Florida for the (Haunted) Holidays

The next step on our “Get the wife to France” mission was a Christmas trip to sunny St. Augustine, Florida. Yeah, I know. Life is tough. We headed down on Sunday, ironically met one of my Asheville friends at a South Carolina rest area (what were the chances?), and this time, successfully ignored my google map directions in favor of intuition which paid off. We arrived at our very lovely, ocean view Hampton Inn room at Vilano Beach (highly recommended!).

Upon check in, we were told that there had been a water break and the hotel had no water. They didn’t know when it would be coming back on. Hmm… Fortunately, it only took a couple of hours, and the ease with which that played out was a sign of other smooth and easy things to come! We were due!

The following day was “get ‘er done” day. We had to head over to Green Cove Springs about 30 miles away to A) pick up my mail from St. Brendan’s Isle, B) get my Florida driver’s license, C) turn in my “Intent to Domicile” at the County Court House, and D) get some other legal papers notarized. I had expected it to take all day, but we were done in a couple of hours. Green Cove Springs is a rather well-planned community with everything pretty much in one place. We parked at the Court House, walked to the DMV, drove up the road to pick up my mail, and then returned to the Court House when we realized we could get stuff notarized there. I was thrilled when the notary said, “no charge!” Merry Christmas to us!!

So, all that extra time on our hands, we decided to park downtown and walk around the shops and such. It was a very hot and humid day. Stuart took a million photographs of the architecture and moss-covered trees. We had a small bite to eat, cruised some galleries to size up Stuart’s competition, and somewhere along the line, we stopped to get gourmet popsicles… eggnog. Heaven.

Stuart really wanted to go to the Alligator Farm, but they wanted extortion fees, so we decided to visit the Lighthouse instead and got talked into the nighttime ghost tour after an employee sold Stuart on the EMF devices for rent. It cost more than the Alligator Farm, but these things are apparently relative. So after a freshening up at the hotel and a very nice dinner (that I simply cannot comment upon lest I admit how it broke every dietary rule in my book), we returned to the Lighthouse for our tour.

There were definitely some strange things afoot on this historically backed-up tour that is more investigative than “thrill-seeking.” Stuart had the sensation on the lighthouse steps and again in other areas of someone stroking his hand lightly. Me, I just felt an oppressive energy now and again…so much so in the Lightkeepers house that I didn’t want to be in there, period.

We could go off on our own after the first hour of the tour, so we went back to the Lighthouse. We were later joined by some younger people, and that’s when something odd happened. They were asking if anybody was there, and something dropped from above through the iron spiral staircase to the floor. Two people ran out immediately. The rest of us were a bit shocked but stayed in “reason” mode. I immediately thought one of the kids had thrown a coin from a pocket across the room. No one ‘fessed, though. Stuart found the penny at the foot of the stairs.. There was no one else in the Lighthouse.

Later, one of the guides said about this time of year, people experience coins being tossed at them. He had it happen to him, in fact, in the Lightkeeper’s house. And some other people had reported other instances. Hmm…

Tuesday morning, Stuart called me over to his bedstand, and he had a very strange look on his face. Among several coins he had emptied from his pockets the night before, the penny… THAT penny… was standing on its paranormal end, perfectly balanced on the nightstand. Stuart then showed me the hair on his arm standing straight up. FREAKY!!!

Anyway, ghostbusting aside, I’m officially Floridian now…again…and one step closer to life in France.

Happy Holidays, everyone.


Helpful Quick Bits: International Mail Forwarding

“Welcome those big, sticky, complicated problems. In them are your most powerful opportunities.”
Ralph Marston

Moving overseas is a very powerful opportunity! It’s full of complicated logistics, one of these being mail. A change of address can be complicated enough when it is in one’s own nation. While the post office makes it simple to fill out a change of address form, one must follow up by notifying all the businesses, governments, professionals, family and friends of one’s new address. It can take time, and it is easy to forget some of the people who ought to be notified.

The challenge in moving overseas is that the post office only forwards in the US. Enter the independent enterprise of international mail forwarding, the expat’s friend.

There are several intermediary companies out there that will provide a person with a US address to which all her mail can be forwarded via US mail. They then ship that mail to the recipient overseas. Brilliant! The companies I’ve looked into have very cool features where you can see what’s in your mailbox online when it arrives; some will also open and scan your mail so you can read it right away. They even have discard services for junk mail. And, it seems, I can shop for my favorite US items, have them shipped by, say Amazon, to my mail forwarding service, who would then combine all my packages together and send them overseas, saving me extra postage costs (that is, assuming the company I was buying from even would have shipped internationally to begin with). So, I can still get all my favorite products I can’t live without in France! It will also be an awesome service to have until Stuart and I know where, exactly, we will be staying long-term because all I need do is change my forwarding address with one company!

Here’s another beautiful thing. Some of the companies I’ve looked at offer Florida addresses. Now, for those of you who remember my post about driving overseas and my need to establish residency in Florida, this is very good news.  All I need is a subscription to one of the services I’ve been investigating, and I can have any mail I want to receive through them sent to my new Florida address right away. So when it is time to get my Florida driver’s license, I’ll have the two pieces of “official” mail required to prove residency even before I arrive. (There are other requirements, should this pertain to you).

Smooth move!

Right now, though, I’m looking at MyUS.com in Sarasota, MyRVmail.com in Crestview, and St. Brendan’s Isle, all in Flordia, and learning a few things about what to look for. Do readers have experiences with either of these or other companies they would like to share?