02 June 2010

Seven years already

It was on June 2, 2003, that we arrived in France to take possession of our new house. We had been granted long-stay visas early in May, after a two-month wait. We had sold our house in San Francisco and had to move out in March, so we'd been homeless for a while.

Friends took us in. Cheryl for several weeks, and Sue for a week, in California, before we decided to head east and wait for the visas, with bated breath and our fingers crossed that we'd get them. It was fun spending time with good friends, but we didn't want to wear out our welcome. Actually, some friends from France had made plans to visit in April and, because we had just sold our house and moved out, Cheryl took them in too. It was like a house party.

CHM in Southern California and friends Harriett and Tom in Illinois each kept us for a few days as we drove across the continent. They were all very kind to take in two nomads and their old dog. Fact is, we've all been friends going back as far as 40 years. Our temporary destination was my mother's house in North Carolina — the house I grew up in. Ma had invited us to come spend as much time with her as we needed to, waiting for the visas.

Early June 2010 in Saint-Aignan. Look how green
the Renaudière vineyard is now.

The trip across the country took about a week. It was my fifth such drive, and Walt's third. We drove through Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Gallup. We had a good stopover in Santa Fe and a great meal at the Inn of the Anastasi (on their site, look at that lunch menu!).

We spent the night in Tucumcari, New Mexico, where we decided it was time to telephone Allied International in Oakland and tell them to go ahead and put our container load of furniture, kitchen gear, and books on the boat, destination Le Havre. We were optimistic that we would be in Saint-Aignan by the predicted arrival date in early July. In fact, we were required to be here to sign for it.

We stayed in Days Inn motels Motel 6 rooms as we drove across the country, because we knew Motel 6 would welcome the dog. We drove on through Amarillo, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Joplin, Rolla, and St. Louis — and then into Illinois, my old stomping grounds. Outside Urbana, we had the thrill not only of seeing Harriett and Tom again, but also enjoyed a loud and lightning-filled Midwestern thunderstorm.

We left Illinois and drove down through Louisville and past Lexington. In eastern Kentucky we saw funnel clouds in the sky and listened to severe weather warnings on the car radio. We made it to Knoxville without getting blown off the road, driving through blinding rain. We spent the night in Pigeon Forge, where it rained harder than I remembered it could, after 18 years in California.

Here's Callie on her way home after a good walk.

We wanted to drive through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just to see it. The rain continued, however, and that drive the next day was just a green blur punctuated by swipes of the windshield wipers. On to Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Durham, and Raleigh we went, and down to the coast. We stopped and bought a couple of pounds of good Eastern N.C. barbecued pork at Wilber's restaurant in Goldsboro.

The day after we arrived at my mother's house on the N.C. coast, we got the phone call from the French consulate in San Francisco informing us that our visas had been approved. We could come in to pick them up at our convenience, but they had to be picked up in person. Actually, the consulate had kept our passports for the duration.

After some negotiating, we arranged for our passports with the visas in them to be sent to the French consulate in Atlanta. We had to drive there, and Atlanta is 500 miles from where we were, Morehead City. So we packed the dog and some clothes in Walt's 1992 Jeep Cherokee and took one last long drive. We took advantage of the trip to Atlanta to go see Savannah and Charleston on the way back.

It rained all that month on the Carolina coast. There was water standing everywhere, in yards and along roadsides. We sold the Jeep, with regrets. We managed to get plane tickets from Washington Dulles airport to Paris CDG on June 1. We had wanted to arrive in France to start this new life on June 1, our 20th anniversary together. But it wasn't to be. We arrived instead on June 2, with a load of baggage and 11-year-old Collette in her kennel.

We went to Etretat on the English Channel
for lunch on June 5, 2003, when we were
staying with friends in Normandy.

Because we didn't have any furniture yet, we planned to spend some time with friends in Rouen before heading south to Saint-Aignan. But we were too antsy. Less than a week after touching down, we packed up again and drove to the house we had bought and now live in. We basically camped here for more than a month, before the container got here. 2003 was the year of the Great Heat Wave — la canicule. It started out as a real adventure, and it continues.


  1. Time flies! I still remember you, Walt and Collette coming to see us in SC with a chock-full of plants in the back of the Jeep.

    That Desert Jade you brought back to its native land is not dead yet even though I'm not there any longer in the summer to take care of it. It survives the heat and neglect.

  2. We stayed in Motel 6's. And we pulled a U-Haul trailer behind us the whole way.

  3. I've always wondered how
    Collette fared on the flight over.
    Was it her first? My dog is a
    calm fellow, but I think that
    experience would be his undoing.

  4. I love the Etretat photos and your cross country/seas voyage tale. I guess your jeep was like a covered wagon, but you were heading in the opposite direction of our early settlers. Sort of "France Ho" instead of "Westward Ho".

    Lewis and I were in Normandy that summer also and visited Etretat (beautiful sight). I talked to you on the phone for the first time then. I'll never forget the canicule of '03 and we were only there in July, by August it was awful.

  5. Evelyn, I do remember that phone call in July 2003. You all were driving down toward Limoges a day or two later. I don't think we were really moved in yet -- maybe we hadn't yet received our furniture.

    Sheila, Collette was just fine. She did amazingly well, considering her age. And it was her first flight ever. She lived on until March 2006, when she died of a stroke at age 14.

    CHM, my desert jade is doing very well, as are my grandmother's plants. And the cactuses. And others you have give us.

  6. That's an anniversary well worth celebrating. Congrats on your 7 years.

  7. Isn't Santa Fe wonderful?

    Pigeon Forge; did you make a detour to Dollywood?

    It's a good thing the consulate sent the visas to Atlanta, even though it was 500 miles off course. Congrats on 7 years of French life!

  8. Thanks Dedene. We wonder when we arrived, and the dollar started crashing, whether we would be able to hold out. So far so good.

    Dio, yes, Santa Fe is great -- at least the little old section. No, we drove by the main entrance to Dollywood, and I do admire Dolly and enjoy her singing. But we never intended to go into the park. We figured there would be a thousand motels there, and we'd be poised to drive through the national park and enjoy the scenery. Instead, we got drenched.

  9. This entry finishes up the leaving-California post you did way back, the one you kind of left hanging in mid-continent. I think the cliffhanger at that point was whether Collette would be able to go along--and you weren't going without her.

    So now I feel completely knowledgeable about your last 15 years. I'm ready for the quiz!

  10. What a pleasant walk down memory lane, Ken.

    Just a few tidbits to share. I was inrigued by your Moroccan spices entry and I decided to try it with chicken thighs along with carrots, celery, onions, and crushed tomatoes. It came out great.

    It was just over 7 years ago that I started this job at Boston College, and that has worked out well. Our son, Brian, graduated from BC a year ago, and our daughter, Maggie, completed law school last week. Talk about time flying.

    Finally, Ken, you may recall that 32 years ago tomorrow you were part of our wedding party in Connecticut. That was a great time with Harriett and Sue. For sentimental reasons, I wore the tie from our wedding day at Maggie's graduation last Friday. A wiseguy friend of ours asked me, "Did it still fit?"

    We love reading your blog and Walt's, too. Again, thanks for the travelogue across the heartland.

  11. It doesn't seem that long ago. Congratulations on living your dream, guys. You deserve it!

  12. And the French still haven't learned that sometimes, AC is a good thing, not a device of the devil.

  13. Personally, Starman, I am on the AC-is-evil side of this one. Evil from every point of view. At least, it's totally unnecessary in France.

    Bob, I remember that weekend well. Harriett, Sue, Wilga, Bob Jones, you and Norma (though you two were probably preoccupied!).

    Tom, thanks. It's been nice being able to stay in touch with you and Harriett over the years. Now you two need to get yourselves over to France.

  14. Really just checking in. I have not posted a comment in a while, but I continue to read both blogs everyday. With a recent foray into politics, my internet surfing is usually done from my phone at odd times of the day and night.

    I did want to chime in to say congratulations on both anniversaries.

  15. I love love stories and it's such a delight to read about yours with France and each other.


  16. What a wonderful story. And such a happy ending.

    The picture of Callie in the field, seen in large size, looks like an Impressionist painting.

  17. I wish I could edit my comments. I type too fast and hit publish before I've done my proofreading. Up above, I meant "wondered" and "given" -- you know what I mean. Sigh.


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