Reminiscing About Our Carcassonne Neighborhood

I came across a photo today. One I took over two years ago while Alan and I were out walking with Kiara one evening. The weather had been so especially nice that day. As we headed toward the dog-friendly park on our side of the Aude River, we noticed a keystone with a date on the building across the street from us.

A keystone with the date "1675" on a building neighboring our apartment on the Rue Du Pont Vieux
A keystone with the date “1675” on a building in our former neighborhood on the Rue Du Pont Vieux in Carcassonne.

Our landlord at the time, Jason Carr, — an expat from Great Britain — told us that he isn’t sure exactly when the building we lived in was built due to lack of record keeping and from different armies burning the area to the ground a couple of times in the ancient past. He found a few interesting things while renovating, but the exact date is lost in history. The neighborhood dates to the late 17th century, which is interesting enough.

We found the date fascinating. I remember we talked about it while we watched Kiara running joyfully (and leash-less) through the clover at the park, one of her all-time favorite things.

I find that I am continually amazed at the age of things here in France and usually end up mulling over dates like 1776 to put things into perspective. And to think there was a time that I thought a five-year-old car was old!

Going for a Little Walk . . .

People say that the Camino finds you. We believe this to be true. Both Alan and I were aware of the Santiago de Compostela cathedral, in Spain. I even have a friend who took some amazing photos on a vacation once. But neither of us had never heard about the pilgrimage from St. Jean Pied-du-Port to Santiago de Compostela until right before we moved to France.

We were (and would be still if it were available here) major Rick Steve’s junkies, our DVR was full of 30 minute episodes from his trips all over Europe that we would watch over two or three nights – I kept falling asleep at about the 10 minute mark each night. During an episode when he was in Spain, he mentioned the Camino de Santiago de Compostela and the French Route from St. Jean Pied-du-Port. We found the episode interesting and then promptly forgot all about it in our rush to finish our pre-move checklist and goodbyes.

Upon arriving in France, we noticed that the little park up the street where we walk Kiara had signs that we couldn’t quite figure out. Blue background with yellow lines joined at the left and radiating out like a child’s drawing of the sun, or rather 1/3 of it. For weeks we couldn’t figure it out and eventually tuned it out as an oddity.


The other thing we noticed around the city was a stripe of white over a stripe of red. This pattern is found everywhere and with rather odd placement. Posts, railings, trashcans, trees, power poles, corners of buildings. It can be found painted, as reflective tape or decals. We reasoned that perhaps it had something to do with parking or some other obscure city ordinance that we would never figure out.


Then two weeks ago, a construction crew was putting up a large signboard in Kiara’s park on the path that follows the Aude River. A few days later, we wandered over to take a look at it. It is a signboard that explains that the Arles Route (Arles to Toulouse) of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela runs through Carcassonne. The sign has great graphics showing the route through town.

We were both surprised to find out a couple of things: 1) the Camino doesn’t start just in St. Jean Pied-du-Port (there are a lot of starting points all over Europe) and 2) it literally runs right in front of our apartment.

I remembered a month ago while sitting in the window seat and having my morning coffee that a hiker with a scallop shell on his backpack walked up the street. I knew that the scallop shell meant that the person was walking or had walked the Camino from the Rick Steve’s episode I had seen a few months earlier. I figured that he had done it once before and thought “cool” and promptly put it out of my mind. Seeing him made total sense after seeing the signboard.

Alan did a little Google research about the Camino and found that Emilio Esteves had done an Indy film in 2010 called “The Way.” I found it in iTunes and downloaded it. We watched it last week and it took less than an hour for us to look at each other and say “Let’s do it.”

As I mentioned earlier, they say the Camino finds you and for us that is definitely true — since it is literally right outside our front door. So rather than waiting for “someday” we’ve decided to listen to the universe and go for a walk.

Currently we’re planning a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. 500 miles over mountains and plains from St. Jean Pied-du-Port in France to Santiago, Spain.

There are three pilgrimages that all Catholics are encouraged to make in their lifetime, St. Peter’s in Rome (which we’ve done — in addition, the Bishop’s Office in Rome also encourages you to visit all four of the major basilicas while in Rome — you’re there any way — so we did in 2011), Santiago de Compostela (which we are planning) and Jerusalem (which has been on both our wish lists for sometime).

The Camino de Santiago can be done as a religious or non-religious pilgrimage. We discussed it and decided to do this as a religious one — technically religious/cultural. Alan isn’t Catholic, but I have been since my first breath, albeit non-practicing most of the time. I think God will overlook my absences since we’re usually on pretty good terms regardless of whether or not I sit in a pew on Sundays.

Pilgrims are given a special passport — a “credential” — that you get stamped along the way and a “compostela” upon arrival. The paper and printing methods have changed but the design of the document has remained unchanged for over a thousand years.

All pilgrims are encouraged to carry the symbol of St. James (who is buried in the church in Santiago) which is a scallop shell, we are getting a special one for Kiara for her carrier. We will have ours attached to our backpacks like all the other pilgrims. Additionally, Camino charms are sold in many of the towns along the way — Kiara will probably end up with new jewelry too.

There are auberges (pilgrim hotels) along the way which charge very little for dinner, a bed, breakfast and a place to shower, usually between 5 and 15 euro ($8 to $18 roughly). Most have washers and dryers so that you can keep your clothes clean on the journey. A few do not allow dogs, hence the need for the tent!

Our route will take us through the Pyrenees mountain range, starting on day one! We want to complete it in 5 weeks so we’ll need to hike an average of about 15 miles a day with a day of rest once or twice along the hike, but since we are retired we’re not too worried if we need extra time.

We have spent the last two days purchasing good hiking shoes, tent, sleeping bags and packs. We’ve loaded them up and weighed them. We are astonished at the new fabrics and technology in design that keeps everything weighing very little. Alan’s pack weighs under 20 pounds, mine weighs under 14. It’s still boggles my mind a bit! Kiara will be coming along in her special chest carrier that we purchased while we were still in Reno, I will be carrying her sweater, blanket and food. The plan includes letting her walk a little each day so she can do a “mini-Camino” or as we call it, a “Chi-Camino.”

We are now setting up a training schedule for the next 10 weeks, working up to the 15 miles a day that we’ll need to average in order to complete our little walk in five weeks. The Camino de Santiago de Compostela from St. Jean Pied-du-Port is 800 kilometers or roughly 500 miles.

Alan will be posting additional information in the next few days for anyone interested in learning more about the Camino. We are batting around ideas about how to do updates along the way, or whether we should just do one big update when we arrive home, we’ll let everyone know what we decide before we leave.

Buen Camino!

Kiara’s Nemisis

Kiara has had a very busy day today.

We were on our way to lunch at Al Dente, and decided that Kiara would love to get out of the house (in her red and black sweater with the white skull and crossbones on the back) and enjoy a sunny but breezy day.

On our way to the restaurant we let her run through the grassy area at Square Gambetta. She was enjoying running through the clover at the far end of the square — Kiara loves clover. She always does this petite little bow and rubs her whole face in the clover.

She’s been dealing with allergies and has been eating baby food for the last couple of weeks, but we still can’t keep her from rubbing her face in the clover.

Today for the first time ever, she noticed another animal was in the park with her . . . a pigeon. Kiara doesn’t believe that she is a dog and has never shown any interest in another single species of the animal kingdom that didn’t walk upright and speak. But today she noticed the pigeon, and for the very first time in her whole life, she chased a pigeon.

In less than two seconds, she went from being the tiniest thing in the entire square to being one badass dog. Not only was her entire attitude different, but she got really brave and braced two more pigeons. Alan and I were laughing out loud, watching our adorable little girl who is nervous around her own food dish, now chasing a bird.

Then she spotted the rest of the flock at the square, about 12 of them . . . and yep, she ran right over and chased them too. Only three of them took flight, but she didn’t even notice that the rest of them just looked at her and went back to eating. She came running back over so that Mom and Dad could say “Good Girl!”

Yup, two whole pounds of badass chihuahua in a red sweater with a skull on the back!

Then we took her to her favorite park after lunch. She was running in huge wide circles around Alan and I as we walked through the manicured landscape of her favorite park. There is lots of clover there as well so a few stops had to be made to rub her face in the clover.

Then she fell into her regular routine, running in big circles, stop to smell a flower, run in a big circle, catch up to Dad, run in a circle, wait for Mom, run in a big circle, stop to smell a flower.

She has a thing about flowers, she likes to smell the flowers and sticks her little nose right on top of them. Especially dandelion flowers, which we think might be causing a bit of allergy symptoms for her, but she will stop to stick her tiny nose into the flowers anyway. Today we are a bit more certain that this bright yellow flower is the culprit. She threw up tiny yellow petals all over my sleeve after she ate one of the stupid things.

Kiara, our two-pound, badass, pigeon chasing dog . . . taken down . . . by a flower. The look on her tiny, expressive face told it all . . . “Flowers committed biological warfare Mommy, not my fault!”

Kiara's nemisis: wanted for suspicion of biological warfare on a two-pound chihuahua
Kiara’s nemisis: wanted for suspicion of biological warfare

Kiara’s People

Mom and Dad have been after me to write a blog post. Until now, I didn’t know what I should write about. But today I was thinking about all the nice people I’ve met in France.

THE VET | Dr. Broy, he’s very nice man, speaks a little English but knows his stuff about dogs. He was the doctor who made me feel so much better when I got sick. He is a neurologist and Mom really likes him as my primary doctor, so we’ll probably be seeing more of him. And he has a nice accent too! Plus, he loves me — major points for Dr. Broy.

THE AUSSIES | Last night I met a couple from Australia. At first Dad thought they were from Great Britain, but only because we rarely hear English and usually when we do they are from Great Britain. [Most of the local people in Carcassonne think we’re from Great Britain too — right, because I look like I come from a rainy climate, duh!] The lady couldn’t wait to meet me and liked that I was wearing my pink sparkly necklace, she smelled nice. The man couldn’t believe that I only weigh one kilo and told my parents that I was beautiful. They loved me! Australians must be very smart people.

THE CANADIANS | A couple of days ago we were walking across the Pont Vieux and I was not on my leash [Mom lets me walk without it if I’m very good, don’t get in anybody’s way and come when I’m called — which I always do]. About two-thirds of the way across I saw three people sitting on the side of bridge and taking pictures of each other. Two ladies and a man. I wanted to meet the lady with the short brown hair, so I wiggled my tail at Mommy and she said I could “go say hi” — it’s her code words to let me know that it’s alright if I approach strangers. The lady with the short hair and the lady with the grey hair did that squeal that some ladies do that really makes my ears happy. The man was talking with Daddy about stuff and I got cuddles from the lady with the short hair. Canadians must really be dog people, both of the ladies from Canada made happy, happy noises — which I like. When we were saying goodbye and telling them to have a nice trip, the lady with the short hair said “Oh she’s just SO cute” and I could tell that the nice people from Canada loved me!

THE JAPANESE | Our second week in France Mom and I ran into a group of tourists from Japan, about 12 people. It was rainy that day and they all had such bright colored umbrellas it looked like a carnival. They were waiting to cross the street at the light, but when I approached the corner from the grassy area one of the ladies spotted me and squealed. (I just love that!) She knelt down and Mom said “go say hi” so I ran over and put my paws on her knee, she looked at Mom with the biggest smile in the whole world. She asked Mom if she could take my picture and Mom said sure! So I got my picture taken with the nice lady from Japan, then with her and her boyfriend, then with two more of her friends! She was talking to me in a sing-songy language that I really liked, it sounded very pretty. I could tell that her and her friends, they  definitely loved me! Very nice people must live in Japan.

THE FRENCH | Ever since my first walk in Gambetta Square French people have stopped to talk to Mom and Dad and to touch my head or scratch under my chin. Some have just scooped me right out of Mom’s hands and asked in French (which Mommy doesn’t really know) if they could show me to their friends. Mom and Dad usually say yes, except for when it’s a child — they worry that I’ll get loved on too hard and get hurt. I really like the people in France though — all the sounds they make are happy, happy sounds. Did you know that in France dogs are welcome to come into restaurants, stores and events like market day, people from France are real dog lovers, they treat their dogs like people — we have not seen one dog that was sick or injured or even a stray dog. And the French people are curious about me, they always want to know what kind of dog I am, how much I weight, how old I am and . . . they kiss! I know the French people really love me, because the ladies, the little girls and even the little boys always kiss me and all French people make the happy, happy noises that I like. I think that French people are very, very nice and they are good dog people.

Dad says I’m in International Diva, I don’t really know what that means, but I really do like meeting people from all over the world. It’s kinda cool and really fun, but so far everybody loves me! Maybe Dad should start carrying a guest book so that people can sign it and say where they are from, kinda like a scrapbook.

Kiara Update

These first few weeks have been rough on our little girl. Although it is never easy to determine what emotional or physical stressors your pet may feel, we do have a couple of indicators with Kiara.

Tail up, life is good. Tail down, not happy with you. Ears to the side, life is good. Ears behind me, not happy with you. Ears wiggling, I’m nervous. Ears straight forward, I’m on alert. Eyes soft and mildly sleepy, life is good. Eyes wide open, something’s up. Holding eye contact, life is good. Giving you the “side eye” stare, I’m pissed at you. And regardless of who gives the daily medication, the half-lidded, side-eye stare afterwards means Daddy is a jerk. Not sure why Daddy gets the brunt of the anger over medication, but it’s true all the same.

There are a lot more “tells” with our little dog. We pay very close attention to her and spend a lot of time watching her and trying to interpret what she wants when she stands in front of you looking with her big, soft, dark, dark eyes willing you to understand her. Drink, Hungry, Walk, Bedtime . . . she knows these words. If she stands in front of you and you say the thing she wants, she dances around and her ears wobble. Her way of saying, “good girl you got it!” She hasn’t lived with many other dogs and really doesn’t have much use for them anyway. Kiara is a “people,” she is not a dog and believes that she should not have to interact with some of those hairy, wet-nosed animals that try to flip her over from behind. She will walk around a potential canine friend to “introduce” herself to the person holding it’s leash. She doesn’t even know that dogs don’t usually hold a person’s gaze, she’ll look us straight in the eye and will us to understand what she wants. She’s not a barker either, odd for a little dog, but she rarely barks except to get our attention or to tell us someone is at the door. She’s quirky and funny and quiet . . . and for a week, she was blind. On Friday, April 12, Kiara had 8 seizures throughout the day that left her blind and with a loss of her gross motor skills.

Thankfully, her new French doctor, Dr. Broy, believed it to be a temporary situation. We have known since her first seizure at less than a year old that these symptoms may someday occur. To add to the complication of not being able to see, her gross motor skills were also affected in the seizure event. She was wobbly and toppled over if left standing on her own without support. But Dr. Broy seemed very assured that within 5 to 8 days our girl would be back to normal, or at least her version of normal.

We knew from the first seizure that Kiara’s lifespan would not be as long as other dogs in her weight class. We knew that having to put her on phenobarbital would eventually damage her liver. We knew that our baby required some fairly high maintenance care, medication twice a day for life, blood work twice a year for life, the need for better nutrition to keep her fit so that her medication is always at optimal range. Monitoring her behavior for signs of an approaching event. Making sure that she doesn’t suffer from undue stress. We even made sure to never leave her with strangers but hired sons, daughters, nieces and nephews to care for her when we had to be gone. Traveling meant having to remember to check that there would be enough medication for the trip and travel cases to keep it cold. But we’ve been happy to do it as she is ours to care for and we take that responsibility seriously.

So even though none of the current symptoms is a surprise, it still came as quite a shock to be told “She does not see.”

But let me back up to the stress issue. Her new doctor, a neurologist veterinarian (a dream for parents of a seizure dog) believes that stress played a part in the initial seizure event that got us where we were last week. We thought we took all the right precautions. We got the travel carrier months prior to our departure and put her in it often so that it wasn’t a shock. We opened the side panel and left her to wander in and out on her own. The day we left for France, we added her favorite blanket, her stuffed friend, her travel food dishes that she’s used for 3 years, and her hand-made halter so she wouldn’t beep going through the scanner with Mommy and be scared. We even selected an airline based on their in-flight animal policies so that she could travel on the plane with us.

Once we arrived, we put out her potty grass system that she’s used for 18 months successfully, her special pillow and other favorite blanket. A few of her toys and her food dishes with the food we brought with us. She didn’t have access to the bed like in our old place (it was a low platform bed she could get on by herself), but we tried to make sure that she had access to as many familiar things as possible.

And I think we got it right, for the most part, except for the tile floors (which she hates) and the lack of carpeting (which she loves). We no longer own a car, so we go everywhere on foot. We did prepare for her stamina being different than ours and bought a chest carrier, even used it a couple of times with her before we left until the cold weather drove us indoors. But the mistake that may have been made was in not preparing her for the physical changes we would ask of her in addition to all the new smells of a new home. We now take her for walks three times a day. Not long walks, but in the morning to Gambetta Square, in the afternoon to the river walk, and in the evening to the park on the far side of the river. It’s a lot more physical activity than she is used to and coupled with the cold, cold weather and cold, cold apartment interior upon our arrival I believe that our darling, little girl may have thought she was in the frozen version of hell.

And, although we took her out often, we also left her alone for an hour or two at a time. I believe it was a blend of new surroundings, being alone, jet lag and lack of access to the bed (her favorite place to curl up and sleep), that lead to the stress that caused the seizure event. Although we thought we had covered all the bases our little girl has once again shown us that life has a way of side-stepping all your well thought out plans.

We moved last Saturday, to our permanent apartment here in Carcassonne. We had a couple of surprises for the little one, like a rug in the living room that is closer to carpet and morning sun (one of her favorite things in the whole world). We were just beginning to formulate a plan for how to proceed if these symptoms ended up to be permanent (like how to reintroduce her world to her). But the doctor was correct and tthe symptoms were temporary, and life returned to normal for this precious girl of ours, on day eight just as the doctor predicted. But we are certainly wiser for the experience and hopeful that we can prevent it from happening again by being aware that our little one does not think she is a dog and needs a little extra assistance in accepting a new situation and owning the experience, just as we do.

Safety first

Kiara’s “hospital” bed while she was sick. Surrounded by pillows in case she tried to stand, so she wouldn’t hurt herself on the tile floor.


Kiara, fully recovered.

Daddy and Kiara

Kiara and Daddy at the park (Mommy took the photo).

Dog on a Plane (Part Two)

Finally, D-Day (Departure Day!)

On Easter morning, Sunday the 31st, we checked out of our hotel room and headed to Reno-Tahoe International Airport with all our (much downsized) worldly possessions and Kiara the Chihuahua.

I dropped Tracy, Kiara, and the bags out in front of the main terminal and swung around to return the rental car.  As I walked back to the terminal I found our niece Lyssa, her husband Chris, and baby Selah saying farewell to Tracy and Kiara. Tracy also had for Lyssa a bag of 110 volt hair care appliances that would completely “self-destruct” if used with Europe’s 220 voltage system. With final good-byes complete we headed inside to check-in with Delta Airlines.

To our surprise we found that our two checked bags would go all the way through to Toulouse. No having to reclaim the bags for customs inspection in Paris. Yippee!

The we met Delta agent, Sarah. What a joy! She was extremely helpful ensuring Kiara was booked for cabin travel with us on every leg of the flight. She made sure we had copies of Kiara’s cabin booking to show the gate agents in Salt Lake City and Paris, if needed. Especially in Paris where we would switch from Delta to Air France.

Interesting to note that with the exception of asking if we had Kiara’s veterinary and USDA clearances, no one ever actually examined the documents. Although we will need the documents for the French veterinarian for Kiara’s EU Pet Passport, apparently we could have flown without all the effort of seeing the vet and USDA. But we operate on the “better safe than sorry” principle and we didn’t want the nightmare of being stopped at customs in Paris and refused admission or worse, Kiara being quarantined.

Although Kiara had to stay in her carrier aboard the plane, the gate agents in Reno-Tahoe, Salt Lake City and Charles De Gaulle airports graciously allowed Kiara to get out of her carrier, stretch her legs, and “strut her stuff” as an international jet-setter, a status she has long aspired to.

Kiara slept quietly and did not seem upset by the flights, although she would have been happier in one of our laps. Tracy did the closest thing possible to that with putting Kiara’s carrier in her lap with slipping her hand through the zippered door. No problems even medicating Kiara while enroute, though Tracy did forewarn the flight attendants that it would be necessary to do so because of her medical condition. Thankfully the flight attendants were more than understanding regarding the medication issue.

Upon our arrival in Toulouse we had the most amazing surprise of all . . . our checked luggage actually arriving with us! It was quite the relief to realize that there IS an airline that can get both you and your luggage to the same destination, at the same time. A feat that United, US Airways and Continental Airlines have never, ever been able to accomplish . . . ever!

Our final surprise was that our new landlords, British expats Jason and Annette, happened to be in Toulouse dropping off some paperwork for their daughter and offered to swing by the airport to pick us up rather than Tracy and I taking the train to Carcassonne. They were kind enough to drive us (and our luggage) the 54 miles to our apartment. That let Kiara ride in our laps for the final lap to our new home, and gave us a chance to get acquainted with another expat couple.

In all, the trip for Kiara (and us) was minimally traumatic, although our new “Miss International Diva” believes she now merits living in the adjacent castle of  la Cité de Carcassonne. In the mean time, we are settling into our new apartment . . . without issue, well mostly without issue.

Dog on a Plane

“How are you flying to Europe with Kiara?”  “Is there a quarantine on arrival?” “Can she fly in the cabin or does she have to go in the hold?”

Getting ready to fly to Europe with Kiara the Chihuahua has been a challenge.  Lots of research to find the right way to bring a pet to Europe.

First, there are a limited number of international airlines that allow pets to fly in the cabin.  We want Kiara to fly in the cabin with us.  Flying is stressful enough for dogs and there are all sort of horror stories about pets flying in the cargo holds of aircrafts.  Over Saint Patrick’s Day this year, a dog that was enroute from Newark to Phoenix was accidentally shipped to Ireland.  We decided on Delta as our airline choice for this trip.

In order to be allowed in the cabin, pets are limited to a maximum weight of 9 to 20 pounds depending on the airline.  Kiara is only 2 and a half pounds so we had lots of leeway.  Pug-nosed (brachycephalic) cats and dogs are not allowed to fly because of their high incident of in-flight deaths.

There are a limited number of pets allowed in the cabin depending on the aircraft.  Most commonly the limit is two pets in first class, two pets in business class, and a maximum of four in economy.  Delta no longer allows pets in first or business class on international flights.  We had to make a reservation for Kiara early to ensure a spot for her.  We pay an extra $200 fare for Kiara to fly in the cabin.

The dog carrier must be an approved model that is leak-proof, ventilated, and able to fit under the seat.  Tracy loses her carry-on “personal item” to bring Kiara’s in-cabin carrier.

Kiara has a seizure disorder and takes two anticonvulsant medications every twelve hours.  We have a TSA approved cooler pouch for her meds.  We will have to give a her a dose of medicine while enroute.

Finally, there is all the required paperwork to take a pet abroad.  In order to avoid having Kiara quarantined on arrival in the European Union, there is a specific process to get a United States Interstate and International Certificate of Health Examination for Small Animals” from the US Department of Agriculture.  (Seriously, exporting dogs internationally comes under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Agriculture.)  The airlines requires a final health clearance be performed no more than ten days before arrive in Europe.

So last Friday Kiara had a complete veterinary exam from her own veterinarian (who must be USDA accredited) with boosters for all vaccinations and a rabies inoculation “at least 30 days before travel but not more than 12 months” with a rabies certificate issued. The doctor completed the forms in both English and French and faxed the paperwork to the USDA office for preliminary review.  Our nearest USDA office is in Sacramento, California.  We then waited until our veterinarian telephoned us back Friday afternoon to tell us the paperwork looked good to the USDA and we can pick up the original forms from Kiara’s vet’s office.

Today we took a four-hour road trip to Sacramento and back to visit the USDA to get Kiara’s health paperwork certified.  USDA-Sacramento was friendly, helpful, and it only took the USDA’s veterinarian about 20 minutes sign off, stamp, and certify the paperwork.  We believe we are now ready for Kiara to join us on the airplane on Sunday.

Fingers crossed that all the research and work pays off on Sunday.

Christmas And Unexpected Delay

We had a fun Christmas at home, the last we expect to have in the US for quite a while.

For Christmas brunch we had ravioli, tortellini, wine, Christmas ale, gifts, and fun conversation with the kids that are still in Reno –  Sarah, Nick, Casey, Adam, and Adam’s fiancee’ Liz – made it a great day.  Kiki the micro-dog enjoyed all the special attention.  Through the day we also had “Merry Christmas”  telephone calls with Danielle, Tyler, Dirk, and Dallas, the “out-of-town” kids.  We have been enjoying the time with all the adult kids over the last few months and holidays, we know we are going to miss them all.  After brunch with the kids we visited with more family at Tracy’s mom’s house.  Nana, Tracy’s sisters Tammy and Trina, nieces, nephews, and even a great-niece.  Once Tracy and I made it back home she finally got her wish for a “white Christmas.”  Snow was finally falling in the valley and we had a romantic nighttime walk through the falling snow to finish Christmas night.

We just learned that we have an unexpected delay in our departure date moving it from January to late March.  We have to resolve a couple of paperwork issues with the consulate.  Rather that leaving the first week of January, we will be making a road trip to the consulate.  We are now processing yet more paperwork and re-scheduling flight tickets and apartment reservations.

Oh well, if there is not a few “bumps in the road” you don’t appreciate the final outcome.  We are a bit disappointed with the delay, but in the whole scheme of things an 11 week delay isn’t that big of an upset.