Carcassonne: Children’s Carnival

DELAYED POST, I am catching up our blog after our blogging hiatus while recovering from walking the Camino de Santiago.

November 24, 2013

Children’s’ Carnival

Just before Thanksgiving, Carcassonne offered a week-long Children’s Carnival at the west side of the Bastide, the traditional “old town.”

The carnival just “popped up” out of the blue.  Carcassonne seems to be very much be like Reno, Nevada with special events nearly every weekend.  We used the fun to expose Sami, the mini-pin puppy, to the excitement and noise.  We keep working on socializing her well with people and background noise.  We had fun sipping vin chaud (hot spiced wine) and watching happy children.

Tracy and Sami at the Children's Carnival
Tracy and Sami at the Children’s Carnival

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Carcassonne: Thanksgiving 2013

DELAYED POST, I am catching up our blog after our blogging hiatus while recovering from walking the Camino de Santiago.

November 28, 2013

Tracy and I enjoying our first Thanksgiving abroad.  We celebrated the traditional American (and Canadian) holiday to keep our old family traditions alive while adopting new local traditions.

While our apartment does have an oven, it is a trifle on the small size.  So I located a large turkey breast, more than enough for the two of us (plus leftovers for cold turkey sandwiches and turkey omelets.)  Tracy had the experience of, after years of cooking extra-large turkeys, and sometimes more than one, for family gathering figuring out the correct timing for a single turkey breast.  Finally the challenge of converting  the fahrenheit temperatures to the oven’s celsius settings.

Tracy dominated our little French oven for some amazing turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, corn, deviled eggs, garlic bread, with a local rosé wine. It was a classic, wonderful dinner followed by Religieuse creme puff pastries from our favorite pâtisserie.  Sami, the min-pin puppy, had her first “people food” with a Thanksgiving dinner all her own.

Wonderful quiet evening at home despite missing our large extended family back in the US, whom we visited with via FaceTime later in the evening.

Thanksgiving dinner 2013
Thanksgiving dinner 2013

Carcassonne: Smashing Pumpkins (Festival de Carcassonne)

The Festival de Carcassonne (Carcassonne Festival) is one of the major cultural events for the South of France and is now one of France’s largest festivals with nearly 120 shows ranging from opera, dance, theatre, classical music, cirque, French and international popular music.  More than 80 of the 120 shows have free admission. It’s Carcassonne’s version of Arttown with an emphasis on the performing arts.  From the end of June to August, artists perform at 10 different venues, including the Roman theatre in the medieval fortress of la Cité de Carcassonne.

Festival de Carcassonne
Festival de Carcassonne

Adam and Liz just happened to be visiting us over Adam’s birthday.  As Karma would have it, one of Adam’s favorite bands, Smashing Pumpkins, was performing in Théâtre Jean-Deschamps inside la Cité de Carcassonne for Festival de Carcassonne on Adam’s birthday.  The only “band shirt” Adam brought on this trip just happened to be from Smashing Pumpkins’ “Zero” tour.

Adam wearing his Smashing Pumpkins' Zero shirt
Adam wearing his Smashing Pumpkins’ Zero shirt

Smashing Pumpkins was performing at the Festival de Carcassonne as part of their European “Shamrocks and Shenanigans 2013” tour.  The universe had spoken and Adam and Liz were going to spend the evening of Adam’s 22nd birthday watching Smashing Pumpkins perform in the former Roman amphitheater of la Cité’s Théâtre Jean-Deschamps within the citadel’s fortified walls and in the shadow of the Basilique Saint-Nazaire-et-Saint-Celse de Carcassonne (Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse.)

Smashing Pumpkins' program page for Festival de Carcassonne
Smashing Pumpkins’ program page for Festival de Carcassonne

Adam and Liz arrived early at the theater to wait in line and were rewarded with seats in the second row from the stage.  While standing in line they had a long discussion with an English-speaking French couple from Toulouse about the music scene in Europe.

Liz and Adam pointing out a Smashing Pumpkins sign in Place Carnot
Liz and Adam pointing out a Smashing Pumpkins sign in Place Carnot

Adam and Liz had a great time at the concert, right up front to the stage, and they captured some great photos of the performance.

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And, of course, afterwards Liz got Adam a “Shamrocks and Shenanigans 2013” concert tour shirt for his birthday.

Adam in a Smashing Pumpkins' "Shamrocks and Shenanigans" tour shirt
Adam in a Smashing Pumpkins’ “Shamrocks and Shenanigans” tour shirt
Adam in a Smashing Pumpkins' "Shamrocks and Shenanigans" tour shirt
Adam in a Smashing Pumpkins’ “Shamrocks and Shenanigans” tour shirt

Carcassonne: La Fête Nationale Fireworks (Bastille Day)

The La Fête Nationale (Bastille Day) fireworks in Carcassonne are famous throughout the world. In a beautiful medieval setting, the fireworks are lit among the ramparts and, as they shoot into the sky, they light the city below. The display has become extremely popular since its inception in 1898, with more than 700,000 people attending the festivities each year. It is the largest fireworks display in France with a full 25 minutes of pyrotechnics including “Burning the Cite,” immersing the medieval city of la Cité de Carcassonne in a red glow like the city is under siege and on fire.

Tracy, Adam, Liz, Kiara, and I watched from the banks of the river Aube along Quai Bellevue.  We arrived early and enjoy a picnic, Adam Juggled for the crowd, watch people play petanque, Kiara was doted on, drank wine, and we chatted with our neighbors while waiting for the fireworks to start.  A festive and friendly atmosphere.

La Fête Nationale (Bastille Day) is the French national holiday commemorating the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, a pivotal event the anti-monarchy revolution.

Liz, Adam, Tracy, and Kiara enjoying a picnic while we wait for the fireworks to start.
Liz, Adam, Tracy, and Kiara enjoying a picnic while we wait for the fireworks to start.
Adam juggling for the crowd while waiting for the fireworks
Adam juggling for the crowd while waiting for the fireworks
Fireworks over the medieval city of la Cité de Carcassonne
Fireworks over the medieval city of la Cité de Carcassonne

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Carcassonne: 25ème Tour de l’Aude (25th Tour de l’Aude Vintage Car) Rally

With Adam and Liz newly arrived in Carcassonne, they had an opportunity to attend one of the many events that seem to be happening all year-long.  Their first event was at the medieval city of la Cité de Carcassonne:  the 25ème Tour de l’Aude des Voitures Anciennes en Pays Cathare (25th Annual Tour de l’Aude Vintage Car Rally through Cathare Country.)  Eighty plus cars from 1914 to 1945 of the most prestigious brands (Delage, Delahaye, Rolls Royce, Talbot, Bugatti …) from all over Europe. Like “Hot August Nights” for vintage European cars (plus a few US cars like a classic Mustang and Cadillac.)

Tracy, Liz, and Adam at the 25ème Tour de l'Aude des Voitures Anciennes en Pays Cathare (25th Annual Tour de l'Aude Vintage Car Rally.)
Tracy, Liz, and Adam at the 25ème Tour de l’Aude des Voitures Anciennes en Pays Cathare (25th Annual Tour de l’Aude Vintage Car Rally.)
Liz and Adam at the Narbonne gate of the medieval city of la Cité de Carcassonne
Liz and Adam at the Narbonne gate of the medieval city of la Cité de Carcassonne

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Super Bowl And A Trial Run With Luggage

In our family, Super Bowl is a non-traditional holiday that combines football, food, funny TV commercials, good-natured “smack talking” between team fans, and general family fun.  Even the kids that didn’t like football liked the annual Super Bowl party.  This year we hosted our last family Super Bowl event and were lucky to have at least some of the adult kids and their significant others join us, Nick, Adam and his fiance’ Liz, and Casey with his girlfriend Nicole.  Sarah had another commitment and Danielle, Tyler, Dirk, and Dallas are all out-of-state.  It was a great time with kids that could make it and those participating via text messages.  We had former University of Nevada – Reno quarterback Colin Kaepernick starting for the 49ers so he and his team as our hometown favorite had all of us (a first for our family) cheering for the 49ers. The kids followed Kaepernick from his first start to his last with UNR with season tickets and/or UNR v. UNLV games.

Tracy and I had made up a buffet of meats, cheeses, veggies, soft drinks, and craft beers. Lots of visiting, laughs, cheering, and Kiara received lots of attention. Kiara, however, is not a fan of football or Super Bowl. We loved the pre-game performance with Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keyes and made fun of Beyonce’s fetish outfits at half time.  Though a dramatic and close game right to the end, the Ravens won 34 – 31, a bittersweet ending to our last Super Bowl party, but we really enjoyed it all the same. Special thanks to Dallas for being our official Ref [as in reference for rules of play] there was a bit of discussion about a play involving a player falling with the ball, getting up and running it again that ended with a text message to Dallas for the official ruling.

The following Tuesday (which continued into Wednesday) we held our “pre-flight” check. A trial run of the luggage/items moving abroad with us.  We have minimized from a three bedroom house into a one bedroom apartment and now into eight bags.  We will be carrying one carry-one bag each, one personal item each (a camera bag for me and Kiara’s carrier for Tracy). Our checked baggage will be one suitcase and one duffel bag each.  We are limited to 50 pounds per checked bag.  The first checked bag is free, a second bag is an additional $100, a third checked bag and any subsequent bag is $285.  A bag over 50 pounds has an additional $100 penalty with a maximum limit of 70 pounds per bag. We opted for a second bag each (at the $100 rate) and to limit our bags to 45 pounds or as close to it as possible. It was surprisingly difficult to equally distribute the weight to be at our prescribed limits. Most of which entailed packing the bag, securing its contents, weighing the bag, unpacking the bag, repacking the bag and weighing it again, and again, and again. What we thought would be a few hours turned into most of the day and part of the next. After several hours of lifting and checking the weight of the bags the decisions to discard some items became easier and easier and easier.

To make certain that our actual packing day runs smoothly, we created a database, cataloged and photographed not only each piece of luggage but each packing cube contained within the luggage so that we know exactly how each bag was packed and where each item was inside the bag. Approximately 50 percent of each of the bags are still packed and our database notes which items have been removed for use through the end of March. The idea was to know exactly what had to go back into each bag so that the next time around it is done easily and quickly.

Tracy and I previously made  a decision to travel with only two checked bag.  Our plan is to move and live in a different city every year or so.  We want to be able to travel light, especially with our intention to use public transportation and not own a car. Our packing trial run forced us to make some final decisions to lighten our load.  We each packed a week and a day of clothes; eight complete wardrobe selections, two pairs of shoes, jackets, scarfs, and hats.  Since we decided to make use of furnished apartments we packed very few household, picnic, and home office items.  We have Kiara’s flight carrier, playpen, bed, chest carrier, harness and leash, and her wardrobe and blankets (hairless micro-dogs get cold easily.)  We packed a few essential hard copy books, but for the most part we have gone digital for reading and reference.

Our biggest indulgence is technology.  MacBooks for each of us, a PC netbook for me and a iPad for Tracy, multiple external hard drives, a principle camera and a compact waterproof camera for both of us, GPS unit, a Doxi portable scanner, Kindles for each of us, and finally personal iPods.  Photography is our principle recreation and method of sharing our travels, we need the computers to communicate with family back home and to keep learning languages, the GPS with a pedestrian option to help us find our way despite lack of language skills, and iPods and Kindles for recreation and language studies.

Our luggage is meant to nest and store inside one another for compact storage after arrival and for use on future road trips around Europe.  Amazingly, over the last 18 months we have managed to reduce our personal possessions from filling a 3-bedroom house to two large and two small bags each with a total weight of 270 pounds.

Still More Minimizing and More Milestones

First milestone:  Wow.  Over the last 18 months we downsized, minimized, donated, gave away, and trashed in order to move from the house into our current one bedroom apartment.  Over the next 60 days we will be minimizing still further from the apartment eventually into two suitcases each.  Over the last two weeks Tracy has scanned, edited, and uploaded about 7,000 hard-copy photos; snap shots, wallet-sized, Polaroids, 3X5’s, 4X6’s, 5X7’s, 8X10’s, and 10X13’s.  I’ve uploaded dozens and dozens of digital photo files from CD’s and DVD’s onto a one terabyte external hard drive.  Add to that work scanning all the legal documents that we may need that doesn’t require the actual “hard copies”.  The scanning ended up being a huge project to complete.  We loved taking photos of the kids when they were growing up.  Now we are delivering and mailing the photos and other family memorabilia to the adult kids.

Second milestone:  The semester started today at the college today.  For the first time in twenty-three years I’m not teaching either full-time or part-time at TMCC.

Third milestone:  My first pension check from the Nevada Public Employees Retirement System (NV PERS) arrived today.  After 32 years of public service in law enforcement and teaching I am retired.

Tracy scanning and editing family photos.
Tracy scanning and editing family photos.

Thanksgiving, Final Good Byes, and Final Notices

As we race toward our rapidly approaching departure date for Italy (which is now just 38 days away) we are trying to spent extra time with family and friends to say our good-byes.  As much as their work and college schedules will allow, we have had lunches and dinners with the local adult children, Sarah, Nick, Casey, Adam, and Adam’s girlfriend Liz. We’ve spent time with friends Kelly, Kathy, Cindy, (another) Kelly, and Echo and Dan.  We realize that in the very near future visiting won’t be so convenient and intercontinental flights back to the States will not be frequent.

We enjoyed Thanksgiving with Tracy’s Aunt Debbie and Uncle Gerry in San Martin, (outside Gilroy) California.  Nineteen people, two Chihuahuas, two Pit Bulls, and one very large and tasty turkey. Along with Tracy’s mom, sister, brother-in-law, aunt, uncle, nieces, and nephews we got to spend time with daughter Danielle, her husband Joe, and granddaughters Lorelei and Lily.  We also visited with son Dirk, his boyfriend Trey, and their “fur baby” Milo the chihuahua.  There was a great traditional Thanksgiving feast, great conversation, and all around fun.

After the Thanksgiving celebration, Tracy headed to Long Beach with her mom, sister, aunt, to meet two Northern California cousins, and one more sister for a farewell “Girls’ Cruise” to Catalina Island and Ensenada on Carnival Cruise Line.  It was a chance for Tracy to spend some final one-on-one time with her family.

I drove back to Reno, with Kiara the microdog in the passenger seat (“Dog is my co-pilot”), to finish out teaching my final semester and to take care of some additional departure details.  I cancelled our post office box which has been my primary mailing address for the last twenty years.  I also gave final notice to our apartment manager to advise her that we will be vacating our apartment New Years Eve.  Our remaining car is listed “for sale” on Craig’s List and we are waiting for an agreeable offer.  Those are a couple more small steps toward cutting loose our remaining ties in the US.

I’m somewhat apprehensive as we continue to cut our domestic links since our visas from the Italian Consulate still haven’t arrived, but we are being bold and proceeding on faith since people request and are granted visas all the time and we believe the documents’ arrival is just a matter of time and patience.

Thanksgiving 2012
Thanksgiving 2012

Countdown, Milestones, Paperwork, and Finally “Pulling the Pin”

Exciting week in our progress toward retirement and relocation.

Magic numbers:  This last Tuesday was 100 days left in my final semester teaching at TMCC.  Perhaps because I am in “short timer mode” and nostalgic during this semester, these numeric milestones cause me pause when I reach them.

The event reminded of Chapter 100 from Tom Robbins’ “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.”

Well, here we are at Chapter 100. This calls for a little celebration. 

I am an author and therefore in the same business God is in: if I say this page is a bottle of champagne,  it is a bottle of champagne. Reader, will you share a cup of the  bubbly with me? You prefer French to domestic? Okay, I’ll make it French. Cheers!

Here’s to the one hundredth chapter! Hundred.

A cardinal number, ten tunes ten, the position of the third digit to  the left of the decimal point, a power number signifying weight, wealth and importance. The symbol for hundred is C, which is also the symbol for the speed of light. There are a hundred pennies in a dollar, a hundred centimeters in a meter, a hundred years in a century, a hundred yards on a football field, a hundred points in a carat, a hundred ways to skin a cat and a hundred ways of cooking eggplant.”

As a joke a decade ago I had a “Retirement Countdown Clock” sitting on my office desk which counted down days my 30 year anniversary of public service.  I would carry the joke further  every few years by sending e-mails to friends and colleagues with the subject line, “My pending retirement . . .” and explain that there was only 3,650 days (or fewer days as time passed) until my retirement and I would make my best effort to visit and make my good byes in the “few” remaining days I left.  I am now in the “double digits” of days left at the college and there really is only a few days to make time to say good-bye to all those friends and colleagues.

Tuesday of this week also marked 125 days until our target departure date.  Our countdown is rapidly working its way down.

Official Paperwork:  On Friday, Tracy and I drove to Carson City to file my final retirement with the Nevada Public Employee Retirement System (PERS.)  While I had previously given the college my notice to retire, I also needed to complete and submit my retirement application for my pension with PERS.  My retirement application had some complexity because I have an overlapping 16 years of law enforcement (Police/Fire retirement) and 20 years of college teaching (Regular retirement) for a combined total of 32 years credit of public service.  The application was also an exception because most Nevada college and university faculty contribute to other retirements systems like Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA–CREF) and not PERS. The forms are now signed, notarized, and filed.

I have now officially “pull the pin” and the “fuse is lit” for my retirement effective January 7, 2013.

Cheers!

Alan in his office at Truckee Meadows Community College, 2012