Deciding to stop travelling, pick one country out of several options, and settle in the south of France has been an interesting proposition on a variety of levels — so I thought I would share a bit of that with you. The Midi-Pyrenees is a stunning part of this beautiful country and after much consideration, we believe that we have made a good choice. So we’re taking that leap of faith and staying!
St. Girons from the Avenue Francois Camel bridge
If you read the previous post, you will know that I have some additional freedom again now that I have my own little Peugeot to zip around in. However, it took TWO DAYS of hanging on the phone, leaving the car firmly parked because it was uninsured, and then wading through my kinda-sorta ok-ish French to get a new insurance policy. But as of Saturday afternoon, that’s all sorted and I’ve been out and about already doing essential errands and tracking down the correct government offices for each task.
A bit of freedom courtesy of a new-old Peugeot for Deborah
Yes, the updates on the site have been a bit thin for the last couple of weeks, but we’re fine and still doing the settling-in thing. That means lots and lots of paperwork from government departments that never seems to end. Mark’s life is a bit more straightforward than mine is right now — he gets up in the morning and goes off to work at various astonishingly scenic places as he renovates French houses. I am here in my home office, making endless copies, sourcing more government information, sending flurries of emails, and then waiting, waiting, waiting for things to get done by whatever French government department I am currently dealing with.
Getting registered in the health care system is still ongoing and that has, I must admit, been ridiculously time consuming. But I feel confident that my own paperwork will be completed this week. And I’ll be very happy once I see two copies of the laminated Carte Vitale, the essential item that gives us full access to all of the French healthcare system.
Things came to a grinding halt recently when I had to get an official French form to then obtain an official French translation of our birth certificates from English into French — and then the official French translation form had to be stamped and signed by an official French Civil Authority in a government office. That finally happened yesterday, but not easily!
After getting the translation completed last week, I took all of the correct paperwork to the Marie (the mayor’s office) in St. Girons yesterday and was directed to the office for Civil Registry. There I found a woman behind a desk with rather a lot of stamps and pens on her desk. Good — I must be at the correct place — right? Perhaps not since she looked rather alarmed when she realised that I wanted her to put her stamp on the official translation of (shock-gasp!) a British birth certificate and an American birth certificate. Seriously, she looked at me like the sky was falling!
Shaking her head and repeating, “Non, non, non!” several times, she pulled out an instruction sheet for what she could sign off on and waved one finger at it saying that her office was for people from France, not “etrangers” — strangers (which is what they actually do call anyone who isn’t French). I just stood there and waited with a calm expression. She went off in a huff to talk to the woman in the office next door, her supervisor, and came back with a very thin smile on her face. She had just been corrected by the supervisor (lovely woman!) who told her that since we were registered to live and work in France, she was required to copy and stamp all of our documents.
Kachink-kachink went the stamps, 2 on each form plus a date and signature, and finally I was handed 8 “official French” forms. I kept a pleasant look on my face, thanked her very sincerely, and suppressed the urge to dance down the hall outside her office and whoop out loud once I reached the parking lot!
I have no idea why, but for some reason I have rather a lot of patience with this unfolding process. Maybe it’s because this place feels so right. And for a change, Mark isn’t neutral, he really LOVES it (in all capital letters!) here in this part of France! That’s an important change because he’s always liked the places where we lived in the past two decades in Australia, England, and even those brief few years in the USA — but he hasn’t LOVED them. Nice, eh?
Getting new passwords for our online account required a trip to the bank to meet with our account manager — and as I was walking through St. Girons yesterday, I was smiling. It was interesting to see how many people turned and smiled back because I was walking around feeling like a lightbulb was on inside my face. St. Girons is just lovely in that picturesque faded-French-beauty way that makes my heart happy. The photo below is of Rue Gambetta and my bank is underneath those arches at the end of the curve, just before the parking lot in the square beyond. Now seriously, if you looked at your local business district each day and saw this kind of charming view, wouldn’t it make your own heart sing?
In the larger view, we are both quite happy that we waited, that we had patience about making a decision about where to stop and where to settle down again. We enjoyed our time over the last 18 months immensely as we travelled and worked in England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, and France. And we met lovely people in each and every place that would have introduced us to the right people, helped us with our language issues in the non-English countries, and generally assisted us in negotiating through the ever-present paperwork in the EU.
The place that we have finally chosen, France, seems to be particularly attached to ‘les papiers’ and, in direct contrast to the way things are done in the UK or Australia, online processing of forms is practically non-existent. So everything moves at a snail’s pace. If you do choose France, you must know that ahead of time and accommodate yourself to their pace
Time to stop for today and get back to work. My next challenge is getting quotes to have our household goods delivered to us here in France. We had the very happy news from our shipping company in Australia that they had mistakenly quoted us for a larger amount than we actually had in storage. Once they picked it up last Friday from our storage unit, compacted it, and measured it on Monday, they sent us the actual figure which was approximately one third less than what the quote was based on. So we are saving a little bit of money off the sticker-shock prices that we were dealing with up until yesterday. Our boxes will arrive in the UK in a few months and then be trucked down here to France, a process that is (rather oddly!) cheaper than having them sent directly to France or even to Spain which is only one hour south of us.
Ah well — c’est la vie!
©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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