In our journey towards living abroad we have done years worth of research and planning and decision-making and dreaming. Our dream of living in Italy was recently squashed by the Italian Consulate when after months of requesting additional documents and having to delay our original departure date we are still without a visa.
However, we are resilient as only the parents of eight children can be. When Plan A falls apart, Plan B moves to the Plan A spot and becomes a completely suitable replacement without regret. So our Plan B location was next on our visa application checklist. We found another apartment, with a totally awesome landlord – who speaks English – and went online and requested a visa appointment. This time we lucked out and the location of the consulate was in San Francisco.
So on January 2, we made the 4 hour trip to one of our favorite cities in the world, parked the car near Grant Street, located the Consulate for our meeting later in the day, had a delightful lunch at John’s Grill [where Dashiell Hammet wrote the “Maltese Falcon”], took a stroll through the Westfield Mall and all of our favorite SF stores – many of which were still decorated for the holidays – and eventually headed over to Kearny Street for our meeting.
We arrived on time at 88 Kearny Street and rode the elevator to the 6th floor and waited outside the locked door for another 10 minutes until a young man in a security uniform came and opened the door and had us go through the security screening and then on to the waiting room.
We didn’t have to wait long before a very nice young woman called us to the counter and asked for our documents. We handed her the entire collection as specified on the Consulate Website and in the order requested. She gave us a big smile when she noted that we were retirees and finished going through the stack of paper. We then signed the applications in front of her, got our fingerprints scanned into her computer system, had our photos taken and were told that we would have an answer in 7 to 10 business days.
So we headed back to the car and drove home thinking that at least the process was faster and better organized than our experience at the Italian Consulate in LA.
Saturday (three days after our mid-week trek to California) we get a “We tried to deliver” notice from the post office. Making the assumption that there wasn’t enough time to get the actual visa we believed we would be receiving a request for additional documentation, similar to our experience with the Italian Consulate. Today Alan headed to the post office and called me from the car to let me know that our visa was approved and that we would be spending the next year speaking French.
As our new Plan A, Carcassonne France will be our home for the next year, with the option to renew if we decide to stay there a bit longer. Carcassonne is in the Langedoc-Rousillon region of southern France about 40 minutes from the French Riviera, Nice, Cannes, and Provence.
Carcassonne is divided into two main parts: the Cité de Carcassonne, a medieval fortress settlement with a history that exceeds two and a half thousand years. Picturesque fortifications with over 3 km of walls with 52 towers, (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was partly shot here) and the town centre, known as the ville basse (literally ‘lower city’), where the other sights and hotels are located. Our second floor apartment is in this area.
The two areas are separated by the Canal du Midi, a canal built in 1666 to connect the Atlantic and Mediterranean Oceans shortening shipping time from one month to one week. Both the Canal du Midi and the medieval fortress are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
All in all, our plan to retire abroad has been a work in progress for quite a while from choices in South America (Belize, Panama, Costa Rica) to Florence, Italy to our new destination,. We are delighted with our new Plan A and expect to spend the next year enjoying our new city and doing a wee bit of sightseeing which we fully expect to share with all of you!
Viva la France!!