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The Apartment – Stage Three – Driving where no man should drive

Repeating Step 8:

Step 8 )   THis is where the RED BULL and copious amounts of  Expresso’s  start to take kick in  – and we  drive into a city where NO MAN HAS EVER GONE _(meaning – NO ONE IS SUPPOSED to DRIVE IN PARIS, least of all TOURISTS, – as PARIS is NOT the city for cars – especially tourist cars – BUT – we had no choice. )  You say, “But, there are lots of cars in Paris.    WHY can’t you drive in Paris? —Why?   (It’s just not done. It’s not even done by Parisians.  All those cars in the city?  I have NO IDEA who they belong to, but they’re not Parisians, and certainly not tourists.)   ANYWAY, we must drive into the city streets of Paris BECAUSE we have, in our possession,  an inferior , to say the least ,  – GARMIN GPS that did not speak the street names.  This meant finding  another FNAC to return the Garmin, for any GPS that SPOKE to us.    Marti Drives along the fast Peripherique (the Paris Beltway)  when she sees a huge sign “FNAC”  –  on a tall building.     VOILA!!!    This is a SIGN, in more than one sense of the word!!!!!   She  swerves,  at 80 MPH,  into the EXIT lane and drives around and around trying to find where this huge  building is located with the FNAC sign.    We park.    We walk.  We ask 50 migrate workers   – who are in a big group waiting for jobs on this street corner – – “IS this the FNAC where we can exchange our INFERIOR GPS????”  Atleast 20  heads are now peering inside my FNAC BAG – with my GPS, and  David thinks that they think that I’m trying to SELL a hot GPS that I’ve swiped from some rental car.  David expects them to start bidding on the “HOT GPS” any moment as they are talking among each other.

At this point,  I have to EXPLAIN, that I just want to E X C H A N G E this inferior GPS not SELL it. IS THIS THE FNAC I should go to?   Blank stares.   We reach the entrance of the FNAC building and the GUARDS  stop us and say, NON!

We say, “NON?!?!?!”   They say  “NON!!! – C’est ne pas le Magasin FNAC – – This is not a FNAC store, it’s the HEADQUARTERS of FNAC, you cannot exchange anything here.   BUT!  Here  is where you need to go.”   They walk us down the long steps and point us in the direction – somewhere in the busy streets of Paris. I’m thinking, “OH NO, I HAVE TO DRIVE IN PARIS!!!!!!” 

The real FNAC store is somewhere in a big mall on the Place d’Italie – in the South of Paris.

We go around many times, – similar to my going around & round the Arc d’ Triumph –  when I was 15 (with my mother )- and we actually find an indoor, underground parking garage below a little FNAC sign.  Eureka!

We are now back in business.  THREE HOURS LATER.   We are the proud owners of a workable GPS, (now a TOM TOM, for an additional  99 euros) that actually TALKS to us and gives us STREET names and tells us when to turn,and when we are going through school zones and beautiful vineyards (okay, well, not the VINEYARD part)  –  all in a fine female British accent.  To get this gem of a GPS,  We have waited in line for what seemed like an eternity, did more paperwork than I’ve ever done for any return in my life -described what was wrong with the Garmin- waited in more lines –  – take that NEW paperwork  to another FNAC clerk, and finally, FINALLY purchase the new GPS that actually SPEAKS to US.   It’s  a beautiful thing.  

STEP 9)  Drive South – out of PARIS streets – back to the HIGHWAY and towards Marseille

Step 10) 2 days later – arrive in Cassis  – the most beautiful village I have ever seen in all of France,

(and I’ve been everywhere).

Here is what we saw when entering CASSIS……………………..

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It’s bliss  –  but it’s not over………………


Last post – I left you in PARIS – where we had no idea where we were going to live ……………

Step 4)  – Come back again (this time a weekend trip via TGV – – -) Stay at an APT/HOTEL with a discount thanks to David’s jobpost,- & look again.  Nothing.  No keys, no apt owners available.   THEN VOILA!  We travel to this port town of Cassis just for fun and giggles and to get away from the big city.   It is better than a picture postcard and actually takes our breath away.   It is where we have dreamt to be – and is a mix of David’s Island roots (UK and Dominican Republic, and a teeny teeny bit of where I grew up  –  Miami – & Miami Beach  –   Miami Beach,  only with MOUNTAINS !!! )    But, can we live here?   Is it AFFORDABLE?     Well, we found a place to stay one night on the Air BnB and fell in love. Our view from the terrace was THE LARGEST CLIFF IN EUROPE – that is over the SEA.


Easy , right?


SO, we’re looking around, walk into the town square, go  into an art gallery that I wasn’t keen on, but David was, and because of this art gallery, was told by the proprietor, that if we’re looking for an apartment to go to FALQUE AGENCY across from the fountain.   What fountain?  The ONLY big fountain in the center of town.

The Agent shows us happily a place,  within  10 minutes –  an apt on the SEA.  It is far away (need a car) and it’s a STUDIO. However, it has an AWESOME view from the terrace.   It was BREATHTAKINGLY beautiful, but SMALL  – no washing machine. and the kitchen – a counter with a hot plate.  Hmmmmm.

Step 5) Return to Paris, assured that this is where we will be, tiny, no kitchen and all, because we just NEED a place!   But first we must complete copious amounts of paperwork, via INTERNET, sending  Income Tax returns, proof of employment, 3 months of paystubs, passport photos, proof that David has a CDI (permanent WORK STATUS –  means – can’t get fired)  AND, ofcourse, promise of our first-born (that’ll be a miracle) to them via e-mail.  None of these documents sent to her via our computer get to her as we have a MAC , so we must copy and paste all of these into a WORD DOCUMENT so the AGENCY can read it!!!  Okay, this is do-able. SLOWLY.

Step 6)  Return  to  CASSIS via TGV and think we will get this studio on the sea , – with a Murphy Bed and 2 bunk beds in the front hallway – not really sure  if this is what we want — but it’s affordable.  Suddenly,  the Agent says, Oh, I have one more to show you………there’s NO VIEW, but it’s nice. It’s a ONE BEDROOM!  SO, we decide to see it.  We said to her, “NO VIEW –  not even out the window?”  “None at all?”

“NON! ” came the response.  But when we arrived at this stone cottage – and opened the shutters there was a  view – of huge palms , stone steps to the bottom (of something) and the huge pool next door to us.   The view out of the front was a multi-leveled terrace which we were told  was not “for our use” we would have to go in and out via this terrace quickly.  No loitering about.   Hmmmm.  Okay.  Fine. We can do this, but I walk slowly, so I’m going to take my time walking to the gate entrance because, well, I walk slowly anyway with bad knees (sometimes).

But then, we find out that the owners “should not mind so much” – after all, I tell Natalie, our Real Estate Agent, “LOOK AT US Natalie!! We’re hardly going to be having huge ruckus parties……..the wildest thing we might do out on that terrace is – READ A BOOK – on a KINDLE!!! ”    Well, Natalie TOLD the owners this – wherever they were on vacance, and because they (apparently) liked this response & that we were this  “quiet older couple” – gladly said yes – to us living there.  This was good news as we were now at the end of our “MOVING money.”

STEP 5)   Natalie, our very smart  enterprising agent tells the owners more about us  –  and it’s not only okay for us to move in on Monday when we arrive, but we can actually USE the multi-leveled terrace, and patio to our heart’s content-  (Just not their pool).   Okay.  We’ll deal with that.   🙂

STEP 6)  Go back to PARIS, pack up the apartment in MONTMORENCY amidst huge tears – BECAUSE (why even put “because” in there) –  we really really loved our little 65 sq meter one bedroom apt. Even the guardian was so sad to see us leave.  We gave him big hugs and a “bonus” for all that he’s done for us.

We  leave PARIS for the last time.   I want to say goodbye to Mary our Boulangerie wonder woman – but can’t turn the car around with all the traffic.

Step 7)  OUR RENTAL CAR – is positioned towards the Mediterranean and now we DRIVE south towards CASSIS with a MUTE GPS!!!!!!    How can I drive if  the GPS doesn’t tell me where to turn and where to go?


Step 8 )   THis is where the RED BULL and copious amounts of  Expresso’s  start to take kick in  – and we  drive into a city where NO MAN HAS EVER GONE _(meaning – NO ONE IS SUPPOSE to DRIVE IN PARIS, least of all TOURISTS, – as PARIS is NOT the city for cars – especially tourist cars – BUT – we had no choice. )    WHY?  Because of the INFERIOR GARMIN GPS.

(forgive miss-spellings – no corrections – I have limited WiFi and have to rush constantly)




What most people don’t realize is that getting a place to live in another country, especially FRANCE – is e x t r e m e l y difficult, tiring, full of angst, lots of sound pollution (phones ringing constantly while you sit patiently in the AGENCY)- motorcycles revving their engines outside the door – lots of fast french talking, lots of FRENCH period. After you have completed (what you think is) ALL of the paperwork, which you began back in your PARIS APARTMENT, think again. It’s not that easy. You must now, – while you are in the agency, trying to obtain the apartment you need – wait for the Electrical Analysis Inspector, who must check the electric outlets, gas, water & you must meet him. “Then YOU,” she says, (meaning David, my husband) “must HAND WRITE a COPY of the contract as GuaranTOR, (ALL in FRENCH) “– since my husband has to be a guaranTOR for me (moi) Marti Graham, the STUDENT. (We got a good rate for a STUDENT APARTMENT. It has to appear that I have no income, which is easy, because I don’t have any. Not a problem.
Anyway, this must be completed in person – in FRONT of the AGENCY CLERK.
you might
get the keys to the apartment……………

Before all of this – here was the progression:

Step 1) Find a place to live NEAR your job
Step 2) The job is in Marseille – do you really want to live in Marseille or do you want to live away from Marseille?

Step 3 ) FIrst check out Marseille – which we do by making two separate trips from Paris,  one on the TGV (expensive, if you don’t have a SENIOR carte ) or AirFrance (Zed fare from Paris – this is a “non-rev thing” as I’m retired from the airlines. ) The first was a ZED fare on AirFrance, where we went from airport to bus to main Marseille station to another bus, another metro, to get to our Hotel/Apartment – all with a fare amount of luggage and my bad knees.
This is to check things out. This is not only expensive, but extremely time consuming and frustrating to say the least because when you arrive, no one has the keys to the apts we had planned to see because it’s AUGUST/ VACANCE time – and apartment owners are no where to be found.
The few apps you do see in the city of your work – (Marseille) are found only by taking buses and metro’s in a totally unknown city – where you are just getting your bearings, and learning very quickly how to navigate to the addresses that are on the torn and ripped pieces of paper in your hand. When you arrive to these places, you must listen to the GuarDIAN – a diatribe of what you need to supply to them to satisfy that you are a good risk. THEN you see the apartment. If they had just showed us the apartment FIRST before going into the hour diatribe of what was needed, we could have saved them a LOT of talking time. They were incredibly  – UGLY – I mean UGLY in the nicest sense of the word. UGLY – didn’t even do it justice. The other apartment, well, though a quiet area near the Stade, (until there was a game, ofcourse, ) – had gardens about it, but the inside was a virtual prison, and we nixed that immediately as well.

We go back to Paris – without a clue of where we might live.

Stay tuned for  Step 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and so on – WHEN and IF I get WiFi – which I only have now

because I’m sitting at a MacDonald’s somewhere on the outskirts of Marseille………………

This is Gracie’s handmade card that I keep with me!!!!   🙂

Letters from Marseille – RED BULL ROCKS!!!!

Dear Ryan,
Why, oh why did NO one tell me about RED BULL before? That stuff is awesome ( I know you hate that word ) but it kept me not only driving for HOURS – and sweeping round those “round-a-bouts all towards the Mediterranean, but I’ve never moved so much in a stationary spot (driver’s seat) in my life. I think others might call it “DRIVE DANCIN’ ” –  Ofcourse the car stereo was rockin’ as well. Thank goodness for great tunes on what could be a boring drive.
Today, we saw a town called Mirmande, a village that is alteast 700 years old and was first seen by us (me and Daco)  in 1995. It is more lovely than ever – and I went to the spot where the IRISes were beautiful to me (17 years ago) but it wasn’t the season and other flowers were there instead.  What a
fabulous car ride down south. We’re now near GORDES,& BONNIEUX  and will complete our journey tomorrow. If you want to know what those towns look like – check the upstairs bath- I have posters in there of these places.  Also check out the rose garden – we’ve hired someone to take care of the garden for us – and for you – Iris will love it.
Miss you, MISS IRIS, Miss Anna – and hope you all are doing fabulous and going to some Warrior’s games! I LOVED the pic of Iris at Evan’s game with her hands folded intently!!!!  She knows her football already!!
Life is good. The SUN is SHINING brightly. We’ve left cold Paris behind. (It was chilly when we left on Saturday!)


MOM & Daco

“Letters from Marseille – Sights along the way to Marseille”

Dear Ian, 

Remember that RED BULL you left in my Paris apartment frig last March?  Well, I found it, took it with us in the little car and it became a LIFE saver for US on the road south.  Wow! Those are incredible drinks!  I woke right up!!!

Everyone thinks it’s so glamorous to be living in a country like FRANCE, but it has it’s moments.  We had another one of those in Dijon, when we were told we couldn’t eat dinner in the HOTEL DINING ROOM because of the large group they were entertaining.  We told them that they should have told us this before checking in.  They said the sign had been posted by the elevator doors.  We told them that we didn’t take the elevator as the crowd of people standing there waiting for it meant a long wait, so we took the stairs.  Anyway, needless to say, they didn’t care for us and we didn’t care for them, so we left and found a different hotel.  

The next one was nice. It was the CAMPANILE, in Dijon. 

Dijon is the home of the DUKES of BURGUNDY.  It is a different feeling from Paris.  A little more formal including the people that live here.  We are, after all, closer to LYON and therefore, you already know that reputation.  (“Shhhh…..they’re not as nice as the Parisians” they say ……….shhhh, yes, we have heard this.”)  But don’t like to believe any sort of nonsense like this, until we actually are FACED with it.  Today we were faced with it.  Never mind.   

We are stuffed in our little VW, and it does resemble the last pic I posted……sans the mattress and the birdcage.  Would you check on Charlie?  The girls have left and I’m afraid he is lonely even though Pennee is taking care of him.

So, I leave you with some of the sights of our travels – personally, the countryside circumvents personality strifes and we are still STILL VERY GRATEFUL for everything we have and see and do.

I keep Gracie’s card she made me.   I will enclose a photo of it.  It’s beautiful and I cherish it. It 

says “PRAY”

Till next time 



PS if the photos don’t appear, they didn’t download with our slow wifi conx.  Will try later……


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