Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Ultimate Travel Souvenir

How would you like to sip your morning coffee here? 
Or look out of these windows on to a French street below?


Let’s go back a bit.  Back to this summer in France.  I think it all started with one of those ultra-modern 1-cup coffee pod coffeemakers in the apartment we were renting.  I arrived in Dijon a couple weeks before my husband did.  This space age caffeine dispenser was the first thing I noticed in our kitchen and I knew immediately that this would not do for my coffee-obsessed husband.  He doesn’t drink much, but he’s quite particular about what he does ingest to fuel himself before his morning bike ride to work.

After consulting long-distance with him and visiting a French big-box store to report on available alternatives, he finally agreed to a French press pot.  Not ideal (the sediment, you know) but workable for his time in France.  I bought him one and he gratefully accepted it two weeks later when he got to town.  That pod machine sat ignored in its prime counter real estate for the rest of our stay.  And he needed that coffee bad after sleeping every night on a mattress that sloped to the south on one side and was barely long enough for him to stretch out.  Antique beds are good to look at but not meant for sleeping.

We lamented the fact that we would have to leave behind an expensive coffeemaker at the end of the summer.  We lamented the money spent on cheap plastic Tupperware-like containers I had to purchase and leave behind each time we came to Dijon.  We longed for better knives for dinner preparation, pans with lids that fit, and something larger than a dorm-sized refrigerator.  I wanted a bathroom at least as big as the distance between my fingertips.  During the summer’s rainy periods I dreamed of whiling away the afternoon in a proper reading chair.  I hated hauling heavy hiking boots between home and France.

We knew there were many more trips to this Burgundy town in our future.  So about 72 hours before I got on a plane for home, Brad and I began the process of looking for our own piece of French paradise.  We’re two academics.  We don’t do anything impulsively.  We usually research everything out the wazoo.  But we shrugged and said, “Well, it wouldn’t hurt to just look.  Then over the winter we could research and talk to English-speaking expats about how you buy property in France, all the financial implications, taxes, and paperwork so we’d be ready to consider it next summer.”

Then we walked into that second apartment on the list.  We were done for.  Light.  Soaring windows.  American-sized bathroom.  American-sized refrigerator.  Chandeliers.  Space.  A balcony illuminated by belle époque stained glass.

My American-sized bathroom and refrigerator

And that’s why I haven’t been blogging much.  Or on social media of any sort.  Or responding to e-mails.  Or coming up to breathe.

We’re buying an apartment in France.  The French love paperwork.  The French speak French.  I’m taking two language classes a week because it finally matters if I can pronounce anything correctly (when I need to talk to plumbers in the future).  We’re gathering documents.  I’m making long-distance phone calls to people who don’t speak English to verify that they were the ones -- and not some Nigerian prince -- who sent us the e-mail telling us to wire large amounts of money with lots of zeros to a special account.  I’m writing e-mails (in French) to our own personal French banker asking tons of questions, to which he always seems to reply (not in English, of course) some version of “There, there.  No need to worry.  We’ll talk about that when we meet on Friday.”

I’m trying not to panic about the fact that I read on a French-language news site that a transportation strike might start on Thursday, the day I touch down in Paris.  Alone.  Without Brad and his magic French language talents.

But when I’m suffocating under an avalanche of e-mails and searching for important information in a file box full of documents in French and their translated English versions, I pull up on my computer the picture of my balcony and imagine the morning sun as I sit there sipping my own cup of tea made in an American-sized mug and not an espresso cup.  And I think about putting Brad’s French coffee pot, which he packed up in August and left with a friend, on our counter.

Internet connection for this trip is so far an unknown commodity because I haven’t made arrangements to have it set up yet.  I should be able to post a couple of updates before I return home just before Thanksgiving.  Meanwhile, share with us in the comments box the most impulsive thing that you have done when traveling.  Or ever.  If you dare.


Lee I said...

Screaming. With glee. Can you hear me?

Impulsive stuff. Well, I just signed a contract for a two room addition to my house to have a dedicated quilting studio and an office, and reclaim the junk room so my visiting kids and grandkids might have a bed to sleep in instead of on the living room floor.

And I decided it's worth skipping meals and anything else to travel Premium Economy on Air France. I'm too tall and too old for Sardine Class.

Julie Farrar said...

Well, this time spent buying was supposed to be spent planning renovations to our "real" house because everything is falling apart. And for my trip over tomorrow, I'm paying for premium economy because I need to be at the top of my game when I hit the ground. However, I'm returning on Sardine Class.

Nadine Feldman said...

Wow! How exciting! Congrats! Happy Dance! This adventure could end up as a book...just sayin'.

I've been lax on studying my French, and I feel your pain. A few summers ago I did some volunteer work in Costa Rica where everyone spoke Spanish to me and asked me what I call "meaning of life" questions. It was hard! I can't imagine having legal dealings in a foreign language.

As to the French press: we bought one when we moved here to Washington state because the movers hadn't arrived and hubby needed his coffee. Eight months later, he's still using it because he likes the coffee better!

the fly in the web said...

We took a holiday in Costa Rica to escape a French winter, bought a house there, leaving money with an unknown lawyer to pay for it...she's turned out to be a great friend, and the holiday house has turned into our permanant home...until we finish renovating the hundred year old house in San Jose that we could not resist.

We had France for over twenty years....enjoy yourself!

Julie Farrar said...

Thanks for the encouragement. It looks like your blog will be a good resource as I adjust to issues of being a part-time resident vs. a long-time visitor.

Tele said...

Oh, congratulations, Julie! Best why-I-haven't-been-blogging-much story EVER. You'll do beautifully with everything this Friday. And I agree with Nadine - great book material you'll get from this adventure!

Julie Farrar said...

I'm sort of hoping that everything goes so smoothly that there won't be much to tell.

Annette Gendler said...

Congrats! Very brave to be conducting business in a country where you don't speak the language. But I have to tell you that even if you do speak the language, administrative or rather legalize is its own languange anyway. Whenever we get communications from the French consulate I have to sit down and translate some words, only to usually find that they are just administrative fluff.

Julie Farrar said...

For the legal stuff I will have an interpreter, but basically among the whole group with whom I'm working I'm the only one speaking English. I have found my lessons are paying off, though, because I actually understand what I'm reading.

Karen Pullen said...

You & your husband are doing the right thing. I hope you have many happy summers/years in your beautiful new apartment, sipping coffee on the balcony.

Karen Pullen said...

You & your husband are doing the right thing. I hope you have many happy summers/years in your beautiful new apartment, sipping coffee on the balcony.

Tami Clayton said...

That is so incredibly exciting! At least, that's probably how you'll feel when all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed. In French, of course. Congrats!

Ellen Gregory said...

Wow - that's huge! How exciting. And wonderful.
I can't think of anything impulsive I've done that's on a remotely similar scale to that.

As for the french press -- that has to be my least favourite method of coffee preparation (if it's what we call a 'plunger') - how funny. The pod machines are actually quite good for what they are -- and those little milk frothers you can get now are simply wonderful for no-fuss home use :-)

Patricia said...

Félicitations! What an exciting new chapter for you, in spite of the bureaucratic blizzard of paperwork and the cultural differences that occasionally leave us muttering, "Huh?" I'm looking forward to following your adventure.

Nancy said...

What a great new adventure. I agree there is a book in this story. I am reading one right now about a couple who bought a very old stone house in the hills of Tuscany. You are my new shero! We're here in Oregon waiting for the perfect moment to get on with our travel adventures. You just picked up your skirts and waded right in. Kudos and congratulations.

Julie Farrar said...

Arrived here safely, despite the train strike. But exhausted and have to deal tomorrow with such things as insurance and cable tv.

Bella said...

Julie, congratulations! Oh my goodness, how exciting! I'm delighted that you've done something impulse and in the process landed such a beautiful apartment! French is an easy language to master. I can muddle my way in it quite well. I'm sure you'll pick it up in no time. The well lit living room and the chandelier are just lovely. I'm looking forward to seeing more photos of your new digs! :)

Muriel said...

Congrats for finding and buying a property! If it is of any help, the process of buying is daunting for a French too...I simply knew it, you will become French before you know it!

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