Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Updates



Full steam ahead.
Yesterday, the phone rang and I saw my real estate agent's name flash up on the screen. "Oh, no."
I'd been dreading her call. It was the day we were supposed to get the results of the appraisal.
A previous offer had fallen through at the appraisal stage. We figured at best we'd have to negotiate for a lower price.
The agent didn't beat around the bush. "We appraised for asking price!" she crowed.
What a relief!
No more negotiating, no more bargaining, we had successfully jumped through all the hoops.
This is happening.
We close on the house on December 8.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Visa Adventure


Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

Well, I'm not going to try to build up any suspense. We traveled to Chicago this week and applied for our Visa.
Chicago is about five hours away from us, but it is where we needed to travel for our in-person interview to request a long-stay visa. In general, Americans don't need visas to visit France for three months or less, so we've never had to do this before.
We spent the night with some old friends who live about 20 minutes outside of the city. We took the train in early Thursday morning. Our appointments were not until 11 and 11:10 (we both had to have appointments), but we just commuted when our friend went to work at 8 a.m.

That gave us time to find a place for breakfast.
We were lured into a place that had a chalkboard sign that read "Homemade pastries" but when we got inside, I asked where the pastries were and they had none. What they had instead, was a breakfast buffet that you paid for by weight. Weird, huh?
Once we'd finished, we pulled out our red folder with our documents. I had put mine in order according to the list:
*an application
*a passport-sized photo (no smiling, no glasses)
*a questionaire
*my passport and a photo copy of the identity page
*a letter explaining what I intend to do in France (eat pastries, drink wine, write books)
*a notarized letter promising I won't work in France (at least not a French job)
*a letter explaining my work and showing my paystubs
*proof of means of income -- Earl's retirement savings and the income from the sale of our house
*our marriage license
*proof of accommodation (we included the hotel in Paris where we'll stay along with the two housesits in France and our friend's address in Aix en Provence where we'll go to file our paperwork)
*a processing fee ($115 cash)
*a residence form (since we plan to stay in France for more than 12 months)
*a self-addressed, pre-paid Express envelope from the post office only -- not UPS or FED EX

I also  had a birth certificate, just in case.
After breakfast, we decided to walk to the consulate, which is on Michigan Avenue, down toward the Magnificent Mile. Even though we arrived at the building nearly an hour early, I wanted to go ahead and check in. I felt nervous, jittery.
Earl suggested we get something to drink at the Starbucks on the second floor, but I wanted to head to the 37th floor to the French consulate. So he acquiesced.
The information desk gave us a pass to get through the gates to the elevators. We were supposed to scan the pass and glass doors slid open to let us through. But I scanned my pass and the doors turned red, but I pushed on them anyway. Suddenly, a loud blaring noise rang out and a man with a walkie talkie came rushing toward us calling, "Step back."
They'll never let me into France now, I thought as the man took my pass and scanned it before allowing me through the gates.
A few seconds in the elevator, which made my ears pop as it zipped up to the 37th floor, and we stepped off into France.
Proof that we were in the right place.
Here's me in those same chairs.
A young man, who was returning to the office, told us we should put our passes in a deposit window, like a bank. The two women behind the windows lined up the passes, probably in order of people's appointments.
The office was very small with a television mounted in the corner. It played French food shows the whole time we were there.
A man and two children were there when we arrived, and another man, French, jumped ahead of the line to get his passport, but almost everyone else there was a student getting a visa to study abroad. And the majority of those students were Asian. Perhaps they were studying in the U.S. and wanted to do a study abroad, or maybe they came from countries that needed a visa to visit France.
At a little after 11, the younger woman motioned me up. She didn't try to pronounce my name, but her microphone wasn't working so we hadn't been able to hear her all morning anyway.
I pulled out the packet of papers and asked whether she wanted all of them.
Yes, she nodded. So I slide the inch-thick stack through the window and she slowly went through each one.
She handed me back the extra passport photo and my birth certificate, and the envelope that my $115 cash was in.
Earl took a picture of me standing at the window as I supplied my papers. 
Then she asked to get my fingerprints. They had a machine that didn't require ink or black-tipped fingers, but it was quite contrary. It took several times and kept beeping at me as I tried to get the machine to light up for all four fingers, and then the other hand and then both thumbs.
While we were there, no one else had to do the fingerprint machine. It must only be for people planning to move to France.
The woman then nodded and said I could send my husband up. So Earl replaced me and supplied all of his papers. After his wrangling with the fingerprint machine, we were free to go.
Some of the students applying didn't have what they needed, so the workers had sent them out to get things like cash for the fee or envelopes for mailing the visa. We had all our documentation, so that's a plus.
Earl picked up my coat and held it for me. As I slipped my arms in, I saw the French woman behind the window smile at us.
She thinks we're cute, I thought. Then I wondered if she thought there was no way we were getting a visa to move to France.  
Just because we had all the right forms does not mean that they'll let us move to France. I think our odds would have been much better if we had closed on our house and could show them a bank statement with $150,000 in it. But the closing is not until December and the visa can take a month to arrive. We couldn't risk waiting.
So now we'll check the mailbox starting next week, hoping our visas arrive.
I didn't think about it until recently, but we left our passports there, along with our marriage licenses. I hope we get them both back.

We left the building after pausing for pictures in front of the French flag and their new president 
Happy

Earl and Emmanuel
before we walked to the Nutella cafe across the street. I'm sure it was strategically placed close to the French consulate.
Nutella oveerload
Earl had a Nutella and banana crepe while I had a berry pastry that I didn't realize would be drizzled in Nutella. I think I'd have preferred it without Nutella, but we celebrated because we were a step closer to making our dream come true, where we can eat really pastries without Nutella on them.
Vive la France!
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. I hope you'll visit each other's blogs and leave comments. Also post your blog info in the Linky below.


Tuesday, November 07, 2017

FranceBookTours -- One Sip at a Time

One Sip at a Time Banner


If you know me at all, you would suspect that I would dive right into One Sip at a Time by Keith Van Sickle. This book is full of the author's observations of life as he and his wife move to Provence. They had already lived along the border of Switzerland and France, so they were not strangers to living abroad.
Each story is a short snippet, like a blog post, and they are all joined together to create a small memoir, which is nice if you only have short bursts of time to read.
The author covers the major stumbling blocks that ex-pats face and does it in an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek manner. He addresses situations like driving in France, learning the language and making friends. In the section titled "The French Citizenship Test," I wondered if the author and his wife were actually becoming French citizens, but instead, he talked about the challenge of eating a croissant without leaving messy crumbs. Yes, I can see that would be a challenge, and perhaps the ultimate test to become a French citizen. 
One chapter I found interesting was about the presidential election in France. When we visited France in May, they had just elected Macron. Van Sickle writes about the election of Hollande, so a few years before. Like us, he was impressed by the shortness of the election.
If you're curious about life in France and interested in a light-hearted look at it, One Sip at a Time can take you there.
Make sure you scroll down and enter to win a copy of the book.

Keith Van Sickle

on Tour November 6-17 with One Sip at a Time

One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence

(travel memoir) Release date: January 28, 2017 at Dresher Publishing ISBN: 978-0998312002 192 pages Author’s page | Goodreads  

SYNOPSIS

Can a two-career couple really pick up stakes and move to Provence? Keith and Val had a dream – to live in Provence, the land of brilliant sunlight, charming hilltop villages and the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean. But there were two problems: they weren’t French speakers and they had full-time jobs. So they came up with a plan… Follow their adventures (and misadventures) as they quit their jobs, become consultants and split their time between two countries. Laugh along as they build a life in Provence, slowly mastering a new language and making friends with the locals over long meals and just a bit too much wine. If you’ve ever dreamed of changing gears and learning what joie de vivre is really all about, you won’t want to miss this delightful book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

One Sip at a Time Keith Van Sickle Keith Van Sickle is a technology industry veteran and lifelong traveler who got his first taste of overseas life while studying in England during college. But it was the expat assignment to Switzerland that made him really fall in love with Europe. After returning to California, he and his wife Val dreamed of living abroad again but were unable to find another expat gig. So they decided to invent their own. Now they split their time between Silicon Valley and St-Rémy-de-Provence, delving ever deeper into what makes France so endlessly fascinating. Find the author on Facebook and Twitter Visit his website Subscribe to his mailing list and get information about new releases. Buy the book on Amazon.com

***

GIVEAWAY

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form]
Global giveaway open to all 5 winners

***

CLICK ON THE BANNER TO READ REVIEWS, EXCERPTS, AND GUEST-POST

Save

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Getting a Visa


Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

This is the week we travel to Chicago to apply for our Visa that will allow us to stay in France for a year or more.
We could have applied anytime within three months of our departure, but we picked the date this week because the house was originally scheduled to close on Tuesday. We thought to deposit the money from the sale of the house and then print out our bank statement as proof that we have enough money to live in France for the coming year.
We kept our appointment, even though we won't close on the sale of the house until December 8. The visa can take a month to get, so we didn't want to risk not getting the paperwork in time.
First, let me say that Americans don't need a visa to visit France. It's only for long-term visits, like going to school or moving there that Americans need a visa.
I took this out the window of the plane on our last flight, knowing that was the day we'd land in France.

I searched online and found that Earl and I have to apply for a visa at the French consulate in Chicago. Chicago is about five hours away from us, so that isn't terrible. Plus, we have friends who live there so we can stay with them. The consulate has a whole page on its website about how to apply for a long-stay visa.
I made the appointments before we had all of our documents ready, but I figured that would give us incentive to get everything done.
And what did we need get done? Here's a list from the website:
Just today I headed to CVS to get a new photo taken. I had extra pictures printed when I renewed my passport in July, but since the instructions for the Visa say the picture has to be with three months, I didn't want it thrown out on a technicality.
On Friday, we had our friend who is a notary notarize all of our letters that declared we're American citizens, that promised we won't try to find work in France.
We ordered a birth certificates and two marriage certificates, one for each of us.
Just last week, after perusing the health insurance available, I ordered and paid for a year's worth of insurance.
If you aren't American, you may not realize how amazing that is. Here, even though we get our insurance through Earl's work and it is good insurance, we pay about $225 per week. That's about $900 per month that comes straight out of Earl's paycheck. I filled out the forms with Mondassur, an insurance broker, which an Australian living in France had told us about, and our insurance bid came in at 846 Euros for the year for both of us. The price we paid in American dollars was $956 -- for the whole year for two people. That is amazing, and I had no problem seeing that money disappear from our account.
Today, I opened the folder that holds all of our important documents and I put them in order as listed above. I still need to get an Express Mail envelope to take with us.
I've been super nervous about applying for the Visa, especially since we haven't closed on the house yet, but I found a blog post by a man who successfully applied and received a Visa. He was very reassuring at MadManBlog.
So, tomorrow is the appraisal on our house -- possible the last time we have to stage it (fingers crossed). If all goes smoothly, we'll receive our Visas within the month so we can fly off to France in January.
And then, you'll find us there, beginning our new ex-pat life.


Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. I hope you'll visit each other's blogs and leave comments. Also post your blog info in the Linky below.


Friday, November 03, 2017

Nanowrimo Novel

Well, it's November, so this is the month I should be writing a lot. I haven't written much so far, feeling swallowed by a heap of paperwork to get our visas and home sale documents, but I plan to jump in there.
I started a novel last November and wrote about 35,000 words. This November, I aim to finish it. Of course, I haven't been dormant in the months since November. I worked on finishing a different
novel, a sequel to The Summer of France which I call Autumn in Aix. That one is out for revisions right now.
When I returned to my novel in progress, I was surprised to find that I like it a lot. I don't always feel that way about my writing. The current title is The Wedding-Dress Theory. It's a mother daughter story.
Ironically, as I'm preparing to move to France, I'm writing a book about a couple who decide to travel to all 50 states in the U.S. But things go awry, as you might imagine.
I'm going to share the first chapter here and hope that you like it so I'm encouraged to continue.


Tess
Tucking a clutch of maps under her arm and transferring a loaded purse to her shoulder, Tess Wright Thompson reached for the doorknob, hoping she could open the door and step inside before all of her belongings fell onto the front porch.
“I got your maps, but these better be the last of them,” Tess called out to her husband, Rick. Even from the living room as she dumped her bag onto the black leather couch, she could see through to the dining room and the white board he had set up there. His handwriting in blue marker scrawled across it with dates, places and reservations for their upcoming cross-country trip. It’s what he had always wanted to do – travel to every state in the U.S. in one big journey. So they were doing it, with an Alaskan cruise at the end and then a flight to Hawaii where they would lie on the beach for a week to recover from so much adventure.
Rick, 10 years older than Tess, had retired just the month before. Today was Tess’ last day at the Things Remembered shop where she worked helping people pick personal gifts then having them engraved or embroidered with names. The store had found a college student to take her place for the summer, so she was free to travel and then return to work in the fall.
“If you even want to come back,” laughed Charles, her 28-year-old manager, who was meticulous about the merchandise, but couldn’t figure out why Tess would want to work if she could have a husband support her.
“What else am I going to do?” she had asked Charles. “Stay home and watch Rick be retired? I suppose he’ll take up hobbies, like wood working or tinkering on old cars, or whatever cliché retired husbands do.” She had sighed.
Tess liked routine, and this trip, Rick’s retirement, would definitely shake up the routine. Ever since her mother died 24 years before and she’d had her “episode” as she liked to call it – clinical depression her doctors called it – she’d lived by routine. She returned from the psychiatric hospital a zombie marching through a fog with strict timelines for feeding the children, getting them to school, picking them up, feeding them dinner – her hectic life as an assistant district attorney thrown aside as she muddled to get through every day. She wouldn’t have survived without Rick’s support, his nightly backrubs, the times he’d come in from work and say, “Let me make dinner; you go read a book and relax.” And he had agreed that getting a small job at a shop might be good for her as the kids finished high school. He never pushed her to go back to being a lawyer, just held a hand at the small of her back, figuratively, whenever she threatened to stumble.
Oh, she groused about Rick’s retiring but she felt closest to her real self with just the two of them, walking for coffee, their hands entwined. Ambling through the farmer’s market and picking out a few zucchinis, a bunch of strawberries, some local honey, and guiltily adding a cinnamon roll loaded with cream cheese icing to their healthy purchases. They would split the pastry at home as she sipped tea and he tipped back strong coffee.
Maybe the entire cross-country trip would feel like their weekly trips to the farmer’s market.
She leaned over to save her overloaded purse from spilling out onto the couch, settling it upright. She’d brought home all of her belongings from Things Remembered today. She was going to be gone for three months – no sense leaving an extra cardigan hanging on the hook in the backroom next to the time clock. She’d also grabbed her deep-purple travel mug, engraved with her name and a blossoming iris. Tess loved all things flowered and all things purple. She pulled the mug from her purse and set it on the side table.
Open maps dotted with post-it notes and stacks of maps yet to be unfolded and notated covered the dining room table, and she would add this latest set of maps. She had stopped by AAA on her drive home. She knew that Rick had already planned every step of the trip, so she wondered why he continued to pour over the maps and order new ones.
They had two weeks yet before the journey, and the next step was to buy supplies.
“We can get supplies anywhere along the route,” Tess had reminded him. “We’re not going to the Australian Outback. There are CVS drug stores around the whole country,” or at least she figured there were.
Tess had put her foot down at the idea of renting an RV. “If we’re going to do this, we’re staying in hotels, and decent hotels.”
So they didn’t need to stock up on road food or plan meals. They’d be eating in diners and restaurants, maybe grabbing Subway sandwiches for picnics. They only needed to pack clothes and toiletries, plus their credit cards.
Tess had a vision of the old days when they would get travelers’ checks before a long trip and chuckled to herself.
“Hey, Rick,” she called as she walked toward the dining room with the maps. “Remember when we used to buy travelers’ checks and then we’d have to search everywhere for someplace that would accept them? That time in the Blue Ridge Mountains when –”
She halted as she rounded the corner of the narrow wall to the dining room and saw Rick slumped over the table, the back of his head toward her. A plate with a few crumbs of cake and an empty coffee cup sat beside him.
“Rick?” Tess called tentatively. Had he fallen asleep?
She moved beside him and touched his shoulder, beginning to shake him but her hand recoiled. His shoulder felt cold and stiff. Not warm and yielding with the bones and muscles resisting beneath.
“Oh, my God! Rick! Rick!”
Avoiding contact with him, Tess scooted his chair in enough so that she could get around the table to see his face. Partially open, his eyes stared straight ahead at the table and the skin above his eyelids looked blue as if he’d applied eye shadow. His mouth hung open, and a little puddle of drool rested on the table beneath him.

“Rick! Noooooo.” Tess didn’t know how long she howled the word as she fell to her knees and covered her face.

Well? What do you think so far? Would you keep reading?
 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Two Months and Counting


Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

Everything is back on track for our move to France.
We're scheduled to sell our house in early December, live with friends for a few weeks until we finish work, and then head down to Florida for Christmas.
From there, we'll fly to Paris.
Of course, things could fall through, but I have to be hopeful that things will workout and soon I'll see Paris again.
This is the Pont Alexandre III, a bridge over the Seine.
We stayed on the bridge until these lamps were lit. 

Here I am in the Jardins du Luxembourg soaking up the sun. 

Even the clouds are romantic in Paris.  How dramatic.
I've never been in Paris during January, so that will be a new experience. It might be cold, but I have a beautiful gray wool coat with a full skirt and a black faux-fur collar. Plus, if we get cold walking, we can stop inside Laduree for a cup of tea and a pastry,


or even Angelina's for some of their famous hot chocolate.
And the best thing about our move will be that we won't be rushed. We'll have days and weeks and months to explore France.
Thanks for cheering me on as I continue this uphill journey to uproot our lives and settle in France.
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. I hope you'll visit each other's blogs and leave comments. Also post your blog info in the Linky below.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Obsessive Runs

Anyone who reads my blog knows that running is a huge part of my life.
And for about 15 years, I have had some good friends who run regularly with me. One friend moved to Louisville, about an hour and a half away, and the other friends and I started running less and less over the years, only meeting occasionally on the weekends.
Toward the end of September, as I finished a run, MapMyRun suggested that I do a "challenge." The challenge was simply to see who ran the most during the month of October.
I texted my friends and asked whether they were interested. The initial response was not enthusiastic, but slowly, they came around.  I thought our friend in Louisville would never agree to join us. She is very private, and the idea of following each other's runs on MapMyRun put her off.
But after a couple of days, she surprised us and joined. All four of us were then on MapMyRun together on the challenge.
I loved that we were all together. It felt almost like we were running together again.
At the beginning, I apologized. I'm obnoxiously competitive. Najah didn't buy into the competition, just enjoying our running time together. Noreen has also stepped it up, but working early each morning, she doesn't have time to overdo it like I do a couple days each week.
Noreen and Najah joined me for a run Sunday morning at my house. 
None of us had been running a lot. I usually ran 3 or 4 miles on 3 or 4 days a week. That would come out to a maximum of about 64 miles per month, but the idea of competing revved my engines.
My friend in Louisville doesn't mess around. She runs 8 miles at a pop. Suddenly, I was having to force myself to run 5 or 6 days a week, and my mileage increased. I stayed in the lead for much of the month, but slowly, her runs caught up with me. Lots of short runs could not compete with her 8 milers.
On Sunday, my Columbus friends and I ran five miles and felt satisfied, but when we closed out the app, my Louisville friend had run 11 miles.
Sigh.
On Tuesday, I ran 10 miles. That had been my New Year's Resolution, to be able to easily run 10 miles again. So by October 24, I reached my resolution. Feeling smug that I'd taken the lead again, I turned off my app.
The next day, my Louisville friend ran 11 miles again.
Twinges in my knee and ankle are reminding me that my body is not used to all this running.
I woke up this morning seeing that I was six miles behind my friend. I decided to run a moderate amount. I couldn't go ten miles again like I had on Tuesday.
This railroad trestle crosses the trail, and you can see downtown Columbus through the bridge.
I walked with my friend Sheila first, waiting for the weather to warm up a bit. Around 9 a.m., I headed toward the bike trail that runs along the river and to downtown Columbus.

I ticked off the miles, deciding at what point I would turn around. Maybe a five-mile run would be enough, although I wouldn't catch my friend.
As the hitch in my left knee caught a few times, I thought maybe I should just concede.

The still green lawn runs right up to the Scioto River
But I kept going. The trail along the river used to be under construction, but now it is finished all the way to Bicentennial Park, which is where cool water fountains offer relief in the summer.
The arched bridge in the background is new to Columbus. 
I looped around at four miles and headed home, planning to stop at a Starbucks as a reward. The trail crosses the river, offering views of herons and a low-head dam.
Should I continue on the trail? Go for nine or maybe 10 miles?
No, I circled around the Starbucks to make sure I reached eight miles, before easing into a chair to relieve my sore feet. Grace met me at Starbucks and gave me a ride home in exchange for a coffee, and some always precious conversations.
I know that it's my dream to move to France, and I couldn't be more thrilled to be moving, but that doesn't mean I won't miss things about Columbus. And mornings like this are worth appreciating.
The LeVeque Tower stands stark against the brilliant blue October sky. 
Right now, my mileage for the month is at 100.85 miles.
I'm currently two miles ahead of my friend on our October challenge on MapMyRun, but I've made peace with not winning. I've promised myself not to overdo it. Resist, resist, I urge myself. Injuries will get me nowhere.
The challenge ends on Tuesday, and I vow not to spend the day running until I go to work in the evening.
Because, you know what happens on Wednesday, November 1?
It's the start of Nanowrimo -- National Novel Writing Month, where I try to write 50,000 words in a month.
From extreme running to extreme writing.

Updates

Full steam ahead. Yesterday, the phone rang and I saw my real estate agent's name flash up on the screen. "Oh, no." I&...