Moving. We had just moved in October 2010 and so the idea of packing up and moving across the country in September 2011 was not something that we were particularly looking forward to. I had looked into hiring a professional moving company, but the cost was too prohibitive, so we decided to rent a 20 cubic metre truck and do it all ourselves.
Step 1: rent the truck
I knew this wouldn’t be straightforward. The plan was for me to rent the truck, drive it across the country, load up next day, drive back to Vézelay, unpack and then return the truck on the third day.
I showed up to rent the truck early in the morning. I had anticipated the problem with my driver’s licence; since my French licence was less than one year old, technically I wasn't allowed to rent or drive trucks, so I thought ahead and brought a statement showing the original date of my first licence in Canada. The woman at the counter accepted this and I thought it would be smooth sailing from there on. Then she asked me for a large deposit that she would take out on my debit card. It was more money than I had in my account and I knew that I couldn’t pay for it. After a phone call to my bank and a chat with the store manager we worked something out. Phew! I wasn’t sure what I was going to do otherwise. The good thing about France is that even when the answer is "no" you can usually find a solution and get to "yes" after a bit of negotiation.
Step 2: drive across the country (500ish km)
This part was relatively easy, but in a 20 cubic metre truck, there was a little more to have to pay attention to (the vacuum effect of bigger trucks, for example).
Step 3: start loading up
Jean-Marc had the unpleasant task of packing up the majority of our belongings in my absence and so when I arrived with the truck we were able to immediately start loading up after making a short trip to the charity store with the things we wanted to get rid of. A friend and neighbour came to help us for a bit, which was a pleasant surprise and a big help. We ended up saving the rest until the next morning.
Step 4: finish loading up, drive across country and fully unload
This was the toughest day! We got up early and kept on packing until about 1pm. Originally we wanted to also do a full cleaning before leaving, but we opted to leave that until our état des lieux (final inspection) which wasn’t for a few more weeks. We had lunch at the local café and then headed out on the road. I drove the truck and Jean-Marc drove his car with Domino at his side. We arrived around 8pm and ended up unloading until after midnight, with just a brief break for a slice of pizza. The truck was due the following morning at 8:30am, so we put our mattress on the floor (the box spring was too large to get up the stairs) and slept as much as we could.
Step 5: return truck and get settled in
We were able to return the truck on time AND with no damage, so it all turned out all right in the end!
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the move was that Pôle Emploi (unemployment agency) paid for all the moving expenses, including gas, toll highways, truck rental, phone and electricity set-up charges, the legal lease-signing fees, AND the return trip that Jean-Marc needed to do for the final clean-up and inspection a few weeks later. When I sent in the paperwork along with all the receipts, I was fully expecting a wait of at least a few months (I did wait seven months for my carte de séjour, remember) but I received the cheque within two weeks. What? Thank you, France!