samedi 29 septembre 2012
When we moved into this apartment, six years ago in November, we immediately started looking for a garage or parking space to rent. Parking is on the street, mostly free parking but some areas with meters, and most buildings have inner courtyards with several spots available.

I set aside a savings fund "for garage" and every month we put some savings into it.

We checked the online listings and local real estate offices. Nothing doing. I set up online alerts that would email me whenever a spot was listed in our area code, but they were never nearby (and of course, my email address now gets spam for new apartment building programs).

Some spots are to rent, but we decided we didn't want to rent a place for 100+ euros a month. I am able to usually find a closer spot on the street, with varying degrees of legality:
 - completely legal ( a bona fide spot)
- sorta legal (on a crosswalk) can probably get away with it for a short period of time, like overnight
- sorta illegal (a second driving lane that gets converted to parking) probably gonna get a ticket if the cops come by
- completely illegal (blocking someone's garage, gonna get towed).

I can usually find a sorta legal or sorta illegal spot, and sometimes get lucky with a completely legal spot. Certain areas of Marseille, the older areas, are worse, ranging from completely illegal to sorta illegal spots only.

Anyway, the years passed, I got used to searching for parking and knew the best places to look for a spot, where I probably wouldn't get a ticket. I got a ticket about once every three months, which at 35€ a ticket is a better deal than 100+ € a month for a parking spot (and further away).
Our garage savings fund got re-entitled "house" and we resigned ourselves to our parking fate. Alain of course has no problem, he parks his motorcycle on the sidewalk, but he too would like a covered space, with limited access.

And then, suddenly, one of the talkative elderly people that live in this area (they like to talk to Alain, sometimes they keep him for half an hour while I'm waiting with dinner, but that is another story), informed Alain that one of their neighbors was selling his garage in the inner courtyard of their building. The garage is 10 meters square, just enough for the car, not a car + motorcycle, and the person was asking 23,000€ for it. It seems a lot, but it is sadly the going price in this area.

The elderly person told Alain that they would give him the name and the number of the guy selling it.

Alain and I talked it over and decided that though it would put us back about a year in our plans to buy a house, that it was worth it. This area might well become more congested, the city might decide to put up more parking meters, etc. We could always rent the parking space with the apartment when we decide to buy a house and rent this apartment. Plus, it would be an added bonus for anyone wanting to rent.

Anyway, we waited and waited for the name and the number. When we finally got the number, I called the guy, and it was sold. Argh!!!!

So, there you have it. I am a bit frustrated that we lost out on it, but also glad we didn't have to make the decision. It would have cost us about 25,000 in total, including the lawyer's fee, plus our taxes would go up (a few hundred euros a year).

Back to searching for parking spots after a long day of work.
dimanche 23 septembre 2012
At the end of July, I reserved one night in a hotel in Manosque, a village in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region, about an hour northeast of Marseille. We went on his motorcycle, me with a backpack carrying all our stuff for two days.

In Manosque, we stopped by the L'Occitane factory, museum, and gift shop. We took the tour, got some free samples, and bought a few items but not too much as we were traveling light.
Afterwards, we checked in to our hotel, and went for lunch in Manosque, in the city center.

An afternoon nap, then we took his motorcycle to Forcalquier, "crowned by a ruined casted and domed chapel of the 19th century Notre-Dame-de-Provence, Forcalquier is an intriguing shadow of its former self."

A long steep walk to the top of the hill, but the views were amazing. We walked back down and had a drink in the old town, then drove back to Manosque. We had dinner in town again, and as it was a Friday night, it was quite lively. There were several bands playing and tons of people. We shared a bottle of red wine, and were a bit tipsy by the end of the night.

Saturday morning was market day, and the parking area was packed. We had a light breakfast in the center of town, then checked out of our hotel and hopped on his motorcycle. We headed east, towards Valensole, hoping to see fields of lavendar. We saw fields, but I guess the lavendar had already been picked. We then headed towards Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, a town on the side of a hill and known for its ceramics. We walked around a bit, including up to a cave with religious relics inside, then had lunch at a restaurant perched above a river running down from the mountains through the town. We hoped to do the tour around the Gorges du Verdon, but didn't have enough time. We drove by a picnic/boating area and stopped for a bit, but it was hot and we didn't have our swimsuits with us. We then headed back to Marseille, by the small departmental roads, winding through various small towns. We got back to Marseille just in time for pizza and a movie night, thank goodness!

We had a great trip and enjoyed seeing an area we had never seen before, as up until now, we have visited mainly the Bouches-du-Rhone area, the Vaucluse, and Nimes.   

samedi 22 septembre 2012
After a very long hiatus, I am back.

I was frustrated with my blog template (the header being messed up) and just overwhelmed in general, but after three weeks of vacation in the US, ready to start updating again.

Will be posting some photos and stories from our trip soon.

In the meantime, I just found out that I passed the first part (the written exam) of the 2-day exam in Paris at the end of June. Now I have to take the oral part, which will be October 18th or so, again in Paris.
If I pass this test, I will be done with courses and testing for at least a few months.

Or maybe a few years.

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