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!

Shall we Dance?

DATELINE VALENCIA – In the last 36 hours, I have hired a lawyer, a Personal Assistant, opened a bank account, secured a second round of insurance that covers pre-existing conditions – because the first one didn’t, and toured 7 apartments. I’m a little bushed. But I have learned a lot about how things work. The biggest thing I’ve learned is how to dance. And not the Flamenco. There is a cadence to how things work here and I am starting to appreciate the pace and elegance of it. But it requires stamina.


ME: ‘I need a xyz – elephant, rental car, health insurance. Can you help me get any of these things?’

OTHER GUY: ‘No No No – this is impossible. There is no way we can do that. No way.’

ME: I look dismayed but am undaunted. I need this guy.

We talk a little. I explain who I am and that I have kids – this is real grease in Spain. I found this to be true in Greece and Lebanon too – so I pulled it out and used it liberally. I asked about his children or grand children, and thanked him profusely for even agreeing to meet me; expressing how sad I am that I won’t be able to do business with them. But I appreciate him taking the time.

THE OTHER GUY: ‘Well, maybe we could do something – but I don’t know.’

ME: ‘No, I don’t want to put you out. I totally understand you don’t want to take the risk with Americans. Even though we must prove financial stability to get a visa to live here, but of course, you have to protect yourself and your family.’

THE OTHER GUY: ‘No, I think I know someone who can help you. He has a xyz- elephant, rents cars and sells health insurance. I will call him.’

He gets on the phone. I recognize some of the words ‘Elefante’ and ‘coche’. Lots of rapid long conversation. He hangs up.

THE OTHER GUY: ‘He can’t come for 3 hours. Can you wait?’

ME: ‘Of course I can wait. You’re doing me a huge favor in helping me. I’ll stand right here. I won’t move.’

THE OTHER GUY: He frowns and sighs heavily. ‘Let me call him again.’

More rapid Spanish. Some walking around while gesturing. He hangs up.

THE OTHER GUY: ‘He is coming now.’

OK, maybe I don’t need to rent a car, and the elephant is a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea. Everything in the world is done based on relationships. But I have never lived anywhere that is as important as it is in Spain. Building a network, not just of other expats, but of Spaniards from every walk of life, will be key to living here and being happy. Good thing I like to dance.


Reading the Signs

DATELINE VALENCIA –  Sometimes it’s just easier to get on a plane and power through it, rather than emailing, calling and Whatsapping in the wee hours of the morning. Yesterday I started the trek to Valencia and 27 hours, door to door, I’m here. Traveling long haul is never what I look forward to. It’s the destination that holds the allure. But on this trip, the ‘getting here’ was as interesting as the ‘being here’.

I have traveled 100,000 of miles in my life. For work and for pleasure. On any given trip, the most I can hope for is a domestic upgrade or a free drink, if I have status on an airline I’m flying. But this trip, I am going on air carriers where I don’t have status. So I assumed that I’ll be part of the cattle call when the press for boarding is kicked off.

I have been nervous about this trip, for some reason. That’s not like me as I can generally hop on a plane to a city I’ve never been to and just figure it out. But this trip, I have a lot on my plate. I’m making the decisions about where we will live for the next year. The physical space, location in the city and my decision will impact Jeff. So I feel compelled to get it right. I guess I’ve been looking for signs that we’re doing the right thing.

Sign #1 – When I got on the flight from Phoenix to Chicago, a gentleman gave me his seat. Seriously, I didn’t ask him. He offered me his much better seat in Premium Economy as we were boarding and went and sat in mine. So odd. But I thanked him and enjoyed the extra legroom. This put me next to a gentleman who helped me with my two carry-ons and was very helpful in getting me settled in.

Sign #2 – I got upgraded on Iberia, an airline I don’t have status on. I had to get the gate agent to print my pass at O’Hare, because Iberia doesn’t have a counter in Phoenix. He bumped me up and then put no one next to me. I was able to spend my time from Chicago to Madrid in recline and with all the amenities!

Sign #3 – All my gates on this trip have been ‘K’ gates. Like the universe is aligning things. Might sound small but since my name starts with ‘K’ I’m taking this one.

Sign #4 – on the short flight from Madrid to Valencia, the plane was very empty. But a man was sitting next to me from Columbia and sat and talked about how important the ‘Law of Attraction’ is and how mediation is important to him in getting closer to ‘It’. He knows a lot about aligning energy and living on the right wave length to attract the good and leave the not-so-good. It was a weird, but sort of perfect conversation and I really needed it. If he hadn’t been there I would have slept for those 40 minutes and missed some good energy.

So I made it to my hotel, where I collapsed. But now I’m awake and unpacked and ready for all my appointments tomorrow. Sitting here, I feel much better. And I was able to identify why I have felt so strange about this trip. I’ve been here before in the months before my Camino. Asking myself, ‘What am I doing?’, ‘Who does this?’ and listening to all the people who thought I was crazy. But that was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. So with that experience of bucking the crowd, this must be the right thing too. We walk more than one Camino in our lives. I guess I just started another one. Buen Camino to me!