellphone to call for help.

But where was the phone?

In my foggy state, I remembered I had last used the cellphone in the living room. I dragged myself on the floor to find it. Fortunately it was where I thought I’d left it. I called my sister-in-law who was in the same town.

The next thing I remember, a strange man was kneeling over me calling my name. I had passed out. The man was an EMT. With the aide of another EMT, he lifted me onto what felt like a board. My leg was still bent. I was in excruciating pain.

When we arrived at the hospital emergency room, my brother, sister-in-law and my ex-husband were there. They took care of the details of admitting me to the emergency room while I was wheeled into a “holding area.”

As I remember, it was close to 9pm when I entered the emergency room of the hospital. After X-rays and the sad discovery that I had broken both my hip and my arm, I was put into my private room.. It was after 4am. Apparently the hospital had a problem locating the doctor. Without his approval, they could not admit me.

Fortunately, I was loaded with meds, so I was in and out of consciousness. I remember vividly, however, when they put me in the hospital bed and forced my leg down straight with a pulley and weights. That hurt big time.

US Healthcare: Surgery and Post Op

My hip was operated on the second day I was in the hospital. Three pins were inserted through a very small incision to hold the break in the hip. No surgery was needed for the broken bone in my arm. Just a bandage.

Five days after I was admitted, I was discharged from the hospital.

US Healthcare: Rehab

Anytime I’ve been hospitalized for surgery in the US, I’ve been asked “is there anyone at home who can take care of you?” Don’t ask me why no one mentions a stop at a rehabilitation hospital.

In fact, I know of only one person who has gone from a hospital to an inpatient rehab facility. It was my daughter-in-law after spinal surgery. It’s been my experience that you find somebody to take care of you after you leave the hospital.

Miss Rosie’s Rehab

That “somebody” for me was Rosemary. We’re like sisters. We were in journalism school together at UNC-Chapel Hill; we were in each others’ wedding; and we lived together in Greenville, SC for our first jobs out of university. At the time of my accident Rosemary was single. She lived on a farm with horses, donkeys, 3 dogs and 20+ cats.

My us healthcare

Four-legged friends at Miss Rosey’s: Ester and her son, Firecracker

After my discharge from the hospital, no one talked about hiring an ambulance to take me home. Rosemary hauled me there in the backseat of her car. I’m not sure how we managed to fit my 5’9″ broken body in the car, but we did it. Family members met us at my condo and put me into my bed. I could bear no weight on my left leg nor use my arm. I was fragile and I was in a great deal of pain. Mind you, I had broken the femoral arm of my hip into two pieces only five days earlier.

Patient Care

Rosemary was with me through one of the most horrifically painful times in my life. We stayed most of the time at her farm in North Carolina. Neither of us knew anything about tending a patient after surgery.

My US Healthcare

View at Miss Rosey’s Rehab

Through trial and error we discovered “tricks” to help us deal with the adversities of my lame condition and pain. For example, “how to move a lame patient in the bed.”

I’d experienced being pulled on a sheet from the stretcher to the x-Ray table at the hospital. At the time I remember asking the two female X-ray technicians, “how do you two manage to move a large man?

The same way,” they said.

So Rosemary kept a doubled sheet under me at all times on the bed. When I needed to get out of bed, she’d pull the two corners of the doubled sheet towards the side of the bed. Laying flat, my body would slide with the movement of the sheet to the edge of the mattress. Then, ever so slowly and gently, I’d sit up.

We used this routine day and night. Especially when I needed the toilet. It never dawned on us to use a bedpan.

For over six weeks I moved from place to place at Miss Rosie’s with a walker. On one foot, with a broken arm. I was pretty much a prisoner in her guest room and kitchen. The floor plan of the house was multi-level.

One day we had the bright idea to use a kitchen stool to help me get to her deck outside. I sat on the stool in the kitchen. Then I swiveled my body around to face the kitchen door and the deck that was one step down. Rosemary took my walker onto the deck, and Voila! I stepped off the stool on my one good leg, grabbed the walker and I was outside in the fresh air.

US Healthcare: Physical Therapy

When I felt ok to be on my own, I left “Miss Rosey’s Rehab” and returned to South Carolina. I had to go back to work. Fortunately I telecommuted from home with IBM, so there was no “going to the office.”

I began a twice weekly regimen of physical therapy. My health insurance with IBM allowed for 8 weeks. After 6 weeks I had to stop. The pins in my hip were causing a problem. I waited until they were removed a month later to resume my treatment. Fortunately, IBM insurance paid for another 6 weeks of physical therapy.

The good news is that the physical therapy experience was excellent. I regained mobility and strength nearly one hundred percent.

US Healthcare: Costs

I wish I could recall the hospital and surgery cost but it was eight years ago. I don’t remember how much I was paying for health insurance, either. I do know, however, that I wasn’t on Medicare; I was covered by an employee policy provided by IBM; and I paid monthly for a supplemental insurance policy. Bottom line, I was well-covered.

That means nothing now. With the cost of healthcare in the US today, whatever it cost in 2010 wouldn’t be relevant today.

Which is why I’m writing this post.

I’m writing this post because I think it’s important to let others know about healthcare outside of the US. As difficult as it is to believe, the US no longer has the best healthcare. (See below.)

Think of your own experience in the US with hip surgery, back surgery, or any other condition where you required extended care. Compare it to what you read about my healthcare in France.

FACT

Over 28 Million Americans have no healthcare insurance.

Just the other day, I called a dear friend in the US who had expressed concern that I was staying in France after my accident. The first thing she told me when I called was that her son had been in an automobile accident. He was in the hospital with a crushed ankle, a broken leg and a broken wrist. After telling me about the car crash, we celebrated the fact that he had survived.

Then she revealed a horrible truth. Her son had no medical insurance. His policy had lapsed. A sad mistake too many of us make when have busy lives.

As a result, my friend’s son was leaving the hospital after five days and two surgeries. He was going home to avoid the continuing hospital costs. He was barely conscious because of the massive doses of medication he needed for pain. He had a metal rod visibly running through his foot.

A third surgery is scheduled in two weeks. He’ll go to the hospital, then back home after surgery. There’s not a trained medical person to stay with him during those days he’ll require intensive care and pain management. The entire family will need to chip in with time off work as they can.

US Healthcare: 3 Reasons We Deserve Better

#1 Worst Healthcare in the Developed World

The state of healthcare in the US is alarming. Once a leader, US Healthcare is Ranked the Worst in the Developed World.My us healthcare

#2 Cost is Prohibitive

The cost of healthcare is prohibitive for many, especially those without insurance or with poor coverage,

My us healthcare

#3 Healthcare Costs are Bankrupting America

Healthcare is the #1 cause of bankruptcy in the US today.

My us healthcareI read a statement recently that I can’t get out of my head. A young girl who was returning home to France after two years in the US as an au pair was asked:

“Would you like to stay in the US?”

To the surprise of the interviewer, she replied “No,” and continued, “the US doesn’t take care of its people.”

My us health care

Vote!

French Healthcare for Expats?

Renestance, an American-staffed relocation company in Montpelier, has produced an excellent series of ebooks on Healthcare in France. Check out their website for all types of guidance for expats.

All Aboard for Carcassonne

Second of the series on train rides from Barcelona into the South of France, let’s go to Carcassonne. 

Visitors to France who fancy medieval times, Renaissance festivals, dragons and gargoyles must run — not walk — to the village of Carcassonne. It’s like stepping into the back lot at Universal Studios — except it’s for real.

Since the pre-Roman period, a fortified settlement has existed on the hill where Carcassonne now stands. The earliest known site dates back to the 6BC when a fort was built overlooking the ancient route that linked the Atlantic with the Mediterranean and the Iberian peninsula with the rest of Europe.

Between 1BC and 27BC the settlement, known as “Carcaso Volcarum Tectosagum,” became a Roman town, “Colonia Iulia Carcaso.” During the late 3rd and early 4th centuries, a wall was built around the settlement — a fortification that has been destroyed, remodeled and restored throughout the ages. to give Carcassonne it’s distinction as a World Heritage site and one of the best restored fortified cities in the world.

The medieval walled city of Carcassonne in the Languedoc region of France

The medieval walled city of Carcassonne in the Languedoc region of France

The walls of Carcassonne and the people who lived within were prime targets for those who desired to have such a prime location for their settlements. The Visigoths ruled the city through the 5th and 6th century and are believed to have erected a cathedral on the site of the present structure. After Arab rule, then a successful siege by Pepin the Short, work began on the Romanesque Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus in 1096.

Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus in Carcassonne

Basilica in Carcassonne

 

The outside of the cathedral, like others of its kind in the south of France, has no flying buttresses. 

Basilica in Carcassonne

Stability for the structure is provided by interior vaulting. 

 

By the end of the 13th century, Carcassonne had acquired a castle, Château Comtaland, and an extension of the fortified wall. The castle, as today, has a drawbridge and a ditch leading to the entrance.

One section of the wall is notably Roman because of its red brick layers and the shallow pitch of its terracotta tile roofs.  Architect Eugène Viollet le Duc is responsible for guiding the restoration of the city that is enjoyed today by so many. Starting in 1855 he completely designed the city, rebuilding what was nothing more than ruins.

 

The early fortifications at Carcassonne consisted of two lines of walls and a castle,

The early fortifications at Carcassonne consisted of two lines of walls and a castle,

Fact or Fiction?

Dame Carcas of CarcassonneOne of the mythical, if not factual, stories about Carcassonne is shared by tour guides of the city today. It has to do with the naming of the city. The story claims that during one of the many sieges on Carcassonne, the people inside created a ruse to fool the aggressors. Because Carcassonne had so many attacks it was believed the inhabitants of the place might be suffering from malnutrition and lack supplies to defend themselves. Knowing they were at great risk, one resident, “Dame Carcas,” grabbed a healthy pig  — one of the last in the city — stuffed its belly full with food, then threw it over the wall as a “present” to the enemy. On receiving such a well-nourished sow, the charging army retreated, assuming the entire population inside the walled fortress was well-fed and ready to defend their city. Hence “Carcassonne” is derived from “Dame Carcas.” Her image (or so they say) can be found on a city gate.

 

Carcassonne Today

Visitors to Carcassonne today will find there are two parts of the city — the walled city and a “modern” city, founded by some of the inhabitants who were thrown out of Carcassonne in 1347.  You can see the walled city for miles around. Its approach from below — after walking up quite a distance from the new city, or after walking from the parking lot at the top of the hill — is  an amazing sight. Not many of us in the 21st century have had the privilege to see a “real” medieval castle — much less, enter it over what had been a drawbridge.

Entrance to Carcassonne

Entrance to Carcassonne

Once inside the huge, wide, stone passageway, the ancient-ness quickly fades away into modern-day tourism. Gift shops, candy stores and souvenir places are everywhere along the narrow streets.

Inside the stone walls at Carcassonne

Inside the stone walls at Carcassonne

If you’re not careful, you’ll miss the tourist office that’s just inside, to the right.  My advice? Find it and schedule a walking tour. The guide for my visit was superb.

Tour guide at Carcassonne tells stories of advancing enemy troops and the rigor of the fortifications

Tour guide at Carcassonne tells stories of advancing enemy troops and the rigor of the fortifications

Another idea? Ride the small train that encircles the grounds, inside and out. It’s not just for kids … or should I say …. for kids of all ages.

Train travels around the exterior of the city of Carcassonne

Train travels around the exterior of the city of Carcassonne

 

 

A view of the "modern" city below from the walled fortress of Carcassonne

A view of the “modern” city below from the walled fortress of Carcassonne

 

Best Time of Year to Visit?

My first trip to Carcassonne was in November. As in the rest of Europe, tourists are mostly at home. That’s a good time to hire a guide who will walk with you inside and outside of the city wall. The stories and images recounted by an imaginative docent are priceless.

If you want to see Carcassonne with hundreds of thousands of others on one day, visit July 14th — Bastille Day. The crowds are as bad as you can imagine, but the fireworks display is magnificent. “The best show in all of France,” some say. Click here for a great map of the “modern city” that shows where’s the best view.

Fireworks over the walled city of Carcassonne on Bastille Day

Fireworks over the walled city of Carcassonne on Bastille Day

 

Bastille Day Fireworks in Carcassonne

Bastille Day Fireworks in Carcassonne

Train from Barcelona

Carcassonne is just over two hours from Barcelona by train. For more information about schedules and prices, click here 

Barcelona to Carcassonne

Click here for more information on Carcassonne and upcoming events.

P.S. Thanks to Pete Bine, my oldest son, for sharing some of his photos for this post

 

 

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The Feria’s in Nimes. Let the Party Begin!

Enough reminiscing. Fast forward to this weekend in Nimes. The ancient Roman city in the south of France is going to party like it’s 2016!


One of the most exciting events in the Languedoc region of France is coming up Pentecost weekend (May 12-16) in Nimes. The Pentecost Feria brings Bulls, toreros, herdsmen from the Camargue, and tens of thousands of jubilant spectators to the once-Roman town of Nimes and its Arena.

Nimes Feria

Celebrated since 1952, the Pentecost Feria has become a wildly popular festival for people of all ages. There’s dancing in the streets and all types of merry-making throughout the festival, including parades and abrivados (bulls running in the street).

Feria in Nimes

Ferias are by far one of my favorite things to do since moving to France. While fighting bulls might not be for everyone, there is much more to the nearly week-long event. If you like brass bands, horses, paella, Spanish dancing and all the fanfare, it’s all at the Feria.


Nimes Feria
If you want to experience a bullfight, join the crowd. This part of France is one of the few places in the world where the tradition of the Feria, with all its pomp and ceremony, still exists.


Feria NimesExhibitions are held in the various museums during the feria, including the Museum of Taurine Cultures. Art galleries are filled with images and sculptures of toros and toreadors.

Nimes Feria

Nimes Feria

Food vendors and bars line the streets with wine, beer and pastis — one of the south of France’s famed drinks.

NimesFeria

This is by far the most important of the two Nimes ferias that are celebrated each year. If you are anywhere in the vicinity, head that way. It promises to be a party for all!

  


 

 

 

Airport day

Continuing on my sentimental flashback to three years ago when my “life in France” adventure began. This day I realized my idea of blogging along the way was wrought with technical problems — the joys of traveling abroad had begun.

Procrastination is one of my biggest faults. Packing for this trip was no exception.

While I had the items laid out in neat piles for weeks, I was still putting things in my suitcase and backpack Tuesday morning. (Hints for “what to pack” posting soon.)

Yesterday was airport day. My iPhone and tablet were put in accessible places to keep me occupied sending emails and blogging during the 5-hour wait in Newark. Little did I know that I’d have technical problems that kept me from connecting all day.

Now in Barcelona and ready to throw the laptop in the trash. Looks like I should have bought an iPad!

Magical, Mythical Carcassonne


Visitors to France who fancy medieval times, Renaissance festivals, dragons and gargoyles must run — not walk — to the village of Carcassonne. It’s like stepping into the back lot at Universal Studios — except it’s for real.

Since the pre-Roman period, a fortified settlement has existed on the hill where Carcassonne now stands. The earliest known site dates back to the 6BC when a fort was built overlooking the ancient route that linked the Atlantic with the Mediterranean and the Iberian peninsula with the rest of Europe.

Between 1BC and 27BC the settlement, known as “Carcaso Volcarum Tectosagum,” became a Roman town, “Colonia Iulia Carcaso.” During the late 3rd and early 4th centuries, a wall was built around the settlement — a fortification that has been destroyed, remodeled and restored throughout the ages. to give Carcassonne it’s distinction as a World Heritage site and one of the best restored fortified cities in the world.

The medieval walled city of Carcassonne in the Languedoc region of France

The medieval walled city of Carcassonne in the Languedoc region of France

The walls of Carcassonne and the people who lived within were prime targets for those who desired to have such a prime location for their settlements. The Visigoths ruled the city through the 5th and 6th century and are believed to have erected a cathedral on the site of the present structure. After Arab rule, then a successful siege by Pepin the Short, work began on the Romanesque Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus in 1096.

Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus in Carcassonne

Basilica in Carcassonne

 

The outside of the cathedral, like others of its kind in the south of France, has no flying buttresses. 

Basilica in Carcassonne

Stability for the structure is provided by interior vaulting. 

 

Cathedral in Carcassonne

 

 

By the end of the 13th century, Carcassonne had acquired a castle, Château Comtaland, and an extension of the fortified wall. The castle, as today, has a drawbridge and a ditch leading to the entrance.

One section of the wall is notably Roman because of its red brick layers and the shallow pitch of its terracotta tile roofs.  Architect Eugène Viollet le Duc is responsible for guiding the restoration of the city that is enjoyed today by so many. Starting in 1855 he completely designed the city, rebuilding what was nothing more than ruins.

 

The early fortifications at Carcassonne consisted of two lines of walls and a castle,

The early fortifications at Carcassonne consisted of two lines of walls and a castle,

Fact or Fiction?

Dame Carcas of CarcassonneOne of the mythical, if not factual, stories about Carcassonne is shared by tour guides of the city today. It has to do with the naming of the city. The story claims that during one of the many sieges on Carcassonne, the people inside created a ruse to fool the aggressors. Because Carcassonne had so many attacks it was believed the inhabitants of the place might be suffering from malnutrition and lack supplies to defend themselves. Knowing they were at great risk, one resident, “Dame Carcas,” grabbed a healthy pig  — one of the last in the city — stuffed its belly full with food, then threw it over the wall as a “present” to the enemy. On receiving such a well-nourished sow, the charging army retreated, assuming the entire population inside the walled fortress was well-fed and ready to defend their city. Hence “Carcassonne” is derived from “Dame Carcas.” Her image (or so they say) can be found on a city gate.

 

Carcassonne Today

Visitors to Carcassonne today will find there are two parts of the city — the walled city and a “modern” city, founded by some of the inhabitants who were thrown out of Carcassonne in 1347.  You can see the walled city for miles around. Its approach from below — after walking up quite a distance from the new city, or after walking from the parking lot at the top of the hill — is  an amazing sight. Not many of us in the 21st century have had the privilege to see a “real” medieval castle — much less, enter it over what had been a drawbridge.

Entrance to Carcassonne

Entrance to Carcassonne

Once inside the huge, wide, stone passageway, the ancient-ness quickly fades away into modern-day tourism. Gift shops, candy stores and souvenir places are everywhere along the narrow streets.

Inside the stone walls at Carcassonne

Inside the stone walls at Carcassonne

If you’re not careful, you’ll miss the tourist office that’s just inside, to the right.  My advice? Find it and schedule a walking tour. The guide for my visit was superb.

Tour guide at Carcassonne tells stories of advancing enemy troops and the rigor of the fortifications

Tour guide at Carcassonne tells stories of advancing enemy troops and the rigor of the fortifications

Another idea? Ride the small train that encircles the grounds, inside and out. It’s not just for kids … or should I say …. for kids of all ages.

Train travels around the exterior of the city of Carcassonne

Train travels around the exterior of the city of Carcassonne

 

View from the visitors' train at Carcassonne

View from the visitors’ train at Carcassonne

 

A view of the "modern" city below from the walled fortress of Carcassonne

A view of the “modern” city below from the walled fortress of Carcassonne

Best Time of Year to Visit?

My first trip to Carcassonne was in November. As in the rest of Europe, tourists are mostly at home. That’s a good time to hire a guide who will walk with you inside and outside of the city wall. The stories and images recounted by an imaginative docent are priceless.

If you want to see Carcassonne with hundreds of thousands of others on one day, visit July 14th — Bastille Day. The crowds are as bad as you can imagine, but the fireworks display is magnificent. “The best show in all of France,” some say. Here’s a great map of the “modern city” that shows where’s the best view.

Fireworks over the walled city of Carcassonne on Bastille Day

Fireworks over the walled city of Carcassonne on Bastille Day

 

Bastille Day Fireworks in Carcassonne

Bastille Day Fireworks in Carcassonne

Another journey to Carcassonne is in my future, hopefully soon, as I venture through the Minervois region in the south of France.

Minervois Region of France

Minervois Region of France

Stay tuned.

P.S. Thanks to Pete Bine, my oldest son, for sharing some of his photos for this post

IMG_0699

 

Please “Do Not Return”

Please “Do Not Return”
Follow on Bloglovin

The Barefoot Blogger has an apology to make. When I was giving hints about moving to France and getting rid of stuff, the rest of the story hadn’t played out.

(Why did you move to France?)

Now that I’ve been back in the States visiting, there’s another lesson:

Don’t stay so long on your return that your kids start giving your stuff back!

Returned "stuff"

Returned “stuff”

 

Longeberger Baskets, anyone?

Longeberger Baskets, anyone?

 

Now, where does it all go? Here’s the last view of my warehouse storage.

I’m keeping this because ????

Image

 

 

2015-03-10 08.45.51

moving to France

Moving to France: Please-a-Visa

If my rush moving to France wasn’t self-imposed, I could complain about so much to do. Instead, I just grin and bear it. Then grin some more.

An estate sale and clothing sale over the last two weekends were just the tip of the iceberg. In between there’s been 1) packing the ten 18″x18″x16″ boxes to ship to Marseilles; 2) contracts to negotiate with the rental agency for the apartment, 3) a bank account in France to open and…4) the paperwork for a long- stay visa. There are a few lessons learned from each of the above when moving to France.

moving to FranceMoving to France Step 1

Estate sale
First of all, recruit all the help you can!  My incredible son from Birmingham donated two weeks of his time to help me sort out my treasures to sell ( aka “stuff”, “junk”) while trying to keep up, remotely, with his job. Also, two of the best friends a gal could ever ask for pitched in to organize, price and sell everything before and during the sales.

Second, call your sale an “estate” sale, not a “moving” or “house sale”…and certainly not a “garage sale”. It brings in a totally different type of buyers and allows you to sell items at a slightly higher price point. “Perceived” value.

Advertise! It will cost to place ads, but it’s worth it. Estate sales are hard work. Don’t skimp on letting people know about them. Ads on Craig’s List, estatesales.com, bookoo.com, and your local newspaper(s) are good places to start. Well-placed yard signs are important too.

Clothing sales are more lucrative if you sell jewelry, handbags, scarves and other accessories as well. Buyers will scoff up $1 and $5 costume jewelry and those sales add up!

Provide a separate place for ladies to try on clothing. Have mirrors everywhere. If women are in the “dressing” room with other ladies, they often encourage the others to buy!

If a potential buyer wants an item but, for some reason they can’t carry it with them, offer to ship items to them (for a price.) For example, a couple came to my estate sale who were visiting from out of town. They purchased some large ticket items and also wanted a canister set. They couldn’t carry it back home. I missed the sale because I didn’t think fast enough to ask if I could ship it to them.

Allow buyers to return during off- hours. Some of the biggest sales were made the day after the public sales. I was home packing boxes anyway, so when people came by, I let them see what was left. They always bought something, probably because they appreciated the special attention.

Mark items BOGO (buy one get one free) the last hours of the sale. When traffic slows down, change your outdoor signs to read BOGO. It’ll bring on new customers. After hour sales go back to full price.

Accept credit and debit cards. This is probably the most important lesson learned. A friend loaned me a “square” that allowed customers to use credit to buy the items. There’s a charge to use the service, but it’s worth the almost 50% increase in sales.

Provide shopping bags at the door. Customers will fill them up with items they want to buy. It’s much more convenient and efficient for you and the shopper than carrying stuff around or leaving items at the checkout.

Moving to France Step 2

Shipping items to France
Sending household and personal items in boxes through a shipping company will save you from hauling extra bags on the airplane. The important thing to remember is whether the stuff in the boxes is worth the shipping fees.

When I get to France and unload the boxes, I’ll let you know if I brought the right things with me. Right now I’m prioritizing by replacement cost in France. My cost shipping 10 boxes is estimated at $1000. The contents of each box must save me $100 in replacement cost, or it’s not worth the hassle. Filling a box with personalized stationary, books, and office supplies doesn’t make sense. Packing coats, my favorite outfits, some kitchen utensils and most-used cooking pans is my plan. I’m also throwing in new linens and towels. The quality is better than I found around Uzes and the pieces can be used to pack around breakables instead of using paper or bubble wrap.

When the boxes are full, wrap each with packing tape… 3 rows of tape around each side. Then cover the box with “shrink wrap” plastic. I didn’t know it existed, but you can buy rolls of plastic that is wide enough to cover a box. It comes in a package like Saran Wrap and you can purchase it at Home Depot or Lowes DIY store. The shipping agent says preparing the boxes as described above improves the security of your shipment by up to 80%.

Moving to France Step 3

French bank account
Opening a bank account in France is a requirement for renting an apartment. The agent and apartment owner like to have monthly payments set up through a draw on the account. In order to open the account you must show proof that your IRS taxes are paid in the US. I gave them the cover page from my tax forms. You must also show proof of residence in France. Don’t ask me how crooks get away with foreign bank accounts! Guess they know all the angles.

Moving to France Step 4

Rental contract

Find someone you know who can understand French legal documents. In my case, I lucked out that my son, who was helping with the move, has experience reviewing similar paperwork. He served in the Peace Corps in Cameroon and worked with banks to make loans using some of the same legalize. If that fails, use the Google Translate app. Assuming the French documents you want to translate come to you in a PDF format, you need to install an Adobe application that can convert pdfs to Word (or MAC). Then copy and paste the content into Google Translate which you can access online. The translation may not be the best, but it can help you with the highlights. Then ask your rental agent to go over it with you.

Be especially mindful of the charges from the rental agency. I was surprised with the cost of a “honorarium” that was owed to them by both the owner of the apartment and by me — more than the cost of a month’s rent! When I complained about the cost, the agent stated it is the customary way to work with rental agencies in France. To pacify me, he moved my closing date so that the overall price was reduced.

Moving to France Step 5

moving to France

Atlanta’s French Consulate

Long stay visa To stay in France longer than 90 days at a time, you must have a “long stay” visa. Look on the Internet for the French consulate that serves the area where you live. The southeast consulate in Atlanta serves South Carolina. You must have an appointment at the consulate to apply in person for the visa. Appointments are made through an online tool. When I first checked, there were no appointments available for the next 3 months! So I called the consulate (which they advise NOT to do) and I was lucky enough that someone answered the phone. The lady who answered graciously took my name and promised she would call me when there was a cancellation. I got a call for an appointment on August 8.

There are a number of forms on the French consulate website that must be filled in to accompany your application. They are pretty self-explanatory. The one that stumped me was the proof of medical insurance. I had information on all my coverage but not a statement about services outside the US. I told the interviewer I talked with the insurance company and that my supplemental insurer would become the primary provider outside the US. She wanted to see it in writing from the insurance company. Getting the letter about the insurance meant I had to stay over another day in Atlanta. Lesson learned: don’t be vague about anything. They want proof. That includes a rental agreement, bank account and airline ticket to France.

All of this is behind me now. The next few weeks I’m focusing on getting the house cleaned out and taking stuff that didn’t sell to charity or consignment shops. Hopefully I’ll have a few days to enjoy some Low Country activities and visit with friends. Then I’m heading to Atlanta and Birmingham, Alabama to visit family before leaving for Paris on September 9.

Moving to France Step 6

Make lemonade
By the way… just so you don’t think all has been smooth sailing… I was in an auto accident Saturday. A neighbor drove out of her driveway and destroyed the right wheel, fender and bumper of my car. I spent half the day dealing with insurance companies and right now, have no car to use. The car’s probably totaled since its a late model Acura. Never mind, now I don’t have to worry about selling it.

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!

moving to France

expat guide book

Moving to France: So much to do, so little time

If you’re looking for an expat guide book, perhaps this will help. Moving to France is like any other move. You have to pack up your stuff to get there.

In my case, that means getting rid of 40 years worth of stuff before I pack. Most things I should have gotten rid of years ago. Instead, I’ve gone from place to place, schlepping all this with me. If it didn’t fit in the new place, it went into storage. Today is a new day. Stuff isn’t as important as it used to be. It’s time to start fresh.

Moving to France looks like this

Since I have to furnish the apartment in Uzes, a few things are going with me that I think will be useful. I’ll buy furniture and other items when I get there, probably second hand, and sell them when I leave. I’ll be done to one storage place. (Down from 4!) Everything else is being sold.

Estate sale. Done!

A new home for Bentley

Sometimes love means saying you’re sorry and moving on, alone. Even though I could take my beloved labradoodle, Bentley, with me to Uzes (France loves dogs), I don’t think he would survive the journey. Bentley weighs 65 pounds so he’d have to ride under the airplane along with the luggage for the long flight. He’s frightened by lightening so noisy airplane sounds would scare him to death. It wouldn’t be fair to put him through the stress. He’s going to live with my son and daughter-in-law who have a goldendoodle, Maddy. He’s been visiting with them since my trip to France and he’s happy as a clam.

Renting an apartment

As you remember, I cut my travel adventures short when I decided to move to France. Instead of exploring Barcelona, I went back to find an apartment in Uzes. As fate would have it, a perfect place in the center of the historic village came available for rent. I couldn’t believe my good fortune! The rental agent from the Fonzia agency spoke good enough English to lead me through the process. First I had to open a bank French bank account. Then I had to sign a 3-year lease, which is customary in France, and an insurance agreement for the apartment. (The lease can be broken at any time for a variety of reasons, including relocation.)

I brought the legal materials home with me so my attorney could check the details. One important fact to know about renting in France, different from in the US, is a “honorarium”. It’s a “finders fee” owed to the agency for handling the rental transaction and it’s shared between the property owner and the renter. It’s quite expensive. In fact, it cost more than a month’s rent for my share.

After the papers are all signed, I’ll inspect the apartment to insure all is in order. Then it’s mine!

Getting a Visa

A long stay visa is required for anyone from the US visiting in France more than 90 days. A US passport allows you to be there only 90 days every six months. With a long stay visa you can stay 12 months. Getting a visa is easier said than done in SC. You have to go in person to the French Consulate in Atlanta to start the application process that can take a minimum of 21 days to complete.

When I first investigated the consulate website, I discovered you can make appointments for visas only through their online tool. The online calendar showed there were no appointments available until October. So I did what the website said not to do. I called the office. After I explained what I wanted to the nice lady who answered the phone at the consulate, and I told her that all I am planning to do is to spend money in her wonderful country, she said she’d call me when there was a cancellation. I have an appointment August 8.

The move

All that’s left is for me to do, after sorting out my stuff, is to get back to Uzes. The timeframe for finishing the visa process is up on the air. But if it goes smoothly, I should be in France by early September. Stay tuned!

 

expat guide book

My apartment building!

For more of this expat guide book, check out these Barefoot Blogger posts:

Expat Tips: Nothing Is Easy About Moving To France

Expat Tips on Moving to France: Visas and More

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