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Archive for November, 2011

I was so excited when I heard that Prince Charles and Camilla were coming to visit Lincoln. This is big for Lincoln – a city that is three hours away from London. Lincoln is known as the hidden jewel and yesterday it felt like a diamond.

Prince Charles Arrives at the Lincoln Cathedral

Camilla Meeting the Dean of the Cathedral

Greetings from the Mayor

The Lincoln Cathedral is the 4th largest cathedral in the UK. The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, Charles and Camilla, visited Lincoln yesterday to venture to the top of Lincoln Cathedral. They took a lift to the top of the scaffolding on the south-west turret of the cathedral, where the Royal Highnesses viewed the newly-conserved statue of St Hugh and the major conservation work undertaken on the turret.

The Dean of Lincoln, the Very Reverend Philip Buckler, welcomed Their Royal Highnesses as he said, “We are thrilled to welcome the Prince of Wales once again, and to welcome The Duchess of Cornwall on her first official visit to the Cathedral.”

The Mayor and the Sheriff of Lincoln Enter the Cathedral

As the Dean and Prince Charles entered the cathedral I was right next to them as I heard the Dean say to the Prince as they looked up at the West Front “This is some of the renovation work that has been done .“ He was most interested in the renovation work being done to the cathedral especially since there are apprentices at the Cathedral who are participants in The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment apprenticeship programme.

Looking Up at the Restoration of the West Front

I was so excited to be there in front of the Lincoln Cathedral right in the middle of a sea of representatives of the media – reporters and writers – as I was taking my own pictures of the arrival of Prince Charles and Camilla.  Since I volunteer at the Lincoln Cathedral, it made it that much more special  to experience this momentous event firsthand.

He's So Charming!

I waited until they entered the cathedral for a private tour, then left with my camera in hand. Just at the end of the cobblestone road I ran into a group of police officers providing security for the event.

My New Friends

They invited me to take a picture of them and then they surprised me when one of the officers took my camera and told me to get on his motorcycle for a picture. We all had a good laugh and it reminded me that every day is filled with magical moments and beautiful people.

My Wild Side

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Thanksgiving Day

Living in England almost 6,000 miles away from our family means that we have not celebrated Thanksgiving with our family in three years. I really miss having Thanksgiving dinner with our family in California. It is one of my favourite holidays. Not a religious holiday, a day with family and friends, food, and fun. To me it is totally a family day. We live such a fast paced lifestyle and for me Thanksgiving is a time to slow down, relax and enjoy catching up with each other, having interesting conversations, cooking together, and even playing some family games. Since most shops and businesses are closed, you can enjoy just being together and not feel like you should be doing something else, or that you are missing out on something. I like our family traditions that we started when we first got married – almost 32 years ago.

This year my cousin in Sheffield asked if we would have a proper Thanksgiving dinner at our home and have them over.

Me with My Cousin Chelle, Tahlia and Joel

This is the first time in three years that we are having a real Thanksgiving dinner at our home in England. I invited an English friend Brian who lived in the USA for thirteen years, so he is familiar with the American culture, and a special neighbour Jean who we have been friends since we moved into the apartment building. She is going to be 90 years old in June!

Jean and Me

Including Steve and myself, we are seven family and friends getting together to celebrate Thanksgiving together in England.

The Turkey

I can safely say that I was the only one in the checkout line buying a turkey. They are very popular for Christmas dinners here, but as we approach the end of November, most Brits will wait a few more weeks before rushing out to get their turkeys. I noticed on the packaging that the turkey is French, which added to the international ‘flavour’ of the dinner. I’m not sure if the turkey appreciated it very much.

Dig In!

We had a beautiful spread of food including turkey, stuffing, sweet potato pie with marshmallows of course, cranberry sauce, gravy, green beans, roasted potatoes, salad with Hidden Valley Ranch dressing (brought from the USA), and fresh cheesecake from a special shop here in Lincoln (I do miss my pumpkin pie but this is next best thing). And let’s not forget Steve’s homemade bread, filling the downstairs with the smell of freshly baked bread.

It was a new experience for all of us.  Everybody ate a lot – like you do on Thanksgiving. We told stories from our different cultures and  most of all enjoyed the time we spent together on one of my favourite holidays of the year.

Uncle Steve with the Cousins

Maybe next year we can plan to be in California with our family to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Next Thanksgiving in America?

Wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to all of our family and friends in the USA and to those living abroad in other parts of the world.

Maxine and Steve celebrating Thanksgiving in Lincoln, England.

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Steve and I love France and have visited the different regions of the country many times over the years. We always seem to go back to the Cote D’Azur region – Nice, Cannes, Monte Carlo and the surrounding areas. We have even considered retiring to the South of France and talked about it for the past 12 years. Talking about retirement 12 years ago seemed so far away, and yet here we are, much closer to Steve retiring from his job. He is eligible for early retirement at age 55, since he has been with his company for 33+years, he has that option.

We have lived in England for the past three years and this has made it easier and less expensive to fly or drive to France and look at our options in the different areas. We sold our big beautiful house in Southern California this year, which has allowed us to take the next step and begin to go property shopping and to see what our money will buy us.

Now that retirement is within reach it is time to look at our retirement plans and prepare to take action to make sure we are ready for when retirement arrives. This includes finding and renting or buying a property for us to call home for part of the year, as we will be living in Southern California the other part of year to be near our sons and daughter-in-law, and the rest of our family. We really need to pick the area and fine tune our property search and then visit the area a number of times to be sure that it ticks most of the boxes for us. It is rare to be able to tick all of the boxes, especially under the current financial climate around the world.

So off we went on our first serious property buying trip to France in, of course, the Cote D’Azur. We arranged this trip so that we could meet up with our friends Ian and Carole and their friends, all from Sheffield, England, who own flats in Antibes. They wanted to help us on our property search in this area. It is a beautiful area with all of the amenities and ambience that you could ask for, as well as being near Nice, Cannes, Monte Carlo and the airport.Carole recommended the Hotel Mimosas in Antibes as our home base for this trip. The Mimosas resembled a classic hotel from years ago, but one that was tastefully modernised without losing its charm.

Hotel Mimosas

We began our expedition with a company that took us to only “new builds,” brand new properties, most in a planned community with amenities such as a pool, a garden, a garage, some with a gated entry into the development. We looked at a few that were not even built yet. These are called “off-plan” and all we could see was the land, a miniature layout of the properties and some pictures of what the finished product will look like. We have been warned about off-plan buying as a number of construction companies have gone out of business before the project was finished, taking your money with them. Money such as initial deposit and installments as they complete each phase of the project. The company that we are working with assured us that they only work with the finest builders, and the ones that we were looking at were by a builder who won many awards for their properties and has an outstanding reputation in France. With that information we decided to go to see properties in four different locations in that region, from the forest to the sea to the rural. It was a full day affair, an exhausting one at that, as we drove with our real estate agent from one end of the region to the other, in search of the perfect property for us.

A Model House... Literally!

We learned a great deal about what to expect in a property. The living areas are quite a bit smaller than we are used to. One of the properties was 50 square meters, or about 500 square feet. Quite a small area considering that our house in California was almost 3000 square feet! We are prepared to downsize but this was a bit too small, since it will be our main residence for half of the year, not just a holiday home for short visits. We knew that property in this region was expensive but we didn’t know that it was the second most expensive region, second only to Paris. So we were a bit surprised.

We visited a number of real estate agencies in town, and talked with the estate agents telling them what we want and how much we had to spend and if they had any properties. Most said that they did, and they arranged for us to see them. Ian & Carole went with us most of the time to help translate, as some of them did not speak much English. We viewed about ten properties over the next three days. We were able to eliminate nine of the ten, we found one that we liked, but again it was a small place for a big price.

Typical Real Estate Window Shopping

We left a bit disappointed but also very excited as we made a group of new friends that Ian & Carole introduced us to and we just love all of them. We went to each of their flats to get an idea of the properties in their community – the size, the layout, and the views. The night before we left we all got together and had a fabulous farewell dinner. We look forward to our next visit with them.

Dinner with Friends - Lot's of 'em

We are leaving our options open and know that it will take a little more research and a number of trips back for us to zero in on our criteria of boxes to be ticked. We will find just the right property for us, it just may take some time. Meanwhile, we will keep on sampling scrumptious ice cream on our travels…

Gelato is the Answer - Now What Was the Question?

Stay tuned for our next property shopping adventure in France. Maybe next time we will have time to enjoy the pool!

A Pool Made for Reflecting

Until next time ~ Au Revoir

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