Gilligan’s Island

Hopefully the headline grabbed your attention like I intended.  I was going to write about how Emily and I are living in the condo version of Gilligan’s Island.  Among our neighbors we have a professor, a Mr. and Mrs. Thurston Howell III, a skipper (of sorts), and older versions of Ginger and Marianne.  Emily and I would be Gilligan.  That story line didn’t play out though because there is too much depth of character in our neighbors, and the TV show equivalents would not do them justice.

We had met most of our neighbors on separate occasions prior to a small gathering last Wednesday evening.  Michelle and Jacqueline (pronounced Mee-shell) are our neighbors across the hall.  They are the only other mostly full-time residents and are kind of like the condo/HOA president.  Michelle has worked as a management consultant in far flung places like New York and Columbus, Ohio.  He and Jacqueline also have a place in Geneva and enjoy golf.

We met our neighbor Janet two weeks ago when we got locked out of our place because of the lock breaking.  At the evening soiree, we got to meet her husband, the professor, Pierre.  Pierre is a linguist and has been teaching in and around the subject of languages for many years.  He is now helping Emily and I with our French when we have questions.  Pierre speaks, as far as I know, French, English, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Norwegian and is teaching himself Mandarin.  He can read many other languages as well.  Emily and I are learning a lot about the nuances of languages from Pierre.

Janet…, Janet is hard to wrap your mind around.  If I could put the little exploding head emoji on here, I would probably take the easy way out and just use that as my description for Janet.  I am not sure what all Janet has done in her life for work, but suffice to say it has been a variety of things.  Now she mainly skis and does long trail runs and apparently enjoys technical downhill running (she’s 72)!  Janet is also the person in the know regarding anything going on in the Cham valley.  She helped me volunteer for the race Emily did this past Sunday which helped raise money for the local kid’s Nordic team. Janet is also going to help Emily and I get involved in some of the various clubs in the valley, such as the Chamonix Mont-Blanc running club.

The last, but certainly not least, person at our little gathering was the now unfortunately christened, “Downstairs” Chris.  Chris has lived in the condo below us for many years, and was previously known simply as Chris.  My entry into the condo above her’s resulted in the new nickname.  Chris is a serious cyclists and skier.  She is going to kill me, er, I mean, take me out for a bike ride sometime in the near future.  Although she doesn’t know it just yet, Emily and I are also hoping she will be a guide for us during the ski season.

Our gathering last week had a mixture of French and English along with appropriate translations.  It also had a bit of the history of Le Tour and the Cham valley.  A wonderful mixture of fresh tomatoes, olives, mozzarella and herbs was served with either wine or Champagne.  Emily and I had a wonderful evening and are looking forward to getting to know our neighbors in even more depth as we continue on our adventure.

Instead of Gilligan’s Island, I think we determined our condo is more like a novel.  Something along the lines of Fredrik Backman’s, “A man called Ove.”  Either way, we hope the story continues for a long time.

Now go out and be consistent.


Crate and Car

Big things have happened since the last blog update.  A week or so ago our crate from America finally arrived.  We had packed a lot of our winter gear and clothing in a crate that was about 7 feet tall and 4 feet wide.  The maximum amount of weight we could put in the crate was 1,000 lbs.  Back in April when we packed the crate we managed to only fill up about 3/4 of the crate and its weight was around 700 lbs.  We felt bad about not maximizing our crate’s capacity, but by the time we packed it up, we had already thrown or given away, a lot of stuff.

We were told our crate would arrive at our new place in France in 6-8 weeks from the time it left Frisco on April 20.  The actual time was more like 12 weeks since the delivery company could not be bothered to drive an hour and a half up the road from Annecy.  Our crate was sitting at the delivery company for about 2 1/2 weeks despite our shipping guy supposedly hounding them to get it delivered.

When the crate was finally delivered it was like Christmas, only we were just getting all of our own stuff instead of new stuff.  Some of the most important things in the crate were kitchen items like our iron skillet.  You really can’t make cornbread without an iron skillet.  You can make it, but its just not the same.

We also got our skis and snowboard and biking gear and are now fully kitted out for about half of the outdoor activities in the Cham valley.  The other half of outdoor activities in Cham involve climbing up and jumping off mountains, and Emily and I do not have the gear for those activities.

The other big thing that finally happened was that we got our car.  It took a while since transferring money from the US to anywhere can be a hastle.  I believe it has to do with the fact that the US does not use the metric system but that is a whole other blog topic.

Both times we went to Domancy to look at and then buy the car, our salesperson, Stephane, met us at the train station in increasingly fancy cars.  I do not have enough time to write about all the fancy new tech in German cars, but simply put, we were blown away.  A 4 year old with an Ipad would likely be more able to understand and operate the new cars than anyone over 35.  You don’t even have to touch buttons anymore.  You can just wave your hand around in the air to switch screens or turn up the radio or call your mom.  Or you can just talk to the car and tell it what to do.

Stephane’s evil plan to sucker Emily and I into buying a car that was 3-4 times as expensive as the one we wanted did not work as we are strong willed with weak wallets.  Our BMW 118d has none of the fancy new tech except for navigation which is the first time we have had such a high and mighty thing in a car.  Navigation was crucial however since we are unfamiliar with the European roads.

The other crucial item for the car at least in our minds, was that it have all-wheel drive.  Our little village gets a lot of snow, usually all at once, and we did not want to be stuck depending on the bus in case of emergency.  We will still be using the bus and sometimes the train for most travel though as filling up the car with gas is ridiculous.  3/4 of a tank cost me just under 60 euros!  Still, it will be nice to have the car in case of emergencies like a sudden need for Pizzeria des Moulins when it is too late for the bus.

Go out and be consistent!


Unfortunately this is not about a car.  Hopefully that blog will come soon.  This blog is about the misadventures of Chris and Emily so far this week.

It all began earlier in the week when we found that for some reason, the money we had transferred from our American bank account, did not get to our French bank account.  One would think this is a simple process, but au contraire mon ami!  Even though you are not trying to take money out of the French bank account, but actually trying to put money into it, if there is even a period wrong on whatever form you use, the French bank will not accept your money and will send it back to America.  This is not tres convienient.  Basically you have to start over from the beginning and hope it works the next time.

Our next hiccup occurred on Thursday morning when the lock on our door decided it was retiring.  With us on the outside.  “Did you forget your keys and lock yourself out somehow?” you ask.  No, we both had our keys, but neither one would work because the lock itself broke inside the mechanism in the door.  We had also made the mistake of not leaving any windows open or our deck door unlocked, so we had no way to get inside.  Not that it would have mattered since the door would not open from the inside either.

We had to call a locksmith.  Well, actually, first we had to figure out what the word for “locksmith” was in french.  Seurrier, obviously.  The first guy we called spoke less english than I do french, but we did work out that he was retired and therefore not able to help.  All of this led to us eventually meeting our downstairs neighbor, Madame Dupont, who is British but speaks fluent french.  Madame Dupont called around for us and left messages at several locksmith phone numbers, but we had no luck with anyone calling us back.  In the process we found out that Madame Dupont is also a trail runner and has done some of the same races as Emily and I.

Madame Dupont let us borrow tools to try and get the door open and kept us fed and watered during the four hours it took to get our door open.  Eventually a locksmith who spoke english called us back and showed up to fix our door.  He was very nice and we kinda liked the guy!  (For those not in the Baker family, that last sentence was an inside joke).  He ended up having to replace the entire lock and give us new keys.

Our misadventures continued the next day when Emily’s phone stopped working.  She somehow managed to get onto the Orange (the French version of ATT, Verizon, etc.) website, and we began a french chat with a helpful service person.  This person found our file and said he could not help us but would forward the file on to the appropriate department.  Soon after that, rather than fix whatever problem there was, Orange decided to suspend Emily’s account entirely.  She could then not even access her account on the Orange website as it refused to accept her email and login information.  Somehow Emily’s account ended up in the fraud department.  We have no idea what happened or how it happened.

After spending many hours on the phone yesterday, we waited eagerly to hear from the fraud department today.  A man from the fraud department called this morning as we were on the bus headed home from grocery shopping.  As you might have guessed from the reading the rest of this blog, the man did not speak english.  Fortunately, he did speak enough english to let us know that he was sending an email that would help us get Emily’s account un-suspended.  All she had to do was send to Orange via email, all the paperwork we had already sent them including, passport, electricity bill, bank info, height, weight, hair color, favorite candy, mother’s shoe size and father’s favorite word (pulchritude, for those not in the know).  Sure enough, a few minutes after sending in all the details of her entire life, Emily’s phone began to work again! Relief flooded throughout our condo.  We are hoping to not have any more of these type of adventures any time soon.

On an entirely different topic, I did take an interesting picture the other day.  Please feel free to let me know your thoughts on the interpretation of the picture below.

Now go out and be consistent!

Sign at the train station in Montroc.