As aforementioned, I packed poorly. I did not take the advice of Elaine, and brought 2 suitcases and a carry-on bag, thinking that this was reasonable for 4 months, 7 counties, and two seasons. WRONG.

One third of my clothes was stolen with the car, and the remainder was still too much. I have mostly lived in a hand full of black and grey layers, one pair of super comfy On Cloud sneakers, and a pair of waterproof lug sole Chelsea boots. Stolen were a plethora of cute tops, jeans,3 pair of shoes, a black jacket, winter hats and gloves, a Patagonia coat, and on and on. Even though John packed sparsely, he still felt that he brought too much. We still decided to send a box home with unneeded clothes that John, the poor horsey, would not have to lug around. It must be stated here that the car was a moving closet, so we could switch out according to the weather. But still, the third floor walk – ups with narrow stairs and long walks to our apartments on cobblestone were no fun for him.

But the bigger nightmare was finding a means and place to mail home a damn box. The first problem was procuring the box and tape, and the second finding a post office, UPS, or other shipping location. This does not seem like it would be hard, but believe me, it was a cluster. In Den Hague we visited three postal locations just to get a box. None of the locations even existed once we arrived. Mailboxes Etc, Staples, and other supply stores were nonexistent after long drives and walks. UPS “stores” ended up being merely drop off locations with nothing and no one but a bodega with a clueless clerk who did not speak English. This futile exercise was repeated again and again, culminating with the crown jewel of attempted shipping misery in Lille. We found a Poste with live people right after emerging from the parking lot (underground as all have been since we picked up our replacement car in Lyon). The postal clerk woman explained to me in French that they did not ship boxes, but that we could get a box and ship from the large location behind the Opera.

A bad day:

The next morning, we planned to walk to the Opera block and find the main Poste, get a box, walk back to the car, grab the surfeit of clothing, pack it, and carry it back to the Poste. A mile or so of circumnavigation of the Opera revealed a closed plaza where a Poste used to be. There was no access and only a construction site. It’s now 11:00 in the morning, and the sky opens up. So, we duck into a stylish bar to get out of the rain and drown our frustration. After a glass of nice Red Bordeaux, all the more potent in the morning, we make a run for our hotel, only to encounter a lovely young postal worker on the street pushing mail though an apartment slot. She explains in French that the main Poste was in another part of town, and she wrote the address by hand on a piece of paper. Not wanting to remove the car from the underground lot, we walk what turned out to be three miles to the address. NO stinking Poste: just a residential block and some empty buildings. So now we take a Uber back, bleeding out of our eyes and needing more wine — which we had with lunch, again. At lunch, our second visit to this adorable creperie, John orders what turns out to be a buckwheat crepe laden with the most disgusting meat I have ever smelled. It was delivered across the table from me while he had excused himself, and I thought I would throw up. I cannot imagine how the kitchen could serve meat so foul that the smell permeated the entire area. When John came to his seat, he too was sickened. It was a bad meal and a bad day, but it was not over.

Over lunch, with a new crepe order for John, I threaten to throw the extra very nice clothes out and cut our losses. John, in desperation, finds the French postal service website, which we foolishly never thought to look up. The main Poste was reasonably close, so after lunch, still mildly nauseous from the “meat”, we walk there and find a REAL post office, with boxes, live workers, and shipping facilities. Now we pay A LOT for these two sealable international shipping boxes, and we are also given forms to fill out and return with the packed boxes. We go to the car with the boxes, pack them, and find that we need another. I make out the forms, all in French, mind you, and we sleep of the day. The following morning, we are leaving Lille, so we drive to the Poste with the boxes. I go in to get and pay for another box, hand it off to John to pack from the tailgate and bring in the other two packed ones and the paperwork. Now, the new counter guy tells me that I was given the wrong paperwork yesterday. That I must go to an online kiosk and enter all of the contents, despite the fact that there are no gifts (all stolen with the car) and only used clothes. Totally in French, I start this painful exercise, and start to get a headache, no doubt due to my blood pressure that is likely 190 over 110. Finishing this task, I meet John at the door and grab box three. I carry all three to the counter, where there is a new guy, very French, very handsome, well dressed in a fitted black blazer and neck scarf; seems to be in charge. He looks at my boxes and coolly, suavely, aloofly says, “Je suis déssolé madame, mais vous avez fait la mauvais paperasse”. I did the wrong paperwork. It would not be an exaggeration to describe my demeanor as convulsive. Then I start crying. Recognizing my despair, he calmly takes the boxes from the counter, takes three sheets of carbon paper and writes on each one individually. Next he takes this big officious wooden stamp and boldly, elegantly, stamps each one with a flourish. He affixes a label to each box. I am standing there watching this, weak and exhausted with fury. With that, he places the boxes on a shelf behind him, returns to the counter and faces me, this flushed crazy American, and faintly smiles. I mumble a “Merci” at him and look at him though my foggy glasses. I do an about face to the exit where John is waiting in the car. An hour has passed, he has secured the prime parking place out front. Before embarking on our drive to Paris to drop the car, he takes me to lunch, and I have wine.

The boxes arrived at our home, Driftwood, five days later.