A dream is about to come true.

We are officially halfway through our time in Austin. Which is our last place before moving to France. Which means this is really happening!

We are settled in nicely to our second “home” in Austin, a lovely condo in the West Lake Hills neighborhood. While not very walkable, it’s close to everything–grocery store and liquor store 1/3 mile away, lots of restaurants, and best of all, only a half hour to see our granddaughter! This is our second favorite place we’ve stayed (more on that in a future post), and we love it.

Our lovely second-of-three homes in Austin

For Thanksgiving we hosted our wonderful friend Patricia, who came from Houston to spend five days with us. She came laden with gifts–a gorgeous, HUGE poinsettia plant, more cheese than we could eat in a year, and way too many gifts for granddaughter Cora. We repaid her with way too much food (and more than a few adult beverages). This year I tried Justin Chapple’s chipotle mayonnaise turkey, with great results.

Mayo turkey’s “before” picture

You might think a 13.5 pound turkey would be a bit much for three people, but you’d be wrong. I finally used up the last of the leftover turkey, making soup for my daughter-in-law. I also made a huge turkey tetrazzini and more turkey-and-olive sandwiches than I care to count. That turkey was moist, delicious, and didn’t taste of mayonnaise or chipotle, just pure wonderfulness. She (I always name our turkeys, and this one was Angelique) was so delicious I forgot to take her picture until we’d started eating.

Glamour Turkey Angelique’s belated “after” shot

Aside from our wonderful visit, Patricia and I got to have a nice long lunchtime catch-up with two of our high school Wild Women, Susan and Anabel. Susan lives in Switzerland, so we rarely get to see her. These long-time friends are one of the best things in my life!

Patricia and Susan: two wacky, wonderful Wild Women

I started counting down the days until my retirement in March. Every day I look at the countdown clock on my phone. Today it’s only 49 days until retirement! I’ve begun thinking about “lasts,” as in last Thanksgiving as US residents, last full month at my company, and “only xx more days until seeing Cora and her parents will be a rarity.” Phil and I have discussed the bittersweet aspects of this move–missing family and friends of course topping the list.

The countdown clock on my phone

We’ve also discussed the importance of being present in each moment, instead of merely counting down the days. And we love Austin, so we’re determined to savor the experience, discovering new places and revisiting old favorites. We had a lovely brunch at 1886 Cafe and Bakery in the historic Driskill Hotel. It’s a popular place; we stood in line for a half hour just to order, but it was worth it!

Inside the Driskill’s 1886 Cafe and Bakery

Of course I had the Paris Texas Benedict! And Phil enjoyed the huevos rancheros, while declaring “This is NOT huevos rancheros.”

Phil and his “not huevos”

We’ve also been very busy with preparations for our big move. Our flight is booked, we have our visas, and we’ve signed the lease for our apartment. We secured a one-year contract for a furnished apartment, and we’ll use that home base to explore France and ultimately decide where we want to settle. We chose Montpellier, in the south of France, for many reasons: it’s a small city that reminds us of Paris but enjoys a Mediterranian climate; it’s a university town so should have plenty of cultural activities; it boasts some of the best healthcare in France; and we’ll have easy proximity to the sea (20 minutes), the mountains (one hour), Spain (we could take the train to Barcelona for lunch), and Italy (about a three or four hour drive)–AND we can be in Paris in three hours on the TGV (Tres Grande Vitesse, the high-speed train).

A street in Montpellier

We’ve also secured international health insurance, a visa requirement. After three months in France we can apply for a Carte Vitale, which is our ticket to the French healthcare system. Of course, France is famous for its bureaucracy, so we have no idea how soon we’ll receive that ticket. But when we do, we’ll buy a supplemental plan that will, combined with the Carte Vitale coverage, cover most of our medical expenses. And we’ll keep our Medicare Part A but drop Part B, Part D, and our supplemental plan. I have a health savings account (HSA) that we’ll use to cover any healthcare expenses we might have while visiting the US (Public Service Announcement: If you’re lucky enough to have an HSA and can afford out-of-pocket copays, dont use it to offset copays. Save it for later, when you can use it for extraordinary prescription drug expenses, nursing home care, etc. The HSA is the ONLY triple-tax-advantaged account: no tax on contributions, no tax on earnings when you invest it–and please invest it–and no tax when you use it on qualified health expenses. End of rant.)

Overlooking Montpellier

We’ve also started the process of securing renters’ insurance, which is required in France, and a French bank account. Fun fact: in France, a woman’s maiden name is always used for official business. Since I took Phil’s last name when we married, and I’d previously taken my ex-husband’s name, I’ve had to provide not only our marriage license, but also my first marriage license and divorce decree. Ah, bureaucracy! It’s already teaching us patience. 

Channeling my inner Maggie Smith

Most of all, our excitement grows daily. I’m grateful for this rather long wind-down at work; I’ve worked full-time for 47 years and my work has been part of my identity, so retirement is in itself a big change, even without pulling up roots and moving to a new country. But I look forward to quoting Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey very soon!



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