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"Is there a bathroom my mom and sister could use anywhere near here?" Jackson asked in French.

The guy smiled and nodded his head. He pointed over his shoulder to the big open market area behind his shop.

"They can use the employee bathroom inside," he replied also in French.

Kaitlin and I, near bursting by this time, bolted out of the car, up the steps, and into the building behind where the young man was standing, then we followed the corridor in the direction he had pointed. Around and around, then down a flight of stairs, we came finally to the ladies' room. Kaitlin reached the door first, turned the doorknob, and pushed.


She looked back at me in panic and began running back toward the shop front, calling out to the guy as she got closer.

"The door is locked! Monsieur, the door is locked!"

"Ah, so sorry," our new friend called back. "Usually there is an attendant. She must be taking a break. Wait a minute..." he said and then disappeared inside his shop.

A minute later, he was back with a key.

"Ah, no, sorry," he said, shaking his head and turning back around. "This is the key for the men's room. Wait. I will get the ladies' room key from my friend next-door..."

A few minutes later, he was back, this time with the ladies' room key, which he tossed down the stairs to Kaitlin, who caught it and then ran to where I was waiting outside the ladies' room. Kaitlin inserted the key and unlocked the door.


A few minutes later, feeling much more relaxed, Kaitlin and I began the walk back to the front of the shop, where we'd left Jackson.

"It was awfully nice of that guy to help us," Kaitlin said as we walked. "I don't know what we would have done if he hadn't found the key for us. I couldn't have held out much longer!"

"Yes," I replied, "that was a close call. We'll thank him, of course, but let's also stop in his shop before we go..."

"I was thinking the same thing," Kaitlin said.

As we turned the final corner, we saw Jackson and the young shopkeeper talking, laughing.

We returned the key, and I asked Kaitlin and Jackson to take a look inside the store to see if anything interested them. The shopkeeper stood on the steps with me while Kaitlin and Jackson did their shopping. My children's French is far superior to mine, but I tried to carry on some conversation with the nice young man while we waited. He asked if we'd been to Paris before, how long we were in the city, where else we were traveling...

The young man helped my son to find a bigger size for the T-shirt Jackson wanted to buy, wrapped up our purchases, and walked the three of us down the steps to our car to point us in the quickest direction back to the Peripherique. Then he waved as we pulled away.

I've been traveling in Paris for more than 30 years, and I've visited Clignancourt and its marché aux puces dozens of times. Over the years, the neighborhood has changed, but I still look forward to every opportunity to return, no matter what the reason.

Kathleen Peddicord

Continue Reading: New IRS Affordable Care Act Form For Americans Residing Overseas


Though the main course was to be all British, we chose to cast aside the plum duff and brandy butter and go French for dessert. My friend baked agalette des rois (King's Cake), and I made the classic French Christmas log, or buche de Noël

La buche comes from a Celtic-pagan celebration when people would search for a large chunk of tree at the winter solstice, which they would burn as a symbol of the rebirth of the sun. The Catholic Church did not eradicate the custom in later years, and a log is still burned in many French homes, particularly in farming communities, from Christmas Eve until New Year's in the hope that it brings good crops and good fortune in the year to come. 

Nowadays, the log is more commonly represented by the edible buche de Noël, which holds center place on French tables during Christmastime dinners. It's made from a Genoese sponge, which is covered in chocolate buttercream and scratched with a fork to make it look like a log. The more adventurous cooks add little trees and Christmas figures.

La galette des rois is a more recent addition to French Christmases, dating back to the 14th century. It's a flaky pastry circle that's filled with almond cream. In times gone by, a dried bean (une fève) was placed inside the cake. The person who got the fève was king for the day. The fève has been replaced by all sorts of figurines from tiny kings to cartoon figures. 

On Christmas Eve, our kids adopted a French custom and left their shoes by the fireplace for Père Noël to fill with gifts and sweets. But not wanting to totally forego our usual tradition of hanging stockings at the end of their beds, they were allowed to double up. Santa was extra busy that night in our home.

I found the fève that year; called Maggy, she's a character from the kids' movie "Mia et le Migou." She's an inch-tall, chicly dressed (of course) grandmother figure. Maggy has joined the eclectic collection of figurines in our annual nativity scene. 

Lucy Culpepper

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"This is Black M. He's a big new French rapper..."

"Yes, I love him," Kaitlin says. "Wait, do I turn right or left here?"

"You go that way."

"Which way?!"

"Ah, we should have turned there. That's OK. The GPS is recalculating..."

This morning as we returned to the car after meeting with the admissions lady, Jackson noticed the road sign in front of the school where we'd parked:

"Did you realize that this was a drop-off-only zone?" he asked Kaitlin as he slid into the front passenger seat.

"No, I didn't," Kaitlin replied. "I thought it was a pay zone."

"But we didn't pay," Jackson pointed out.

"No, we didn't," Kaitlin agreed.

"If the gendarmes pull us over," Jackson said, "let's pretend we don't speak French."

"Why would the police pull us over?" Kaitlin asked.

"I can think of any number of reasons the police might pull us over at this point," I offered from the backseat.

Conversation is about French music and French food. We discuss what we've just eaten (crepes and Nutella for breakfast) and what we'd like to eat next (roasted chicken and French green beans). Jackson had his first escargot the other night but refuses the pate.

It's autumn, which, around Paris, means gray days, regular drizzle, and chilly to cold temperatures. We're enjoying the contrast to Panama City, wrapping up in scarves and sweaters before setting out each morning and sitting by open fires in our hotel lobbies in the evenings.

I can't remember how I made trips like this one years ago, pre-technology, and Kaitlin and Jackson can't process the thought.

Kaitlin dropped Jackson and me outside a shop our first afternoon. She planned to circle around and return for us in five minutes. That'd be easier, we all agreed, than finding a place to park.

Jackson and I ran into the shop and were back out in fewer than five minutes. No Kaitlin...

We hadn't yet configured our phones for use in France (we need to buy new French SIM cards), so we couldn't call Kaitlin. Instead, we walked two blocks to a cafe where we ordered drinks, logged into the Wi-Fi, and sent a Skype message to Kaitlin...who had likewise stopped at a place with Wi-Fi, received the Skype, and replied to ask: "Where are you?"

Jackson WhatsApp'd her a map pinpointing our location in the cafe.

"On my way," Kaitlin replied.

We've seen two chateaux so far, one near Fontainbleau, the other closer to Paris and the international airport.

France is lousy with chateaux, and many try to pay for their keeping by serving the wedding trade. No two are alike. Location makes an important difference, but there are many others. Some chateau, like the one we visited first, are of modest size and stature, meaning a cozy feel. If the management of one of these smaller chateaux is good, the experience of visiting can be charming, comfortable, and memorable.

Others, like the one where we're staying tonight, are full-scale businesses set up to process as many weddings as possible. Right now, downstairs, two young Indians are being married. Their wedding parties and guests filled the lobby and surrounding rooms as we and other non-wedding guests were checking in.

"This place doesn't seem very private," Jackson observed.

On the other hand, the grounds of this chateau rival those at Versailles. We're going to take a tour around them now, before it gets too dark...

Kathleen Peddicord

Continue reading: Retirement In Boquete, Panama, Versus Retirement In Santa Fe, Panama



The utilities figure for each of our 21 budgets is straightforward; groceries and entertainment, much less so. If you shop at local markets and stick to a basic, local diet, your monthly groceries bill could be US$150. If you shop at U.S.-like grocery stores (which exist in every place on my list below) and want to eat like you ate back home (prime rib, Entenmann's, and French wine), your monthly food bill could be two, three, or four times US$150.

Likewise, entertainment. Our Index budgets include amounts for eating out once a week and going to the movies a couple of times a month, say, or perhaps taking one in-country trip per month to explore your new home. You could, if you wanted and your budget allowed, eat out four nights a week and take international vacations twice a year.

On top of the overall cost of living wherever you decide to retire you'll have the cost of housing. I recommend renting first, to give yourself a chance to get to know your new home and determine if it is, in fact, the right place for you. For each of the 21 top retirement havens on our Index list, therefore, we indicate an average cost for renting a one-bedroom, one-bath residence in a neighborhood that would be appealing and appropriate for a retiree.

After you've been in residence for a while, you may decide you like the place well enough to commit long term with an investment in a home of your own. Buying a piece of real estate in another country can also offer the potential for return, from capital appreciation over time and from cash flow if you decide to rent the place out when you're not using it yourself.

Therefore, for each of the 21 destinations on our Retire Overseas Index list, we also figured an average cost per square meter for the purchase of property. This is the best way to consider this. In fact, breaking down a location's property market to an average cost per square meter for a particular kind of property is the only reliable way to compare that location's property market with the property market anywhere else, the only apples-to-apples strategy.

In Nashville this week for our annual Retire Overseas Conference, we'll be sharing the results of this year's Retire Overseas Index, including the monthly budgets, the rental costs, and the average per-square-meter cost to purchase real estate for all 21 destinations featured...and a few others, to boot.

Here's a sneak preview for some of the destinations being featured...

In the Americas:

Ambergris Caye, Belize

Monthly budget: US$2,055
Rent per month: US$1,000
Purchase per square meter to purchase: US$2,000

City Beaches, Panama

Monthly budget: US$2,440
Rent per month: US$1,200
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,900

Cuenca, Ecuador

Monthly budget: US$1,010
Rent per month: US$300
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,100

Granada, Nicaragua

Monthly budget: US$1,040
Rent per month: US$500
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,500

Medellin, Colombia

Monthly budget: US$1,530
Rent per month: US$650
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,050

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Monthly budget: US$1,910
Rent per month: US$850
Price per square meter to purchase: US$2,490

In Europe:

Algarve, Portugal

Monthly budget: US$1,500
Rent per month: US$615
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,960

Barcelona, Spain

Monthly budget: US$1,725
Rent per month: US$1,085
Price per square meter to purchase: US$5,500

Pau, France
Monthly budget: US$1,930
Rent per month: US$1,285
Price per square meter to purchase: US$2,300

In Asia:

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Monthly budget: US$920
Rent per month: US$400
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,100 (note that foreign ownership of real estate is restricted in Thailand)

Dumaguete, Philippines

Monthly budget: US$910
Rent per month: US$350
Price per square meter to purchase: US$1,200

Nha Trang, Vietnam

Monthly budget: US$660
Rent per month: US$300
Price per square meter to purchase: Foreigners can't own property

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. What brings us to Nashville this week? Our annual Retire Overseas Conference!

For years, friends have encouraged me to visit Music City. Finally, I was able to engineer a good reason.

We arrived yesterday, and I can tell you that my friends' reports did not embellish or overstate. This is a fun town. Live music everywhere.

It's not too late to make plans to join us here for what is going to be the biggest retire-overseas event of the year, this Friday through Sunday at the Lowes Vanderbilt Hotel.

In addition to the three-day Retire Overseas Conference Aug. 29–31, we're also hosting a first-ever Retire Overseas Expo the day before (Thursday, Aug. 28), from noon until 7 p.m. This half-day special event is open to the public, an ideal way to dip a toe in the retire-overseas waters, and, best of all, absolutely free for Live and Invest Overseas readers. Regular admission is US$25. However, simply confirm at the door on the day that you're a Live and Invest Overseas reader, and you'll be granted full access at no cost.

One way or another, therefore, I say: Get thee to Nashville. Dozens of correspondents and expats from around the world will be convening here today through Thursday so they can be on stage with us throughout the weekend to help showcase the world's top retirement havens for the nearly 300 registered attendees.

Come on down and join the fun.

Details of the Retire Overseas Expo taking place Thursday, Aug. 28, are here.

Details of the Retire Overseas Conference taking place Friday, Aug. 29, through Sunday, Aug. 31, are here.

See you soon.

Continue reading:


Property in the part of the UK of interest to my parents is much higher than this part of France, so the percentage of the budget for the French property has to be lower than the UK one. That got me thinking... What can you buy today in the Other South of France for around US$100,000 (currently 74,500 euros)?

Surprisingly, it isn't just a chicken coop. In this area, there's a wide range of property, from a luxury, six-bed modern villa for 600,000 euros to a two-bed, "ripe for renovation" village stone-house for 30,000 euros, and plenty in-between.

To narrow the search, I've added certain criteria to the US$100,000 budget:
  • Refurbished or requiring only cosmetic improvements
  • Good natural light
  • Two bedrooms, one bathroom, one extra water closet
  • Local shops, a market, or a cafe in walking distance
  • Garage or storage area
  • A terrace or patio
The last point, some outside living space did lift the price slightly but to no more than 78,000 euros. Here's what I've found in my visits and conversations with local agents Carroux Immobilier and Agence GTI...

In the village of Cebazan, where there's a baker, post office, bus line, and school (not directly important to my parents but it means the village is alive and kicking), a two-bedroom, 54-square-meter house with a garage is on the market in move-in condition. It has a living room with a fireplace, fitted kitchen corner, a shower room with a large shower, a separate bath, and a toilet, and another room that could be used as a snug with a toilet and a sink. The garage (29 square meters) is separate but just 3 meters away and has an upstairs room that would be perfect for storage of my parents' own things if they chose to rent it out. The upside is the 65,000-euro price-tag (agency commission included). The downside is there's no outside living space and only a local bread shop (though a minimarket is at the planning stages). You can see it here (ref M 3018).

In the small village of Aigues Vives, near the Cathar town of Minerve, I found a cute two-bed, single story 56-square-meter house with a 70-square-meter walled garden. The living room and kitchen open onto a terrace overlooking a courtyard. The property is completely renovated and very neat and tidy. It's on the market for 76,000 euros. Its downside is one bathroom only.

The center of the bustling and popular market town of Saint Chinian is the location for a newly renovated 60-square-meter apartment. It has a sunny, upper-floor terrace and two sunny bedrooms, but only one bathroom and a small kitchen. It's on the market for 77,000 euros.

A second property in Saint Chinian, a three-floor, 94-square-meter townhouse includes all the criteria: It has a pretty kitchen opening onto a private terrace with a barbecue. There's a water cabinet on the ground floor, two large bedrooms, and a bathroom. The kitchen has new wooden flooring and a fireplace. Flooring in the rest of the property is the original decorative or red tiles known as tomettes. It's on the market for 82,000 euros which includes the agent's commission and could be negotiable down to budget. Take a look here (ref M 2937).

And finally, I've included a stone house with a large sunny terrace for 99,000 euros. Although over budget, the price includes good-looking furniture and appliances, so all my parent's furniture could go back to the UK (or all yours could stay home), making this three-bedroom 90-square-meter house in Cebazan ready to live in.

Despite the growing popularity of this part of France, there really are, still, a lot of low-budget properties to choose from that would make part-time living accessible to many budding expats. And, if you're able to increase your budget to around US$150,000, you'll find more properties with more outdoor space, which gives you, the owner, more chance to enjoy al fresco living and makes the property more tempting to potential vacation renters.

Now, it just remains to be seen if this year's offering of Langedocian water tempts the horse to drink...

Lucy Culpepper

Editor's Note: As Lucy finds in the Languedoc, France can be much more affordable than you might imagine. Even Paris has options for the budget-conscious retiree. We'll tell you more about how to make the lifestyle of your dreams come true in France (or one of our other top retirement destinations) at the Retire Overseas Conference, Aug. 29–31, in Nashville, Tennessee. Continue reading: 

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.


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