Tag Archives: expat lifestyle

Crunched Communication & Quick Catch-Up

It’s rather ridiculous that it takes SO LONG to get the internet installed in a world-class city the size of Melbourne! We’re still a week away from getting our broadband connected, so I am completely reliant on a dongle wifi that has severe limitations on both the speed and the amount of information (photos!) that I can upload per day.

After being a bit down in the dumps for the last week, I’m feeling MUCH brighter today. Could it have something to do with the fact that the sun came out about an hour ago for the first time in 4 days?

Still wading through the process of unpacking boxes and it feels like I just did this a few months ago. It was actually a full year ago that we moved into our apartment in St. Girons in the south of France, but we’ve done so much travelling in the last 2 and 1/2 years that everything feels alternately jumbled and compressed. I need to get DONE with the unpacking and setting up so I can finish writing one book and do the layouts on a separate photo book. Here’s hoping all of that globe trotting pays off.

Mark is downtown at his new job on an inner city construction site. SO COOL that he can take the tram to work and not even drive the van or worry about finding a place to park. He loves that!

Life is good and we are both fine and, in spite of moments of missing Europe, happy to be back in Melbourne.

More soon — hopefully WITH images!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Safely Back in the UK

Wrapping up the last week of life in France was incredibly compressed. But I am happy to report that we are safely home in Norfolk at Mark’s parents’ house. What a trip back though! I thought the 10-plus hours of travelling on Friday was bad — on Saturday we did 12 hours.

We drove through a full day of torrential rain that the windshield wipers barely kept up with on Friday. And may I just say that spending just short of THREE HOURS in wall to wall traffic on the Paris ring road was not a happy experience! The next day we had to deal with a really scary hail and ice storm in northern France which turned to snow just before we got to Calais. There were lots of car accidents north of Paris and we were driving slowly to be sensible and safe.

Then due to the weather, the P&O Ferry sailed from Calais to Dover an hour late in gale force winds. Thank heavens for motion sickness pills! After that we had another three hours of driving from Dover up to Norfolk. There was just enough ice on the road up here that Mark skidded the car a bit a mere 1 km from his parents’ house. Whew!

Gosh I slept hard — and so did Mark. We’ve had a marvelous and restorative day so far, a scrumptious brunch out, my darling mother-in-law is cooking pork roast for dinner, and after the movers arrive tomorrow we’re going to start looking for a new van for driving on the UK side of the road.

I took some wonderful photos at a museum outside Paris yesterday and I will try to start posting those — and the other huge backlog of articles and photos from the last month — in the coming week. Be patient — we’re taking it a day at a time right now and trying to get quite a LOT accomplished in a very short time.

Life is good, we’re happy to be back, and we’ll keep everyone posted!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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That Glamourous Expat Lifestyle (cough-cough!)

Just letting you know that the day-to-day glamour-factor (smirk!) of our adventures in French expat lifestyle might be a bit muted this week. Ah well — it can’t always be a life of wine and cheese and glorious scenery, eh?

As previously reported, boxes 1-100 were delivered 3 weeks ago and we are still wading through those. The last 50-plus items are arriving today — tonight actually. Thank heavens it is summer and there is still enough light outside for Mark and the driver to see as they load things into the garage and tick off the numbers on the list. It will probably be well after 9 PM before they are done because the driver is running so late. And Mark hasn’t even had the splendid dinner that I planned to make yet.

I just — literally just — wrangled the apartment back into shape whilst Mark was off with some of the menfolk doing a two day mountain hiking session. He got back tonight just after 6 PM looking sunburnt, ready to drop, and walking quite gingerly because he was aching all over.

And this is the day that the driver was late??? Not really good timing.

Had planned to do some new posting this week with photo essays. At this point, I’ll just keep my fingers crossed.

Now where did I put that print out of the packing list. (sigh!)

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Boxes, HEAT, & A Bit Of This & That

A bit of personal and non-travel related commentary today. And no, I didn’t drop off the face of the planet and all is well in our world. But we’re still wading through the boxes that were delivered from Australia via ship to England and then delivery truck here to France.

When we were ‘back home’ in Australia on our 7 and 1/2 acre rural property, we had a studio space/storage area in a separate building from our cottage. And that studio space was bigger than this entire small apartment in France!

Let’s just say we are a little challenged space-wise right now. So a second culling of our possessions is under way. And the apartment is a &*^%$£! disaster zone as a result. We sold off 99.99% of our furniture, donated or sold hundreds of books and movies, pared down the clothes, and then stored the rest (including Mark’s rather massive collection of tools!) for 20 months. 21 months later, they have all arrived and in spite of what we thought was a serious purge back in Oz, we have too much stuff.

I have thinned out the books and music cds and movies (again!) and am donating them to a Cancer Support France group here in the South of France that helps English speaking expats who have relocated to France deal with cancer issues. It’s probably a god-send for them to have such a group since I can honestly tell you that if French is not your native language, being ill in a foreign country can occasionally be a very unsettling experience. So this felt like just the right place to send all of these lovely books and media items.

Our other ‘challenge’ for the last few weeks has been the intense heat and staggering humidity — and it isn’t just here. Huge swathes of France have been on alert due to the high temperatures that soared upward and then stayed there. The last time that this kind of heat arrived in France was in the 2003 heatwave when almost 15,000 people died in France alone. This a country where fans are the norm for coping with summer, air conditioning is a rarity, and along with the many other French businesses that close down for a month, a large number of medical practitioners go on holiday for the month of August.

We’ve also been making a concerted effort to drink huge amounts of water every day to avoid dehydration or heat-exhaustion. Just walking those few blocks to the Saturday market this past weekend (with a hat on and smeared in sun block) saw me returning home dripping wet and weak at the knees from the heat. I was weak and nauseous for the entire rest of the day along with some other rather unpleasant symptoms.

And did I mention that I have been living in a sarong for most of the last 2 weeks? Other than unpacking and sorting, this has not been the most productive period I’ve had since arriving in St. Girons and it is all down to the nauseating heat which has left me, and tens of thousands of other people, feeling quite incapacitated.

I still have the last 2 slideshows to post from 2 weekends ago when the Autrefois was in St. Girons, but for now there may not be any new photo ops until I feel that it’s safe to walk around outside for more than half an hour without feeling like I am going to collapse. Don’t I wish for (and remember fondly!) the body-resiliency of my 20s and 30s — a physical state that I unfortunately no longer have.

Ah well — until the next time — stay cool wherever you are!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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A Weekend Market Outing For The Trolley

It had been sitting there quietly, sparkling brightly, waiting for the inaugural test drive — that bright red shopping trolley that I showed you the other day. And this morning it got a chance to stretch its little wheels.

The red shopping trolley

Down the street, across the park, and over the bridge toward the Saturday market we went. And shortly after leaving the house, Mark took over because I was juggling my camera and stopping for pictures every few minutes. That’s fine — he looked quite nice as the ‘driver’ of the trolley, too!

Mark with the little red shopping trolley on the way to the weekly market in St. Girons, France

Into the alley of plane trees we walked — but wait! Where was everyone — and where was the market???

Empty market site in St. Girons, Midi-Pyrenees, France when the carnival came to town


St. Girons is currently hosting the 4 day All Rock Festival and trust me, everyone in town knows that they are here! They began playing last night at 10 PM and didn’t stop until just after 2 AM. Since we are right around the corner from the Palais des Vicomtes and the riverside park attached to the old chateau, the sounds echoed all through these stone buildings from one end of town to the other.

We didn’t realise that a small travelling carnival would tag along with the music festival. Their rides and trailers and gear were silently parked all up and down the tree-lined area that usually hosts the weekend market and none of our usual vendors were anywhere to be seen. How very odd it all looked!

Closed up rides during the daytime in St. Girons, Midi-Pyrenees, France

The normally busy town was quite subdued and I wondered if everyone was home sleeping off the effects of the previous night’s partying. But then as we entered another one of the squares, I began to see people with shopping bags full of vegetables and fruit and Mark and I both realised that we could walk for a few more minutes and go to Tutti Frutti — the veg shop on the other side of the town ring-road.

As we got closer, I saw bright-coloured kiosks and I told Mark, “They’ve moved the weekly market to the other side of town because of the carnival people.” And there on that street in front of us were the throngs of shoppers that we usually see beneath the riverside plane trees. It must be unthinkable to cancel the weekend market for any reason!

The temporarily relocated weekend market in St. Girons, Midi-Pyrenees, France


Artisan bread at the weekend market


The knifemaker at the weekend market in St. Girons, Midi-Pyrenees, France


An artisan cheesemaker at the weekend market in St. Girons, Midi-Pyrenees, France


Candy seller at the weekend market in St. Girons, Midi-Pyrenees, France

We had a lovely outing on a cool and misty day, came home with fresh food and lots of photos, and I now have a bright green straw hat hanging on the rack in our bedroom next to one of Mark’s Tour de France souvenir hats. All in all, it was a very nice way to give the lovely wee trolley a spin in the fresh air.

Straw goods seller at the weekend market in St. Girons, Midi-Pyrenees, France


Green straw hat from the market in St. Girons, Midi-Pyrenees, France


P.S. Stay tuned for pictures from the Rock Festival and the night-time carnival over the next few days!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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