The Simple Life


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We have officially been living in our apartment in Béziers for three days now.  It’s like a dream come true.  We absolutely love our apartment, imperfections and all!  We love the neighborhood and it’s cafés and gardens, and can’t wait for school to start next week.  Last night I was on our balcony (I always wanted a balcony), taking in the view, and I took a few minutes to take into account that this is really happening.  We have moved to France.  It’s no longer something that we “want to do someday”.  We’ve done it, we live here now.

When I was growing up in Louisiana, it was always in the fall that my “new year” began.  Since then, the only profession I’ve ever known is that of a teacher.  In my mind, next Monday (la rentrée or first day back to school for the kids) will mark the first day of a new year, a new beginning. The difference this time is that the beginning of this new year will not take place in a classroom.  It’s a new life for us, a new business to get off the ground, new friends to make, a time for new life experiences.

The kids are ready to start CP (first grade for Charlotte) and CM1 (fourth grade for Tristan).  To my great surprise, they told me that they’re tired of vacation, and they’re ready to get back to school!  It’s true that they’ve had a bit of an extended summer vacation this year to the tune of about three and a half months total.  I think they’re ready to meet some kids their own age.  It’s funny how kids don’t get worked up about things the way we adults do sometimes.   French school, American school, it’s all the same to them.

We plan to take a “trial walk” to the kids’ school today to see exactly how long it takes to get there by foot.  I’m thinking 15 minutes or so, and since we’ll be doing it 8 times a day, it should be good exercise!  In case you’re wondering why we’ll make the trip 8 times a day, it’s a round-trip in the morning to drop them off, then a round-trip to pick them up for lunch.  Add a round-trip to bring them back to school at 2:00, then another round trip to pick them up at 5:00.

Before leaving St. Louis, one of the students at the school where I taught read in the school newspaper that I would be moving in Béziers with my family.  He came to my office to tell me that he has a cousin who recently moved to Béziers (small world!) and that she and her husband own a bike shop here.  I plan to go meet them today, and maybe see if they can help me put my bike back together.  For now, we don’t have a car, so having our bikes would be pretty handy, and fun too!  It’s so liberating to live a simpler life, without the things we considered to be necessities back in St. Louis.  I love the idea of being able to get (almost) everything we need for daily living just by walking down the street.

P.S. Yesterday we ordered the mega-electricity-transformer that one of you so graciously took the time last spring to tell me about, and we received it only 24 hours later!  We can now vacuum and play on the Wii.  Life is good!

18 thoughts on “The Simple Life”

  1. You sound so happy! I love reading your stories and learning about your adventures!
    You definitely need to ride your bikes to school:)
    Mere

    1. Hi Meredith! As soon as we get our bikes put together, it may be a possibility. Although we have to cross lots of roads to get there, so walking or scooters may be a more likely possibility. I’m really loving it here🙂 It’s great to hear from you! xoxo

  2. All sounds good – Welcome to France!! I remember feeling pretty similar when we arrived 2 years ago. It’s a big change from the US. This kind of “starting over” is huge – but so fun!! My girls are also excited for school to start next week. As most French kids are away a lot during the summer, they are excited to reconnect with friends! I also have one in CP & CM1. My oldest will be in 5-eme. For us, this year we will be 2 schools instead of 3 last year! Good luck – looking forward to reading more!

      1. My kids for the most part stay at their schools for lunch…At their schools – the majority of children stay at school (as I think most parents both work) – it’s their social time. When we moved here, we originally thought we would bring them home at lunch, but they preferred to stay with friends. Occasionally, we bring them home – sometimes with a friend – but for the most part they stay. The big thing for my oldest (5eme), she takes the public bus to and from school as her school is at the other end of town…she loves the independence!

      2. That’s a huge step towards independence for your daughter, what is she, like 13-14? I’m sure she loves it🙂 About lunches, we’ll see how things pan out once school starts. For now I’m planning on letting them stay at school for lunch once a week, and I think their aunt wants to pick them up and bring them home for lunch one day. Since they don’t have school on Wednesdays that really only leaves two days of picking them up and bringing them home for lunch. I’m really looking forward to that!

    1. Thank you so much! You’ve been here through it all it seems, so thankful for all of your support! After next Monday things should begin to settle into a sort of routine. Can’t wait to see what that routine will be like. I hope all is well with you. Now that we’re living full time in our apartment we will also have Internet full time, so that means I’ll have a lot of catching up to do on my favorite blogs, including your blog…of course!!

  3. Jennifer, I can imagine how excited you are! We’ve been to the area several times, just this summer for 6 weeks in a village called Thezan les Beziers, just outside of Beziers. We are coming back to Languedoc for the whole winter to possibly look for a house to buy.

    It’s a great experience for your kids to learn about another country and culture. The world is getting smaller and smaller and we need more people who have some sense of what life is like outside their own borders.

    1. Hi! I know exactly where Thézan is, and even have some very good friends who live there and produce olive oil! How wonderful it must have been to spend six weeks there this summer. Was it hard to leave? I guess so, if you’re planning to come back to the region in the winter. Keep me posted! I also have the feeling that it’s a very, very small world we’re all living in these days. Vraiment, my feelings precisely🙂

    2. Please let me know when you come back in the winter, it would be so fun to meet up! I’m so curious to know how the summer in Thezan was for you. Do you guys speak French?

  4. Wow, Jennifer! How fantastic and what a difference it will be to not have to go back to the classroom. Walking your children to school – such a luxury! Teachers rarely have the chance to experience this. I hope that this time next year I will be enjoying a similar experience. This school year it will be hard for me to concentrate on the classroom while I get all of our ducks in a row for our upcoming year long stay in France. It is so motivating for me to read your posts!

    1. Helly, it’s great to hear from you! Hang in there this year in the classroom… I certainly remember what it was like for me last year. I loved each and every one of my students, the school, my colleagues, but when you have something else in your mind (like moving to France) it can be hard to really stay focused. Teachers like us really should count our blessings. So, are you still thinking of living in Béziers next year? Tell me again the ages of your children? If you’re going to be in Béziers, maybe our kids will be in the same school! How fun would that be?? And even if you’re not in Béziers, I know we will get the chance to meet. What a small world🙂 Happy return to school, and good luck with each and every thing you do while preparing your upcoming year long stay in France. You’re so lucky!

      1. Yes, we certainly are lucky! I am an optimist and I’m sure everything will work out well both in teaching this year and in preparing to come to France. I am in love with Béziers and I would love to live there! I’m just not sure about how we will find a furnished apartment or house since we do not have family there and will not be able to afford a house-hunting trip before we arrive. Do you know anyone that may be able to help? My boys will be 11 (6th grade) and 9 (4th grade) when we come to France. Does the school your kids go to go up to collège? I think my oldest will be in 6e. I would love to meet you and your family! I feel so connected to you. You seem like just a lovely person and are a true teacher – sharing your experience and expertise any chance you get. As usual I’m looking so forward to your next post!

      2. Helly, Tomorrow is the first day of school here in Béziers! I’m planning to write a post about it, and many more about what it’s like to live here now that the kids will be in school and I’ll have a bit more time to devote to blogging🙂 When exactly are you planning to move to France? When the time comes closer, I could help look at some places for you, sending pictures, giving my opinion, etc. We couldn’t afford a house hunting trip before coming either, but we were lucky to have family here who were willing to scope it out before we arrived, and I am forever grateful for that. I’m trying to remember what your husband does for work… Is he tied to a particular area, or did you just like Béziers? The school where my kids will go is a small Catholic school, no website. I know I love it because we have an older son and two older nieces who went there years ago. It only goes through fifth grade, so that would mean two schools for you (boo!). In what year was your eldest born? Here, if you turn 6 in a particular year (January 1 – December 31) then you begin first grade that year. I’m also trying to remember if your kids speak French… If they don’t, then maybe it wouldn’t be so bad for the eldest to repeat a year, learn French, and still be in the “primary” years before attacking “collège”? When my older son came here fifteen years ago, when we got married he was 7, he had already completed 1st grade in the US. However, since he didn’t speak any French we put him in CP (first grade). He was fluent by the Christmas holidays, and when we went back to the US in the fall we just put him right in 3rd grade. It all worked out quite nicely, and he was then fluent in French. If you could have them in the same school, since you’re only here for a year, it could be nice for them and for you too. If you eventually decide to move to Béziers, I know lots of people who have had kids go through the system and who can give school recommendations for older kids. I’ll write more soon!

      3. Hi Jennifer, I loved your last post with the video showing your walk to school. Wow, can’t wait to see more of Béziers in your future posts! Thanks for your long and detailed response to my last comment. Both of our boys go to French school here, and we make an effort to speak French at home, but I know that compared to the standards at schools in France, they will probably be behind. The idea to have our older son repeat a year in France seems like a good one – we will definitely consider it! Thank you for your offer to help us find accommodation. We love the idea of Béziers but have not completely decided yet. Your blog is certainly helping to sell Béziers! While we are in France, my husband and I will not be working, so we do not ‘have to’ move to any particular place. Alas, we will only be living in France for 1 year this time, as we will still be under contract with our school division and must return as part of the agreement for our leaves of absence. We are very fortunate to have a deferred salary/leave program that teachers can participate in. We have not ruled out the possibility of loving it so much that we may try to relocate permanently. We may be like you, we may return to Canada with a plan of eventually coming back!!! Thanks for all of your offers to help -you are truly an amazing person.

  5. I’m so glad you’re settling in and enjoying it! We are now on our downward run, flying back to Australia at the end of next month. You know what though? We sold our car over a week ago and don’t even miss it! We walk to everything or ride our bikes to things a bit further – its such a lovely pace of life isn’t it?

    Oh I’m going to miss it….

    1. Flying back to Australia at the end of September? Where do you live in Australia? That’s not a bad place to return to🙂 I totally get what you mean about enjoying not having the burden of a car. I wish we could just stay like this, because I know once we have one we will use it even when we don’t really need to. We will eventually need one just to get around the region, wouldn’t want to miss out on all there is to offer! How long have you been in France altogether? It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

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