4 min

J’aime la France

END OF THE WORLD. A restaurant/bar/hotel in Cap de Creus on the Costa Brava. Credit: Megan Richards photo

The first time I moved out on my own I was 18. Throughout my teenage years my parents were reasonable people. They knew I would have sex, drink too much, skip school and drive under age, but rather than punish me within an inch of my life, they encouraged me to be responsible when running from the police or breaking into abandoned cottages in neighbouring towns. Regardless of their perceived leniency, I moved out as soon as I could.

When moving day came, my father drove me to Toronto from a small town an hour north of the city and helped me get set up. Even though he was sure I would die in the alley one night on my walk home from the streetcar stop in what was then a rough neighbourhood (Bathurst and Queen), he made sure I had a bed to sleep in and pots to cook in and shook my hand when he left — a gesture of love and pride for a man who was born in 1925 to parents who didn’t really like each other and made no secret of it.

Since that first move I have relocated 13 times in Canada, from neighbourhood to neighbourhood and city to city. And since leaving Toronto in January of this year, I have moved an additional eight times. From neighbourhood to neighbourhood, city to city, country to country. Two days ago was the final move of our year in Europe. And it couldn’t have been more different than my very first, 18 years ago.


Since my wife and I had been in Barcelona for two months, ingested more than 40 bottles of wine, 30 beers and 16 bottles of cava between us, we were looking forward to spending the last six weeks of our “vacation” in France — cleaning up and drying out. The plan was to rent a car ’cause even though we were on a different continent, the lure of a road trip was too strong to resist. We would drive up the Costa Brava to our new town in the Pyrenees, unload our things and return our rental car the next day in Perpignan where we would walk around for the day seeing the sights. My wife would be the navigator and make delicious snacks and we would laugh and take pictures, sing and relax slowly into our new country life.


About a week before our two-hour drive up the coast of the Mediterranean, we tried to use our good pal Mastercard to pay for entry into the Joan Miro Foundation to see the permanent collection, our last tourtisty to-do. It was declined. Thankfully we had enough cash in our pockets to pay the entry, but needless to say we spent the next two hours wringing our hands and wondering how we would pay for our car rental, worried that we would be stuck in Spain.

Much to our chagrin our account, along with hundreds of others, had been “compromised” thanks to an elaborate fraud scheme in Spain. The nice man on the other end of the phone, thousands of miles away, explained that they would cancel our cards and send us new ones via FedEx, pushing our departure date back one day. Thankfully we were staying with a friend and so hunkered down for another night in Barcelona.


After almost 11 months I have become accustomed to the leisurely lunch where shops, banks, post offices and most other things close between noon and 2pm, or 2pm and 4pm, or 1:30 until they feel like opening. I have even grown to enjoy the lack of Sunday shopping leaving nothing to do but read a book or take a long walk through a neighbourhood I have yet to discover. But I am still not used to random holidays — days in the middle of the week where everything is closed and as a foreigner, you’re not sure why. Germany closes for Man’s Day in July, one province in Spain for Catalunya Independence day in September, and as I was to learn, France for Armistice Day on Nov 11 as we once used to in Canada. Very nice for them, a pain in my weary traveling ass for me as that was the day we needed to return the rental car.


After a minor freak out, half an Ativan and countless cigarettes, one of the seven options (rent a car for a week and return it to Barcelona, rent it for two days and stay over night in a hotel, take the metro/bus/train/bus… you get the idea) came out the clear winner. Borrow a friends’ car that they would lend to another friend who would drive it along with another friend and we would go on a road trip. Bingo! Arriving on our move in date? Check! Panoramic vistas of the Mediterranean? Check!


This year has seen many people come in and out of our lives, but one of the stars of the show is an unstoppable Canadian powerhouse of fun, fab and frivolity. With over 20 years of Barcelona-living under her belt, it was no surprise once we established she was coming with that she knew “the perfect place to go for lunch.” What she neglected to mention was that it was at the end of the world, in Cap de Creus on the Costa Brava.

The town, from what I could tell, consists of a lighthouse and the restaurant/bar/hotel where we ate delicious curry and watched the waves crash against the shores that provided Dali with his inspiration.

After a leisurely lunch and a lot of windswept hair it was time to hit the road again, head north into France and arrive at our new home. With friends, wine, music and laughs, and despite the distance still left to travel to Canada in a few weeks, it felt just like that… home.