October 10, 2023 - Written by: Nancy Pollard
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The Best Laid Plans

The Covid Pandemic can be blamed for many derailments  in the second decade of the 21st century. Our plans to move from one continent to another were certainly one of  thousands of  such postponements. By the time we finally had the right documentation from the Italian government and there were no more quarantines, we were fortunate enough to sell our building privately and avoid having to clean our apartment every time a realtor needed to show it to prospective buyers.

323 Cameron St when owned by Robert & Nancy PollardEven though the store space had not been rented out (we did not want to have a lease issue when we sold the building) we still had over fifty years of living in our home above the shop to sort though before we moved. While my  husband  is a borderline hoarder,  I throw things out faster than the speed of light, sometimes  regretting the loss later. After a few futile attempts at preparing our home for moving company estimators, we decided to simply contact the movers and have them guide us and make their proposals. At our age, we realized that we did not want  to do the packing ourselves, and that we also needed a removal service for items that weren’t going to make it into our new digs in Italy…which we still don’t have. And as we discovered in Part I of the Big Move, you need the actual Elective Residency permit to move and store your household possessions in Italy without having to pay customs. 

Moving 101

After researching moving companies online that are really equipped for handling an international move, we discovered that when you read the fine print, there aren’t many. We decided on three, one of which did the estimate totally by video call on our cell phones – which I found a bit unnerving. A second company farmed out our request to another firm that would be their subcontractor – which we found to be equally unnerving. The third company actually had a scheduler call me with an appointment time, and a real person came to visit us who thoroughly inspected all the rooms, opened all the closets and cupboards with us, and outlined the steps we needed to take (and also crossed off ones that weren’t necessary). She said that when we signed the contract, she would set a three-day time frame for the move.  Interesting note: end of May through June is the busiest period for movers, so the fact that we were not moving until the end of July made scheduling easier…and pricing less expensive.  Her company sent us an estimate with some provisos. She also outlined for us which items would need to have special crates built. They would hire a specialist to crate art objects, chandeliers, antique or fragile furniture. Needless to say, we chose Interstate Moving Relocation Logistics located in Springfield, Virginia. 

Preparing For Day One

There were two areas that this company made clear that they would not move: the first was cash, stock certificates and valuable jewelry; the second was liquor and wine. Since my jewelry collection includes an admittedly large number of  cheesy, outlandish earrings and my valuable jewelry can be stored in a container the size of a tuna can, this condition was not hard to adjust to.

RWM and wine from collectionThe second was a bit more difficult. The RWM (Resident Wine Maniac) has come by his initials honestly. He had acquired and stored a rather large (by my standards) wine collection, somewhat messily but in a temperature controlled space that had been first used to store ice and later coal under the sidewalk attached to the basement of our vintage building,  When we first committed ourselves to moving to Italy, he blithely predicted that we would with our friends drink through his collection. This proved difficult, as he kept purchasing more wines. We did our best. After much hand-wringing on my part and a fair number of wonderful wine-filled meals, he found a wine merchant who was willing to store  his wines until we could ship them overseas, A) in cold weather and, B) when we had our final residence  permit so that we would not have to pay customs. We are still virtually kissing her feet. 

Our moving consultant said that Day One,  all packing would be completed. She estimated 200 boxes and crates. Day Two,  a different crew  would crate and move all designated boxes and furniture into trucks and store our belongings in their stateside warehouse. Day Three would be reserved for her recommended company to remove the remainder and leave our building (with its 5 floors, including basement) “broom clean”. You can either have the moving company arrange for the parking  (a fee is charged) or you can do it yourself. We chose the latter, as the City of Alexandria makes it very easy to accomplish this online. 

We decided to go through our books, which were many, and select which ones would make it to ourmy terrace at 323 Cameron St future English library in Bologna. KD’s sharp-penciled editor informed me that Alexandria Library happily takes your unwanted books, and we off-loaded about 30 crates (but not my cookbooks). Our friends took pantry items and liquor. My lemon and lime trees were bequeathed to a friend who is a mixologist manqué and has a green thumb. I did have to hug my fig tree goodbye, but fortunately the new owner of our building loves figs.  Saying goodbye to the planters on my deck and bequeathing them to a dear friend who manages to revive plants that I throw away proved not to be as difficult as I had thought. 

Preparing For Day Two

Having solved the moving company issue and found a fairy godmother for the sacred wine collection, our moving consultant recommended that we use an appropriately named company 123 Junk  to clearcrew from 123 Junk finished at 323 Cameron St out four floors of unwanted relics.  We purchased a roll each of  yellow, blue and green painter tapes   The yellow  would be for  furniture, or whole areas that would be packed by movers; the green would be stuff to be removed by 123 Junk; and blue items were to be left for the next owner or our friends who wanted to take them. Belongings in our daughters’ bedrooms were left to the Bologna daughter to organize. Paybacks are hell. 123 Junk’s estimator said we would be charged for 1 4/5 trucks worth of “stuff” that would be donated, recycled or trashed. Their informative website is very clear as to what they will and won’t take. 

Dream packing crew from Interstate at 323 Cameron StThe packers were a group of five women, who started at 8am and followed all spaces that were marked with yellow tape. Everything was carefully insulated and packed, each box inventoried for its contents and numbered. They were finished before 3:30 pm, and the final box count was 109 and not 200. The whole experience of watching them quietly wrap and pack was mysteriously calming. 

On the second day, around 8am a very different crew arrived. Three BIG men with three smaller but very fit and agile assistants. The crating specialist arrived a bit later and set up a small carpentry shop outside the shop entrance of the building and proceeded to build five crates, then insulating each piece that went into them in different ways. He quietly left a few hours later, and the moving crew was also finished before 4pm. They went through the remaining items marked with yellow tape, and even pointed out to us items we had missed that we meant to have included. We again only watched fascinated, as they worked through the building. 

Preparing For Day Three

Day Three arrived with a procession of three, soon to be five bright red trucks bearing the logo of 123 Junk at 8am. The men, all in matching red shirts, started at the basement level and cleaned everything out and proceeded to go through each room and remove everything that had been left behind marked withFinal crating of our home green tape. Our friends who had wanted the items marked with blue tape came at the same time and removed their treasures. Refrigerator and freezer were cleaned out, floors were swept and vacuumed, We signed off to the guys in red, and even though they had brought the extra trucks, the remnants of our life at 323 Cameron Street  fit exactly into the originally predicted 1  and 4/5 of another truck.  Our house, which was built in 1810 and had stored grain, been a gun shop, a coffee house and an art studio and lately a kitchen store, was ready for yet another new owner. We take with us decades of treasured memories, and our dedication to find a new home to hold the next decade’s beautiful stories. 

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Janet Keefer
8 months ago

Egad! I must have missed Part ! of your Big Move. I had no idea. You will be missed in Alexandria and on the North American continent. What an undertaking! Are you moving a dog or cat? That was the most stressful part for us when we moved to and from Dubai. When we moved there, our employer told to NOT to even attempt to bring our furniture, just clothes and personal items. Then they gave us money to furnish our place there. That was the best move ever. Coming back, though, we had acquired so many goodies (rugs, furniture,… Read more »

Mary Morrison
8 months ago

Nancita, We miss you 😢 more than we can say!

8 months ago

The kitchen store was one of my favorite places in America, so I was pleased to read about how lovingly you cared for it right through the end. I can’t wait to read about your new home and how you make it your own.

Christine Bernstein
8 months ago

You are greatly missed in OT as is La Cuisine! Your wit, sage advice (pun intended) and neighborly values enhanced our little town.
Wishing you all the best in this new life adventure!

Robin M
8 months ago

Oh my goodness. Thank you for chronicling your moving adventure. “Mysteriously calming” is never a descriptor that I’ve been able to use when packers came to stow our things for international moves (of which we’ve had six). But I’m glad it seems to have not been a painful process, and the reward will be on the “other side.” We do miss your lovely store now that we’re just down the road (Richmond, VA) from where it used to be. My husband, on trips back to the US, would stop in and make purchases of items to bring back to me… Read more »

8 months ago

This is a great story and I can’t wait to here more! Thank you for letting us vicariously join in the adventure. Miss the store so much, even though I no longer live in the D.C. area.

Diana Garcia
8 months ago

Nancy–I miss your shop (which my husband used to call “The Temple of the One Good Thing”), but it sounds like you’ve started quite the adventure in Italy. I pass your fig tree every day–it looks healthy and thriving. Looking forward to hearing about what’s ahead for you!

Gretchen Kugel
8 months ago

Nancy, you know, my power of denial is extraordinary. I keep thinking La Cuisine will re-open and that Things Will Be As They Were. In that vein, I was absolutely convinced you and the RWM would NEVER sell 323 Cameron…this post is jarring my magical universe and I must repaire to my bed with strong drink and “The Food of France” to recuperate. All that said, I am pleased as punch that you two have been able to do this. Old Town’s loss is Bologna’s gain. My La Cuisine batteries de Cuisine shall now be taking on relic status. While… Read more »

Lory Fleischer
8 months ago

I used to order my Panel chocolates from your shop, couvertures & more. When the store closed, I was sad yet I continued to read your posts. My best wishes for good health & safe travel to you both. As you look forward to the next chapter of your adventure, please share with us all; you & your lovely posts will always be in my heart.

8 months ago

Nancy, Thank you for the detailed story of your move. I wish you nothing but happiness and a good life in Italy. I still miss the shop very much and I miss just emailing you with some silly question or product advice. Please keep the blog going as I look forward to my Wednesday reads and again, much happiness to you and your family.