In the last few weeks, I feel as though I have been thrown off the back of a raft and into the swell. Every chance I have to poke my head above water, I gasp in as much air as possible. This blog is exactly that, a quick update across a lot of thing before I go back below.
Pat and I took two quick trips before class started: Lyon and Lisbon. Both were cities we considered living in next year. Let’s start with Lyon. If you remove the best and worst of Paris, you have Lyon. No Louvre but no tourist mobs. No Notre Dame but no tourist mobs. Bottom line, no tourist mobs. We ate at the bouchons, walked the markets and the riverside, and toured the churches and old city. It was all nice, not love at first site nice, but nice. But it begged the question – “Why live in Lyon when we both love living in Paris?” Good question. Our apartment is small, but 275 square feet is our new favorite size. It fits and we love both the apartment and our neighborhood – the 11th. (So much “love” in this paragraph, but I am unrepentant). So scratch Lyon next year, but I am certain we will be back in Paris for a few months.
Our daughter, Taylor, visited us in June, and we decided to head someplace none of us had been. Lisbon is a beautiful city – Mediterranean, buildings covered in colorful, patterned, Moorish tiles, and delicious food – especially the fish. Yet once again, like Lyon, Lisbon is a city I am no longer yearning to live in. This raises a point; we have to stop visiting cities we are considering for future stays. Once we visit a place for five days, we are leaving with a feel of been there, what’s next. I’m sure we would enjoy a month in Lisbon — or Porto for that matter — but I am not longer sure either is on the list.
All this said, had we visited Bratislava for five days, we would have never returned to live there. We ended up staying for 18 months and adored it. I think he best strategy is to just jump in and make whatever home we pick work. I am a bit nervous about three months in Guatemala, but I am sure we will adapt. And if not, we will rethink our strategy on where we go, and for how long (and if you haven’t guessed, we are already rethinking our strategy of where we live and for how long).
Although I have read about the poverty and unemployment issues in Portugal, I was unprepared for a city quite so propped up by tourism. In building after building, the ground floor was a coffee shop or restaurant and the entire remainder of the building was abandoned. This is Lisbon. We took a tour our last day. Our young tour guide – who gave us a riveting perspective of Portugal from a 20-something perspective – shared that this is a city built for 2 million people with only 500 thousand inhabitants. After watching Greece spiral out of control in the last days/weeks/years, I wonder where this all ends for Europe and who will be death spiraling next.
This brings me to the last two weeks. From ten each morning until five or later every evening (except Sunday), I am studying in a writing workshop with 12 other students from around the world. What a blast! We actually sit in coffee shops and pretend we are a bunch of little Hemingways, it’s silly and stupid and so breathtakingly fun. Today, we switch from studying writing to critiquing our own. To that end, we will split thirteen students across four teachers and do this in very small groups.
I’m not nervous (during 32 years in corporate American, I had all my nerves surgically removed). I came here to become a better writer. So in that spirit, I hope my team brings their criticism A game. On July 31st, I will submit my written portfolio and return to the United States. I can’t believe the end of our time in Paris is only two weeks away. I feel like I got here yesterday. I feel like I’ve lived here my entire life. After a bit of here and there throughout the United States, we will leave for Cuba – and then Guatemala – on December 29th. I am looking forward to five months at home.
My last epiphany has been the entire topic of this blog. Our story has been revolved around two people who sold everything, retired and took to the road full-time. After finding a few thousand bloggers who have done exactly this, I realize it is not a story. It is just one more fact about who we are. The people and places we stumble upon are what’s interesting. What takes us there is merely a devise. And I have discovered a love of writing fiction. So what I do with all this once the class ends, who knows. For now, I am just going to lap up these final two weeks and follow the wind, and my instincts, for what comes next.
The good news, I have not spent a nano-second regretting my decision to retire. Not one. I never see this changing, and that’s a fantastic feeling.
For those who love Paris, let me leave with a restaurant tip. A new place has opened in the 11th called Ober Mamma (the younger sibling to the ridiculously popular East Mamma). It is on Richard Lenoir just north of Oberkampf. If you are nearby (or even if you are not), I highly recommend it. Just be here by 7, and expect to queue (or come at noon – and expect to queue). No reservations and there is always a wait if you are not there for the opening. The staff is almost all Italian, and the two owners are adorable. You will thank me. (The best pizza this side of Naples – but other dishes also.)
Categories: Western Europe