Last blog – 05 June 2020

It has been awhile, I know, our usual routine went out the window and still hasn’t come back. So why is this the last blog? – well it is and it isn’t, it’s the last blog about our lives in France, because as I type this I can look out of my hotel window at the City of Perth in Western Australia. We arrived last week after a manic two weeks of packing cases, finding flights, shipping 2 suitcases, getting permission to enter Western Australia and cleaning our gite as best we could. We had accumulated a lot of junk over the year and thought we would be able to go to the dump and the like but due to our lock-down no such luck. All of this happened after we received an email saying that our pet transport company had found flights for our pets to get to Melbourne (where animal quarantine is).

Currently we are in quarantine for 2 weeks, we hopefully get out next week – dependant on a negative COVID-19 test. Which will be wonderful as Perth is now opening up and we can see so many people out and about on the streets. However back to France.

Once we knew we could go and had hired a hire car to get us and pets and baggage up to Paris CDG airport. So on Sunday the 24th May we packed up the car, said farewell to our landlords and headed off on our long drive to Paris. It was mostly an uneventful journey and only one gendarme check – which did cause me slight anxiety as Siena was illegally “housed” in the car footwell due to the fact that we couldn’t fit her crate, the cat crate and all our luggage into the car – our solution was to dismantle her crate and store the cat crate inside – it worked but it did mean Siena was not appropriately restrained. Thankfully we got waved through the check point.

Finding the hotel was entertaining and the sat-nav in the car was not useful, but as the airport wasn’t busy and it was a Sunday we were able to drive around a couple of times until we found it. We had a similar experience the following day to get to the petrol station. So Sunday night we were in the hotel room at the Ibis – one of the few hotels still operational at CDG – a little bit different to our last stay at The Pulman. We off-loaded everyone and everything into our room and then took Siena for a walk and surprisingly came across quite a few rabbits nibbling at the grass around the various hotels and buildings! These did interest Siena, but we continued our walk and headed back to the hotel. Wallis had exited his cage and taken up residence under the bed.

We feasted on take-away pizza and cheap but good red wine that night. Not exactly the best last dinner in Paris but these are not normal times. The following day the pet transport people came to get Siena and Wallis we said our good byes – I cried – and then Pat and I had to sort ourselves out, return the hire car and get to our terminal. We did all this and then proceeded to sit in the airport waiting for our check-in info to come up on the display – it never did! Around 2 hours before we were due to fly I did a walk down the entire terminal to see if I could find our check-in desk – which I did, 20 minutes later, 2 lengthy phone conversations (to check Pat’s visa for Australia) and a waiver for my luggage being overweight and we were on our way. Next passport control and security, by this time we were close to our gate open time, but I thought I would have time to find our gate and then have a look at the duty free (there were a couple open). However by the time we got to our gate they called boarding for our flight. So no duty free for me! So on to our flight with Qatar Airways and into our very empty economy class seats. I will say this much, the stewards on Qatar were wonderful, considering the circumstances and the full protective gear they were wearing, they were cheerful, polite and couldn’t have been more wonderful.

We arrived into Doha at about 8:30pm our time but around 12:00 midnight in Doha and everything except a couple of eating places were closed – so again, no duty free. I think we had a 3 hour wait in Doha, but we were surprised to go through a security check again at our gate to board our flight, which also meant we lost the water we had bought. So through security and then on to our Perth bound flight this time in business class (thanks to a cheap upgrade offer). Again absolutely amazing staff on board, and after a glass of champagne and a drink of water, we took off on our final leg home. Pat chose to have something to eat and I chose to sleep, so one of the stewards made up my bed and gave me some pj’s to put on (they are sooooo soft) and I headed off into the land of dreams. It was wonderful I generally don’t sleep on planes but this time I got around 4 hours sleep, which was really good. After that some food, coffee and a couple of films, we arrived in Perth. Pat will be also writing a blog about our time in quarantine on our new blog site called “On the Beach – Delia and Pat in Australia”. I have been keeping myself busy with my art while in quarantine, but here are a few paintings from my final few weeks in France.

Click here to go to the new blog. You will be taken first to enter your name and email address so that you get added to our list. You will get an email to confirm your address (I may know it already yes, but you have to authorise the site to email you. Its the law)

Lock down in France – 29th April 2020

Sorry I know I haven’t been on top of my blog writing but sometimes life is like that.  Up until 2 weeks ago I was a little despondent and slightly bored.  I’ve got no work to do at the moment, and spring cleaning only takes so long.  So wasn’t I happy when there was a skillshare 2 months free offer on one of the YouTube channels that I watch.  I signed up and I have since been painting like a fiend.  Following tutorials on various watercolour things and also how to use Instagram (deliawallace81 if you are interested) etc, I’ve been keeping myself occupied and loving it.  Unfortunately I ran out of watercolour paper yesterday.  I’ve ordered some more but that is looking like it will take 10 days to arrive, so I will try and keep myself occupied with other things.

This Saturday is Pat’s birthday – he is 65 – very disappointed that we can’t go out for a nice meal (or do a trip somewhere) but I’ve lined up a couple of video calls for the evening so we can chat to friends. 

We really don’t know when we will be able to leave France, our gradual move out of quarantine starts on the 11th May but as to when we will be able to fly home (and when our pets can go) we just don’t know.  But here in our rural part of France we are currently safe and sound and enjoying our daily walks around the countryside.

For now, à bientôt, from our wonderful but small part of France – Delia

Locked down until May 11th

Looks like at least another 3 weeks of lock down. Its not been too inconvenient for us, though Delia is missing her coffee mornings with a friend. It feels very removed from the momentous events of global pandemic. Of course we are very inconvenienced by being unable to emigrate, heaven knows when we will be able to transport our pets, I doubt that’s a high priority for freight transport at the moment.

What am I complaining about? I guess it’s keeping us both from getting Covid19 for the time being. We had a lovely skype conversation with K&H in Aberdeen last night. The world must have been doing something not on the web at the time because for two hours we had good quality. It started to break up at about 8.30pm GMT. We had tried a whatsapp chat with R&L my brother and sister-in-law but the quality was so bad it was hard to keep going. Internet bandwidth here has never been wonderful. We read of poor unfortunates who have their netflix streaming slowed down – we dream of ever being able to stream. I often read of how bad broadband is in Australia, my research suggest its still better than rural France. Not surprising really when just up the road, the telephone line has come undone from a post and droops so low I could touch it.

Spring continues to spring. We had a storm the other night, big thunder and lightning and the internet turned off (I guess we do have a biased focus toward the internet, it is after all our main access to the outside world, especially now our TV bust).

Anyway here’s some photos I shot on a spring walk.

Under the Dome

It’s been a year since the dome came down. A year since going out of the house has been limited to a 1km radius. Its given us about 6.5km of circumference enclosing mostly fields and woods, all good for dog walking. Its been quieter for a few days since our neighbour went stir crazy and ran down the street beyond the boundary shouting “the dandelions, the dandelions, I can’t stand it…He had been spending his days trying to remove all the dandelions from his acre or so of grass, unsuccessfully. I’ve nearly run out of toilet rolls again so nothing to exchange for food. I did grab one of the few free range chickens but roasting is difficult since the gas ran out months ago. Driving out to the shop is easier but the check-points only let you pass for a toll of 6 toilet rolls. You can still buy wine and baguettes of course. Wallis the cat is getting fat on his diet of field mice and Siena looks hungrily at the cows instead of barking. At least the covid19 podcasts have run their course and I’ve forgotten what crowds are like.

OK reality – its hard to believe that lock down has only been a few weeks, it certainly feels longer. To be honest, there are a lot worse places to be stuck and life isn’t really too different. Restrictions in Australia and especially WA have become even tighter and, even if we had found a flight, we would still have had to quarantine in a hotel room for 14 days. I will have to make it to Aus (anywhere in Aus) before September or my visa expires and a further perhaps €4,500 and at least 9 months. In reality I would expect them to just extend the activation date, I mean its not as if I’m not trying – but they may not consider an inability to ship pets to Aus to be a valid reason for delay.

Apart from the snow the beginning of last week the weather is definitely spring like. I may even need my sun hat to protect my exposed head.

Here’s some shots I took on my lengthy 5km walk this morning (all inside the dome perimeter). Oh, and a sunset under lockdown, just the same as not.

4 Weeks of Lock down – near the end of Week 2 – 29th March 2020

Flashback…“So we are back in our rural part of France, hoping that the next two weeks don’t cause further delays for us.

Well we got that wrong didn’t we?  So what delayed us apart from being in lockdown? – firstly our flight via Singapore got cancelled – we were able to book on an Emirates flight, but then we were put into lockdown and the airlines stopped taking animals on indirect flights in case they were to get stuck somewhere other than their destination country – fyi. no direct flights from Paris to Melbourne.  So now it looks like we are here in France until May sometime.  Yep May!

We are also in lock down until the 15th April – which is after Easter.  I have been leaving the house once a day to go for a walk, but we’re now restricted to only being 1km from our house for our exercise!  It’s frustrating and not a lot of fun.  Pat has been doing our shopping once a week as we’re not sure where my immune system is at after my illness.  So I’ve actually not been anywhere for over 2 weeks.

Pat is still working, which is good, but I’m not at the moment, so I have a lot of spare time – so far I have completed my colouring pencil course – which was 3 pictures in 1 week, and last week I went back to a picture that I hadn’t completed for an earlier assignment and finished it.  I’ve also been painting cards so hopefully I can still send birthday cards.  I’ve made hot cross buns – which have all been eaten so I now need to make more and today I tried cinnamon biscuits for the first time – they are really, really nice.

We’ve also being slowly spring cleaning the house – which actually has been good – so far the attic and the lounge have been completed and I’m part way through the bathroom.  We were going to do the kitchen this weekend but I really couldn’t be bothered.  I’ve also spent a lot of time on my couch watching YouTube and painting my nails.  Maybe I can get good at painting them by the time I get to Australia?

We have been fortunate that for the most part the weather has been lovely spring weather, however we do actually have snow forecast for tonight (and, breaking news from late blog, it snowed all day Monday) interesting as we were thinking that it had all past.

For now, à bientôt, from our wonderful but small part of France – Delia

Socially distanced

Like most of the world to varying degrees, we are practising social distancing. In France we have this restriction enforced by armed gendarmes, having to carry a document for each day for each type of outing – shopping for necessities, exercising (no more than 2km from one’s home), medical visits, going to essential work or attending our vulnerable relatives . We had one ready adapting the last one to hopefull get us on the plane to Perth next Wednesday but never got the chance to test its validity. We had a slight hiccup when Aus closed its borders to non-residents but checking with Aus foreign affairs confirmed my visa details as being “resident” . The main problem when airlines blocked carriage of live animals, meaning Siena and Wallis (booked for Monday) couldn’t go. Short of hiring a private jet this rather put our trip on hold. We don’t know anyone who could look after out pets, especially with the burden of keeping up their vet visit and pet passports for an indefinite period. Plus kennels and catteries are not considered essential and are closed.

It feels like its been a long time in limbo for us, certainly the last few months of last year. Social distancing has become almost habitual. Apart from a few rare outings we have had to stay home and avoid social gatherings all during Delia’s cancer treatment. Where we live is one of the most isolated parts of France so it isn’t too different from day to day life at the moment. My work is slow but I am keeping busy with my few web sites and building my new one for Aus. Delia had stopped work and just found that her agency’s work has dried up in any case

One of the things we most look forward to once we get to Perth is an improved social life but even that would, of necessity, be postponed by a further fortnight of self-isolation. Still we share such things with much of the world, it is not getting home that disappoints

At least it is spring here and, for the moment at least, the sun shines. Cherry and plum blossom abounds. I bought a couple of lenses from eBay and have been playing around with portraits and close-ups of blossom.

A romantic weekend in Paris – sort of – 14th March 2020

To start we appear to have everything in place to be able to travel at the end of the month, as long as we are not prevented from doing so due to the COVID-19 virus. We are hopeful that we will still be able to get to Australia this month.

As last weekend we were due in Paris due to the fact that our original flight date was the 10th March, we had booked 3 nights in a nice hotel at CDG, with the plan of relaxing and hopefully getting up to the top of the Eiffel tower. Well we did get to do these things, with a slight variation. We were joined by 2 friends from the UK who we had not been able to see during our farewell tour (as they were both out of the country) so they basically came for a day trip to say goodbye. So they joined us for our Sunday trip into Paris, a walk around Montmartre in the morning, lunch at our favourite Bistro near the Eiffel tower. Pat and I ordered the same dessert – which made one of our friends go “oh wow” when they arrived – she considered changing her dessert – but by that stage they were flambéing her crepe. Then off to the Eiffel tower, unfortunately by this stage the rain and wind had started. We did get to the top of the tower, but did not enjoy a glass of champagne on the top because the wind was just too strong. We did get to have a drink on the 2nd level while watching the rain from inside a bubble! But it was great to see the view from the top – especially as the clouds and rain waxed and waned the pictures that we got were incredible.

On Monday Pat and I had a late start to the day and a big breakfast, we then went to look at how to get between the train station, hotel and Terminal 1, after this exploration and a discussion with the hotel reception staff the decision was made that we would be best using a taxi to get to and from the hotel because we will have so much luggage – it will just make our journey easier. After that the day was ours to do as we liked, which basically meant we headed to the heated pool to swim and have a sauna. We relaxed for an hour or so down by the pool (it was deserted) and then headed back to our room to sit and read in the little bit of sunshine that was streaming in through the windows. We did do a quick trip out to buy some snacks.

Dinner that night was a walk to one of the nearby hotels as our hotel was incredibly expensive for food and the previous night we had spent a small fortune on our dinner and wine. We had pizza which we enjoyed and then walked back to our hotel to sleep. Tuesday was our return journey to Limoges – a little bit of a lie in and then down to breakfast. We packed up and headed back to Paris. We weren’t going to have a large lunch, but found a restaurant near our train station that had some lovely salads so we stopped and had our lunch and then walked through a nearby park to head back to the station just as our train platform was announced.

So we are back in our rural part of France, hoping that the next two weeks don’t cause further delays for us.

For now, à bientôt, from our wonderful part of France – Delia

The Long Goodbye

We have been saying goodbye for months it seems, and yet we are still here in France. We are now working towards 26th March if we can change our flights accordingly. We are still going to Paris next weekend due to fixed hotel bookings, tickets up the Eiffel tower and friends with their own bookings too. See two weeks time for the photos.

Last year we approached a company to handle the pet transport from door to door. But by the time we were able to start the actual process (apart from rabies shots early on) they had disconnected from their French counterparts and we were going to have to deal with each separately. Our delay really came down to one form about whicj we had read the comment “when Isabelle has dealt with that” as meaning it was in hand. We did ask but no specific reply. So when said form suddenly became vital for the actual import authorisation we new nothing about the fact that “Isabelle” expected us to have sorted this out. Anyway we will be suggesting to them that, despite having separated as operators, they should maintain better co-ordination.

One of our farewell lunches happened this Thursday when my photoclub got together at the Relais de Gorre. We had been there only a week or so previously for another farewell, so the proprietor was surprised to see us.

And three more shots I took walking Siena over the past week.

Delays – 26th February 2020

Well what has been happening in our part of the world, unfortunately we appear to have a delay – we didn’t have our import permit for Siena or Wallis and it means that it looks like we will have to delay the transporting of them.  At the moment we are still trying to decide if I will travel on our original date and Pat will come later or if we both wait and come later.  It is frustrating as the delay was caused by a breakdown in communication.

So what has been happening here – we sold the car, and have been trying to catch up with various people to say goodbye.  We’ve had one lunch so far, an afternoon tea and tomorrow we have both!  Thankfully one of my friends has been incredibly generous and has lent us her car to use while we are still here – she is also dropping us off at the train station when we know when we are going.

I will admit I did have to buy another bigger suitcase – it appears I have been buying various items (and been given a few) over the past 12 months so what 12 months ago filled one suitcase now takes up two!

I have started to put in job applications; I had forgotten how long each application takes.  It is difficult.

Today we did got notice that the import permit has been granted so hopefully we can travel when we originally planned.  We’re just waiting to hear if that is possible. 

For now, à bientôt, from our wonderful part of France – Delia

I say! There’s a squirrel nesting in my bonnet.

So, as Delia described in her blog last week, we had ourselves a Farewell UK Tour. Here is a bit of photographic detail – not a comprehensive diary like Delia’s (so don’t feel left out anyone if I didn’t have my camera handy).

After arriving at Liverpool Street station from Stansted, Delia had wanted to have lunch in, of all places, a Wetherspoons pub. Not renowned for its style, this particular site was rather speccie (see what I did there for my Aussie readers?).

We planned to look at some of the architecture on our way to a place I had arranged to fix the broken screen on my smartphone. Weather mostly dreadful, Spitalfields mostly closed and Leadenhall mostly under tarpaulins. I did, however, manage to take some photos of the remarkable architectural style juxtaposition when I came back to pick up my phone.

A night in Wimbledon and off to my brothers in Buckinghamshire. Food, walks, great nephew and more food.

Back to London to meet up with K at St Pancras, hotel then back to the station for afternoon tea at St Pancras Hotel. Champagne, cucumber sandwiches (and more) a variety of teas including cold sparkling Jasmine – petit fours and scones with cream.

Theatre that evening (photos not permitted 🙂 ) and then meetup with H on the Friday and off to the Wallace Collection (no relation unfortunately, though we made much of having our own Wallace Collection back in France – my, how we laughed).

Greek dinner that evening then goodbye to H off home to Aberdeen and us off to Leicester. We went onto T&R’s whilst K went to an ex-work colleague’s. That evening T&R and us met up with B&S for some pub grub. Brunch with K the next morning she headed off home herself. We though, headed off to Bradgate Park for a bracing walk.

On to Nottingham for our last stop at M&S. More relaxing though we did have a day out at Ilam and Dovedale.

And so back to France tired but happy.

Back to preparing for leaving for Oz. Things on Facebook marketplace. Including, I felt a bit late, our car. But no, before I had a chance to advertise it elsewhere I had a buyer from the other side of Limousin. I had spent quite a bit of time cleaning inside and out. I totally forgot that there had been some seed pods and leaves stuck down the bonnet hinge line. When I opened it there was a whole batch of hazelnut shells. And the under-bonnet insulation was bulging with leaves and the like. I was a bit embarrassed and made a joke that I wouldn’t charge extra for the nut shells. All was fine, even with the hour or so it took us to go through all the bureaucratic rigmarole the French make you go through for the selling process. Our faithful Fiesta headed off into the sunset in good hands. It was only after they had left, seeing the handfules of fluff and nuts that it occurred to me that it was a squirrel nest. I have wondered about the leaves and such since we seldom parked actually under a tree. But we had seen a squirrel out and about the garden, and there was a hazel tree near the car. So either there’s a hibernating squirrel having had an unexpected trip or one at least wondering where his home had gone.