22 January 2012


This is the time of year, and we are having the kind of of weather, that makes people think about a different life in a different place and with a different climate. Une vie meilleure — a life that would be better. Ailleurs — somewhere else. A lot of the problem might be post-holidays letdown.

I went to the pharmacy in the morning. It seemed half the population of the département was out and about. Well, Saturday is market day in Saint-Aignan, so it was to be expected. I had decided not to go shopping in the outdoor market because I'm still suffering the after-effects from the bad cold I had in late December.

Parking was scarce, and I ended up leaving the car down by the bridge and trudging up the street to the pharmacy. The weather had been windy and misty earlier, but the mist at least had stopped, and it wasn't at all cold. When I got to the pharmacy, I was greeted by a woman who works there and who I've come to know a little over the past eight years. She was friendly with the woman who sold us our house in 2003 — that's the connection.

I told her I had been suffering sinus congestion for a month. That was causing me to cough quite a bit. "What you need is a dose of that old California sunshine," she said. She was surprised when I told her the weather in California — at least the part of it where I used to live — is about the same right now as it is here in Saint-Aignan. Hollywood and California dreaming worldwide has done a successful propaganda job, that's for sure. People think it's always sunny and warm out there.

Just a day or two before, we had taken Bertie the Cat to the vet's and had about the same conversation with the young man who takes care of Bertie and Callie. It started when the question of whether to give Bertie a rabies shot came up. The vet said it was optional — there's no rabies in France nowadays. Unless you are going to travel with the animal, you don't need to worry about la rage, as it's called.

We said we had no travel plans that would involve either animal for the time being. The vet asked: "You are happy here in the Loir-et-Cher, aren't you?" Yes, we are, and we don't foresee going elsewhere. "All of us dream of going to live in California," he said. People here think we are crazy to have left the sun and surf and palm trees of cette Californie paradisiaque.

Paradise where you yourself are not, I guess. I just checked the weather, and the part of California where we lived for nearly 20 years is in the middle of a five-day rainy period with temperatures in the 50s Fahrenheit. Just like Saint-Aignan.


  1. Whenever people get excited about my travels, I simply tell them the grass is never greener on the other side, it just tastes different.

    Every place I put down my suitcase for a while has it's pluses and of course it's minuses.

    France is no different. Or California for that matter.

  2. Lived in California for a summer - liked it alot.
    Travelled much of France - liked it alot.
    Lived in Melbourne all my life - Love it a lot.
    Like CH before me says, it just tastes different and a little taste of every thing is an experience.
    Enjoyed this post. Very thought provoking for someone nearing retirement Ken.

  3. Funny, I have almost the same conversation at the hair salon in town. When I tell people here that I was born in California they always profer how much they love California, if they've traveled there, or how much they want to go, if they haven't already been. My stylist has a dream of visiting San Francisco some day. I always tell her that it is indeed a beautiful city, but you don't go there for the fine weather or the beaches.

  4. We get these sorts of conversations too of course, but not quite so much as we did when we lived in the UK. In the UK the climate really is different to Australia, although they were always surprised that I spent my childhood where it snowed in winter every couple of years.

  5. You never know what a place is really like until you have spent a part of every month in the year there. And it's not just the climate that matters, as we all know.

    I went for a drive around my home county of Derbyshire the other day. As I set off I felt so humble that we live in such a beautiful part of the world. By the time I got home I was angry and ready to pack my bags. Too much traffic, too many people, too many rude drivers and nowhere to park your car for free. It all adds up, sunshine, or not.

  6. Well, in my part of Southern California, which is a paradise to me, it was rather overcast, but yesterday we had a fierce wind and sand storm. We have wind often, but rarely that strong. According to a neighbor, trees and palms trees were uprooted up north in the Palm Springs area. The temperatures, however, were somewhat above freezing, between 70° F and 75° F!

    In that part of California, like everywhere else and as everybody said, there are minuses and pluses. But for me, pluses are way more numerous so that minuses don’t count.

  7. The grass always looks greener on the other side because it has more manure in it. BUT on my side of the world it is a lovely day today with the trade winds caressing the skin.

  8. Ken

    I get the same comments, even after having been here for more than 30 yrs;
    " why did you leave a tropical island for the great white north ?"

    What they don't realize is that you don't have warm and sunny days all yr long .

  9. Enjoyed your post. We have these conversations whenever we travel. I always tell people that we live in the other half of California, the half without surfers and year-round sunshine. Not, as CHM notes, that SoCal really has year-round sunshine...

    Now, I think I'll go stand in front of the (gas and legally low-emission) fireplace. I'm cold and it's raining.

  10. The only question I ever get (from other Americans, here in Missouri) is, "Why don't you SOUND like you're from New Jersey??" :))

    I've never been to San Francisco, but your posts about the weather there have certainly enlightened me. I do hear only positive things about the San Diego area, though.... chm, is that the area where you live?


  11. It was 25 degrees F the other morning here in Santa Cruz, California when I set off on my morning bike ride. Brrr!!!

  12. Maybe you should direct them to the REAL sunshine state.

  13. Wall to wall sunshine is boring and predictable. Variety is the spice of life - and when those warm days come along - you can appreciate them even more.

  14. Thanks for all the comments.

    CHM, I hope you didn't have damage from the winds.

    Chrissoup, have you gotten warm yet? And stayed dry?

    Leon, there are so many factors involved in deciding what to do when you retire... I'm sure there are a lot of books on the subject.

    CH, that difference in taste(s) is one of the things that brought me (back) to France for retirement.

    Keir, even in the U.S. people imagine SF with sunny weather and welcoming beaches and all. The reality is so different.

    Jean, as usual you have put your finger on the truth. That's what I always tell people here when they dream of California. Traffic! Crowds! Not to mention Earthquakes!

    Leslie, that is really cold for Santa Cruz, for sure. At least then you didn't have fog, I bet.

    TB, Starman, Judy, mrbg, yes and :^).

    John-san, I do agree with you. Variety is the key, in food and weather.

  15. As Erma Bombeck used to say, "The grass is always greener over the septic tank."

  16. No damage to the house, just a big branch from one of my big Tamarisks in the backyard was broken.No big deal!


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