What if we ever needed…3/4 of an Inch

Hell froze over today. Well, since it’s so bloody hot and humid I sort of wish it actually did, but our stuff ARRIVED at 1pm today. It actually came with a phone call and three guys who could not have been nicer. I paid for their lunch afterwards. I’m not a person who has ever held a grudge. Don’t have time for it so all that nonsense was in my rear view mirror 30 seconds after the first dolly load crossed our door step.

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They found parking and unloaded in record time. As planned, we had them bring all the boxes and bikes up to our apartment and we put the sofa in our parking space in the garage. We needed to measure it before I schedule the crane service. I was on cloud nine watching them go back and forth. Emilie stayed down by the truck to make sure no one made off with any boxes while the guys were filling the lobby.

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Seeing our things again was like reconnecting with old friends. And unpacking was so much fun!¬† All my kitchen stuff that was of such interest to US Customs and Border control made it with only one glass pot lid that was shattered.¬† All my Le Creuset – check. More of my Crate and Barrel dishes – yup. All our flatware and my box of odds and ends kitchen stuff. My beloved Vitamix made it. Jeff checked the amperage (I don’t even pretend to understand it) and it works on the electricity here. We just have to take it to a local place to get the plug/cord swapped out.

My pans are here too! And our golf clubs and bikes. Jeff’s computer stuff and his keyboard that he’s been waiting for. All the tools for his first love – the motorcycle. We spent the day unpacking boxes and washing things. Our bedding from home – sheets and towels that we could have bought locally but we loved them too much to leave behind. Then there were the more sentimental things. The things that, when you surround yourself with them, make you feel like you’re truly home.

Our refrigerator magnet collection from trips we took as a family. Jeff always hated how junky it made it look in an open plan kitchen. I loved the reminder of all the things we did together. Tonight, I put them all on the fridge and he came home and smiled. Emilie and I had fun reminiscing about each one and telling funny stories about where they were purchased and some crazy thing that happened.

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The pictures came. Our wedding photo and some of the art that we had on the walls. Emilie unpacked the boxes in her room and it’s just about like it was in the US – only 5 times smaller. Her books, photos and all the small things that mean so much to her.

I unpacked the vacuum packed bags of our clothes and it seems we brought more than I remembered. I appears my ‘What if we ever…?’ philosophy might have gone a little too far. OK, if we ever go to Iceland again I have my Canada Goose parka and Jeff’s Mountain Hardwear parka. But living here I don’t think there will be a day that we’ll need either of those.

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My most egregious and embarrassing miscalculation was my discovery that I had 5 full boxes of shoes that were just for me. Luckily, Jeff had run an errand when I pulled them out of the pile in the dining room. Yeah, I knew I had a problem anyway but today it was in my face and before Jeff got home I needed to find somewhere for 5 boxes of shoes in El Compartimiento. But where to put them? The only place I had to spare was in the kitchen Gabinete and I knew the minute he got hungry I’d be ratted out. Emilie just shook her head but she wasn’t one to talk. She had 2 boxes of shoes for herself – OK, I’m a baaad influence.

So I started pulling out drawers and cabinets. I was sweating and panicked. What the hell was I going to do? I looked around and then I remembered we have drawers under the bed we bought. And those drawers are mostly covered by the duvet. I knew Jeff was barely using his closet so he wouldn’t even think about the drawers under the bed. Sure enough, they were empty. But as I placed my shoes, boots and sandals lovingly into their new, hidden home, I started counting and, well, I’m just ridiculous. Who needs 5 pairs of high suede boots here? I brought 3 pairs of rubber boots!¬† What was I thinking?

But that isn’t the capper. Tonight we went down to the garage after I was done unpacking the rest of the stuff and putting it away. I was feeling pretty proud of myself and my ability to cram things in every nook and hidden crannies. Organizing things for easy access later. Winter closet, stored. Yup, I was at the top of my organizational game. I hadn’t over packed afterall. I was a ‘just enough’ goddess.

I got into the elevator with a confident smug swagger that only a truly organized person pull off. Then we measured.

My beloved couch is 43 3/4 inches deep. I don’t care about the height because it passed that test. Our living room window is broken up into sections that are 43 inches. Not 44 inches – 43. And they can’t get any bigger, even if you take the windows out, because of the custom shutters that come down in tracks. So my couch won’t fit. So we went down and took all the wrapping from the move off and I actually talked to the couch.

‘Please couch – I know you’ve been through alot in the last 5 months but I need 3/4 of an inch – that’s all. Please give me 3/4 of an inch.’ I begged and pleaded.

Jeff measured again. I don’t think the couch was very forgiving after spending months in a container ship. It didn’t give up a millimeter. There will be no couch (at least not one from the US) inside El Compartimiento. With every victory, there is also defeat. I had gotten a little cocky with the shoes.

Tonight, Jeff is sporting his Keens, he’s smiling in a fresh pair of shorts and a shirt he hasn’t worn since February. That’s good enough for me.

Viva la France

We arrived in Dijon! It was a rather long ride from Strasbourg but we did it. We rode thru the picturesque town of Colmar, ‘Little Venice’ they call it, with their canals and centuries-old architecture.

We had a long way to go so we set off to go over the nearby mountains through a National nature preserve. Before our climb started, we made a pit stop to see the main square in the village of Munster. I think cheese is a big deal to the Munsters (not the same ones from 60’s American TV) because they have attractions around it.

But what I really wanted to see were the storks nesting on the peaks of the Hotel de Ville and the church. It’s pretty amazing how they build such huge nests on the top of nothing.

We rode twisty mountain roads for 150 km. A lot of ski areas I’d like to come back to one of these days. And I got to see my first alpine ski jump, sans the snow. But it was still cool.

About 30 minutes outside of Dijon we came upon a very old Chateau in the village of Gy. It was built over the course of six centuries and is in a state of delapidated charm. The roof could use some work. I loved it!

Finally, we made it to Dijon. We are staying in the nicest hotel here. Not because I made the selection. I walked the Camino and slept pallets in churches and bunk houses with 50 other sweaty people for 6 straight weeks in the heat of a Spanish summer. As long as I’m horizontal, I can sleep in the top of a flagpole. Jeff? Yeah, not so much. He’s a bedding snob. If the sheets aren’t a minimum of 600 tc he develops a rash.

So, when I was reading off potential hotels at our last stop on the way to Dijon, he nixed anything that didn’t have the word ‘Grand’ in it. That left one possibility and he knew it. It is weird. He’s not picky about much, but of the few things he is, hotels are at the top.

The concierge ran out when we pulled up. To help with the luggage – such as it was – strapped to our bike. Then he escorted Jeff and Precious to the underground garage, where they locked her up safe and sound in an actual cage. I think Jeff felt vindicated for choosing this hotel because of that alone.

Tomorrow is May 8. It’s the anniversary of the end of WWII and the French flags are flying around town. Stunning walk around the old town.

In some places, the building looked very Diagon Alley, rather than Burgundy. But that’s just my own bias.

Next Stop: Toulouse!

Because You Asked

‘It’s never too late to be what you might have been’ ~ George Eliot

It was always my intention on this blog to keep it light, while conveying useful information about our adventures on our move to Spain. Lets face it – the process is fraught. But I was asked after my last post, and by a host of friends, and my Mom, ‘How the Hell did you come to the decision to Move to Spain!’ I thought I had addressed this earlier with my penchant for wine in the early afternoon. But there are other reasons, and if I’m honest, they aren’t as glib.

Moving to Spain for me, represents freedom. The freedom to finally choose. It’s something, real or imagined, that I haven’t been able to do for decades. And something I take total responsibility for. I spent part of the 90’s, all of the 2000’s, and most of this decade being a Mom. And not just any Mom. One that was determined to be the best Mom I could be. My children would be Citizens of the World. And that meant that I provided a lifestyle for my kids based on the ‘I’ll give them everything I never had’ School of Parenting. Not one I recommend – btw. Because once you’re on that train, there are no stops until the final station.

While our children were growing up, I was the top earner in our household. I enjoyed a stellar career Рto be envied. From the outside. When my kids studied ancient Greece Рwe took them to the Parthenon. When they studied geology Рwe took them to Iceland where the European and North Atlantic plates are born. I regularly worked a 60 hour week in the city, with an hour and a half commute back to the idyllic community where we lived, for my children Рbest schools, best environment Рsafest. I took jobs I hated, kept jobs I loathed for years, so I could keep the family train moving down the tracks. I was miserable, and I was tired to the depths of my soul. But I kept going.

Last year, I took a new job in a new city because it was financially a good thing for our family. And every day, of the nearly one year I worked there, was soul crushing. I was doing work that was unsatisfying on every level. I was hopelessly overqualified. It was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning.

In early January of this year, we were¬†in Paris for New Years. I spent the day in bed crying. Not ‘Boo Hoo, poor me’ crying. But ‘I can’t stop crying & I don’t know why’ kind of crying. I was going to have to go back and work at that place I loathed. Supporting everyone’s dreams but my own.¬†I found at 50,¬†I couldn’t do it anymore. Of course, Jeff’s¬†was visibility concerned and he had a solution.¬†‘Go back and resign. We’ll figure it out.’

So I did. I went in on the Monday I got back and I left my job.¬†It was hard. I was¬†raised to believe hard work was virtuous.¬†That rising up from the place your were¬†born should be the number¬†1¬†goal. ¬†And mine was a¬†career that paid very well. I knew I was going against everything I had ever been taught. I was getting off the train. I could almost hear my grandparents yelling ‘Stay on the train, or it’s a waste of the ticket!!’

That night, Jeff said ‘So you’re going to go on that walk in Spain, right?’ And I did. With the intention that when I got back, I would go out¬†and, somewhere in the US, I’d¬†get a job like the last one I had, and earn, earn, earn. It’s what I knew how to do. But then I started climbing the Pyrenees,¬† walked through the Messeta,¬†and I climbed up to Cruz de Ferro and left my stone.¬†I spent 36 days shedding every mask I had ever worn.

No one knew me from before that moment on the Camino. They didn’t care about what I did for a living. They just talked to me,¬†and shared their stories¬†and¬†I listened. And I learned, in the long hours of walking alone¬†each day, to listen to myself. When I walked into Santiago and¬†heard the piper,¬†piping that mournful tune, I cried like a baby.

So I came home, and I told my husband¬†that first I was going¬†to write. For a long time, I have secretly written funny short stories on planes (and in some boring business meetings), or in hotel rooms, to pass the time.¬†I had published some of them on Amazon, but it was less than¬†a even a secret hobby.¬†Coming back,¬†I did write my first novel, in less than 8 weeks, after my Camino this summer.¬†It’s ready for the editor!

But I also knew¬†my job¬†wasn’t¬†the only thing I needed to refocus. The city in which we live,¬†isn’t a final destination for us. It was a means to an end, when I took a job. When I got back to the US, after being gone for two months,¬†I had jokingly said ‘Lets move to Spain!’ Not thinking Jeff would take it seriously. After a few trips to visit other places in the US and Canada, he just rolled over one night and said ‘OK. Let’s do it. Lets move to Spain.’

So, the¬†decision to move to¬†Europe was decades in the making. The Camino was just the final straw. But now that it’s here, all that came before is like looking back into the fog. I know what’s back there, but my future is in front of me. And from where I’m sitting, it includes a large glass of red wine and a view of the Mediterranean. Time to have some FUN!