Moving out

We are on our way, sort of. On Tuesday, Sue finished packing up the house and we packed our stuff in the car and drove up to my son’s (and his wife’s and daughter’s) house which is about 30 minutes. All the boxes were packed and labeled, our clothes sorted in the appropriate suitcases and our carry-on stuff in the carry-on bags.

Our entire life condensed into one 10 x 30 storage locker

Thursday morning the movers arrived not quite bright and early (they were about 45 minutes late), but they moved quickly and efficiently to take all our stuff and put it in the truck. Sue stayed behind and gave the house a final clean while I accompanied the movers to the storage locker. Due to some scheduling difficulties, they lost one of their crew members and so I appointed myself chief elevator operator and rolled the handtrucks, carts and dolly’s onto the elevator, took them up a flight then rolled them off. The real movers did all the hard work of taking everything off the truck and packing it into the locker. We were quite lucky with the weather as it was relatively cool (low 80s) and nice and dry. It was all done and dusted after only 5 hours and I met Sue back at Josh, Liz & Hannah’s.

My son, ever the wise child decided that he needed to provide us some rules for traveling abroad on our own. After giving careful consideration to our itinerary and the way Sue and I behave, Josh locked our eyes with his dreaded, “this is important” stare, cleared this throat and said: “Dad, just don’t do anything that will get you arrested.” He then thought for a second and said. “Actually, don’t do anything where you think to yourself, ‘If someone sees me doing this, could I get arrested.’ You don’t want to spend any time in a French prison.” I looked up from my book “Instructions for how to steal from the French Central Bank” and said. “Huh? Me? What do you mean?” 😉

Sometimes we wonder what Josh thinks we get up to…

Today I set up a laptop in Josh’s house which should serve as our remote desktop site so that we can stream Netflix, MLB, Amazon, etc. from a US IP address while we are away. I am a bit worried that there might be a lag between the video and sound, but if there is we will deal with it then. Steven always needs something to worry about. Let it always be something this small.

We have also been dealing with some last minute technical issues. While packing the house, Sue misplaced her headphones and so we needed to get her a replacement set. She selected a pair of Jabra 85ts (at Steven’s recommendation). At just about the same time, my headphones, a pair of Jabra 75ts started to misbehave. The sound kept dropping from the right earbud. I contacted Jabra and they offered a replacement. I dutifully returned the broken pair and anxiously waited for the replacement. On Wednesday, I heard from them the replacement would not ship before we left so I ordered a pair of the Bose QuietComfort ear buds. They were scheduled to arrive on the same day. Wednesday came and went – no headphones; Thursday, same thing. On Friday, I cancelled the order and went to a store and bought a pair. When I got them home, Sue tried them and loved them. So, we returned her 85ts (which she was having trouble keeping in her ears – apparently my ears are not earbud-shaped) and bought another pair of the Bose. Last night after we arrived home from dinner, what was on the front step? My replacement Jabras! Oh well, guess I have a spare pair of headphones.  

We headed to Judie’s on Tuesday to have a few days with my sister, her family and my mother. We will spend a bit of time getting our cars ready for storage (disconnecting the batteries, treating the gas, etc.) and then putting them away for a few months. (Anyone want to buy a low-mileage but slightly dinged up 2010 Prius? It has a sunroof and leather seats!) We also need to do a bit of last minute organizing of our suitcases. We want some toiletries and a change of clothes in our carry-ons for when arrive in Paris – on Wednesday!

The home stretch

We are into the home stretch and somewhat surprisingly, we are thinking that the packing is nearly done. We are down to just a few kitchen things that we still need, our linens and a few clothes that are all going into the suitcases. We have decided to finish packing by Tuesday the 20th, and are then spending the 20th-24th at our granddaughter’s house (oh yeah, with her parents too). The movers are coming on the 22nd, so we will just swing back to the house on that morning and supervise. We figure we will return on the 23rd and do a final clean and that will be it for our time in Edgewater, MD. It was a good place to land for COVID, but it’s not going to be a home base for us.

Some boxes and stuff (we have a lot of stuff but not as much as before).

We are packing for four different locations all at once. Paris, our first stop in August, should be nice and warm so we will need summery clothes. We go to Burgundy in September and Nice in Oct./Nov., so it should be cooler (highs in the 60s and lows in the 50s, which means we will need sightly warmer clothes. When we return, we fly directly to Chicago which will be cold (highs in the 40s lows in the 30s) as it is the end of November when we are there. From there it’s back to Baltimore, which will be warmer than Chicago (highs in the 50s lows in the 40s). All this on one suitcase each, which is proving a little bit of a challenge. Just pointing out that my suitcase is lighter than his by at least 5 pounds.

We made a small concession to the space issue and packed a box of winterish clothes which we are sending to our friend in Chicago. She will store it until we arrive. Hopefully, the ride from the airport to her place won’t be too terrible as we really won’t have much in the way of warm clothes.

More boxes and stuff, plus a suitcase that isn’t packed for France, Fes or Chicago.

We also decided that we would put together a suitcase of things that we thought we might want but couldn’t fit. We are going to leave that in one of cars and when we return from France, we will swap out anything we are tired of/didn’t use/don’t need any more for our trip to Morocco (highs in 60s lows in the 40s) and wherever we decide for the couple of months after Morocco (right now Italy and Amsterdam are the leading candidates).

All the other clothes are going into boxes and are destined for the storage unit.

We have been watching with interest the changes to the COVID rules in France, and it now appears we will need a card from a doctor or pharmacist that shows we have been vaccinated. The reading we have done seems to show that our CDC vaccine card should provide us with the documentation that we will need to get the French card, but as with all of these fast changing regulations, we are going to just figure it out as we go if we need to. We think the worst case scenario is that we have to get a PCR test before they issue us the card. My uncle (who speaks French) has kindly provided us with the phrase we will need to ask the pharmacist for the card (or at least I think that is what he sent…he does have an excellent sense of humor, so for all I know his phrase says something like “I am an ugly American and your country sucks, I don’t need no stinking medical card”, perhaps I should run his phrase through Google translate 😉)

As you can imagine, we are getting very excited and are counting down the days.

Seeing Family

Happy July 4th to all our American readers.

As Sue said in the last post, we wrapped up our eating fest in Chicago and headed down to Houston to visit Sue’s middle brother. Our three-hour flight to Houston took us a couple of hours longer than expected because we sat on the runway in Chicago waiting for American Airlines to get updated paperwork into the pilot’s hands for some cargo that was in the hold. (Number 1 worst airline, according to me.) We taxied out the runway, sat for an hour, then taxied back to the gate, waited, got the paperwork and then headed south after a two-hour delay. The joys of travel. Once in Houston, Brian (Sue’s brother) met us at the airport and we headed to his house for a fun-filled weekend visiting with him, his wife Chelsey and our adorable niece (Lexi) and nephew (Ethan aka Jett).

On Saturday, Sue, Brian, Jett (and a friend of Jetty’s which meant the entire trip became a gigglefest, so cute) and I took a quick ride over to Austin for a baseball tournament (afternoon temps in low 100s Fahrenheit – high 30s in Celsius because Sue and I are trying to get used to the using Celsius). It is about a three-hour ride, and along the way we stopped at a perfect bit of Americana. It is a glorified–and I mean really glorified gas station and convenience store called Buc-ee’s.

It is enormous, something like 100 gas pumps and a store that sells everything from coffee to all types of travel food (including home made BBQ sandwiches) to kitschy Americana to a store’s worth of Buc-ee branded clothes (including Buc-ee bathing suits!) and things like portable ice machines, tents and meat smokers. It is fabulous. Only in America and only in Texas would there be a convenience store so large that it takes 5 minutes to walk the length of it. I LOVED IT! When we arrived at the ball field we found out that Jett’s game was delayed by an hour or so. We settled in to sweat and wait, but Brian was kind enough to lend us his (Chelsey’s) SUV for the afternoon and we went into Austin. More accurately we headed to a couple of breweries in South Austin. We visited St. Elmo Brewing Company and Vacancy Brewing Company. Both are recently opened in a very cool little area that has breweries, wineries, (a sake brewer? OK) and a distillery along with a bunch of hip businesses like design and marketing companies. They both were very good and we had a great afternoon out.

We stopped for dinner at an excellent little Thai restaurant called Ros Niyom Thai in Round Rock, where our hotel was. Sue ordered her food hot, and the waiter said that she could have it one, two or three in heat, where three was the hottest. Sue ordered three, I ordered two. The food came and it was great, just the right amount of heat for both of us. After we were done the waiter asked how it was and Sue said perfect. He then said that hers was level 2. That their food is medium, hot and Damn Hot and even he couldn’t eat the damn hot.

On Sunday morning we watched another of Jett’s baseball games (9 a.m. temp 34C) and then headed back to Houston for one more day with the family.

Our flight home was uneventful. We flew Spirit airlines, booked the upgraded seats and checked our luggage. (Spirit better than American? Who knew?) The entire process was a little less smooth than other airlines, you had to check in at the airport first, the line to check our bags was a bit long, the boarding was a little more chaotic than usual, nothing–not even water is free on the flight. But, all in, the seats were comfortable, the flight was on time, and our luggage came out fairly quickly, so it was not a bad flight. I’d rather that that a two-hour incompetence delay and a bag of pretzels.

Once home, Sue went into packing monster mode and has packed up much of the house and arranged for our movers. I mostly did work and spent about 6 hours in a dentist’s chair getting three same day crowns. Yes, I have terrible teeth.

For the July Fourth weekend, we made our last real road trip. We went to my sister’s house (about 2 hours away near Harrisburg, PA). Much of my side of the family was there, including my sister (well it was her house), my brother-in-law Mario (it’s also his house), all four of their adult kids, my mother, my son Josh, my daughter-in-law Liz and Hannah, the most amazing granddaughter any grandparents could hope for. For July 4th my sister had a BBQ and invited another dozen or so people including our brother-in-law Karl and his wife Helen. It was wonderful to see them as it has been about 2 years. I had never met them and they are wonderful. They don’t live far from us so maybe if/when we get back we will see them again. The temp was about 30 C, so, of course, Mario lit a fire in the fire pit at about 2 p.m. and kept it going all night as the temps dipped into the high 20s (yes, Celsius again). As always, they had enough food to keep a small army fed for a month, so most of it was gone by the end of the evening. Mario, Karl and my nephew Michael put on a small firework display and everyone survived with all their fingers. An excellent day was had by all.

Monday we returned home to our partially packed house, and prepared for the week ahead. So much to do, so many things still to be organized and what seems like so little time.

Eating Our Way Through Evanston

What happens when you go home after a year of COVID in a new state whose cuisine doesn’t exactly excite (if you could go get it anyway?) Foodganza!

Map of Evanston, IL

Here’s a rundown of the restaurants we hit. Not all in Evanston, but pretty close. It’s been a whirlwind, so I may have them out of order, but you’ll never know 🙂

Libanais: Lebanese (well, duh!). Delicious and sorely lacking in Edgewater, MD. You really can’t go wrong here and the pastries are YUM (hence the 4 extra pounds on my belly).

Ovo Frito: I love breakfast out. Steven does not (just not my thing). This place is great because they have a wide range of veggie breakfasts with a Mexican slant and lunch, too.

Union Pizza: Good cocktails, food that’s not all pizza and a great place for friends to meet and catch up. Also, fronts Space, a music venue that is scheduling shows again!

Dave’s New Kitchen: We call this place Little Dave’s because he used to have a bigger space. Red-checked tablecloth Italian. If you look at the website, you will see that they are closed for Passover and Easter weekend. Hmmm.

Grilling at my brother’s: No website here, just relaxing with family.

Taco Diablo: The first time I went here, I was on the Blue Horse Tavern side of the adjoining space BUT the Blue Horse Tavern menu wasn’t available. The kitchen cooks Taco Diablo and Lulu‘s (which is the space where the tavern is now) menu, so I had tacos. Then, I was there again with my brother and his family. Can’t go wrong with tacos and margaritas, but I would have ordered Lulu’s if I had known I’d be back at Taco Diablo a few days later.

NaKorn: High-end Thai. So, yes, they have pad Thai, but expect a somewhat more gourmet version in a fancier setting. Also, pretty, flowered drinks (with or without alcohol).

Kanela Breakfast Club: This is a small Chicago chain of deliciously sweet and savory breakfasts. We walked from Evanston to the Andersonville site (6 miles! and still we did not walk enough to offset the high sugar and carb-loaded food that we ordered – it was fabulous!), so give us props for at least trying to balance the eating with some exercise.

Bar Roma: We got our hair cut and then went to dinner with our hairdresser, Charlotte. Fancy Italian. Yum.

El Carrito: Bills itself as Mexican street food. I’d call it a taqueria. Either way, good, fresh tacos and burritos and a pretty wide variety of meats and veggies to go in them. I do appreciate a veggie burrito that is not just rice and beans, but includes fresh veggies! (The mole fries seemed like a good choice at the time.)

Ravinia Brewing Company: Yes, more tacos. It just worked out that way, but the food is secondary to the people in all of these instances, so it’s fine with me.

Cara Mio: This is our last night’s dinner. Italian again! Steven is looking forward to the baked ziti with chicken parm on top if it. No wonder we’re gaining weight!

We complete promise to eat only salad for the entire month of July. And to run and do yoga. Right, Steven? (umm…sure??)

Here are few observations:

  • Service is still wacky as restaurants try to staff up and figure out how many diners to expect.
  • Mask-wearing has mostly fallen by the wayside fo (r diners, but not for staff.
  • QR code menus are probably here to stay. That’s fine with me. Easier to change, nobody spills on them and no awkward handing back and forth of giant books or laminated pages.
  • I missed eating out, but I will be happy to eat my own cooking when we get back to Maryland. (Me too. I like a good dinner out, but after 10 days of only eating out, and especially eating only at places that we really like, it will be good to have a few lighter home cooked meals.)
  • I now remember why I don’t want to live here: I shouldn’t have to wear pants on the first day of summer! (It was so cold that I needed a jacket last night; wish I had brought one.)

From here, we fly to Houston to see my middle brother and his family. I bet it will be a little warmer there.

Kickoff to Travel Season

We mentioned that we were going to New York for Steven’s 40th (plus 20) birthday. Well, things didn’t turn out exactly the way we planned, but do they ever?

We took the long way to New York, via Mechanicsburg, PA, because my amazing, wonderful mother-in-law (OMG! She is such a suck up!) was in Maryland for Steven’s family birthday dinner. We were excited she was able to make it and didn’t mind the extra leg at all.

Now, let’s get to the weather. Memorial Day weekend? It was more like Thanksgiving weekend. Rain, drizzle, damp, cold and guess who forgot her raincoat. Sigh. When we are in NY, we tend to wander. Overprepared Steven had two warm jackets (and a raincoat that he gallantly gave to his wife), so I borrowed one and we braved the weather.

We stayed in Chinatown at Hotel 50 Bowery (I will leave the hotel review for another day) at the base of the Manhattan Bridge, so Friday night we ate at Shanghai Asian Cuisine. You have to have soup dumplings at least once or Steven does since they are meat-filled. Like most restaurants in Chinatown, don’t expect fancy, but do expect delicious, plentiful food. We were not disappointed. Everyone in Chinatown is still wearing masks. Restaurants have set up outdoor booths in the street (yes in the street, which if you know anything about Chinatown, you know are barely wide enough for cars as it is), some conveniently covered, and they take your temperature before you sit. There is plexiglass, plastic or a shower curtain between every table.

After dinner, we went to the Basement, which bills itself as a carnival-themed speakeasy, but was really just a bar with a nice atmosphere and delicious cocktails. We definitely skewed the age curve (most people were younger than my clothes). No temperature-taking, no separations between tables, just masks while walking around.

Saturday we wandered to REI to rectify my lack of rainwear. As luck would have it, they were having their annual sale. Rain jacket 30% off. Perfect. Steven got a couple of shirts and we may have purchased a stuffed bear for a certain small someone. Next, pizza for lunch, of course, followed by more wandering. That night, we had a wonderful Italian dinner with Uncle David and Aunt Marcella, who are always gracious when we are in town. We always enjoy the evening with them.

Citi Field. We will get there some day

Sunday, we hit another Chinatown spot for lunch, Deluxe Green Bo. Steven’s favorite part was that when we checked our temperatures, the results were spoken in an Australian accent. Afer lunch we went to the Guggenheim. Maybe we are old and cranky (and we were soaked because it was still raining), but they had an exhibit that was basically a long podcast, which we felt we didn’t have to shlep up- and crosstown to hear. We did mostly enjoy it, however. It’s just a pleasure to be able to go to a museum at all (masks required). All day we checked and rechecked the weather because we had tickets to the Mets-Braves game. Neither of us have never been to Citifield. I know, crazy, right! Alas, it wasn’t to be. We had pretty much decided not to go since it was cold and rainy, but at least we lucked out in that the game was postponed so we didn’t waste money on the tickets. Instead, we had a birthday dinner for Steven at The Warren in the West Village. The food and drink were spot-on. It’s clear that restaurants are still trying to adjust to people being able to go out as the service was a bit slow, but we were enjoying ourselves and in no hurry. I would recommend it. (Best part…the dessert arrived before the hostess could arrange for a candle, so she brought the candle separately lit it and held it while I blew it out.)

Happily for Steven, Monday’s weather was beautiful. Sadly for me, that meant I had to go to a Yankees game. I know I am biased, but the stadium did not impress and the food was typical 1970s stadium fare. Boooooo! BTW, the Yankees lost to Tampa 3-1 and I wore my Mets hat the whole time. Steven took the loss in stride as always. What a good sport. The game was over by 4 and we hit the road for the 3 1/2 hour uneventful drive home.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention: On Friday, I got an email from my friend (the one who got us thinking about our crazy adventures by telling us it was cheap to live in Burgundy) saying that she has a friend who needs an apartment-sitter for August in Paris. Um, YES! So, instead of leaving for France on August 30, we are leaving on July 27 and spending a month in the 16th arrondissement and environs. Paris nous voilà!

I will leave the verdict on the birthday weekend up to Steven, but I think it was a smashing success! (I absolutely agree, especially since I did not have to endure the Mets game!)

Packing (Extra) Light

As our faithful readers know (thank you, Judie), we are heading out on a grand adventure. So many details to consider and what feels like so little time. I let Steven do most of the thought-spinning since he is so good at it, especially in the middle of the night (I practice two hours a night every night, whether I need it or not). But I am not completely immune. Mostly I am really excited and am trying not to look past the summer, which is going to be a lot of fun amid the packing the house up again.

And speaking of packing (like that segue? Smooth, huh? My wife has the smoothest of moves!), I have been puzzling over what to pack. The weather will be what I consider warmish fall (high 50s to maybe 70), so no winter coat. BUT, then we fly directly back to Chicago in November, so winter coat for me for sure. Hey Chicago friends, want to lend me a winter coat (and a hat, gloves, mittens, long underwear and hand and foot warmers)?

The chart below shows what we’re trying to avoid. We will probably end up paying $100 for a third bag between the two of us … but maybe not. Look at all the money the corporate jackals are making off your inability to wear the same shoes two days in a row!

Infographic: The U.S. Airlines Cashing In The Most On Baggage Fees | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

I have read many travel blogs and websites on tips for packing light. They pretty much all come down to this: Wear the same clothes over and over, wear your hiking boots instead of packing them (and its corollary: No more than three pairs of shoes) and hope your hotel/AirBnB/host has toiletries. If you must bring cold weather gear, buy backpacking-friendly, lightweight clothes. Remember the limit is, 22 kilos, which is less than 50 pounds. Jeans are heavy, sweaters are bulky, packing cubes give you space to pack more weight, so they’re not good.

Luckily, I’m not a fashion snob, so I’m OK with a few pairs of hiking pants, one pair of jeans and a semi-decent dress (I prefer her indecent dresses) just in case. Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself. We will be putting the clothes in the front of the storage unit so we can refresh before heading to Morocco after our Thanksgiving in the States. That gives us a bit of wiggle room if we find we have packed all wrong (or because I will be bored with my five shirts).

My current clothing packing list looks like this:

  • 5 pairs of underwear
  • 5 bras (including jog bra)
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 1 pair of running shoes that doubles as an everyday shoe
  • 1 decent pair of shoes just in case
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 3 pairs of convertible hiking pants
  • 1 pair of Under Armour in case the hiking pants are too light and to double as pjs if it’s chilly
  • 5 cotton, long sleeve shirts
  • 1 sweater
  • 1 sweatshirt
  • 1 sleep shirt

I will need some contact lenses and a few other toiletry items, but they have pharmacies in France.

So, that’s kind of what I’m telling Steven but … I really have a secret plan. (I guess the concept of a secret from Steven eludes her since she is writing it in the blog.) I know he will read this blog, but I am counting on his failing memory. I am going to bring an empty suitcase and buy everything I need in France and Morocco. Let’s face it, it’s not the best to stand out as an American. It’s going to be tough enough with my two months of Duolingo French (Je habite à Clamecy; Je parle français un peu), I don’t need my wardrobe to make it worse. Besides, I plan on working maybe 20 hours a week, unless I get ambitious, so I have to find something to fill my time. Vintage shopping sounds like a great way to kill some time and practice my French.

Any suggestions? All are welcome.

Just some updates

We are continuing to make plans and knock items off the to do list. This week has been, for lack of a better term, workmanlike….oh god…sorry Sue…workPERSONlike. 😉 (Finally, my positive influence sinks in.)

We are grappling with a list of necessary, but fairly uninteresting, things we will need to arrange while we are away. We need a place for our mail to be sent and a place for our cars and stuff to be stored; we need to order power converters, find movers and research local phone plans. All of which are to a greater or lesser degree being moved forward.

For the French portion of the trip, we have been looking at all the secondary arrangements such as car rental, place to stay in Paris for our final weekend, transport between Clemacy and Nice and then Nice to Paris. Sue is trawling through a bunch of guidebooks that we borrowed from the library looking for interesting things in Burgundy [apparently we can go wine tasting…who knew ;-)], and on the Côte D’Azur (I would like to digress for a moment to whine about WordPress…They introduced new editing software which has removed non-English letters such as ô from our version. So when I want to use characters with an accent, I have to go Word, insert the character and then copy it into WordPress. I hate when software upgrades remove useful features – especially when the feature is then re-released as a paid for upgrade – sorry about that digression. (No, I am really disliking the latest WordPress version. Try someone else, if you ask me. It seems less intuitive and less user-friendly.) Somewhat surprisingly, wine tasting is also available near Nice!

We decided to rent a car for the month we are in Clamecy, as we will be pretty isolated and we want to be able to take day/weekend trips (remember – wine tasting is available). I checked all the normal sites and found reasonable pricing, but, as always with rental cars, insurance and additional drivers are extra. Those two requirements nearly doubled the price of the car. The French government has a program that allows auto manufacturers to provide new cars on rental periods of 21 days or more, tax free to non-EU residents. This is the link to the Renault information on the program which is called Temporary Transit. The program provides brand new cars, includes all insurance, allows multiple drivers and does not charge to drop the car off in a different location from where it was rented.

Our original plan for traveling from Clamecy to Nice was to drive back to Paris, drop off the car and then fly to Nice. However, the flights to Nice (including our expected luggage) and the car pricing have us thinking we will drive. It looks to be an 8-hour drive, which is significantly longer than the 1-hour flight, but once you add in traveling back to DeGaulle, getting to the airport early, and my time insanity, it seems like it will be a couple of hours longer to drive, but not as big of a difference as one would expect. We are considering stopping for one night somewhere along the way just to get in a bit of touring.

We are planning on taking the train from Nice back to Paris on Nov. 12. We think it might be good fun to watch the countryside roll by from the south of France. I think it is about a 6-hour journey, but the train schedule and tickets are not yet available. Sue found a nice AirBnb in Paris for our last weekend (Nov. 12-16). It is in the 10th arrondissement on Faubourg Fishmonger street (I think Sue is sending me a message. I won’t add the message here; it’s subliminal). It is a ground-floor studio which means we won’t have to haul our luggage up any stairs, and that makes me very happy.

We also decided that on our way to Fez in December, we would stop for a few days in Barcelona. One of the challenges of going to Fez is that the flights only run on certain days of the week. Tuesday and Thursday gave us the most flights. We found that the cheapest nonstop route from the U.S. that would connect to Fez is through Barcelona. Once we knew that, we figured we might as well stay there for a few days and see the city. (It is high on my really-want-to-visit list.) We found a nice AirBnB near to Las Ramblas and booked it.

The extended trip now looks like:

Aug. 30: Fly to Paris

Aug.31: Arrive in Paris, rent car and drive to Clemacy

Oct. 1: Drive to Nice

Nov. 12: Train to Paris

Nov. 16: Fly to Chicago

Nov. 22: Fly to Baltimore

Nov. 30: Fly to Barcelona

Dec. 6: Fly to Fez

Mar. 6 (ish): Go to somewhere else (Roma, Barcelona, Greece, Amsterdam…who knows?) (All ideas welcome!)

May 10 (ish): Fly to Baltimore

That is all for now.

Nice is Nice

We have made our first significant change to our plan (remember when I said our plans were firmly set in Jello?). We, like the French in World War 2 have abandoned Paris. We were persuaded by two factors: First, the weather will be pretty nasty in October and November — cold, damp, wet. If we wanted that, we would go to London, where you can get it all year round. Second, we could not find an AirBnB or other short term rental that really seemed to fit us. Everything had drawbacks, and we seemed to constantly be compromising to fit ourselves into expensive places, none of which really fit.

Our solution? Let’s go to the Côte D’Azur! We looked first at some places in Provence, but in the end, the draw of reasonably warm weather, a beach and an interesting city has drawn us to Nice. We spent a couple of days looking at tour books and making an outline of what we would like to be near. Then onto the short-term rental sites for places to live. We found a very nice two bedroom just outside the old part of the city and after a bit of back and forth about the price and whether it was suitable, we booked it. Boom! Done.

Here are a few photos of our place:

We have also started to deal with some of the more mundane issues. At least we are making a list of them so that we can remember all of them. We arranged for trip insurance so that we are covered for any medical issues that arise (Yes, I do remember Costa Rica!) and trip cancellation. Next week, I want to organize our Global Entry applications and we have started to look for storage places for our stuff and cars.

Our trip to France has been cancelled

My wonderful wife was a journalist in a previous life, and I am pretty sure she will accuse me of burying the lead (I would spell it lede) on this one. Yes, we are cancelling our France trip in July. However, the real lead is that we have decided to spend nine (and maybe more?) months abroad.

The whole insanity started when Sue’s friend, who lives in Burgundy said that we could rent a place in her village really cheaply. Sue looked at me and said: “Want to live in France?” I looked up from the Yankees game (pretty sure they were losing – it has been that kind of season so far) and said: “Sure, how do we make that work?” The answer, believe it or not, was pretty straightforward. All we really need to do is:

  1. Decide when we want to leave, where we want to go and for how long
  2. Ensure that we have enough income to cover the costs
  3. Find a place to live
  4. Go.

Ok, so maybe not so straightforward, but as someone once told me. Solve the first problem first, then move to the next one…

Step one.

Figure out when, where and how long we would want to live abroad.

The when was pretty easy. Our lease is up on Aug. 31, so after that day we have nothing tying us down. September 1st seems like a good day to get started.

On to where: Our starting thought was that it had to be somewhere our cost of living was not higher than our current spend. In reality that isn’t very hard. We pay nearly $3k per month for rent, utilities etc. We hopped onto AirBnB and started listing the places we wanted to live…Fez, Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Almalfi Coast, Istanbul, Israel, Amsterdam, Copenhagen….and that is just Western Europe (and Morocco and the Middle East). We found reasonable places in our price range wherever we looked, so we put price aside as a limiting factor.

How long was next on the list. We decided pretty early on that we didn’t want to be away for longer than three months – at least for the first tranche. In part because we want to be home for Thanksgiving, in part because that seems like a nice amount of time to spend in a place. That means tranche one will be 10 weeks long (Sept. 1-mid-Nov.). Our initial thought was to go to Fez to start. Sue is very keen to live there and it seemed like a great place to kick off the adventure. Our second choice was to go to Paris and Burgundy. Might be nice to be near someone who knows our name and speaks our language (neither Sue nor I speak French yet, we are Duolingoing: Je m’appelle Susan). After a bit of negotiation, review of weather and letting it marinade in our minds, we decided to start in France, come home for Thanksgiving then go to Morocco for Dec.-Feb. This decision is firmly embedded in Jello – so who knows if we will change our minds.

Decision one made….now move to can we afford this foolishness

My consulting work is doing reasonably well. I have a few clients and with the amount of projects they have asked me to do, I should be reasonably (25-30 hours per week) busy for the foreseeable future (is foreseeable redundant in this context? yes, I don’t believe in foreseeable except that I have picked up the matriarchal saying, “Mark my words”). In addition to teaching, Sue has been doing some freelance writing, 10-15 hours per week right now. (If you or anyone you know is in the market for a writer, I am available!) All in we are pretty comfortable that we have more than enough income to keep the circus on the road.

Step two down…Time to find a place to live

Sue’s friend in Burgundy has been helping us with areas in France. Once again, after much discussion, we decided to split the 10 weeks into 4 weeks in Burgundy and 6 weeks in Paris. AirBnB or VRBO seem like the best choices as houses/apartments come fully furnished including kitchen utensils and linens. We have both been trawling through the sites looking for appropriate places (interestingly, while we both put in the same filters we do not always see the same places – especially in Paris as the how close in/far out the zoom on the map is seems to effect the listings shown). Our first stop is a town called Clamecy (shown on the map with the big red(ish) balloon. It is about two hours by train from Paris and in the heart of Burgundy.

Here is an aerial photo of the town; it is at the confluence of the Yonne and Beuvron rivers. Read more about it on the Wikipedia page. Please remember that Wikipedia will tell you that it is not a reliable source, so do not use it as a reference for any scholarly materials. (This blog falls well short of scholarly…I personally am hoping for nearly cogent).

I really have no idea what the photo to the left is, but I found it when I was searching for photos of Clamecy, and it was too weird/cool not to include in my ramblings. Anyway, back to the story…

We found a nice little apartment in the center of town and Sue took care of booking it. One place to live organized.

We have looked at a bunch of places in Paris, but not booked anything yet. You, dear readers, will have to login in next time for updates on Paris. Following our six weeks of Parisian indulgence, we are going to return to the States to celebrate Thanksgiving. We are flying home mid-November, stopping first in Chicago to visit with friends, then back to Baltimore for a few days of overeating and watching football – American football that is.

Next stop: Fez! Before we started this blog we did a three-week tour of Morocco. It was fabulous and I would highly recommend a visit there to anyone who has even a little bit of an adventurous spirit (although spirits themselves are hard to find there as it is a predominantly Muslim country). We stayed in Marrakesh, Fez, Tangier, climbed the 13,671 foot Mt. Toubkal (well more accurately Sue climbed it, I tapped out at 11,000 feet), visited Ouarzazate (one of the worlds largest movie studios (Lawrence of Arabia, Kingdom of Heaven, Gladiator, Game of Thrones (Season 3) were filmed there) and glamped in the desert (our tent had running water). As with Paris, you will have to tune in next time to see where we will be living. Our goal is to live in the Medina (the old walled part of the city) at at the moment, we think we have found a place, but until we book it, it isn’t firmly set.

Everything after Fez is up in the air, other than we have from end of February until the middle of May (we have a hard stop in Mid May as it is our granddaughter’s birthday and we will not miss that!) to wander, we may come back to the states for a week, or maybe not. Currently high on our hit parade is Istanbul, but for no reason other than it seems interesting. Suggestions are always welcome.

Birthday in the Big Apple

Before I get to the post, I want to remind everyone that when I write the post, Sue’s comments are shown in italics and vice versa when she writes. This is important today as I suspect that she may have just a few minor really unimportant comments on the post. 😉

Memorial Day weekend is my birthday, and it is kind of a big one (a VERY big one), so we decided that it was time to take a trip. Sue is fully vaccinated, I have had my first shot and will have my second in a week, so we think we should be safe. My birthday present is a weekend in New York, doing something we both love – seeing baseball games. It is our good luck that both the Yankees (YAY!!! GREATEST BASEBALL TEAM EVER! Um, most annoying overblown team ever) and the other team – you know – the ones from the amateur league – what is their name?….The Nots?, The Nudniks? The Queenies?….oh yeah…The Mets (BOOOOO!!!! Meet the Mets, meet the Mets, step right up and up and greet the Mets and please get a bullpen and give deGrom some support!) are both in town that weekend.

So here is the plan – such as it is. Friday night, we will be driving up after Sue gets home from school. It is allegedly a 3.5 hour trip, but on a holiday weekend, we figure more like 6. I suspect we will bring snacks and a picnic dinner in the car. We made reservations at a hotel in Chinatown, so we think we will be there by 10-10:30, settle in and maybe go out for a quick wander and perhaps dessert.

Saturday we have a free day. Our usual methodology is to pick a few places that we might like to visit and just start wandering vaguely in that direction, stopping and changing plans as often as the mood takes us. The other day, I noticed the Museum of Ice Cream on the map, so for me that is a must “see”. Sue is unfortunately lactose intolerant (sorry Sue, no ice cream for you don’t care, don’t like it) maybe they have some of that vegan not really ice cream. Too bad, so sad. You can assume we will be partaking in many of our culinary favorites while on the streets. Bagels, pizza, perhaps a street gyro, and of course, multiple Chinese and Italian bakeries. Saturday night we will find a nice place to eat to celebrate my birthday and if it is possible maybe go out for some jazz.

The Nots, Nudniks, Queenies I mean, Mets, are playing the Braves on Sunday night, and given the antics from a week or so ago (deGrom struck out seven, gave up three hits and he had two hits and one RBI) – we hope to see their bullpen blow another brilliant performance by deGrom (love him!)(or any of their starting pitchers). It is an evening game, and so we will have another morning and at least early afternoon to wander some more. No idea what will be doing, but there are always fun places to visit when you are in New York. If you do not know this, Sue is as ardent of a Nots, Nudniks, Queenies…er Mets fan (this is their year!!!I believe!!!!!) as I am of the the Yankees (GREATEST BASEBALL TEAM EVER. Wrong, everyone knows Yankees suck) I suspect she will write some alternative narrative for this section…Oh well. Let’s see what damage she does. The game is scheduled for ESPN’s Sunday Night baseball, so look for us! We will be the couple engaged in hand-to-hand combat and loudly booing each other. Of course, I will be rooting for Atlanta (I think this is grounds for divorce).

Monday, the Yankees (GREATEST BASEBALL TEAM EVER BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO) will be playing the Tampa Bay Rays in the afternoon; our plan is to get up, grab breakfast, get in the car and drive up to the Bronx. With a little luck we will see the Yankees trounce the Rays (although at the moment, the Rays are taking the Yankees’ lunch money yet again. The Yankees look SOOOO BAD, it’s fabulous), in the sunshine in the beautiful house that Ruth built, well, not really because it is the new stadium, but let’s let that go for poetic license. Over the two games I will have my fill of all the perfect baseball food…hot dogs, popcorn, Cracker Jack and beer. Sue will have to make due with some attempts by the plant munchers to simulate these great flavors using plants, nuts and seeds. Following the game, we will hop back in the car, and head home.

Of course all of this is dependent on the stadiums staying open (or even should I dare hope open further), us getting tickets and the whole world not shutting down again.

PS. No spreadsheet needed for this one. 😉