TRAVEL with pat and lew

* saying goodbye to Collioure

Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 9, 2012

the view from our terrace … we never got tired of it

When we purchased our apartment in Collioure in 2005, it was our intent to stay for 2-3 years. Instead we spent 7 summers, during which we have had a magnificent travel adventure, using 23 home exchanges to see and live in almost every part of Europe that is of interest to us.

But it is time for a change. We are anticipating eliminating the shorter one-week trips in favor of longer stays in fewer European destinations. In 2013, we plan to spend one month each in apartments in Nice and Paris.

To implement this change, we put our Collioure apartment up for sale with two Collioure realtors in the fall of 2011. As expected, there was limited interest over the winter, although we did get one offer which was contingent on the sale of the buyer’s apartment which never happened. When we returned to Collioure at the end of May 2012, we added another realtor.

One day later, the new realtor presented us with a potential buyer, and one day after that we had an offer, counteroffer, and deal. We were poised to sell our apartment at a profit over the purchase price! There is, in France, a rather long space between the cup and the lip. Bureaucracy reigns! And the buyer has numerous opportunities to back out at virtually no penalty.

Our buyer seemed firm, however, and when she asked if she could take possession sooner than the 3 months allowed by French law, we accommodated her wish, setting a settlement date of August 27. Since we had already scheduled a trip to the Amalfi Coast in late September, this meant we would be “homeless in Europe” between the settlement and the Amalfi trip. We decided to rent an apartment in Dublin for 3 weeks to fill the void.

The purchase/sale process moved along during July. The buyer decided to make it a cash purchase rather than get a mortgage. Inspections were made. The notaire (a French lawyer-like official responsible for property transfers) received and prepared the paperwork. We went off, as planned, to Oxford and London.

When we returned from London in early August, we had three weeks to pack our accumulated stuff and vacate our apartment. Our job was made easier by the fact that we had sold the apartment with everything in it – furniture, appliances, kitchen utensils, printer and monitor, etc., etc. There was, however, the task of sorting through our clothes and books, to decide what to take and what to leave.

We were ruthless. We had to be, since all of our efforts to get UPS or FEDEX to take boxes from our apartment failed to yield a single realistic option. We had to decide quickly, so we did the following … (1) mailed two boxes of books to a friend in Key West; this reduced the weight in the suitcases we would take with us on our flight home; (2) decided to take our 5 suitcases home to Key West, all packed to the maximum 50 lbs. allowed by American Airlines; (3) arranged to take 3 of the suitcases to Paris in late August and leave them in our friend’s apartment until late September.

tough decisions … what to take and what to leave behind

So we began packing and weighing. Whatever didn’t fit had to stay, be given away, or trashed. Many books stayed on the shelves, as we had agreed with the buyer, who speaks and reads English. I fulfilled my promise to autograph and leave behind copies of my own novels, as well as the Barnes & Nobel poster of my 2001 appearance. Clothes were put in large bags to give away. Our neighbor helped to make contact with the French Red Cross, which took many bags of clothes, and our American friends who are now assigned to the US embassy in London took several bags to leave in donation boxes there.

As the month went on, and our days in Collioure became few, we walked around our town and savored the memories.

the Collioure waterfront at night

We also were fortunate that our friends and Collioure next door neighbors Mike and Rose, who we had recently seen in England, were now back in Collioure. We went together to the festival fireworks, they had us over for dinner (our place was too much of a mess to even consider hosting a dinner) and we also went out to eat at a great new restaurant that opened in the garden of the former Dominican monastery, operated by the man who was our friend Sophie’s boss at our favorite pizza place in Collioure.

dinner with Mike & Rose

On August 21 (my birthday) we had a farewell dinner with our American friends Tom and Kristina and their daughter Hannah at the 2nd new restaurant in Collioure, a delightful tapas place called Ambrosia, operated by friends of our friend Sophie. This was one closing of a loop of our Collioure experience, since Tom and Kristina’s apartment had been the first place we stayed in Collioure, in the summer of 2005, when we first came to look for an apartment. We became friends, and our interactions, including Kristina’s fantastic private tour of the White House, have been reported on this blog over the years.

The great “Bag Job” began on August 23 when we took 3 heavy suitcases on the train to Paris. We avoided carrying 150 lbs up and down several flights of stairs by taking a taxi to Perpignan rather than our usual route of boarding a train in Collioure. At Gare Lyon in Paris, we got a taxi and went to the other side of Paris to our friend’s apartment. Pre-warned and expecting us, the concierge gave us the key, and we spent one night with our bags. We had an excellent dinner at an Italian restaurant just down the block.

In the morning, after a brief panic when we couldn’t find the keys, we left our bags and took a taxi into Paris, where we went to the Louvre, not to see any art, but to go to the Apple store, part of our summer long decision process of whether to switch from PC to MAC. Then we took the train back to Collioure, with no luggage, although this was so unusual we kept looking for the luggage that wasn’t there.

There were several last minute glitches, all of which got worked out. Our buyer, who had agreed to a 9:00 am settlement on August 27, suddenly announced that she couldn’t get there until 11:00 am. When we explained that this would disrupt a whole series of train, hotel and flight arrangements, she made the effort to get there as originally agreed. There was also the issue of returning our “LiveBox,” a wireless modem, to France Telecom/Orange. Three times we asked, and three times we were told that a pre-paid mailing label had been sent to us. But it never came. We boxed the “LiveBox” and asked our buyer to take it to the post office, if the label ever came, which it did about a week after the settlement. There was also aggravation with the transfer of the proceeds from the property sale (in euros) to our bank in Key West (in dollars) but it eventually got done.

The tension over the funds transfer was exacerbated by the uncertainties over the euro and thus the euro to dollar conversion rate. During the month before the property closing, the euro to dollar rate had been falling, from 1.30 dollars per euro to 1.22. On two hundred thousand euros, that meant a loss of $16,000. I was very concerned that Greece would collapse, the euro would tank, and the conversion rate would plummet even further. That was why I needed the funds to move from the notaire to the Collioure bank to the correspondent bank to the Key West bank as fast as possible.

the olive guy at the Collioure market

We took our last walks around Collioure, had crepes along the canal for the last time, saw the olive guy at the market for the last time (he had been there every Sunday and Wednesday for the 7 years), and on Monday morning, August 27, took a taxi to the notaire’s office in the neighboring town of Argeles-sur-mer. The buyer showed up on time and the paperwork was processed without any difficulty. The notaire promised to get the funds to our Collioure bank that day, and he did. We took a taxi to the train station in Perpignan, and were off on our final two travel adventures of the 2012 summer. And, in the actual event, Germany made the right noises, the euro bounced back, and the money moved in 4-5 days as the euro was rising, so it ended ok.

We will always look back on our experience in Collioure with great fondness. The town is a magnificent ancient seaport, morphed now into a vacation spot for working class French, and its charms are considerable. But it was time to move on, and we are very excited about the Plan C phase of Pat and Lew’s Great Travel Adventure.



2 Responses to “* saying goodbye to Collioure”

  1. Jack Harrison said

    Sounds well done! To the couple who make their own, good luck!

    Jack Harrison

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