18 March 2008

Five years ago today

On March 18, 2003, the movers came to our house on Congo Street in the San Francisco neighborhood called Glen Park and started putting all our belongings in boxes. We had sold the house in February — it sold in four days after we put it on the market — and the people who bought it wanted us to move out in 30 days. They were in a hurry to move in. We had lived there for nearly eight years.

Packing us out
18 March 2003

The buyers had made us such a good offer on the house that the real estate agent told us we should do everything we could to accommodate them. So it was a mad scramble for us. Luckily, we had been referred to a good moving company (Allied International) by friends of ours who had recently moved from California to New Zealand. The movers took care of all the packing as well as the shipping.

The real estate agent's flyer describing the house we sold

Even before we put the house on the market, we had a big garage sale one Saturday and got rid of a good portion of the stuff that was cluttering the place up. The real estate agent wanted the house "staged" for the sales viewings, and she told us to get about half of what we owned out of sight. Our only options were to sell, give away, or throw out a lot of things that we knew we wouldn't be able to move to France.

One of the moving company's guys spent eight hours packing up everything that was in our kitchen.

This was the view of San Francisco Bay from the house

We had decided to move to France, but we didn't yet have visas. We didn't want to apply for them until the house was sold and we had the money in the bank. We also hadn't yet closed the deal on the house near Saint-Aignan where we live now. That closing also depended on having the money from the sale of the San Francisco house, because we didn't plan to take out a mortgage in France. It was all pretty risky.

The little garden we had in Glen Park

But it all worked out. From March 18 until April 24, we were officially homeless. Luckily, good friends took us in after the moving company hauled our furniture and other belongings away and put everything in storage, waiting for us to give them the go-ahead to put it all on a boat bound for Le Havre.

On April 24, we became the owners of the house in France. But we still didn't have visas. We wouldn't get those until mid-May. At that point we could buy plane tickets. We were still trying to get the dog's papers sorted out so that she could travel with us to France. We didn't plan to leave 11-year-old Collette behind.

It's amazing what one can accomplish when one is motivated, isn't it?

The kitchen we miss

What do we miss about that house? I guess the main thing is the kitchen. We had had it completely redone to our specifications in 1999, and it was great — beautiful, we thought, and practical, with an amazing amount of storage space.

Otherwise, I personally don't miss the garden. It was very small. And I don't miss having neighbors right on the other side of our walls. We could hear them just a little too much. And I don't miss that mortgage, that's for sure! I think we got out at the right time.

Here's a topic about how we sold the house


  1. The cabinetry in the SF kitchen is terrific. To me the kitchen is the most important place in the house. If it took 8 hours to pack your kitchen stuff, you probably agree.

    Congratulations on this anniversary, and thanks for sharing this very interesting stage of your lives with us.

  2. I second Louise - thanks for sharing this. I can certainly relate to the way one never has all the pieces of the puzzle in place simultaneously, so decisions are always more or less risky. But it is a great life lesson exercise in believing in yourself and trusting your own judgement. These things can be done - just concentrate on one step at a time when everything seems to be happening at once. As our roofer said to us - peu en peu, l'oiseau fait son nid. We are currently in the frustrating position of not being able to make anything much at all happen at the moment - that can be harder in some ways.


  3. It's so easy to be envious of your life now and overlook what a "take a deep breath" moment it must have been to go for it. Congratulations, though.

  4. Smiling remembering the house in S.F. Enjoyed "revisiting" it through your photos. Obviously, your instincts were right!

  5. It's funny how your photos of the Loire Valley area bring back memories of when I lived there, and now you're bringing back memories of the Bay Area! When I was going to school down there, my aunt and uncle lived on Dolores Street -- I think that's right -- and I spent many happy weekends there. They had a nice little garden too -- perhaps bigger than yours, though. Such a beautiful city and I haven't been back since 1986...

  6. It was, indeed, a gorgeous kitchen, with every detail lovingly planned. The only problem with it was it's location: about 6,000 miles from where you wanted to live. Although your current kitchen is smaller, with less storage, I didn't notice any decline in the quality or quantity of yumminess you created there.

    So, you must have the right kitchen after all.


  7. Well, what an adventure! It takes courage to do something like that.
    Happy anniversary to the two of you! And may you enjoy many more happy years in the Saint Aignan house!

  8. Betty, I haven't been back to SF in five years now. It's hard to believe, but when I go back to the U.S. I need to go see my mother and sister in North Carolina. And then I think, if I did go to California, pretty much everybody I know in the Bay Area still works full time. Who would I spend my days with, and what would I do alone? Over the 18 years I lived there, I pretty much saw all the sights.

  9. All, I think I'm remembering the adventure of that move because some days, with the crashing dollar, I wonder if we might end up having to make the move back. I hope something happens to save us from that. Where would we go? In other words, where would we want to live? There are no easy answers to that question.

  10. Ken, I see a lot of American expats living off dollars are really suffering! I use euros here since we both work here but tend to spend some of my dollars in the States when I'm in the USA. This year, I may want to spend euros there, though -- everything will be so cheap!


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