Paris and Beyond

Our Personal Tour de France & Other Exciting Adventures!

Archive for the month “February, 2017”

The Oregon Trail

You may know the Oregon Trail as the historic route from the Missouri River to Oregon’s valleys used in the 1800’s by fur traders and settlers moving west. Or, you may remember playing one of the first educational video games popular in the mid-80’s by the same name. For us, the “Oregon Trail” represents one leg of our 2001 6-week, 6,000-mile Western Tour road trip starting in Grants Pass and the Rogue River, then on to Eugene, and finally traveling west up the coast from Newport to Lincoln City, Tillamook, and Astoria. Looking back, this was certainly our inspiration for moving to Oregon as you can see by these photos…


Wet, Rainy Day on the Rogue River


Riding my eBike on the Alton Baker Bike Path in Eugene


The Beautiful Willamette River


Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Newport


Cheryl & Lorenzo in the Lighthouse Stairwell 


View of the Columbia River & Astoria Bridge from the Astoria Column


Proscuitto-Wrapped Jumbo Shrimp Dinner on top of Coxcomb Hill in Astoria


The Oregon Coastline

Now it’s time for us to forge a new Oregon Trail — from San Jose to Eugene and many parts beyond.

Sorting Out Your Life


Studio Packed!

My husband and I are both very creative in our own individual ways. We have been fortunate to have enough space to each have what we call a studio (a room that would normally serve as a bedroom) dedicated to our creative endeavors. In Norman’s case, this involves art work in a variety of media (watercolor, pastels, sculpture, drawing), photography, music, digital space, and a myriad of other things that pop into his head. He’s pretty amazing that way. My focus is more crafty (not really considered art and I concur so as not to offend the artist) — sewing, jewelry making, knitting, needlepoint, embroidery — that sort of thing. I’m also the resident secretary and bookkeeper so my roll-top desk and its contents are of the utmost importance. They occupy my studio as well. I love my personal space which I know is a luxury, but it has become cram-packed with a lot of stuff over the past 12 years. So, in the process of moving, it’s definitely time to streamline. Sorting and organizing for the next faze of my life is a welcome challenge.

What’s so important about sorting out when you know you will have even more space in your next home? It gives you direction. What do you really want to do with your time now that you are retired and have so many options? If you don’t give this question serious consideration, you will just be inclined to keep everything and then you will flounder.


Closet Half Packed… Yes, really!

Your wardrobe requires the same attention. As you get older, you really need to revamp your style every so often — about every five years. The items hanging in your closet might still fit, but are they really you? While you don’t have to start dressing like the proverbial “little old lady” (actually never!), you need to think about the image you project. You certainly don’t want to look ridiculous though you will notice that many older women do. I observe many women my age in one of two categories — frumpy “I don’t care what I look like. I just want to be comfortable” and “no way am I giving up those youthful styles”. Neither one of these approaches works as far as I’m concerned. At this age, it’s time for classic — think Lauren Bacall, Katherine Hepburn. You can still have so much fun with this. Enjoy the place you have earned in this life and the wisdom you have achieved. Flaunt it in fact! You will only get this one chance.

Sorting out your stuff equates to sorting out your life. How cool is that? You get to figure out and plan the next new you. If you’re clever enough, you can even guide your husband in that direction too. Norman has been very cooperative so far. While we are anxious to get this moving show on the road, at the same time we are conscious of the fact that we need to do it right. That means really thinking about what’s making the cut for the moving van. In some cases, we have already purchased new items that we know will serve us better on the other end.

So ask yourself, what do I need to make me tick? Do I really need to hold on to all these old things from the past — knick knacks, family photos, old ideas I never got around to bringing to fruition or is it time to let go? I realize this may be really difficult for some but you would be surprised how liberating it is once you get rolling. It’s really exciting to think about a new future chapter. You can do this even if you aren’t moving anywhere.

In the past, I would have been able to pack up a whole house in a week. In a pinch, I could still do so. But truly, what’s the rush? I can only spend a few hours a day making thoughtful choices about what goes in each box and that’s what I’m doing. The rest of the time, I’m trying to enjoy my new retirement life and get healthy — a “task” which I am pleased to say seems to be progressing really well.

Plan B Explained

img_4286Let it be said that there has always been a “Plan B” — any serious plan for life requires alternatives. It was pretty simple. We were driving along in the car and one of us expressed the thought that moving to France was just not the best idea for us after all. We came to this realization for many reasons not the least of which was managing my serious health issues. While we were confident from our experience this past summer that French healthcare was completely reliable and definitely much more affordable than in the U.S., expressing your needs and getting the required care can be a challenge if you are not entirely fluent. Aside from that, there’s a boatload of paperwork and bureaucracy to wade through before you can participate effortlessly and freely in the system. This would require a considerable amount of time and energy we perhaps might not readily possess.

In addition, many things have changed in the European Union in the past year and a half. If you have been following the news, you know this. With major immigration issues, economic uncertainties, and the rising popularity of right-wing political parties, the easy-going, welcoming, secure atmosphere of the EU is beginning to dissipate. These circumstances affect everyone’s daily life in these countries whether citizen or expat. We viewed it as becoming a challenge we did not particularly want to take on at this point in our lives.

Being immediately agreeable on the pursuit of Plan B, we began to sort out our stateside options which, honestly, took less than five minutes. After a quick mental tour of all 50 states taking into consideration climate, cost of living, and various opportunities, we settled on Oregon —  a state we are both rather familiar with from several living as well as travel experiences. As authentic Californians, we are really westerners at heart which I’m sure also influenced our decision.

img_1747Our chosen destination is Eugene, home of the University of Oregon and the Oregon Ducks. With a population of about 160,000, it is Oregon’s second largest city. At one-sixth the size of our current city, it will provide us with the small town ambience and much slower pace of life we seek. Eugene is situated along the beautiful, meandering Willamette River surrounded by an abundance of parks and bike paths we look forward to enjoying. From our research we know that we will be able to accomplish one of our major goals — buying a turnkey home (an actual house — not a condo or townhouse… ahhh, four private walls) for cash and eliminating our mortgage as well as HOA fees. If we can’t control the cost of healthcare (as we could by going to France), at least we can control the cost of housing which will make a huge difference in our retirement budget giving us the ability to visit France any time we want. Even though Oregon is a small state, there will be plenty of opportunities to explore as Eugene’s central location allows one to travel easily from the mountains to the sea to the desert all at relatively short distances. Granted, it will be wet and cool compared to the Silicon Valley, but such would have been the case in our French location. So we’re slipping on our rain boots, popping open our umbrellas, and setting sail for the Beaver State known for its Douglas Firs, hazelnuts, chanterelle mushrooms, Chinook Salmon, Dungeness Crabs, Pinot Noir wines… and RAIN! At the end of this month, we will make our first exploratory journey to reacquaint ourselves with the area… reporting live on the blog from Eugene, of course!

There’s a reason we often call those hopes, aspirations, or ambitions we have dreams. Certainly all dreams don’t come true nor were they meant to. Sometimes they’re even more cherished when they remain illusions. And you can always dream new dreams. Growing up moving so much as I’ve mentioned before, my mom taught me that old adage, “Home is where you hang your hat.” I have lived by that my whole life. I’m an expert at making anyplace home instantly even when we are only there for a few days. As long as we are together, I know we can follow our dreams in Eugene and make it our new home.

So, as it turns out, it’s a good thing we named this blog Paris and Beyond since “beyond” can represent anywhere. France will always remain our favorite vacation destination and you never know, maybe someday due to the wisdom of our choices we will truly be able to say, “My other house is in France.” Meanwhile, we are definitely looking forward to new discoveries and adventures on the road to this next stage of our lives just 566 miles away. We will keep you posted with all the details. Please stay tuned!!


From Plan A to Plan B


When I went off to college in 1973 to study Spanish and inevitably other languages, it seemed logical that I was destined to travel. I had specific plans to do so but for various, sometimes personally complicated reasons they never worked out. I got as far as Mexico on many occasions, but never beyond that. To say the least, I was disappointed. My aspirations lay much farther afield in Europe — particularly Spain and, as one might assume, many other countries such as Italy and France. However, life intervened and twenty years went by without ever getting to travel off this continent.

Then, in 1994, I completely revamped my life and started fresh. This time I had a partner who not only had traveled much of the world but was willing and anxious to travel more and share it with me. For starters, he promised to take me to Paris in 1999. Considering all the things we had to deal with as we began our new life together, this was an admirable goal. Needless to say, we got a little sidetracked taking care of business so it wasn’t until 2006 when our dream finally took flight. April in Paris… I will never forget standing on the Pont des Arts and looking directly at the Tour Eiffel for the very first time. I was moved to tears — an uncommon reaction for me. I couldn’t believe I was (finally!!) actually there. We spent an amazing ten days touring the city. It was everything I had dreamed of and more.

After this experience, a little seed planted itself in our brains — one that would sprout and grow into the dream of retiring in France. So, in 2012, we decided it was time to get to know France beyond Paris because, as is often said, “Paris is not France and France is not Paris”. We planned a comprehensive 1700-mile, 7-week driving tour of France. At the same time, we started this blog. You can read all about our experiences in the 2012 posts and go to the Tour 2012 page to see all of our destinations. In the process, we came to know so much about the true France that most Americans never learn. Among other things, it possesses incredible diversity, many warm and welcoming people, and it is a veritable culinary heaven in countless ways. We were fascinated with it all but rather exhausted at the end of our long journey and definitely ready to return home — basically coming to the conclusion that retiring in France was not for us.

However, we were far from finished with France. While on our 2012 trip, we discovered southwestern France, specifically the Dordogne region and fell in love with it. In 2015, as our dream to retire in France surprisingly resurfaced, we realized it was time for a second tour focused on this area. Once again, I diligently planned a 600-mile, 8-week trip that would allow us to visit in depth potential retirement locations. We came away from an extremely successful experience with a very clear idea about where we wanted to live and totally ready to launch ourselves in that direction.

For the next year, we dedicated ourselves daily to extensive research about France, what it would take to move there, and an intensive study of the French language in order to prepare for our 2016 trip to our chosen retirement locale just outside of Périgueux about two hours from Bordeaux. As far as we were concerned, we already had one foot on French soil. At that point, just one year away from retirement, we seemed poised to make the leap across the pond. Well, if you have read any of the more recent posts here, you know how this trip turned out… not exactly as planned. Somewhere in all the chaos, between returning unexpectedly from France, seeking medical care, and getting resettled at home, we arrived at “Plan B”. More about that in our next post…

If you are purely a Francophile, you might not be so enthused about continuing to read this blog. But if you are curious about how people deal with major unexpected and sometimes dire circumstances in their lives, stay positive, move on, and still find excitement and adventure, then you might want to follow along. We hope you do. 

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