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Diggin’ Ditches and Pickin’ Cherries

Today was the day we really got down to business digging the trenches in the yard.

First stop was to the local material store to pick up some drainage pipe. Benoit had to tough it out and help us along with getting the stuff home. Our poor car has been through the ringer since we moved to this house. He’s had to do more than Renault ever expected him to do.  As always he was a trooper and we made it home, materials and all and didn’t even get a ticket for illegal use of a car :). Good thing we only needed 4 tubes or we would have had to go back for another pickup.

Once home, Dude and I got to work digging the trenches. We are running two of them down the sides of the yard and they are going to tie into each other and then tie into the drainage pipe that the city comes to put in.

Who knew you could do so much with these three little tools.

Dude’s job was to use the pick to break up the top layer of the drive way, turn the dirt up and get the rocks out. Then my job was taking the trenching shovel and getting all the dirt out.

While Dude was busy doing his part of the job, I went to work picking the delicious cherries off of our tree. We have so many that there is no way I will be able to get them all. Lately the birds have been stopping by to feast so I figured that we should try to get our fair share before they’re gone. I ended up picking almost half of a bucket today and that was only off of 4 branches!

Then it was back to scooping dirt for me.

We were able to get all the trenching done today and tomorrow we just have to fine tune it and then level the driveway out. I’d say we were pretty successful. Let’s hope tomorrow our luck holds out.

Oh, and by the end of the day, Dude was done in.

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Demolition Man (Oh and Woman)

Since Dude and I are still in the process of waiting to get the roof redone and new stucco put on the exterior walls, we decided to go outside and demo the shed. Now, I was kind of into this little shed when we bought the house. I figured it might be nice to put gardening tools, wood for a fire, or maybe a place for an extra car.

As time has gone on, Dude and I made the decision to get rid of it. This is mostly because it has been in the way when we try to pull the car out of the garage or into the garage. The back part of the shed had a pillar that is just a tad far out which makes getting the car in or out somewhat difficult.  I still had my doubts about getting rid of it but after a great deal of thought we went with my uncle’s old stand-by term “When it doubt, throw it out”.

This decision was made in the beginning of November so I waltzed myself over to the town Maire to put in a request to have “les montres” pick-up at my house. Les monstres are for the huge items that you can’t set out with normal everyday trash so you have to go and ask for a special pick up and then the city comes by and takes it away for you. Since we have this service in The States I figured we were all good.

So in the beginning of November I made my request. The lady at the Maire said that the pick up only happens once a month and she told me that the next pick-up was schedule for the beginning of December. I gave her a list of what we were going to set out and was on my way.

Since we had sometime before the pick-up, Dude and I didn’t destroy the shed right away. We figured we would do it the weekend before and that would avoid us having a bunch of crap lying around our yard. By crap I mean, roof tiles, wood, cardboard, rebar, cement, and a bunch of rocks and other junk.

Here is a picture of what the shed used to look like.

Now you will have to sing the “Jeopardy” theme song in your head while mimicking the wait we had for the following three weeks until pick-up……..all good? All done singing??

Okay.

Now we come to the beginning of December. Dude and I got down to business and made Mince meat outta that shed. It did take the better part of the weekend, but that’s because Dude wanted to start the project later in the day and go into the evening. Folks, it gets cold here when the sun goes down in the winter and the weekend we decided to do this, it was also windy. Cold provincial wind. Not really feelin’ the love about 6pm at night!

So right around that time, I bailed on him cuz I was just too plain cold. I went inside to cook dinner and sit right next to the heater. With only one man on the job it took a bit longer, but that’s life.

The next day we were able to finish it up and made some piles around the yard to get ready to take everything out to the drive way by mid-week for the pick-up.

Even even dug up some old bones. Cool, huh?

Here is what our yard looked like by the end of the second day.

The area where the shed once stood actually looks pretty good, and now it even seems that we have a bigger yard. Still haven’t decided on what to do with this area now, but I guess that will be a spring/summer project.

The next day I went over to the Maire to be sure that the special pick-up was really going to take place before I threw all our junk out onto the street the night before. When I got there I spoke to a different lady (of course) and she assured me that the pick-up was on schedule for this week and my request was put in. I reiterated to her exactly what I needed to have picked-up (and what was also written down on my request form). Well no sooner had I started telling her my items then she started shaking her head NO. I was like, “Excuse me?? I came here a month ago and the lady behind the counter wrote my request and items down and she didn’t have a problem then”. Well this lady tells me that the lady I dealt with was a substitute for the day and she should have had me come back instead of taking my application because they only come and pick up things from inside your house like beds, refrigerators, couches (you get the picture). Really?? And how is that my fault??

Of course, the Maire is not going to budge on this issue so I went home totally pissed cuz now I had all this crap in my yard ready to be hauled away and no one was coming to get it! Lucky for me I checked before setting it all out or I would have had a real big surprise on the day of pick-up and all that stuff would have still been there. I would have had to haul it all back into my yard!

Now the whole reason for this special pick-up is because Dude and I don’t have a truck or a trailer to go and do it ourselves (right now all we have is Benoit and he’s no good for stuff like that) so this was the next best thing and it was FREE!!!. There was no way I was gonna pas up free in this country.

So now Dude and I had to go waste 100€ on a rental truck and do it ourselves. Sheesh if I would have known that, we could have done this month’s ago when we had rented a truck to haul away a bunch of trash and did it all at the same time to save money! Gosh, the French bureaucracy sure pisses me off sometimes.

So, Dude and I start trying to find rental deals online and we found a Europcar near us that had a big truck to rent. Their site said that if you book your reservation online you get an “online deal” so we thought what the hay, go for it, even though they don’t tell you what kind of deal you’re actually getting.

The day to pick up the rental came and off we went. We had stipulated that we wanted the car at 10am so we could be sure to make several trips to the dump that day. No, I didn’t tell Europcar about the dump, I’m just telling you guys. Heck no would I say that to them, they’d probably charge me double. They just thought we were moving furniture.

We got to the rental place at 10am on the dot and guess what?? There was a sign on the door that said that they had left on an errand and wouldn’t be back until 11:45!!! Are you kidding me?? I swear these people will do anything to mess up your day. What! Does, like, only one person work in the stupid office! Well we weren’t about to go home so we looked around and saw that there was a Renault dealership across the round-about and decided to see if we could get an oil change on the car. The Renault shop said “Minute Renault” with no appointment necessary so maybe we could get her done. I left my business card on the Europcar office door with a note to have someone call cuz we had a reservation and they weren’t there. I really did write that.

Then we drove on over to Renault and after telling the guy across the counter that I only wanted an oil change and new filter and NOTHING more, he proceeds to tell me that it would be 109€. For an oil change?? You have got to be kidding me! What the heck is wrong with these people??!! A dang oil change and filter should be, like, 35€, MAX! What a rip off. How do these French people afford this kind of stuff? Where the heck is Jiffy Lube when you need them? I told the guy to forget it and that price was just too expensive. Then we left.

Lucky for us, right about then Europcar calls and says they’re back. Well, that was sure nice of them. I want to know why when we arrived back at their office there were two girls there. What’s up with both of them leaving to do the errand and close the office? Lame.

The next thing was even more fun for me. See, we found out that because we had rented the truck online and on a weekday that we saved a whole 11€ from the last time we rented which was on a weekend with no reservation. Now, I ask you, how is that supposed to get me to dance the jig?? A freakin’ whole 11€??!! I can’t even get a McDo meal for two with that. Here we go again trying to save money in this country and not ever able to! Just so you know Dude and I are looking into buying an old beat up truck or a trailer. We’re done with this ridiculous game playing they got going on here. Stupid 11€ discount. What the heck?! If I went right back over to Renault to have them change the oil now I could feel soooo much better knowing that I just save 11€ over at Europcar! Sheesh! There’s a whole lot of stupid going on in this here place.

After getting all our ducks in a row on the rental and feeling really ripped of for the day, we headed home to go load up on junk and make our rounds to the local dump. It was now almost 12:30pm and we had been at the rental car place 10am. Ahhh! Two and one half hours wasted on nothing. I actually got more pissed than that, but I’m a bit over it now.

The good part of the day came at this point. Dude and I actually got rid of all of our stuff in just three trips! That was pretty cool.

Trip #1

Trip#2

Trip#3

It did take the rest of the day and we slid in the gate of the dump on our third trip just before closing, but we did it and we were successful. The only funny thing that happened to us at the dump was that the guys that work there came up to us on our last trip to see if we were a company or not. I guess the same Europcar van showing up three times in one day is kind of a tip off. I told them no, we were not a business but that I had bought a nearly 300 year old house and was renovating. He gave me that look like, oh-I get it, and let us go on with our merry selves. I think if you are a business maybe they make you pay to dump your stuff. Not sure.

Home we went and finally happy that our crappy start to the day didn’t end up the same way. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I actually like going to the dump here. It isn’t icky like in The States. The one we have by us is all for recycled stuff and they have it all laid out nice and neat and it’s new. Also, it’s something you can just go and do yourself.

Well, one of our many projects has been completed. It sure does feels good when you can finally say that.

Benoit The Model

Well, I have been getting a lot of flack for not putting a picture of Benoit in the post I wrote about him, even though there is one on my “About” page.

But to make everyone happy, here ya go.

Boy the camera just love him.

Benoit

Benoit is the new love of my life. No, he is not some hot, looking French guy, he is my Renault Megane. He is the newest member of my family and I think he is the cutest car ever. Moreover, he takes me on the most awesome road trips I could ever imagine.

The journey to getting Benoit was rather difficult, though. Once we landed in FranceLand, we had to rent a car for a while. Well, a while turned into 7 or 8 weeks. I was spending so much time at the office (including all evenings and weekends) that we just didn’t have time to shop around. On top of the fact that we had no idea what cars were good to buy here.

We started doing research about a month before buying Benoit. This was no easy task, the cars here are very expensive and if the manufacturer is an import, they are more expensive than what you could buy it for in the states (and I mean by thousands!).  Also, every single dealership was advertising prices that were good only if you were turning in your old vehicle. This didn’t apply to us.

We went back and forth on if we were going to buy a Toyota, Ford or Renault. We thought for sure that we had settled on a Toyota Yaris, it was a little pricey but the quality was good and we were familiar with the brand (we had a Tacoma and Camry in the states). The problem was, once we saw and drove the car, we all agreed that it was a little too small for the three of us. Going up in size, buying the Corolla, was too expensive. So we continued to shop around. We must have been to 15 different dealerships to learn about all the different cars and the price points.

Finally about a month later, we found a dealership in Arles (which is quiet far from us) who had a Hyundai I30 that Dude seemed interested in. So we took off one morning and scoped it out. It was nice, but the color was awful on the car. So we took a lunch break, searched a little more and found that exact same car in white, but in Cavaillon. This was about another 45 minute drive for us. Once we got there, we proceeded to look around the entire car lot to find the darn thing. We couldn’t spot it anywhere! Maybe it was sold already and we went there for nothing! We made a second pass around the car lot. Nope, not there. We finally went in to talk to a sales agent. Do you know what they told us? They said, “Yes, we have the car still, but it isn’t here. It’s at our other dealership in Pertius, which is about an hour from here.” Really? Why didn’t you just say that in your ad, dufus??

Well, Dude really wanted to test drive the Hyundai I30 so we got directions on how to get to Pertius and off we went. An hour later we got lost in the town and ended up driving up and down the same street 5 or 6 times. Finally, we stopped to ask directions (it was me who did this, since all dudes don’t know how to ask directions). Once clear on where the dealership was we were able to find it in about 5 minutes! I can’t believe it was just down the street and we couldn’t seem to find it. Actually, never mind, I do believe it.

Into the dealership we went. The sales guy came out to meet us. He knew we were coming thanks to the dumb “I advertised this car, but don’t have it” dealership letting him know we were on our way. So he showed us the nice, white Hyundai I30 that my husband drove ALL over the south of France for and guess what? It had a big ding in the side door. What the heck? I was so pissed (and so was Dude), but he wanted to drive it anyway so we did. He went first then I took a spin. He really liked the car, but I wasn’t all that thrilled with it. I thought it was too big and it felt clumsy to drive. Since we couldn’t decide, we both took another spin. I was not at all satisfied, but Dude was still seriously considering it. He really liked it and said we could wheel and deal due to the ding.

I took a gander around the lot and spotted Benoit. He looked really decent and was the same price as the Hyundai I30. The sales guy said it was a great car and had high marks. It was used, but the person was an “oldie” and only had it for a year. It had all the bells and whistles and NO DENTS. Very important!

So off we went for a spin. First Dude, then me. I liked Benoit so much better, so did Tinki. The drive was smoother, no bulking feeling inside, but plenty roomy. Dude was not sold, yet. He decided to take the Hyundai I30 for another tour. Once done, he was really indecisive so we called our friends who live on the west coast of France and asked them their opinion. They told us to go with Benoit. The reason was that he is a Renault and it would be a lot easier to get service since there are Renault dealerships everywhere and the Megane was ranked pretty high on the list of good cars. Viola! So there you go.

Now it was time to do the deal. In the sales agent’s office we had to sign all the paperwork, give up all our personal info and hand over a down payment check. Then this guy asks me when we want to take the car home with us. Huh, can you repeat the question, please?  I, in my naïve American way said, “Right now, of course” (because that’s what happens in the states, duh). In America, once the deal is done, you pay or get a loan, and then you get to leave the lot with your car. HELLO FRANCE!

Here, no way! Of course not. This guy proceeds to tell me that I have to wait 3 days and then come back to get my car! Three days!! Kid you not. I didn’t get. He said they clean it, check all the engine stuff and make it up to speed with some fantastic 100 point system that they just made up to piss people off and not give them their car right away. I just couldn’t believe that after all that (plus the countless hours to get to this dang place) I was going away empty handed!

But, that is exactly what happened. He told us we had to make an appointment to come back! A friggin’ appointment! I am supposed to pay thousands of dollars and he wants me to make a rendez-vous. What, were they going to check my driving record to see if I am worthy of a Renault! Customer service is non-existent, I tell you. So being that I was in France and not America, by gosh, I had to abide by the rules because this guy was not giving up this car.

So off we went leaving poor Benoit without a real home for three whole days!

Three days later we made the long trip back to Pertius with the remaining balance so we could get our little guy. When we got there we got a grand welcome fit for a princess. They had Benoit all cleaned up and under a tent with a “Bienvenue “sign and all. It was ridiculous. The sales guy gave us the 5 centimes tour of the car to be sure we understood everything and asked if we had any questions. Yes, I do have a question, “Are you gonna hassle me today about taking my car home because it isn’t 5pm or something”?? No, I didn’t really say that, but I wanted to. The truth of the matter is that I really like the sales guy I just didn’t like their 3 day waiting period (as if I was buying a weapon or something).

We were finally able to bring our little car home. I love him to pieces. He is super cute, super French looking and he is a real trooper about road trips and hasn’t complained once. That’s the kind of car I like. I guess we will keep him.

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