Monday, July 10, 2017

Life in Greece: “Do You Ever Eat at Home?”

“I am just wondering,” asked my friend Elana, “do you ever eat at home? I mean, do you cook?”

It was a valid question. She'd been at The Stone House on the Hill a couple days and never eaten a bite there.

Stoupa Restaurant has views of the sea and the village
It made me laugh and I answered in the affirmative but she likely didn’t believe me. From the moment she and her husband had arrived we’d traveled in high gear from one location to the next as we tried to have them experience all our favorite eateries.

With even the heartiest of appetites and the best of good intentions, with so many places from which to choose, it just wasn’t going to happen in the few days they were with us. They ended their visit not once eating a meal at The Stone House on the Hill.

PicMonkey Collage
Is it the food or the views that bring us back to this tavern in Kardamyli?
When discussing houseguests with our ex pat friends who live in our slice of The Mani we often ponder the difficulties and dilemmas of how many places can we take our visitors before we all succumb to that heavenly near-coma state brought on by overeating.

With a typical visit lasting three or four nights, we have to squeeze a lot of eating into a short amount of time.

PicMonkey Collage
Moussaka and chips to the left; seafood pastitsio on the right

What, Where and How much?

Actually Elana’s question was one asked by many. Eating – the what, when and where – is one of the biggest curiosities we’ve found that people have about our life in the Greek Peloponnese.

* Do you have a grocery store nearby?
Yes! A large supermarket, several bakeries and the ‘fruit man’ makes regular runs through the villages selling fruits and veggies from his truck.
* Can you get rose wine there?
Yes! White, red and rose – served in pitchers in quarter-, half- and kilo amounts is the most economical at restaurants (never more than 6-euros for the largest) but sometimes we ‘splurge’ and buy a bottle (10 – 20-euro restaurant price) and drink to our heart’s content for far less than in the U.S.
* Are there restaurants near you?
Yes! Definitely!

What is Greek food?

In the United States we came to know Greek food as being a ‘Greek salad’, a gyro (yh-ero, not JI-roe) those pitas wrapped around meat, French fries, tomatoes and onions and slathered with tzatziki sauce. Or the multi-layered traditional Greek dishes, moussaka (layers of aubergine, potato, minced meat (hamburger) and topped with a bechamel) or pastitsio, (layers of pasta and meat or fish dish with bechamel).

Easter's traditional meal - roasted lamb
Little did we know of the wonders of the varieties of Greek dishes: their stifados (slow-cooked, stew-like dishes), their grilled lamb, pork and beef, their beet root creations, oh, . . .how the list could go on. A plate of giant beans is ambrosia when eaten in a Greek taverna. The pastas and pizzas rival those produced by the Italians to the north. The fresh greens, tomatoes used in salads – not to mention that slab of feta (which rivals gold prices if purchased in the US) brings exclamations from all our visitors.

PicMonkey Collage
Salads we have known, loved and eaten
Sometimes I am not sure if it is the cuisine that makes these places our favorites or if it is the settings or the warmth and charm of the owners. Perhaps it is the lovely combination of all those factors.

PicMonkey Collage
A favorite restaurant of ours is housed in an old olive press in a nearby mountain village

Eating at Home

Truth is we do eat at home. Quite often.

As I said earlier, tree-ripened fruit and just-picked vegetables are in abundance. The ‘fruit man’ makes a regular run through the villages several times a week. Several fishermen sell their catch at the harbor each morning. Just across the street from the harbor there’s a meat market, a bakery is a few steps away. Kalamata, the big city an hour away has a large municipal market operating two days a week and Aeropolis, a bit closer and to our south operates a Saturday market.

For less than 10 euro. . .
And it is fun to try new recipes. Converting ingredient amounts to the Metric systems is a bit like solving a puzzle and challenges the brain. Although sometimes it is nice to just ‘whip up’ a salad for casual deck dining.

The bowl and serving tongs are gifts from friends
Or when the autumn or early spring chill keeps us indoors, it is fun to light a fire in the fireplace and serve up a helping of something slow-cooked during the day.

We don't eat this 'formally' most nights.
So a note to future houseguests: bring loose clothing and an adventuresome appetite as we plan to have you sampling some incredible food served in the most picturesque locations you’ll ever find and at prices so incredibly low that you, too, will ask,

“Do you ever eat at home?”

Thanks for your many comments on last week's post about down-sizing and de-cluttering.  It is nice to know we aren't alone in this tedious task! We are taking a break this week in the declutter and downsizing efforts and are off to visit The Scout’s hometown in Central Washington State.  I’m writing a freelance article about it and we’ve got some researching to do! I'll tell you about what we find in a future post.

Hope to see you back next week and until then safe and healthy travels to you and yours. And - as always - our thanks for being with us~

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

inking up this week with:

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Living Differently ~ A Matter of Time and Lifestyle

We’ve got all the time in the world.
                   -- The Scout

Gerolimenas - Greece
That concept of ‘all the time in the world’ is how we’ve approached travel - and life - in these commitment-free days of ‘boomer-hood’.  Not tethered to a job. No children thus, no grandkids. No other family commitments. No pets.  No ties.

We realized some time ago that we aren’t ‘empty-nesters’ - we seem almost to be ‘no nesters'. And with that realization, our travels became more frequent and the destinations further away. We stayed in distant places longer wanting to experience more of ‘that life’.

But even die-hard travelers like us enjoy the comforts of a home so we purchased a few weeks at timeshare homes in Arizona and Hawaii and then added our Stone House on the Hill in the Greek Peloponnese. Such a variety locations has us living a part of each year in a high rise condominium tower overlooking the Pacific Ocean and a low-rise southwestern adobe-style condominium with a desert view; a home in an olive grove outside a rural Greek village and a single family home metropolitan suburban Seattle.

PicMonkey Collage
From top left clockwise: Greece, Arizona, Kirkland, Hawaii

Seize the day, then let it go.
              -- Marty Rubin

Permission to live life differently

This new lifestyle really began when we gave ourselves permission to live in more than one place in the world on a rotating basis. One of my fellow bloggers calls their similar lifestyle one of 'location independence'. While we sing the praises of it, many of our long-time friends and family (who are deeply rooted in the Pacific Northwest) still wonder what could possibly be so wonderful about being someplace else all the time.

At home in Scottsdale, Arizona
The timeshare life didn’t strike many as too unusual, as we were still traveling in America, with the exception of a few ‘time’ trades to foreign destinations. Many who knew us during our 40’s cheered on our home ownership, in a village north of Puerto Vallarta,  Mexico. They saw it as a great adventure – and a relatively ‘safe’ one as we were still employed full-time in the Northwest and spent only a few weeks – our allotted vacation time - south of the border.

But when in our retirement years we bought a home in Greece, eyebrows went up, and the questions began. Many, I think, suspected signs of possible early senility in each of us. After all, we are old now, it is time to be fretting over Medicare and Social Security benefits and various ailments; not to take leave of our senses and start growing olives in Greece.  What were we thinking?

The Stone House on the Hill - Greek Peloponnese

We are only but guests at Time's tea party.
~Terri Guillemets 

We aren’t alone in being 'different'

Living differently is what draws armchair travelers and daydream believers, like us, to books written by famous ex pats - Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Julia Child, Frances Mayes and Peter Mayle, among them. Each has entertained, amused and inspired us (and like-minded readers) with their tales of living abroad.

What I’ve found interesting in researching this post is the vast number of unknown (unpublished) Americans who’ve chosen to live on foreign soil. We are but two among millions,. . . yes, millions!

The Greek sea near our home
The State Department's most recent figure (January 2013) of U.S. citizens living overseas (which is the source of other organizations' estimates such as the Association of Americans Resident Overseas [AARO]) stands at 6.8 million, up from 6.3 million in July 2012.

-- Source, 2013 article for the Migration Policy Institute titled, “Counting the Uncountable: Overseas Americans”

And those figures reflect only those Americans who’ve registered with their Embassy in the country in which they are living. The report speculates that real numbers are likely much higher.

In our tiny slice of Greece there are some two dozen Americans who’ve chosen to live full- or at least half-time there.

Recognize life is (too) short

 Overlooking Stoupa, Greece
Back to that, “All the time in the world” quote.  In reality we know that at our ‘boomer’ ages we don’t have all the time in the world. The day will come when our ability to live in different parts of the world will be limited by physical or mental constraints: in other words, we really will be too old!   So we’ve decided not to put off until tomorrow what we can experience today.


But, don’t you miss. . .?

‘But don’t you miss. . .when you aren’t here?’( Fill in the blank with a favorite food, place, or event.) And the answer is ‘Of course!’  I miss my Pacific Northwest peanut butter and Starbucks coffee when in Greece ( Imported peanut butter is expensive and the closest Starbucks is in Athens). I miss frozen Mai Tai’s when we leave our timeshare in Hawaii.  I miss the stately Saguaro cactus in Arizona. And it goes without saying that I miss ‘my’ cats when we exit Greece.

Note: I didn’t mention friends and family in the above paragraph because we don’t really – thanks to modern-day technology – leave any of them behind.  We could literally see each other and visit daily thanks to the advent of Facebook Messenger, Skype, and Face Time

A Place Called Home

DSCF0420For the next few months we are in our Pacific Northwest home, our anchor residence for the last 30 years.  We’ve been back less than a week and already have fallen  into the routines of every day life in this Seattle suburb. It’s as if we’ve never been gone. But then we say that about settling into each of our lifestyles these days.

One distinction this home has over our others is that it holds the lifetime of ‘stuff’ we’ve collected (or inherited) over the decades. Many items with only sentimental value . . . that collect dust in our absence.

With a goal of freeing ourselves from these material ties that bind, our summer travels will likely be to local charities and dump sites. 

I'm certain those of you of 'boomer age' see the irony in how we all worked to acquire so many things that fill drawers, cupboards, closets and the garage during the first half of our lives and now we are tasked with getting rid of it.

The nice thing about our Stone House on the Hill is that it lacks storage space – few drawers and shelves,  armoires instead of closets and no garage. And you know what? We love the lack of ‘stuff’ there! 

While we are doing those rather mundane tasks of sorting and hauling, I plan to escape every week with a look back at Greece, Geneva, and France. One thing we are already missing about Greece, is the food. I'll be focused on that next week!

Hope your summer travels – or projects – are good ones. Stay safe and healthy! And as always, thanks so very much for being with us ~

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Greece ~ When the Cicadas Sing. . .

We can’t leave until the cicadas sing, I announced several weeks ago.

For some reason those little insect mariachi bands hadn’t heralded summer’s arrival as early as they did last spring. And that was reason enough in my mind to stick around until they did. (And it didn't take much to convince The Scout that more time here was in order. . .even singing cicadas.)

The Stone House on the Hill
Cicadas are the sound of summer and the song of the Mediterranean. If you've never heard them, their symphony of sound is reminiscent of those 'shaka-shaka-shaka' rhythms generated by orchard sprinklers or an electric wire’s buzz in the mid-day heat.

Our part of Greece was quite literally abuzz with the cicadas song when we returned two weeks ago from our whirlwind trip to France and Switzerland. Since then the temperature has been rising and the cicadas have been singing so . . .

Sunset from The Stone House on the Hill
Our time here - for now - is coming to an end. We are next week returning to America’s Pacific Northwest.

Spring burning in the grove brings a magic haze
As anyone with a second home, vacation home, boat, cabin, RV or other can understand, we are in the pack-up, close-up phase of this ‘other’ life we step into and out of like scene changes on a stage. 
Dust covers will soon be in place; cupboards and refrigerator emptied of perishable food. 

We’ve attached specially treated bags to our olive trees in an eco friendly attempt to kill the ‘dako’, the fly that is ravaging olive crops in Italy and Greece and who might threaten in our absence. We’ve applied the insecticide to keep our citrus trees from insect attack during the next few months.  (A whole new set of behaviors and routines we’ve developed as result of this ex pat adventure.)

Our grove was carpeted with wildflowers in March
We will have lived more of 2017 on this side of the Atlantic than on the other.  So as I am packing up our life and house I thought I'd tell you a bit today about our last 106 days ~ random memories of a spring at our Stone House on the Hill in the Greek Peloponnese:

It is only fitting to start with 'our' cats (who’ve been front and center of our FB posts of late): The photo below is of Mom Cat/Maggie Mae, left, Princess/Sulita/BooBoo, right, and Scamp/Mackie on the floor. 

Maggie Mae is the former stray who’s been the neighborhood baby producing machine until finally we took her in for surgery and she's now our Maggie Mae, who's enjoying being a permanent ‘empty nester’. Princess (aka Sulita and BooBoo, depending on the house she's living at) continues to reign at our place despite belonging to a couple from Athens who have a home further up our hill and are here for less time than we are. Scamp (aka Mackie) lives three doors down, but the other cats at that house intimidate him – as does his shadow – so he hangs out with us when we are here.

Cats Rule at The Stone House on the Hill

And what is a blog post about our Stone House without a report of projects undertaken and completed during our stay?

P1040065Aside from obtaining our residency permits the only big project we hoped to accomplish was converting our concrete ceilings to wood. And once we made the acquaintance of the carpenter and his son who live at the foot of our hill, it didn’t take long to make that happen.

I guess we also had planned to buy a car, but you regulars here know that could only happen with the residence permit which came too late in the stay. That goes on the 'next fall' list.


We’ve also been reminded the last few months of the joy that comes from spending quality time with friends. Not a rushed dinner or a quick text, but real time, real talk. Our friendship world is expanding as we meet others in this new home base. And we love having friends from our other world come and stay with us. What fun it is to show those from our U.S. life this new world of ours and have them say they finally understand what drew us here and what makes us want to stay longer.

The Scout and his long-time friend Mike look out at  Viros Gorge.
Even better when they say they want to return for another visit!

We knew all these friends back in Kirkland, two have moved here, two were visiting
This really is a world where meals can last for hours, where wait staff won’t clear dishes or bring bills until we summon them. . . we’ve grown accustomed to the pace and this lifestyle.

Orange honey cake, one of our favorites
Our days have been sweet and we’ve savored each of them.  More importantly we’ve reminded ourselves how important it is to keep stepping out of our comfort zone. . .and make ourselves stretch our minds and abilities. It isn’t always easy to live in a foreign country but it sure is fun. For that reason we are counting the days until our return in September.

Bus to Kalamata passes through our village a couple times a day
“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”
--Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon

I’ve not yet told you about how we toured the French countryside by public bus nor have I shown you some of the hauntingly beautiful but nearly abandoned ‘tower’ towns just down the road from us here.  I will get to those in future posts but its time to go dig out the suitcases. . .I've got some packing to do!

As always thanks for the time you spend with us and our wishes for safe and healthy travels. And a huge thank you for the overwhelming response you gave us to the news of our Greek residency.  Your enthusiasm and good wishes have brightened our week and made our success a real celebration!

Linking this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Road Trip to Greek Residency ~ Journey’s End

Just like that it was over.

So quickly and easily that it didn’t seem possible our long and winding Road Trip to Greek Residency had come to an end with only a 10-minute stop at the Greek Immigration office in Kalamata on Friday.

That's all the time it took to pick up our permanent residency cards.

Road in the Peloponnese wine country

After more than six months on this ‘road trip to residency’ our journey's end was remarkably . . .unremarkable.

We even managed to end the journey on our own – we didn’t have our steadfast attorney at our side as we stood at the Immigration office counter. We handed over our paper ‘temporary’ permits, the official checked our files in the computer, double-checked our passports and issued us the small plastic cards that make us Greek residents.

Our Greek residency ID permit cards

These cards, similar in size to hotel keys, are the keys to our future travels in Europe and time spent in Greece. And that part really is quite remarkable!

As our long-time reader-friends know, we hadn’t envisioned this road trip back when we purchased our Stone House on the Hill two and a half years ago. The Schengen Treaty guidelines for tourists were going to accommodate us well we thought at the time: 90 days in Greece and 90 days out of all Schengen countries.

The Stone House on the Hill 2017
No way were we going through the bureaucratic hassle of getting a residency permit, we’d emphatically vowed back then. We’d had enough translations, costs, and legal fees in buying the house we proclaimed to anyone else who unwittingly asked about our part-time ex pat lifestyle.

Gare du  Nord - Paris, France
One thing we should have known even back then was that we – of all people – should never say never.  Sticking to a 90-day schedule is a rigid way to travel. There’s no flexibility for things that might happen during or outside that window of time  – health issues, special events, spur of the moment side trips - anything could cause a misstep while doing the Schengen Shuffle.

Schengen governs travel in so many countries on this side of the Atlantic that the travel time clock was constantly ticking. Penalties are severe for overstaying the Schengen welcome and don’t let anyone tell you that they don’t check arrival and departure date stamps in the passport. We’ve been checked every time we’ve arrived and left Greece and once even cautioned about the 90-day limit.

A look in the rearview mirror

A look in the rearview mirror

Looking back we realize we began pondering this road trip to residency more than a year ago. We researched while in Greece and in the U.S. We had numerous email conversations with our Greek attorney and phone conversations with the Greek consulate serving our region of the United States.

The journey really got underway last September when we met with our attorney and she outlined out the route we’d need to travel.  Our first stop in February was at the Greek Consulate in San Francisco. An initial interview with each of us and review of our application documents was completed there. We each left with an entry visa which gave us 12 months in which to start (and hopefully complete) the process in Greece.

An appointment with our attorney at a Kardamyli village coffee shop

With our documents approved by the consulate staff we proceeded to get them notarized and apostilled in the U.S. Then, immediately upon our arrival in Greece, they were turned over to our attorney for translation into Greek.  We made our offical application in early April at the Immigration office in Kalamata. Officials there would review documents, perhaps require more documents and/or an in-person interview before a panel of five persons before determining whether to grant the permanent residency permit.

Many forms were filled out, fees paid and office visits made
We hit a roadblock of sorts as the result of timing. Greece decided to comply with a decade-old European Union rule for immigration which changed the visa/permit process from one of a stamp in the passport to one of an ID card that conforms with all other EU immigration cards.  We applied as the change over was implemented so we needed fingerprints, photos and more fees had to be paid. Those little cards hold much information about us in them.

We finally -- in late May learned that we’d been approved. We didn't speak much about it because until the cards were in hand, nothing was guaranteed. We have friends who were ‘that close’ when laws or minds of officials changed, and it was back to the drawing board for them. We crossed our fingers and waited. . .

But getting the cards in hand proved to be quite a waiting game in itself as they are delivered to the Kalamata Immigration office on Thursdays. They come from the police department. However we had no indication of which Thursday.

Bottom line:  Had we not extended our stay in Greece by a few weeks we would have returned to the States this spring without the permanent permits. They arrived on a Thursday a few weeks after being issued. The day we picked them up was day 93 of this stay.

Road to Kalamata

Immigration isn’t for the faint-of-heart

I’ve always admired those folks who moved to another country – immigrants, who for whatever reason wanted a life (or who were forced to make a life) in a new country.  Now that we’ve been through this process – and this is nothing compared to those seeking citizenship – I have only the highest regard for anyone who undertakes a road trip to residency or citizenship in another country.

It is tough. It is expensive. It is humbling. It is frustrating. And it is all beyond your control. You put your best self forward and present your life story to unknown officials who will determine whether you do or don’t qualify for that precious residency permit.  In our case, a permit that will make travel easier and allow us flexibility in our lifestyle. For some though it means freedom and security from a war-torn country or pursuit of a professional goal or educational endeavor.

Journey’s End. . .or Beginning?

We are set until April 2019 – we can stay as long as we want. Why, we could even move here and live full-time!  Should we seek a renewal we will go through a modified application process again in two years. The next permit under current law would be for three years.

It has definitely been an interesting process ~ one that generated tales we can share and laugh about with others who’ve traveled the same road to residency. We have several friends here from the US who’ve become residents in Greece. Our journeys to residency have each had their own twists, turns and roadblocks, but we all agree we are better for having completed the journey.

The Scribe and The Scout - Greek residents!
Our little key-card sized permit stands ready to unlock doors to new adventures for us.  While waiting for the permits to arrive, we’ve dared to discuss some possibilities. . .some that sound downright improbable right now. But five years ago who’d have thought we’d buy a house in Greece? Two years ago who’ve have thought we’d be Greek residents? 

As I said earlier, we, of all people, should never say never. . .

Thanks to so many of you who’ve served as our cheerleaders along the way.  Your words of encouragement and enthusiasm for our efforts have meant more than you'll ever know! We have appreciated both your interest in our lives and your continued time spent reading our tales.  Hope to see you back here next week – and I promise this is the last you’ll hear of this road trip – it’s been a long one!

Safe and healthy travels to you and yours~

Linking up this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Travel’s Blessings ~ Sunday Serendipity in Geneva

Serendipity - the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

It is a post-card perfect Sunday afternoon in Geneva, Switzerland. Mont Blanc towers in the distance and Lake Geneva has drawn thousands of local and visiting sun-worshippers on this perfect June day.
Lake Geneva 

We didn’t head to the lake though. We went  to church. Not the ‘walk in and admire the architecture’ kind of ‘go to church’, I am talking the ‘sit down and stay awhile’ kind.
Geneva, Switzerland
If a traveler were going to go to church, Geneva, known today as the ‘Protestant Rome” would be a good city in which to do it  - there are more than 140 places of worship from which to choose. There’s even an International Museum of the Reformation here which chronicals the Protestant church reformation.
But that’s not why we went to church.  It was the serendipity of travel that took us to church:
Several years ago while at our Hawaiian timeshare, Ko Olina on O’ahu, we attended an owners ‘meet and greet’. It turns out that several sets of owners come back ‘same time each year’ as we do. And as result of that introductory gathering several of us have become friends. We socialize when together in Hawaii and stay in touch in between. 
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Geneva
One set of KoOlina friends have told us about their son and his family living in Geneva.  He is the minister at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Geneva, which is located on one of the prettiest plazas in the old town. So the serendipity of that chance meeting in Hawaii years ago led us to church this morning in Geneva. We were attending the service conducted by our friends' son.
Children's choir and Rev. Andrew Willis

Had we not gone, we would have missed one of the richest travel experiences we’ve ever had. The congregation was a reflection of the the United Nations headquarters here (the second largest of the organizations four headquarters) – the music and the praise a mix of cultural richness.
Reamo lebogaWe give our thanks to God.
We sang the hymn using the words of Botswana, another hymn was from Namibia another was an English folk tune, and another a Medieval French melody.   
Gathering for communion
The visitors were equally as culturally and ethnically mixed. As we introduced ourselves to the congregation we learned there was a group from Australia seated behind us, a Jazz singer (here for an upcoming festival) from Chicago, a grandmother from Ghana here visiting her grandchildren and several folks who were in town for work at the World Council of Churches.
As we left, I lamented to The Scout that I wish I lived closer – I’d likely be a regular at this worship service. 
But we were not quite done with serendipity it turned out. . .
We strolled through the plaza in front of the church, then around a corner and found ourselves at the Geneva Street Food Festival – a once a year, one-day food and drink fest that we were lucky enough to happen upon. Serendipity, I tell you! 
Our lunch a Palestinian dish
It was tough to decide between Italian, Asian, French, vegan, meat bbq, gourmet hot dogs, and everything in between but we finally chose Middle Eastern, Palestinian food to be exact. 
Wish they'd drive to Greece
Had it been a bit later in the day I’d have indulged in one of my favorites, an Aperol Spritz!
Smoked salmon -- Northwest style?
Or the offerings of the chef in the converted school bus. . .
Old school buses never die. . .

On that note we are off to make the most of our last evening in Geneva. Our whirlwind trip ends tomorrow when we head home to Greece.  Hope that your travels -- like ours - have been blessed with a bit of serendipity. And as always our thanks for being with us on this adventure!
Linking this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Sunday, June 4, 2017

France: Bon Jour from Village Marriott ~

We write from the northeastern French countryside where we are making our home for the week in our two-story traditional townhome, surrounded by lush green meadows and golf courses.

Nearby meadowland - France
We could almost believe we  were experiencing true rural life if it weren’t for the fact we are at ‘Village Marriott’. A few miles away – but thankfully not within sight of our ‘village’ -- is Disney’s “Ranch Davy Crockett” (595 cabins in a large wooded area) and “Parc Disneyland”, the theme park better known as Disneyland Paris.

Street signs showing the way to our Marriott Villag

Much more appealing to us is the fact we are smack-dab between two very real French villages – Bailly-Romainvilliers and Magny Le Hongre. Each hamlet is walking distance from our doorstep and offers traditional boulangeries, cafes, grocery stores, fruit and meat markets. 

Our home for the week

Our townhome for the week is on the left side of the building in the photo above. Our neighbors are from Dublin. Ours is one of dozens of two- and three-bedroom townhomes in the Marriott Vacation Club d’lle-de-France. It is, in other words, one of their timeshare or interval ownership properties.
Now before those skeptics among you quit reading because I’ve said those dastardly words: timeshare, let me tell you that timeshares aren’t what they used to be.

This stay, our first here, in fact is proving they really can be quite luxurious.

PicMonkey Collage
Kitchen, living and dining room. French doors open to the patio and lawn.

Our main floor consists of a dining and living room, a fully quipped kitchen, a laundry room off of it, and a half bath off the entryway foyer.The stairway from the foyer leads to two bedrooms, each with its own bathroom.

PicMonkey Collage

What brought us here was one of our favorite features of timeshare life: ability to trade what you own for some new place in the world.  We own at Marriott’s timeshare property at KoOlina on the west side of O’ahu, one of the islands in Hawaii.  Our units there called ‘lock off’ units meaning you can use the large size unit (think 1-bedroom condo) and lock-off the second bedroom (think oversized hotel room with wet bar, microwave and small refrigerator) and basically get a two-week stay for the price of a one-week, two-bedroom purchase.

It was one of our ‘hotel-sized room weeks we traded for this spacious townhome.

Along our route to the lobby

Our timeshare ownership in Hawaii has allowed us to trade time for stays at Marriott Vacation Clubs in Bangkok, Thailand, Spain's Costa del Sol and Phoenix, Arizona as well as here. A highpoint of each property is the amazing landscaping  - but I think this place has raised the bar on landscaping.

Our townhome is in a section of the development called Giverny, and fans of Monet know that many of his paintings were of his Giverny home and gardens. In tribute to him they have created here a replica of them on this part of the development.

PicMonkey Collage
Almost Monet's gardens

So I did the math on this stay and checking rates here for a week-long stay in June as we are doing, we’d be paying about 300-euros a night; 2,100, for the week which equates to about one year’s maintenance fees at our home resort.  The cost of the trade fee was less than $200 and we’ve still got a week left to use in ‘the big side’ of our Hawaiian timeshare. All in all a good travel deal.

Pool area, lobby, bistro restaurant

For those considering a stay here: The resort offers a shuttle service to Disneyland and to the RER train station, about four miles away.   It is about 10 minutes to Disneyland and from the train station Paris is 50-minutes away.  A week-long train pass – Pass Navigo Semaine – allows travel on trains, metro and buses in Paris as well as this rural area for about 27 euros a person. 

That’s it from this side ‘of the pond’ this week.  I know I promised a report on our Greek road to residency but it turns out we haven’t moved any further along it than we were last week.  Perhaps extending our time in Greece until the end of June will result in a conclusion of the journey before we return to the States. .. then again, maybe not. . .

Safe travels to you all and thanks so much for the time you spent with us at 'Village Marriott'. Hope to see you back again next week!

Linking up with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration


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