Browsing Posts published in July, 2012

It’s hard to describe how relieved I am that this phase of the Great Swiss Invasion is complete. Granted it’s only been a few months in the making but it feels like we’ve been concocting this caper forever. We still have some loose ends like Neil’s visa but the bulk of the Swiss end of things is done. Of course now that the distraction of being frustrated and impatient 24 hours a day has disappeared, the reality of the situation has a free path to make its appearance.

Just like when I first moved to France, it all seems surreal, that quality of belonging to another. I have no true understanding of it coming to pass and yet, like before, it will indeed do just that. The move-in day is set for October 1. So I have 2 months to get it together, literally and figuratively. The logistics will be a challenge: movers or a truck and a prayer? Sell it all off again or haul it all with us? The French housette came sans appliances, the Swiss apartment will have a new complete kitchen, you get the idea. The devil dances in the details.

Continue reading “Finding Me at Peace” »

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It’s all so bizarre, a good bizarre, but bizarre nonetheless. This business of finding a place to live has made me realize just how much my life has changed over the last 2 years. Every time I turn around I’m doing something I never imagined doing. It’s a bit like eating salad all the time — you know it’s good for you but all you really want is a medium rare steak, greasy fries and a big-ass chocolate cake for dessert.

Certainly the process of dealing with bureaucrazy and apartment hunting has offered me the wonderful opportunity to do battle with my worst character trait: impatience. So far, it’s a losing one I’m afraid. I’ve never been so impatient in my life. The other day we saw an apartment that was acceptable as long as we were granted the profound privilege of putting my beloved washer and dryer in the kitchen. (Sidebar: the Swiss rarely have their own machines and rely on common laundry rooms with a strict schedule. I’m a free spirit baby and restricting myself to Tuesday mornings for washing is not on, nor is getting rid of my swanky machines less than a year old).

So. We went to the agency to ask if this would be possible. We couldn’t get past the receptionist (as usual) to ask anyone this simple question. You apply first, ask questions later. Then she told us she would mail us an application, we’d have to mail it back and then we’d begin the long, drawn out mess of being considered. That was it for me. Last straw, meet camel’s back. We walked out deflated yet again but this time I was annoyed. Up came my ego, I mean sweet Jaysus, we’ve bought and sold like a million houses. I cannot take this foolishness a moment longer.

But it’s not all bad news. If you’re going to be frustrated you might as well do it where they have vineyards that look like this…

And benches that look like this…

There may also be more good news. I don’t want to say too much in case I jinx it (clearly the transformation from psychiatrist to psychic is almost complete), but an agency has decided to actually put us in front of the owner of an apartment we applied for a while back. This is a big step but no guarantee of acceptance. Frankly, I’m running out of steam.

Here I am, a full grown (freakishly grown) woman fretting over what I should wear to beg a guy to bestow upon me a tiny, expensive apartment that 2 years ago I wouldn’t have even remotely considered as a home for us. One toilet, which means the risk of divorce is high. Almost no closets, unless you count the kitchen, and yet I feel like if we don’t get it, it will be a tragedy of epic proportions.

I cannot for the life of me explain my thoughts and actions of late. Moving to Switzerland is complicated, it’s driving me bananas, it may even be ill-advised, but it’s a sticky notion that will not be unstuck. I must rise above my petulance and sense of entitlement and go through all the motions with a calm and peaceful mind. I must be gentle and polite and speak in hushed tones.

Alors, I’m off to the meeting. If you read news about some poor Swiss man beaten to a bloody pulp by a sweaty woman with a giant nylon bag full of immigration paperwork, you’ll know how it went.

 

LIVE UPDATE FROM IMMIGRATION HELL HEADQUARTERS: BREAKING NEWS

This just in: Swiss landlord offers lease to giraffe-woman and a man called Rusty. The agreement in principle includes the promise of a fully renovated kitchen with space for a washer and dryer. All details to be finalized at document signing on Monday morning. Giraffe and Rusty were too busy dancing and high-fiving to comment. Full story in Monday’s edition.

 

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Love Me Tender

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Well, it’s a good thing people around the world are showing me a little love these days because the Swiss unreal estate market is offering me nothing but the cold shoulder. More on that mess of merde to come, just as soon as I can stop from pulling out my hair long enough to type the goings-on.

In the meantime, how sweet of James to whisk me away to Nashville, Tennessee…

And while we can all agree that this handsome man is regal enough, I did indeed promise you a King…

Well kiss my grits! I’m all shook up about this one (merci bien to Vivian Swift and her hubby James who took time out from promoting Le Road Trip to take these incredible photos). I’m telling you, a few more days of this Swiss-o-mania and The Heartbreak Hotel will seem like paradise. I’m gonna let Elvis sing what I want to say to Switzerland…

 

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Round Deux

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Jaysus god alive, I got one nerve left and I’m hoping it will hold as I once more thrust myself into the fray of Swiss apartment hunting. I’m back in Vevey despite not having planned to be. Last week came and went without a word from the apartment agencies despite their promises to let us know if we’d passed the test. Frustrated and a wee bit irritated, we loaded up the car with everything from Neil’s work computer to our ‘impress a real estate agent’ outfits. I’m telling you, it’s not easy.

But really, what else have I got to do? Hilary Clinton and Angela Merkel seem to have things in hand without me this week and Neil seems to be managing to keep me in a steady supply of food with minimal nagging, which means I’ve nothing but time at the moment. I’d say it’s a safe bet to not expect too many words from me this week. Instead, I’m all about the pictures. I realize it’s getting repetitive. I tell you what, when everyone starts sending me $100 a month, I’ll write whenever you tell me to, until then too bad suckers.

Check out Sarah, a former student of mine, at the highest point in Edinburgh, Scotland, Arthur’s Seat or as I call it, Arthur’s Arse…

Sarah’s story is very cool. Not content to travel the common path, she is a young doctor who sees the world by doing locums, helping others while helping herself to a life of adventure. Of course, she learned everything she knows from me (more likely the other way around).

And here’s a shot taken in St. John’s featuring Jo, Dee and Paulette and an incredibly rare appearance by the Queen of Newfoundland and Labrador, Her Royal Highness, Joni, also known as me mudder (front, left with the purse strap around her knee). Apparently, just like Queen Elizabeth II, Mom needs to know where her handbag is at all times.

I’ve already been in the hands of a Duchess, now a Queen and next time I’ll have a shot of me with a King. If only all these royal connections could swing a Swiss palace for me. Wish me luck my loyal subjects, this princess is hanging by a gold thread.

 

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Global Warming

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Finders, if you’re at all like me, when you watch the news a profound sadness comes over you as you watch the worst of humanity display it’s ugly face. War, crime, etc. Sometimes it’s enough to make a giraffe want to stick her head in a hole in the desert and pray for the end.

But then, like always, the gifts of life make themselves known. They are often small and seemingly insignificant, so you have to be vigilant, keep your eyes and heart open to them at all times or else they might pass you by, unnoticed and gone forever.

Today I see nothing but good in this world of ours, acts of kindness and love that would melt the frostiest soul on the planet. I see Christine, a busy woman, who packed and carted a silly book across the ocean and dragged it up the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland just so she could send me this…

Then I was deeply touched by the tremendous efforts of Sybil, Jo, Paulette, Dee, Marge and Bernice who clearly went through a lot of trouble to take this shot on their excursion to Saint Pierre et Miquelon…

I mean these women (and pretty much everyone else involved in this blook around the world caper) don’t even know me and look what they have given me. I have more super cool shots for next week. I say this little project is clear evidence that the world is a good place. And just when I thought things couldn’t get any warmer and fuzzier…

Neil and I had our first date on the 18th of March, 1895 (okay, 2002) but it feels like ancient history. Ever since, on the 18th of every month, we celebrate our ‘monthaversary’. Now before you all start collectively rolling you eyes and throw the planet’s axis off balance, it’s not some mushy-gushy thing. We sometimes forget, we sometimes remember and simply wish each other a Happy Monthaversary and other times we argue about something ridiculous which invariably ends in me being right.

The point is I like it no matter how nauseating and adolescent it may seem. Anyway, enough set-up. Wednesday was the 18th and when I woke Neil had already slipped out silently to catch the 7 a.m. train to Paris to face the daunting task of applying for his Swiss visa. He is well trained by now so he left me a sweet note addressing the date. At about 10 a.m. he sent me an email with a subject of “surprise.”

Now with Rusty, you just never know. That could have been a message telling me that the Swiss embassy threw him out on the street and the whole thing was off or it could have been an epistle about the great new bakery he’d discovered. As some of you know already, Neil’s not one for compliments and such. In fact, a lot of what he says to me requires cringing and disbelief.

But on the 18th of this month, as usual, his actions spoke for him.

Despite being loaded down with paperwork and purpose, he secretly packed our one copy, carried it all around the city so he could go to what he knows is my favourite bookstore in the world and ask the owner to take his picture. I was undone by this kindness. All I could think was how lucky I am to have him in my life and whether he’d be home in time to make dinner.

Show someone that you love them today. It won’t make the news but it will make the world a better place.

 

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Great Expectations

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I’m not even permanently set up in Switzerland and yet, the whine and wine fest is in full swing. I’ve mentioned how hard it will be to find an affordable apartment but let me grouse and grumble a little more. We’re actually looking to live in a town attached to the east side of Vevey called La Tour-de-Peilz — a quiet, leafy section a little removed from the kiddie zone, a safe haven for grey-haired, dusty womb types like me.

Anyway, the way it works is that we obsessively troll the online listings and arrange a visit (9 so far) which is conducted by the current tenant. Sometimes it’s an open house thing with hoards of people hmming and hawing, sometimes just us (the preferred method of entitled divas). Then, if we like it, we go to the agency listing the property and throw a giant wad of paperwork at them hoping it will stick. They screen and present files to the landlord and then a decision is made. This can take weeks and weeks with no feedback. If we apply for multiple places and by some miracle get offered more than one lease, any rejected lease offer incurs a fee of about 150 bucks.

As a person who has bought and sold houses in a matter of hours it all seems very strange. I thought it would be just a “we’ll take it” kind of moment. What happened to the scenario where landlords are overcome with gratitude to have such an amazingly classy and debonair couple grace them with their presence and rent cheques? Continue reading “Great Expectations” »

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Identity Crisis

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Well, I’m back in France and it seems my days here are now officially numbered. After all the paperwork and begging and pleading and racing from Vevey to Lausanne and back again, the Swiss have decided one more giraffe in the country would do them good. Honest to god, to look at my pièces d’identité these days you’d swear I’m gearing up for a bit of espionage and high treason.

So now I’m a Canadian/British national leaving France to take up Swiss residency. I’m gone right global, a citizen of the world, international woman of mystery, a fool who doesn’t know whether she’s coming or going. And speaking of country confusion, the book can’t decide whether it’s more at home on the Canadian side…

Or the American side of Niagara Falls…

Merci Ellen! Either side will be just fine for me to hurl myself over once this Swiss business is finished. That permit B is just the first hurdle in a long, messy race to hurry up and wait. We applied for two apartments last week in the wackiest rental market I have ever heard of. Next up is wrangling a visa for Neil at the Swiss Embassy in Paris and then, something else, what is it? Oh yes, the eventual pack up the house and haul all our crap to another country adventure. Again. Somehow I’ve only just realized that this is part of the deal. Where’s a good shrink when you need one?

 

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Yes, LA is totally gnarly dude. And New York is, well, ask anyone from New York and they’ll tell you it’s the greatest city on earth. Maybe so but for me Paris is tough to beat. Le sigh…

I know what you’re thinking: one, how in the hell did she get this gorgeous young Frenchman to pose with the blook in Paris and two, is he single???

I’ll start with #2, no he’s not single. In fact he has an equally gorgeous Croatian girlfriend, a college student who happens to be a professional model on the side and she speaks 5 languages. Plus, she reads…

As for how I wrangled such exotic creatures to pose with my doodles, Monsieur Martin is the brother of Mademoiselle Elodie. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know that Elodie is my physio/massage therapist and she is a godsend. She is the reason that I am able to move my head and bend over at will.

She is the consummate Frenchwoman. She is the queen of scarf tying. She is appalled by my wardrobe, has a disdain for all my comfy clog shoes and thinks Miracle Whip is an absolute abomination. She’s awesome. So, here today, making her debut appearance on le blog, please give it up for the cool Frenchy stylings of Elodie…

Ain’t she a peach? Now everyone rush out and put on a scarf before Elodie calls the fashion police.

 

 

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Swissocracy

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My friends, I have very little to say on this day. I’m tapped out, spent, all creativity has been wrung out of me. I’ve been in Vevey since Sunday dealing with my old pal immigration. Somehow we managed to charm and cajole our estimated wait time for a residency permit from “anywhere from 1-3 months” to “we’ll try and have it ready by Friday.” I’d tell you how this miraculous feat was performed but I’m fuzzy on the legalities of the sexual promises that were made.

So cross whatever body part you can that by the end of the week the immigration application from hell…

will lead to a new life in heaven…

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When I was in St. John’s signing books at Chapters, I looked up to see a lovely and familiar face, my former college roommate. She hadn’t changed a bit. We hugged and laughed and chewed the fat for a while. Then the subject of my hair surfaced. In an awe-inspired, whispery tone she said to me, “You’re so brave.” Another woman said the same thing. In her mind leaving my whole life behind was an act of courage that paled in comparison to abandoning a bottle of hair dye.

Well, the bravery involved is certainly a matter for debate, but I’ll tell you one thing for sure: the brilliance of this move cannot be denied. Folks, I’ve cracked it wide open, stumbled upon a strategy to end all strategies. I’ve single handedly discovered a secret superpower: Grey hair. I stopped paying attention to my head and an unexpected treasure was laid at my feet.

Sure, I have more free time now that I don’t spend hours and hours disguising my nature. And speaking of free and spending, the financial benefits are obvious. But what’s less evident to the artificially coloured eye is the sheer usefulness of looking older. Now, whenever I do or say something a bit offside, I just point to my head with a slight air of resignation and just the perfect touch of feigned sadness and say, “Hormones.” Honestly, what can anyone possibly say in response to that? Continue reading “Fifty Shades of Genius” »

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Ages ago, a splendid writer named Amy Gesenhues wrote an excellent article in an Indiana newspaper about some wacky psychiatrist who packed it all in and ran off to France. Now, all this time later, she offers me another kindness.

This is Madame Amy reading the blook in front of a statue of King Louis XVI (I haven’t met him yet) in Louisville, Kentucky. The statue was given as a gift to the people of Louisville in 1967 from the French city of Montpellier. It weighs nine tons and is 12 feet high, coincidentally matching the amount of chocolate I’ve eaten since moving to France and my height, respectively.

After hanging with a king, I then found myself jetting about with a Duchess.

This was taken on a flight to Dublin. I think it’s only right that such a fine piece of literature has it’s own seat. Given Downith’s writing ability I suspect this is meant to symbolize the theme of Arse, so cleverly and subtly developed throughout the book. She’s a sharp tack that one.

Seriously now my friends, I really appreciate the time and effort required for these photos. I’m just picturing Downith, an elegant woman, strapping a book into a seat on a packed plane and asking folks to wait in the aisle while she gets it just right. People standing in busy NYC streets and in front of statues, posing at conferences, nagging award winning husbands, setting me up on their reading tables, dragging me down to wine cellars and taking time out of vacations to have their dog pose with the book.

You Finders are terrific, good sports the lot of you, you’re the best, go team, blah, blah, le blah — what else have you got for me?

 

 

 

 

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Well, time sure does fly when you’re having funemployment. Yesterday marked the the 2 year blogaversary of Finding Me in France. Two years! What a magnificent achievement: spending all your free time writing for free. Here’s to me! That’s me toasting myself, and who better to pat my own back I say. I also say that there’s no better way to celebrate myself than stuffing my face with a big load of chocolates.

Now, god knows I loves me a bit of chocolat and I have, on more than one occasion, eaten myself into a delirium, one time almost into a coma in Paris. But today I am eating the best chocolates I have ever tasted and they are not made in France.

Inside this box are chocolates that can only be described as works of art.

The Buddha Beauty (salted caramel encased in dark chocolate), the Bisous (white chocolate lips filled with chocolate ganache and tangerine liquor), the Pineapple (pineapple caramel). These are the creations of Jean-Michel Carre and his wife Jill, a couple who used to live in Semur but now they make chocolates in California.

Their menu is nothing short of miraculous — ginger/lemon and curry/coconut truffles, blood orange caramels, white chocolate ganache with blackcurrant and their signature chocolate, the Calibressan, dark chocolate filled with limoncello liquer ganache.

I have never once thought I’d like to live in California (too many earthquakes and implants) but these chocolates could probably lure me to build a house directly above the San Andreas Fault and have silicone injected into my flabby and flappy bits. If you’re in California (Scott, Kris, Tisha, Dean), they are in Santa Barbara and Carpinteria and for the rest of you, try www.ChocoCaliBressan.com

So, that’s it. Two years in and I’m still talking about eating and my arse. Why mess with a winning formula right? Anyway, today’s the day. I’ve given you two years of foolishness and now a direct line to the world’s best chocolates. The least you can do is come out of the comment closet. I see you all there lurking in the corners of my monthly visitor stats page. Reveal yourselves with a congratulatory comment on my blog birthday. I need something to distract me from ordering a 30 pound shipment from CaliBressan.

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It’s safe to say that I have officially lost my mind. Now, I know I’ve said this before, par exemple, that time I traded a six-figure income for standing in front of my husband with my hand out, “Please sir. I want some more.” But now it looks like I’ve gone right ’round the pipe with this Swiss mayhem.

While Neil was immersed in the latest Euro 2012 match, I went for a last lakeside stroll. I passed teenagers of every colour and creed, primping and posing, testing their beauty on each other as they gathered to watch the soccer at an outdoor park. Clusters of people gathered on the grass, sipping wine and grilling their supper. Elderly couples walked hand in hand. And all along the lake I saw these…

In the chairs to the left were two slick 30-something gals still in their workday suits, perched with their cups of wine, one talking German, the other responding in Spanish. To the right was a young couple, deeply, and I suspect newly, in love. He rubbed her feet and she swooned while they watched the sun set.

All I can say is that that walk was some sort of wacky epiphany-aha-up to your arse in bliss-Oprah moment for me. I know I have to live there. I can’t explain it any more than that. But getting there is another thing entirely. Continue reading “Permanent Insanity” »

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