TRAVEL with pat and lew

start with a dream

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 22, 2007

“It’s always been our dream to see the south of France.”

“How did you find a place?”

“Do you speak French?”

That’s the reaction, just about word for word, every time we explain that we actually live in the south of France for half of each year. To many it sounds like an impossible dream, and in truth, there are challenges to overcome, including the fact that we do not speak French, but we are proof that it can be done. Sure it takes money, but perhaps less than you might think.

Here’s the first set of stories of how we got to Collioure and made it work for us.

As my wife Pat and I approached retirement, we were planning to relocate from our rental apartment in Manhattan, our primary residence for 15 years. We had previously sold our condo in Ocean City, NJ, which we had rented out during the summer months, and purchased a home in Key West, FL. We love our Key West home and neighborhood during the winter months, but the summers are hot and humid, and then the hurricanes come.

For the past twenty years or so, we had vacationed for one week each summer in a large rented home with our seven children (4 mine, 3 Pat’s), first on Cape Cod and then on Martha’s Vineyard. Our first retirement alternative for the summer months was to purchase a small home on the Vineyard. But committing to a small summer home in the U.S., in addition to being unable to accommodate all of our family at one time, would also mean giving up our other retirement goal, traveling in Europe.

This oft-imagined dream started with a vague vision of Pat riding her bicycle to a village somewhere in the south of France to retrieve a fresh baguette, while I was ensconced in our rented villa writing novels. The more we talked about it, it became clear that European travel was a higher priority for us than Martha’s Vineyard.

“So,” Pat said with her attorney’s penetrating logic, “why don’t we buy a house in Europe and travel from there?”

That thought percolated for a few weeks in early 2005, and then Pat announced she had found the place for us to live.

“There was a lady, an artist, on the Travel Channel, talking about Matisse painting in a seaside town a hundred years ago. It looked beautiful.”

“What’s it called?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Where is it?”

“I don’t know. But I’ll keep watching the Travel Channel. They repeat the shows.”

Several days later, she learned that Matisse’s magic town, now our magic town, was the ancient fishing village of Collioure, located on the Mediterranean Sea about 25 miles north of the French-Spanish border.

“It looks beautiful, but can an American even buy property in France?” I asked.

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