The perky young Vice President of Human Resources touched me on the shoulder and said, “Have a nice life.”
That moment, standing in the parking lot with my personal possessions in a cardboard box and my severance papers stuffed in my pocket, I thought, “Why the hell not?”
The anarchist inside me was urging me back into the building to play carelessly with matches, but instead I went to Starbuck’s. Sitting in the sun, sipping a cappuccino, it occurred to me that sometimes your life falls apart just enough to allow you to put it back together in an entirely different way.
So I did the most logical thing. I bought a barge in France. Then my wife and I set out to fulfill a lifetime dream of living in the shadow of Notre Dame on the Seine in Paris.
From Here to Paris is the story of how we climbed out of our well-worn corporate trench and, together, set to work creating our dream life, alternating between our cozy Victorian art studio in Sausalito California and our 56 foot, 1925 Dutch barge, Phaedra, cruising the canals and rivers of France, inching toward our ultimate goal, the Seine and Paris.
This is a story of facing up to the emotional and ego hooks so deeply embedded in the trappings and symbols that define “success.” Of selling the over sized house, shredding the credit cards and abandoning the mind-numbing commute in favor of a joyful struggle toward a fresh life. One lived in jeans and filled with long, leisurely afternoons floating along glass-still canals, through medieval villages and rolling vineyards in the heart of Burgundy.
It’s also the story of realtors, moose horns, a mysterious black boat, catastrophic engine failures and how your life can pass before your eyes when you put those tons of iron into reverse and it keeps going forward. It’s about learning the proper gender of things in French, cheating at Trivial Pursuit, cajoling France’s sexiest boat mechanic and why real men don’t do yoga. It’s about realizing that getting to Paris can take years, so you better enjoy the journey.
About the Author
Since 2005, Cris and Linda Hammond have been spending half of each year on their 56 foot Dutch barge Phaedra, exploring the canals and rivers of France, cooking, writing, painting and resetting their body clocks to a much slower pace. The rest of their time they are at home in Sausalito, California, in their little Victorian studio by San Francisco Bay where he sells his paintings and she dotes on their new grandson. Cris is a nationally known artist, cartoonist and entrepreneur. His comic strip, “Speed Walker, Private Eye” was seen daily in over 150 newspapers across the country. His paintings of ships and the sea have appeared in galleries in Sausalito, San Francisco, Tiburon, and Carmel California. He led special effects teams to Academy Awards in motion pictures including Star Trek IV, Innerspace and The Abyss, among others. In 1994 he founded Workforce Logic, a company that specializes in defining the legal and tax liabilities associated with the contingent workforce. In late 2001, after growing it to revenues in excess of $100 million a year, he left the company and created PaparazziH2O, a web enabled, on-the-water yacht photography business. After winning international attention for his innovative use of new, and not so new, technologies, Cris sold the business in 2004 so he’d have time to see how much trouble he could get into on that barge in France. To that end, since 2005, Cris and Linda have meandered through more that 850 kilometers of canals and rivers and negotiated more that 1100 locks in their travels from the Rhone wine region, through Burgundy to Chablis and on to the Seine and into Paris. With Phaedra as their floating home base in Europe, they’ve struck out by car and train to explore Brittany, Provence, the Alsace, Northern Spain, Venice, Tuscany, Germany and the UK. And they're still at it.