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Archive for the ‘European Adventures’ Category

We have all heard the saying “Time Flies” and we are really finding that to be true, now more than ever. This is our second spring in our new house in the South of France and the first full year for the garden. We had just started planting the garden last spring.

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Welcome to My Garden

Besides the warmer weather and beautiful sunshine that spring brings with it, there is the awakening of the flowers, plants and trees that excites me the most. I love my jardin and I love seeing my garden come back to life after the winter months. As a photographer, I am constantly taking pictures of the many things and people around me; however I seem to get into high gear with my camera when nature makes a change.

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One of Many Purple Flowers

You can see in the pictures how quickly everything starts to come back to life and begins to grow again as soon as the warm weather arrives.

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Just Getting Started

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Happy Smiling Faces

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The Garden Angel Surrounded by Flowers

The warmth came early this year – the end of February – confusing nature and causing some plants to come back to life and some of the flowers to bloom earlier than usual.

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Awakening

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Full Bloom

The pictures show the progression of nature from the bare branches of the plants and trees to the green leaves pushing their way out of the branches and the flowers unfolding into beautiful blossoms.

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Ready to Pop

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Peek-a-Boo!

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Bam!

As I walk into the garden, I can see how each of the plants are becoming full of colorful flowers. It is like a race of nature to see which ones will become full first.

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An Explosion of Color

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More Pink Flowers

It is so exciting to watch the little pods begin to open and see the flowers push their way into the sunshine, bringing every color of the rainbow into my garden.

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Tree Branches Bursting into Life

I love to see the bare brown branches of the trees become full of green leaves, giving them a new shape and bringing shade and such beauty to the garden and the surrounding area. It feels as if the process is appearing right before our eyes.

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Shades of Purple

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The Beauty of White

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Shades of Red, Yellow and Green

We are also enjoying our new patio furniture. It allows us to spend a good amount of time outside on the terrasse overlooking the garden.

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The Patio Terrasse 

We eat our meals outside and invite friends over to enjoy the garden with us. It is amazing the things that you become aware of while sitting outside watching nature takes its course – bees pollinating the flowers, hovering over each one for minutes at a time (some long enough for me to take a photo) before moving onto the next one.

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A Bee at Work

Butterflies land on plants that attract them to their small branches and flowers – and spread their wings, revealing their beautiful colors.

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Another Happy  Flowering Plant

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More Happy Flowers

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From Pods into Flowers

We have an occasional visitor called a Hummingbird Hawk Moth that is a fraction of the size of a hummingbird. At first sight, I thought that it was a baby hummingbird, but it is neither hummingbird nor moth. Then there are the many different varieties of birds that fly into the trees in our garden. The many sounds that they make creates a symphony as they communicate with each other.

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Steve Attempting to Train the Vines

The vines on the pergola are growing so fast, almost 6 inches a day. This keeps Steve busy as he trains the vines to cover the pergola. He has to guide them in the different directions on the poles and tie them with a special string that holds them in place and also allows them to keep growing and spreading out over the pergola.

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The Vines in Full Bloom

I hope that all of you are enjoying the sounds, colors and rebirth of spring as much as I am.

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My Garden Angel

 

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Long before moving to France, Steve and I were customers of a worldwide bank, which simplified having accounts in the USA and the UK. As we began to look ahead to retiring to France, we asked the bank to open an account for us at their French affiliate. This turned out to be very easy, and they arranged all of the paperwork that we needed to fill in and sign and then they took care of the rest – it was that simple – and voila we had a French bank account before we even moved to France. We knew how lucky we were as we were told how complicated the red tape can be in France.

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Cash Machines are Everywhere

Now fast forward two years and we are now living in France a good part of the year (we split our time between the south of France, England and Southern California). It turns out the closest branch of our worldwide bank is 45 minutes away from where we live. This does not make it convenient for making deposits or other banking needs. Although we can use the cash machine in any bank to get cash without a fee using our bank card, after the first year living here in France, it became evident that we needed a local bank account.

We began by asking our friends who had a local bank which one they were with. There are so many local banks to choose from and we wanted to make sure that we chose a bank that fulfilled our needs – nothing more, nothing less. Well that can get confusing as everybody has their own opinion of what they think the best local bank is. We listened to each of our friend’s explanations of why they chose their bank and asked them questions to figure out the pros and cons.

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Some of the Many Banks to Choose From

Steve and I visited each of the banks to find out for ourselves which bank is best for us. As we visited each bank, we went through the same process of asking questions about what services they offered, the cost of these services (as we learned there are many) and then telling them our needs to see if there was a fit. It was a tedious process but one that you have to go through. We grew our French vocabulary – banking words and phrases and we felt like our French was at least being understood, especially important if they did not speak any English.  It did pay off in the end, after visiting five to six local banks we found just the right local bank for us – with the services that we need, with reasonable costs and a wonderful lady who spoke fluent English.

Opening up the actual bank account was another adventure. We met briefly with the English speaking lady at the bank that we chose and told her that we would like to open up a bank account.

She went to her computer to give us an appointment (even though there was no one else in the bank at the time we had to have an appointment). She typed various details into her computer. Steve and I just laughed because it took her as long to set up an appointment for us to open a bank account as it would have taken to actually open up a bank account in the USA. Of course she told us all of the documents that we would need to bring with us to the appointment.

The day of our appointment comes around and we are all ready to go to the bank, documents in hand. The bank lady that worked with us was fabulous and she walked us through the process – in just two hours. She explained what each document was before we signed them. To be fair, a large pile of the documents were required by USA regulations regarding US citizens living abroad.

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Paperwork – French Style

Marine loved practicing her English and started to tell us about herself. She is close to same age as our sons and we began telling her about them, too. Before we knew it we were hugging and kissing her good-bye and thanking her for all of her help. She is now our account manager and will support us with all of our banking needs.

As we left we felt as we have accomplished another task on our to-do list of settling into life in France and made a new friend at the same time.

Oh the process – the red tape – the time it takes to get anything done around here – it is another adventure – all part of the journey of living in another country with a different culture, different language and different laws and regulations. It is worth it all to live in this beautiful region of France.

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A Big Birthday

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They Made Me Wear It!

I LOVE celebrating Birthdays – especially mine. I have always felt that a birthday is an important day of the year. When everyone in our family lived close by, we always celebrated our birthdays together. But how do we do that now that Steve and I live in the South of France, and our sons, Jonathan & Joshua, live in Southern California? You see this year is a big birthday for both Steve and I – it is our 60th.

After a little creative thinking we decided that since we were spending the winter holidays in Southern California, that we would have a small birthday party for me, in December, in advance of my actual birthday, which is in February. That way I could celebrate with Jonathan & Liz, Joshua & Lupe and a small group of our best friends.

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“The Girls”

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Celebrating with Friends

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Celebrating with Friends

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“Girl Friends”and Steve

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My Jonathan

Now back in France, we just celebrated my birthday with my dear friends in France.

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Celebrating with Friends in France

We will be back in England in March, where we will be celebrating again. Instead of struggling with where, when and how to celebrate, we turned it into a world tour of Birthday Celebrations. World tours are not just for rock stars! We will repeat this 60th Birthday celebrations again for Steve. His birthday is in August and we will be back in Southern California in July (for the birth of our first grandchild!!). That’s when we will have an early birthday party with our family & friends. After that we are back in France to celebrate on his actual birthday and then in again in September when we are back in England. Are we having fun yet? You bet we are.

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My Birthday Lunch with Steve – French Style

This saying really resonates with me:

You will never be completely at Home again

Because part of your Heart will always be elsewhere

That is the Price you Pay for

The Richness of Loving and Knowing People in more than one place.

I was so touched by all of the phone calls, emails, texts and Facebook birthday wishes and love that I received from my family and friends all over the world. I thank you for being part of my celebration. You are all very special to me and I feel so blessed to have all of you in my life.

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An Extraordinary Chocolate Cake and Very Delicious!

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Retiring in France

There I was on Facebook, staying in touch with my friends in the USA, England and France. As I was scrolling through the different posts I stopped at a post from one of my friends in Southern California who shared a link to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk. This fundraising event is of great interest to me as I was the Campaign Manager for the Light the Night Walk in Anaheim, California thirteen years ago shortly after the 5k evening walk had been introduced.

I had worked very hard to take the walk from its modest beginnings of $10,000 in funds raised to over $500,000 in just three years.  It made me feel happy to know that I left such a legacy and that after 12+ years it is still raising over a million dollars a year for cancer research to find a cure as well as for patient support.

The Dolgin Do-Gooders

The Dolgin Do-Gooders

However after watching the video showing short clips of the walk and the large crowd of people – I even spotted a few of my friends – it made me feel sad as I missed not being part of it any more. Living in another country so far away makes it difficult to stay connected to things that once were a big part of my life. As I shared how I was feeling with my husband Steve, he reminded me that there is a cancer organization here in South of France – Cancer Support France (CSF) that will have opportunities for me to become involved.  I am happy to say that I have already met with the leader of CSF in our region and we have discussed some of the opportunities that I have for getting involved with this wonderful organization.

Moving forward with our life here in France, we are fortunate that in a short time – less than a year – we have laid a strong foundation and planted many roots. We have a wonderful group of friends that have welcomed us and invited us into their lives. We know that it is important for us to continue being involved in local clubs and organizations, as we integrate into our village and the surrounding communities, as well as immersing ourselves into the French culture and language to really feel at home in our new country.

When moving to another country one needs to be consciously aware of the fact that there is going to be a transition period. I call it part of the process of letting go of the past, the familiar, people, places and things that you are used to and conveniences, too, and opening yourself up to a whole new culture, language, way of life.

On the Set of Days of Our Lives

On the Set of Days of Our Lives

There will be those emotional moments when you miss the people, places and things that you have moved away from. However  it will open you up to so many new people, places and experiences on this new adventure as you continue your journey that we call life. Enjoy the Ride…

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Poubelle” in France – “Rubbish” in England – “Trash” in America

In any language, it is a necessary component to running a household.

The past three months we have had the luxury of putting our household trash in the large trash bin planted on the construction site affectionately known as ‘home’. This has proven to be a convenient location for the poubelle while we were waiting for the developer to arrange for a few permanent large bins for our entire mini-village to use. However a few weeks ago the large poubelle for the construction site mysteriously disappeared, and to our surprise not brought back, leaving us with nowhere to put our trash.

Where's My Poubelle?

Where’s My Poubelle?

It was quite an adventure as we searched for a place to dump our trash. We found a blue poubelle down the street, in a public area near the old train tracks, that we began using. We would drive by and drop off a contribution as we drove out of the village. Then one day that poubelle was taken away – gone – it just disappeared.

Where's My Poubelle - Again?

Where’s My Poubelle – Again?

It was deja-vu all over again; where do we throw our trash?

We decided to walk around our village to see if there were any other public poubelles for us to use. To our delight we found a group of them along the wall of  the village parking lot.  One colour for regular waste and one for recycling.

Poubelles Galore!

Poubelles Galore!

We used them until someone (we may never know who) called the waste management company SICTOM (yes I know, SITCOM would have been a more suitable name), to arrange for the delivery of poubelles for our community to use.

Everywhere we went we seemed to see poubelles because we did not have our own.

A Happy Couple of Poubelles

A Happy Couple of Poubelles

Poubelles Everywhere!

Poubelles Everywhere!

It was turning into a major case of poubelle-envy.

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People Placed their Poubelles Right Up Front As If to Say, “we’ve Got Poubelles, Do You?”

The village poubelles were beginning to get suspicious. They organised a meeting.

Secret Meeting of "The Village Poubelles"

Secret Meeting of “The Village Poubelles”

If you listened closely you could almost hear them say, “Watch out for these two humans. They don’t have their own poubelle and are probably contemplating kidnapping one of us!”

One day, we did get excited when Sitcom came to deliver poubelles, only to find out that they were small ones meant for each separate house.

Our Very Own Poubelles - Almost!

Our Very Own Poubelles – Almost!

We had agreed that it made more sense to have a few big ones for the community to share, so they had to take those away and we had to wait another week for them to finally deliver the correct ones. They are stationed in the car park until the developer builds a permanent place for them.

Finally!

Finally!

It isn’t something that we gave much thought to in California or Lincoln as the trash bins were in place when we moved in. It reminds us to not take anything for granted, especially the small things.

SICTOM

SICTOM – Always Good For a Few Laughs

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We were back in England for a few weeks to visit relatives and friends, attend a few events and for a few doctors appointments.  As it turns out we were able to spend a few days with my cousins in Sheffield (where my mom was from). They live in a village called Apperknowle in Derbyshire, just outside of Sheffield. It is a beautiful area of the country with rolling hills of green grass, trees and bushes, all separated by stone walls, making it look like a patchwork quilt of nature.

Following the Hand=made Drystone Walls

Following the Handmade Drystone Walls

Whenever we stay with them we make it a point to go for a long walk and sometimes a hike in the surrounding countryside. This visit we went to Thornbridge.

Ruby Taking Steve for a Walk

Ruby Taking Steve for a Walk

We took the dog for a walk. Ruby loves to go for a walk, especially when Steve and I are visiting. It is a place surrounded by nature especially this time of year, “Spring” when everything has come back to life and is in full bloom. The landscape that we passed along the way was beautiful. From the tree-lined paths to the hand-built stones walls and the flowers all in bloom.

Nature Has a Way of Creating the Perfect Colours

Nature Has a Way of Creating the Perfect Colours

The Local Horse All Dressed in His Coat

The Local Horse All Dressed in His Coat

As we made our way through the winding paths on our way back to the pub where we began our walk, “The Cricket Inn,” we saw a variety of animals along the way: grazing in the fields were sheep, cows and horses as well as the birds singing overhead.

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Moo

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Baa-aah

My Decadent Dessert, Worth Every Calorie

My Decadent Dessert, Worth Every Calorie

We had a delicious lunch and for dessert I ordered their special hot chocolate with all of the trimmings – it was well worth the calories.

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Catching the Action

The Cricket Inn faces the cricket field. It just so happened that they were playing a game of cricket as we passed by the field. It is a game that is difficult for many to understand, especially Americans. However it is fun just to watch them in action, even if we do not know exactly what is going on.

My Cousin Brad and I Taking in the Scenery at the Cricket Inn

My Cousin Brad and I Taking in the Scenery at the Cricket Inn

After lunch we sat outside to take in the good weather, just beginning to get warm here in England but at least there was plenty of sunshine.

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Steve, Brad and Maxine with Ruby Basking in the Sunshine

Being in nature seems to bring out  the “Free Spirit” in each of us and gives us the freedom to have conversations that you just don’t seem to have around the dining room table.

Thank you Brad, Maxine and Lissie for a wonderful day out.

Ruby Also Says "Thank You"

Ruby Also Says “Thank You!”

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La Poste

La Poste

Things we take for granted – such as receiving a letter. The first time we realised that we did not have a mailing address was when we went to Darty, a major appliance retailer, to order a washing machine. The salesman asked us for our address, a simple enough question in any language. Steve looked at me and I looked at him and we asked ourselves, “What is our address?”

We could not answer the question since we were not given an official address yet. It’s a new house on a new street in a new development. We had asked the developer about an address months ago but he said that it will be taken care of. Here we are standing at Darty and we need it now.

So we again asked our developer to get us our mailing address. Surely he would know how to get us one easily. To our surprise he did not know how to handle the situation, so we had to take matters into our own hands.

The Local La Poste

The Local La Poste

Our neighbour Pierre, who speaks fluent French, took the lead and went to our local post office, La Poste. They told him that he had to go to the main La Poste in the nearby town, Pezenas, where they gave him forms for all of us address-less people in our new little community to fill in.

He brought the forms home and we began filling in the forms together. The first question on the form was “What is your name?” Easy enough, so far, so good. Next was “What is your address?” Uh-oh! We thought that we were filling in the forms to get an address. So Pierre went back to La Poste and explained the situation to them. They told him that he needed to go to the local Mairie, the Mayor’s office and ask the le Maire, the Mayor, for the official address of our development. Le Maire in France has a great deal of power unlike in the USA and UK.

La Mairie

La Mairie

So Pierre went back to la Mairie and arranged an appointment to see le Maire. A week later la Mairie called the office of the developer and gave him our official address. Pierre again took the forms – now filled in with our address, back to La Poste in Pezenas. They were then happy enough with the forms, but would need to come to our development in the next few days and see that our boites aux lettres, mailboxes, are placed in the proper place. They weren’t – uh-oh again!

The developer did not know that the postman is not allowed to deliver mail on a private road, so les boites aux lettres had to be moved to the bottom of the private road where it meets the main road. The developer has a track record of moving very slowly with these issues, so Pierre decided to take action once again and cleaned up the area and moved the mailboxes to the proper place on the street. Two days later we received our first letters.

Pierre Relocating the Mailboxes

Pierre Relocating les Boites aux Lettres

Finally, we’ve got mail!

Pierre and Steve, Proud of the New Mailboxes

Pierre and Steve, Standing Proud in Front of the New Mailboxes

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