May 15, 2014. St. Raphael, French Riviera, France.
When I was a young boy growing up in Terre Haute, my father spoke GI French at the dinner table that he had learned from being stationed in Paris, France during the big War, to end all wars. This experience caused me to dream that one day I too might be able to travel to France. Well, I have been blessed and have had the opportunity to travel to France several times in my life. But, the dream changed with age and time and the dream evolved over my lifetime from traveling to France, to live in France for an extended period of time. This year, I looked forward to implementing the dream by living in France, taking French lessons to improve my French and taking cooking classes to share in the French love of food. That was the dream. It was vague and fuzzy as most pleasant dreams are. There was a vision of a French farmhouse, fields of lavender, forests, nearby villages, and great farmer’s markets. What the dream lacked was definition. Now that we are in France we are struggling with how to make the dream a reality.
We have looked for our farmhouse online for six months to make our dream a reality. While there are many websites, friends and families willing to assist us with our search, the search has been more difficult in reality, than either of us would have ever imagined. First, you have a budget. That is reality. The chateau in the forest and the villa overlooking the French Riviera are not on our budget. Next, you have to choose an area, and in reality, you have to build a foundation under your dream. We thought we wanted to rent a home in Dordogne France known for its woods, markets and foie-gras. But, we questioned whether 3 months in such a bucolic setting would be too peaceful and quiet. So, when we left Paris on Tuesday, we abandoned the dream of a farmhouse in the forests and went for the bright lights of the French Riviera with iPad and Mac in hands searching for a villa by the Mediterranean Sea and a little more excitement than Dordogne. Our first stop was Avignon, a nice walled city in the south of France approximately an hour from the Mediterranean Sea. The Popes resided in Avignon for about 70 years and built churches, cathedrals, bridges and a lasting relationship with the French people. But, it was just an overnight stop for us. Our next stop was St. Raphael, which is directly on the Mediterranean Sea. We inspected a house, a mile from the Bord de Mer, which had four bedrooms, a swimming pool, in a gated community that needed codes to get in and out of, and, was within our budget. But, as we drove around the area, there was lots of traffic, no farmer’s markets, no forests, and seemed to be filled with hustle and bustle which obscured our dream. We spent the evening discussing the pros and cons of renting in St. Raphael, or somewhere else in France, which would more nearly fit the dream. After our gut check last night, this morning we have decided to go back to our original plan and drive 7 hours to Dordogne to see if the reality and the dream match there. More to follow.
Norm and Rita