I hate to admit it as it sounds rather spoiled of me… I have been to a laundromat only 2 times in my life! The first time, I received a Baltimore city parking ticket for about $45 (this was in the ‘70s) while inside, making it a very expensive load of laundry. The second time was a week ago, and it cost me a sprained ankle!!! I hereby declare that this is the last of Kate’s calamities!
I was actually looking forward to going to the “laverie” and took just one load’s worth to see how it worked and whether I’d be game for more. A kind young man who knew the ropes showed me how to work the machines, where to put my money, etc. for the washers and driers. I was done in no time and walked out the door …. and off the curb face first into the street. Truly, even my nose hit the pavement, my glasses were scratched and I was in a heap of twisted body parts! People rushed over to see if I was okay, and, of course as I have become used to saying, “Yes, I’m fine, merci.” A bunch of young folks helped me to my feet, and I was on my way, hobbling down the street at 1/4 of my usual pace, aware that I was not quite fine, after all.
It was a long walk home and up that amazing flight of 55 steps to the apartment, but I made it, a bit shaky and needing to rest. Little did I realize that by walking home and up the stairs, I was disqualified from an “emergency” call that would have gotten the medics to my home to pick me up and take me to a clinic for help. Therefore I had to sit tight until I could get down the stairs and through town to the doctor.
It is a little over a week hence and I am coming along just fine. The concern that I might have had a small fracture was alleviated after my “radio” (x-ray) 4 days later (couldn’t walk well enough to get out of the pedestrian area where I live to meet a taxi or a friend who had offered to drive me) that showed it was “only” a sprain. By then my entire foot (even the bottom), ankle, toes and all were black and blue and swollen, and I was lucky to find a shoe that fit. My Renestance* team member, Laurence, had gotten me a wheelchair so that all I had to do was get down the stairs and off we went to the “Cabinet Radiologie.”
Laurence managed to get the Lab to take an xray without a doctor’s scrip as I had not been in France long enough to have the French insurance and a docteur who could prescribe it. We promised we would have one by the next day! The doctor here is a gate keeper, kind of like in the U.S., who writes your scrips for everything. It is hard to find one as many are full and not taking new patients. You only need him/her for this purpose…you never even have to see him for a check-up, etc., and you can change to someone else if you want to. We found one that same day who could see me the next afternoon, and I was delighted with him. I liked that he recommended I massage my ankle and foot many times per day to get the blood moving. He took me as a new patient…so that mission is accomplished. How much did the visit cost without insurance? 25 euros (about $27.)! How much was the xray and report without insurance? 33 euros! I will submit both of those to my private insurance that I had to have in place when I applied for my France visa, and they will be 100% covered. If I had had my France insurance in place (the application is in the works), it would have cost me $0!!!! I also got a splint to wear from the pharmacy with the doctor’s scrip, and it cost me 33 euros which will be totally reimbursed by my private insurance. Anyone living in France without insurance would still pay only 25 euros for any doctor’s visit. That’s it…no deductible, no co-pay, no filing forms, getting EOBs, etc. Once I am on the French system, those visits and any medication or prescription will cost me nothing. There are supplemental policies which most people have to cover the bigger medical events like major accidents, surgeries, disease management, etc. I will find out about all that later on and report about it, as well.
Pharmacists here are much like doctors. They can even prescribe minor medications (which in the States might require a doctor’s scrip), and they do quite a bit of consulting when you come in to fill one or ask for a recommendation. Homeopathic remedies are sold at all pharmacies, and the pharmacists know which ones to recommend and how to take them, etc. They will recommend one of those often before you get a medical prescription if they think you could benefit. Vitamins and supplements are sold at the pharmacy counter as well, and seem to rank right up there on the list of valued options!
So, I am learning my way around the medical system here and hoping not to learn much more first-hand! I am ready to get back on my feet again and, perhaps with a bit more caution and slower pace, move back into my active, and wonder-filled French life. I am learning how terrific the ex-pat community here is who have never failed to come through with any of my, so far too numerous, calamities…and even just for answers to questions that have come up. I am learning to ask for help when I need it, and accept it when it is offered…something that has not always been easy for me. And most of all, I am learning that whatever comes, in whatever form, it is all part of the cycle of life – sometimes moving clockwise, and sometimes counterclockwise, and always still making complete circles. There have been some challenges of late, and I am going with them, not fighting them or complaining about them, and just remaining grateful for this incredible dream come true of living in France!
* Renestance is a women-founded, women-owned business here in Montpellier which serves people like me in their moves to France. They work exclusively in the Occitanie region, and boy! could the whole of France use them. For various fee-levels (all of which are reasonable) they will work with you for your first year, beginning when you first decide to apply back home for a visa, in every aspect of French life and bureaucratic red tape (for which the French are well reputed). They help you with the medical insurance, home insurance, medical issues, finding housing, setting up a bank account, socialization, getting involved in organizations, learning the language, etc., etc. I could never have done this without them!! And I love them all like friends!
So that happened on a Thursday. Friday through Sunday, I was totally incapacitated. Monday, I had already scheduled an appointment in the afternoon to see an apartment that came available. I knew the area where it was and just somehow had a good feeling about it…it was a neighborhood I had lived in for 2 weeks before moving to Montpellier last April when I was checking it out as my possible new home for a year or two. I was worried I would miss the chance to see it and perhaps get it if I had to cancel my appointment because of my ankle! However, Laurence, who rented me the wheelchair the day before, pushed me all the way over to the apartment after my xray on Monday…by then I could walk pretty well, so was able to climb the just ONE flight of stairs to the apartment.
It was one of those experiences when you walk in and “just know.” I walked down a short, narrow hallway and suddenly was struck with the light streaming in from the tall French doors across the room which looked out on a beautiful courtyard filled with magnolia trees, other mature trees and greenery and which will be blossoming with flowers and color in the coming months! The apartment, though small, has an open, “American” kitchen and living room. Off of the little hallway is the guest room across from which is the WC, or “toilette,” which is most always separate in France from the salle d’eau (bath room). Off of the other side of the living room is the master bedroom which also has a French door and balcony looking over the courtyard. Each bedroom has its own modern shower and sink! Such a good idea! I neglected to take pictures, so I will post when I get settled there. I will move in on March 16. There are things I will want to do to make the apartment feel like home – it is furnished, and will need one or two more things, pictures for the walls, some lamps, colorful pillows on the couch, etc., but the bones are good and I can envision myself there for quite awhile. The big plusses are that there is only one flight of stairs to climb, there is AC, and a washing machine (no drier – rare in France). I have come to appreciate drying clothes on a rack inside, or on a line outside the window…reminds me sweetly of my mom who took dozens of pictures in Europe of laundry hanging outside the windows…now her daughter is hanging hers out of one!!
Getting an apartment in France, as an American and a retiree can present some challenges. One apartment that, from the pictures, I fell in love with, would not even let me come visit it…the reason: I did not have French income or pay French taxes. I was lucky to find something as quickly as I did, evidently, and even with the apartment I’m moving to, that was a concern of the landlord. I was told that it isn’t even a matter of proving that you have money – in a bank, investments, Social Security income, etc. Not having an income in France means that a landlord doesn’t have recourse against you if you default on your rent…no income to “seize.” As landlords are lower on the totem pole of rights than tenants, they want to be sure they have their bases covered. So, although this was only the second apartment I visited, there were many in between for which I simply did not qualify because of my retirement status.
With that hurdle out of the way, I am breathing easier and things are looking up. As spring is in the air and the sun is shining brightly most days again, I think this string of “other” luck is coming to an end. I am looking forward to a trip in April to Amsterdam and then on to Paris, where I will meet my sister who is coming to visit. We will stay in Paris a couple of days, then take the train down here to Montpellier, and then hopefully visit Annecy before she returns to the U.S. My daughter and son-in-law are coming in May and I can’t wait to show them around and spend time with them.
The adventure continues!