Though each year of our retirement has been amazing, this year in particular was nearly perfect.

In January we spent time with friends at the apartment building where we lived in Carcassonne, especially Sophie, with whom we shared many meals and chats. We started the process of renewing our visas and learned that it would be better to renew in Perpignan, though the Carcassonne Prefecture made us an appointment with them as well just as a backup. We still don’t understand why people say that French bureaucracy is awful, we still have amazing interactions with the people at the prefectures.

We had our visa renewal appointment (part 1 / part 2) in February, and had our first opportunity to visit Perpignan. We started the process of pairing down our meager belongings to what could fit in a single trip by car to Argeles. Our landlord Jason had offered to drive us there rather than having to rent a  car. We were grateful for his help.

March was moving month and nearly the entire month flew by while we packed, said goodbye to friends, visited our favorite restaurants one last time and prepared for our big move to Argeles-sur-Mer. Jason drove us the one hour to Argeles and even helped us unload the car. Our meager possessions upon our arrival in France had grown a bit, closer to 300 pounds of belongings from the original 200.

April was a month of exploration. We familiarized ourselves with the new area, the market in the village, shopping in both Argeles and Perpignan, and managed a few visits to the closest town, Collioure. Collioure is well known as the meeting place of several Fauve artists. Notables such as André Derain, Georges Braque, Othon Friesz, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, James Dickson Innes and Tsuguharu Fujita have all been inspired by Collioure’s royal castle, medieval streets, its waterfront church, Notre-Dame-des-Anges and its typical Mediterranean bay. A beautiful city and a great place to explore. It’s just 5 km south of Argeles, just a 10 minute ride on the 1€ bus!

In May we made our first venture back into Italy. Just after we arrived in Argeles, unpacked and logged in to the internet service, Alan found out that the Shroud of Turin would be on display. Within hours he had secured us two tickets to see the Shroud and train tickets from Argeles to Turin for the two of us and Sami. It only took me 10 minutes online to find a dog-friendly hotel in Turin for a couple of nights and so we headed off to see the holy relic that we had watched so many documentaries about. While there we also saw much of the city, the Rodeo Drive of Turin area, Valentino Park with it’s old mini-palace, outdoor fountains, cafes and a river full of rowers with the rowing club houses on the opposite bank. A great trip!

In June, we settled into a nice routine of visiting the beach in the morning, the patissiere for croissant and coffee in the morning, weekly micro-adventures on the 1€ bus visiting place nearby and getting to know the Pyrenees-Orientales region, and the enjoying the calm atmosphere of life near the sea. We also purchased ourselves new bikes from Decathlon, made a couple of new friends and attending the wedding of our son, Casey, via FaceTime!

July the high season started and brought with it music, festivals, and tourists . . . thousands of them! A quiet seaside city for most of the year July brought the first of the tourists of summer and our tiny, calm hamlet exploded into a city of fun, music and parties. We took time away from the crowds to do a few more micro-adventures visiting Collioure, Salses-le-Chateau, Les Orgues, Port Vendres and Banyuls-sur-Mer just to name a few! We also discovered the best restaurant in town, the New York New York burger place!

August we celebrated 15 years of marriage by prepping for another 500 mile hike. For August and September we were back in Spain walking the Camino de Santiago a second time for Alan and a third for Tracy. This time around we managed to climb the Pyrenees by doing the Napolean route over the Ipenta Pass, getting lost for a bit and finishing the first days’ hike in a thunderstorm. Five weeks later we had finished the Camino de Santiago, as well as the hike to Finisterre and the one to Muxia as well. Picking up certificates of completion in all three places we named ourselves the “Triple Crowners of the Camino” and came home to a happy, much thinner Sami dog. Time at Martin and Wendy’s place was great for Sami. She made a few friends, lost some weight, learned to be an off-leash dog who comes when she’s called. The only down-side was the depression she suffered after returning home and leaving her new friends behind.

October was all about Lou. Realizing that Sami wasn’t perking back up from her adventures with Martin and Wendy, we realized that the best thing for her was to have her own friend. We looked all over the region to find the right match for her, a dog her own age and near her size with whom she could make friends for a lifetime. Lou was the answer to our search. He is a lovable little guy who is always happy, even when he gets in trouble!

November then became all about retraining ourselves and the pups to a lifestyle for four instead of three. Lou had a few bad habits that took time to correct and we found that it was much easier to enforce new habits when we traveled together as a family. So bus rides, hikes on the beach and morning rituals of coffee and croissant became our focus for the month.

December was mostly dedicated to finding a new rental for the upcoming year. Our former landlord was selling the house and so we needed to find new accommodations. It didn’t take long to decide that we wanted to stay in this area, near the water, walking paths and the beach that had become a part of our morning ritual. We eventually found the perfect spot and finished the year with a sense of accomplishment, happy with our decision to stay in this beautiful part of southern France.

All in all it was another amazing year! The rental house had a great terrace with a BBQ so we spent many pleasant evenings dining “out” and enjoying the regional wines that we purchased from the wine cave where they sell wines by the liter. You bring your own container and they fill it up like a service station!