Saturday, December 22, 2012

It's _that_ time of the year...

We can't believe that the winter holidays are upon us.  It seems like just yesterday that we were scooped up and moved half way around the world.

la tour Eiffel

It's been a WILD ride.

In April, Judith and I moved from the USA to Paris, France.

Late in 2011 I had been laid off from a technology job (software engineering manager).  Jude and I counted our pennies and made the decision to leave while the leaving was good.  Besides, I was angry at the bastards who would downsize a $1BILLION a year company to make themselves richer.  The CEO had already made $200MILLION over five years and was looking for more to pad his bank account.  The sad truth is, the company I worked for was being stripped of assets and is now a zombie.  Where it took 4000+ people to generate $1billion, the new zombie employs less than 1000 people now and generates around $750million.  To their sharp pointy penciled boys, that's a GREAT thing.  They've stripped tens of billions of dollars and are laughing all the way to the bank.

Not being rich (by any means) meant we had to carefully plot our exit.  To have an outside chance at being able to afford to live abroad, we had to sell our house and get our financial affairs arranged in a way that we wouldn't have to worry about excessive market fluctuations while planning to live on a shoestring budget.

We needed to have a couple things done to the house (new ceiling in one room and a new sink in the kitchen) which delayed putting the house on the market until early in 2012.  It sold in a week (literally).

A Paris apartment needed to be found, health insurance (ex-pat) needed to be purchased, the automobiles sold, airline tickets paid for, and a storage unit filled with Plan B things we might want if Plan A failed.  We flew to San Fransisco to apply for visitors visas that would allow us to live in Paris for a year.  Our visas arrived in a week (literally).

la tour Eiffel

Our first apartment was incredible (this was our view from the front windows).  We lived there for a quick three months.

Our second apartment is a longer term situation.  It is quiet and looks out into a space that's filled with birds.  The drunks are not too loud.  The children upstairs are in bed by 10pm each night.  The open air market is held three days a week on the major street that is a block from us.  We have three natural food stores and a large supermarket that are all very very close to us.  There are two metro stations within staggering distance.  All of Paris is at our beck and call within 20mins.

We're getting ready to re-apply for our visas.  This is a little trying on the nerves.  But I'll take these kinds of challenges over trying to feed an insatiable corporate monster any day of any life I'd ever chose to live.  French state willing and all that, we'll hopefully be able to live out our days here.

la tour Eiffel

For one of these images, la tour sparkled.  I left the shutter open long enough to capture a few of the flashes of light that twinkle on and off.  It's quite a display.  When we lived in our first Paris apartment, they would shut the twinkle system off at 11pm each night and the main lights inside la tour's girders would extinguish at midnight.  A classmate of ours said that it was twinkling at 5am one early morning recently.

Paris is filled with majick.  Plan A is working (and we're keeping fingers crossed).

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Yes. We're open.

I was carefully considering the menu chalked on a board outside a rather empty restaurant.   Jami and Jude were looking around wondering why things weren't any busier than they were.

What's this?  Oh.  The owner of Paperorosso is motioning us inside.  Well.  Ok then.

She's quick as a bunny in the door and already talking with the man who motioned us inside.  Jude has a few rather inconvenient (to her) food allergies.  It's a Sin Against Nature that she'd been dealt this card.  She doesn't deserve to be treated this way by Life.  You see, Jude loves to eat, and she needs to ask if there were things on the menu she could eat. 

Bridges ~ Florence, Italy
... this light here... oh, the light...

We're in Italy.  Which is a long way from our home in Paris.  Which is even a longer way from where we were born and raised in the US.  Language can be a little tricky with an American accent struggling with French trying to utter a couple words of Italian, but Jude dives right in to give it her best shot.

I don't even have the door closed yet and I hear (in the very very best Father Guido Sarducci voice) "Sorry.  We won't serve you here.  Not possible."

Alarmed that we've been found out as being Unworthy, or that something worse requiring Diplomatic Intervention has just taken place, I look up... and into the broadest Italian smile I've seen in, oh, maybe 10 minutes or so since we encountered the last happy Italian.  Dario was simply joking around with my wife.

Everything Is Fine.

Letting my heart rate settle a bit, I was reminded that Italy is a broad expansive open armed kind of country.  What might take the French a few visits to get around warming up to things, the Italians seem to have cast cultural caution and many forms of dignity and decorum aside.

Would you like a quick snort before your meal?  No problem.  Out comes the Campari.  You don't even have to ask.

Duomo di Milano
 Flowers?  Cherib delivered.

Would you like a bit of olive oil with that wonderful bread you were just handed?  No problem.  Out comes the TWO FREAK'N DAY OLD olive oil!  The stuff is so fresh, you can't stand it.  It's un freak'n believable.  So good.  So tasty.  So heavenly that you'd feel the Pope Himself has blessed this incredible liquid.

How about an affordable wine?  No problem.  No, they don't feel anything that comes out of a box "real".  How about a nice deep full bodies Super Tuscan RED?  Now 'er talk'n.  The Italians make GREAT wines to drink, not to sit around talking about which vintage is best and what maker went to which school so that you know you could be guaranteed quality that you will never in Your Lifetime ever be able to taste.  In Italy, your tastebuds are, indeed, WORTHY.  [slurp]

Would you like a little wild boar for lunch?  No problem.  Wild boar is a problem in Europe.  Besides, it's tasty.  As in fresh olive oil tasty.  It's served in a plate the size of the state of Umbria.  Tender?  You bet.  Just the right amount of wild flavor?  Oh baby!  Swimming in a sauce that only Angels of God could Themselves make?  Words escape me.

Duomo di Milano
 Heavenly architecture...

Would you like a little Vin Santo to go along with your gelato?  No problem.  You get a choice.  The tasty stuff?  Or the FABULOUS stuff from Sicily?  You know.  The stuff that God cellar-ed, oh, a few years back, and brings out for only special occasions.  Like right now.  Like you really honestly swearing on a stack of His Own Veda, Upanishad, and Philokalia deserve this.

I should've known that Jude had broken an important cultural barrier and that we would all benefit by being served a meal FAR better than anything you've ever seen in ANY thousand year old fresco of the Last Dinner.  Or was that a fresco of hungry Romans?  I can't remember.  Anyway, it was all over the top wonderful.  The Slow Food Movement started, afterall, right there in Italy.  Organic "artisanal" (gods! I hate that word) everything.  And the restaurant is situated just across the street from our hotel.  How on earth could we go wrong?

Duomo di Milano
 A saint on a stick!

Dario spent a fair bit of time with us, chatting about this and that, and generally having a laugh filled wonderful experience.  Cultural barriers were, how shall we say?, gone.

By the time we left (a couple hours later), the place was filled with happy hungry folks.  We?  It was a Our Last Dinner in Florence.  For now, at least.

We'll be back.  In this you can trust.