Tag Archives: expat

Based In Brittany Now!

It will be apparent from the lack of updates on this particular website that things have changed in our lives. Indeed they have — in a very GOOD way!

After our holiday in Brittany last year, we became convinced that it might be a good place to settle down. So after a LONG visit of 2 months in the UK in June and July, we returned to this part of northern France, rented a house directly across the street from some friends, and sent for our household goods to be delivered from the storage unit in the UK.

It’s a funny little house, but very sweet and just what we need for now. And best of all, we have a wonderful circle of friends here. So life is good!

Our small but cute little house in Brittany.

Looking forward to the return of the fragrant roses in the Spring!

There’s apparently been a mad RUSH to get official French residency since Brexit was declared in the UK! So we’re BOTH going to get our Carte du Sejour (residency) as a just-in-case. It’s all feeling quite comfortable here now — so we will BOTH declare ourselves as residents of France.

That should do for a catch-up. Perhaps I’ll start sharing some photos of the area???

All for now…

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life 2007-2018
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Leaving France In A Week. Yikes!

We’ve had some amazing blessings in the last few days and (Universe, are you listening?) they are VERY much appreciated and acknowledged. Now if we could just sell the 3 piece bathroom suite that we got in anticipation of renovating a house here in France (small sigh!) and sell the 6 month old gas cooking stove, we’d really be laughing!

After the dastardly movers cancelled with 9 days before the scheduled pick-up, I put the move back up on the AnyVan website in the UK and started taking bids again. I don’t know if they offer this sort of service in Australia, the USA, or Asia — but it’s a godsend for those of us living in Europe.

You put the details of your move online, list what you have, and then different moving companies compete for your job by submitting bids. They are dealing with the AnyVan website and you are quite safe because all they have is your user name — no address details and so forth.

Within 24 hours, new bids starting rolling in and many of them were quite a lot higher than our previous contract. But through some frank discussions of what we could and could not afford, we managed to get a proper registered moving company (not just a man and a van!) that is sending a full size moving truck down here with 2 drivers to pick up all of our things on the 30th — NEXT WEDNESDAY!

I sold my Peugeot last week to a couple from England who are still over there and they won’t be back in France until February. But we arranged to deliver the car to their village near Mirepoix and hand the paperwork and keys over to their charming neighbour Aidan. He was a simply wonderful surprise on an on-and-off sunny then overcast Sunday and we had several hours of stimulating conversation at his kitchen table. It’s a shame we didn’t meet before we were getting ready to leave the country — but I feel like we will stay in touch.

I’ve just secured a storage unit for us in Norfolk in an insured, clean, indoor building and not a damp and cold outdoor shipping container style lock-up. So we will feel very peaceful about leaving our things safely tucked up there whilst we visit Mark’s parents in Norfolk for a wee bit and then get on the road to the Midlands, Yorkshire, and perhaps on up to Scotland to decide where we would like to live and work next. It’s another adventure and you just know there will be lots of stories and photos along the way!

I have dozens of photos to share from our 3 day trip to Toulouse a week ago, but there is simply no time to do that right now. Photo editing is out — packing dozens of boxes is in — simple as that. And in between the sessions of packing, we are squeezing in last minute dinners, lunches, and drinks with our friends here in France that we will miss quite a lot.

All for now. The packing tape and rolls of bubble-wrap are singing to me!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Life Changes, Life Planning, & Leaving France

Saying goodbye to France was something that we had not considered when we moved here last year, settled in, bought furniture and appliances, and began to make friends. But recent changes in the taxation structure since the election of Francois Hollande as President of France, the bureaucratic quagmire that all of us who move to France are forced to endure, pension issues, and several other boulders in the road that frequent readers of this site will already be acquainted with, have made this a place where we no longer wish to invest our emotional energy or our money. We are moving on after 10 months here in the South of France — with regret — but the decision has now been made and we are in the process of sorting out our last few weeks here in St. Girons.

And where are we going next? Well, to be truthful, we aren’t certain! We are flinging ourselves into the arms of the angels again, waiting to see where feels right, and then trusting that our choice is a good one. Our furniture and 100-plus boxes are being picked up in 2 and 1/2 weeks and taken to England to go back into storage. But then the fun begins as we go back on the road for awhile and we look for someplace to settle down. Living out of a suitcase wore us out after a year the last time and after spending almost 9 months in Normandy, we stopped moving in St. Girons. Who knows where we will be when we send for the household goods the next time!


A quiet moment between two women visitors at MACBA, the contemporary art & design museum in Barcelona, Spain.


The next few months should be very ‘interesting’ and we’ll need to be flexible. There is an unfolding book about life in France as an expat and I’ve even written the introduction chapter — but we’ll discuss that in another article.

Right now we are making lists of things to do, notifying the utility company, and packing-packing-packing. (again!)

Stay tuned as we find our feet on shifting sands!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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When In France, Patience Pays

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?
The curve of Rue Gambetta in St. Girons in the Midi-Pyrenees, France
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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All rights reserved.