The Holidays over and we get a message from a Florida friend that she’s planning to visit us. We are thrilled and plan to meet her in Paris at our favorite Ibis Hotel. With some concerns for our elderly dog, Sandy, we decide to take her with us on the dog friendly train. The cats will be left alone for 2 days with plenty of food and litter and the occasional drop-in by one of my English friends to make sure they are okay. I am excited about seeing my dear friend, Eileen, and about really seeing Paris. That episode of the peripheral road wasn’t all that great!

We meet Eileen who had arrived the day before and hear that she has met a tour director and made plans: a tour of the Louvre as well as a dinner at the Moulin Rouge. Sandy was welcome at the Ibis and with walks (see below) and plenty of food and drink would be fine left in our room.  

Sandy Sees Paris

The Louvre tour was all I had hoped. Seeing Mona, taking an unscheduled pit stop and getting lost from our tour group, etc. Then that evening the biggest treat of all – The Moulin Rouge! If you go to Paris do consider taking a tour to see the dinner show. You get the best seats in the house and the show is better than any I’ve ever seen any place – even better than Las Vegas! But be prepared to see lots of skin. The men and women are all topless. But so beautiful it’s like watching a painting come to life. Back in Brittany via the TGV (Train Grande Vitesse – or very fast train) we showed Eileen our Brittany countryside. Too soon we were putting Eileen on the TGV for Paris and her return to her beloved Florida. 

Now it was back to reality and the facts of financing this heavenly life. After chatting with other ex-pats Reg decided work in France was hopeless without knowing the language. Change to New Plan: find work in England Mon.-Fri. and come to France on weekends until the housing market became affordable in England. He would go job hunting to see what he could find. Never in our worst nightmares could we have anticipated the age bias in the UK. Reg is past fifty years old and there are no jobs for such an ancient person! After several job seeking trips, he is very discouraged. Our budget is on the skimpy side but still viable.

I’ll bet at this point you are wondering why I say “Living French is Easy?” Well, it is if you have the right attitude. It’s a matter of digging in to get all the paper work done. However, another thing we didn’t anticipate was the funny French way of changing laws when you least expect it. One day you need to send the government one document, the next it’s an entirely different document. But Reg is a patient and thorough man.

Just when we thought we had it all sorted, we get a phone call that puts everything on hold: Reg’s Dad has had a massive stroke and isn’t expected to live. Reg leaves quickly for Florida but arrives after his Dad’s death. He helps with the funeral, and becomes aware of his Mom’s frail health. His brother has been coping alone. I get the call that we may have to come back to Florida to sort out family matters.

Reg comes back to France to find our beloved Sandy (of uncertain age – that’s how it is with rescued animals, you don’t know their history) is having hip problems. Our vet is reluctant to advise euthansia. An experienced vet, he finds no evidence of severe pain and suggests we take her home and let her go when she is ready.  It happens a few days later as she sleeps in her favorite place by the fireplace. She leaves us peacefully.

We enter our second winter in Brittany without Sandy and with the anxiety of waiting for a phone call from Florida. We decide we must return to Reg’s home when his brother calls to tell us he has moved his Mom to a care home for the elderly. Once again, we pack up, cats and all, and head for Florida. Within six months of our arrival, his Mom is dead. A fiercely independent woman, who loved gardening, a care home is not for her. Reg must now dig into a badly neglected family business before we can even consider what we do next. The weather is miserably hot and humid. But the cats are happy in the huge jungle-like Florida property and we have the chance to visit my daughter and her family at Christmas in their beautiful home in St. Augustine.

The decision is made to return to France – that’s our home now – for better or worse.  Unfortunately we could not have made the return to Florida at a worse time. Our paper work had not made its way through the Republic of France’s hallowed halls. We would have to start from scratch upon our return.

I looked forward to our wonderful pleasant Brittany weather after the miserable Florida heat. But it was not to be. We arrived back in the midst of the summer of the Canicule (the worst heat wave in Brittany in years)Nevertheless, I kissed the ground when we arrived! I was at home sweet home!