Category Archives: Uncategorized

It’s Christmas in France!


Have you ever dreamed of what Christmas in France is like? Before moving to France, I always imagined what it would be like to go to a French Christmas market. The Christmas Cracker Fair in Roujan was the first one I’ve ever been to, and what a treat! It’s setting is the lovely 12th century Château de Cassan in the Lanugedoc-Roussillon region of France. Enjoy, and there will be more to come this holiday season as I make my way from market to market… and from mulled wine to mulled wine. I love France.

Advertisements

Stes. Maries-de-la-Mer


Stes. Maries-de-la-Mer

The end of the 2-week Toussaint holidays has finally come, and it’s back to school today. But don’t worry, Charlotte. We live in France now! In just 7 short weeks, there will be another 2-week break!

Goûter in the Trunk


Goûter in the Trunk

There’s just nothing better than an afternoon snack of petits pains, nutella, and juice in the trunk of the car. We’d just finished hiking in the Gorge d’Heric.

Louisiana Crawfish (ça va me manquer!)


Louisiana Crawfish (ça va me manquer!)

I’m going to love living in France, but I’ll sure miss Crawfish Season. As it is now, I have to drive 12 hours to get the good ones from Louisiana. I guess when you think about it like that, it would only take about twelve hours by plane (all said and done).

Teaching English and French Classes Online


Image

As many readers will know from my previous posts, I’m a high school French teacher.  I’ve been doing this for fifteen years, and teaching is my calling.  I love it.  I work at an awesome high school where all of the students are amazingly motivated and the parents are supportive, my colleagues are my friends.  So as I quit my job to move on to the next stage in life, which is making a permanent move to France this coming summer, I have mixed emotions.

For the last year or so I have been thinking very hard about what I’d like to do for work once we’re in Béziers.  One thing I know, at forty years old and with two kids under the age of ten, is that I want to plan my own schedule.  I want to work on my own terms.  I know, after having lived in France before, how wonderful it is to be able to pick up the kids from school and bring them home for lunch between 12 and 2.  Also, as I look at the schedule of school holidays in France, I know my family would benefit greatly by my being able to be off with the kids during those times.  Who am I kidding?  I’ve been a teacher for fifteen years, and I enjoy life with school holidays (coming from someone who has the whole next week off for Spring Break).

Sometime last fall I got the idea of teaching English online.  I have a colleague who taught Chinese online for a while, and she talked to me about doing the same.  I investigated many online language schools, and some are certainly more reputable than others.  I sent my CV off to several of the more established schools, and waited to see what would happen.  It wasn’t long before I started receiving email responses from several of them.

One of them is actually a French online school, but they’re looking to expand to teach English classes as well.  They are based in Montpellier, which is very close to where we will be living in France. That’s where they’re based, but given the nature of the business, one can live anywhere in the world.  The French owner, who is about my age, is in Thailand for the time being.  Another has recently relocated to Tahiti.  They all have children, and they all home school them.  I’m not looking to home school my children, but I love the idea of the freedom we will have.

I actually feel much more comfortable teaching French as a foreign language than English, but that’s just because I have a lot more experience doing that.  I have a BA in English as well though, and I think that’s what gives me an edge in the business even though I’ve spent my whole professional life teaching French.  I went through several Skype interviews over the months of December and January, and finally I was hired!  I’ve given a total of 8 classes via Skype so far.  These classes have actually been in French rather than English, even though I’m not a native speaker.  At first, I was very nervous about it.  Fear of the unknown!  After the first fifteen minutes, I was once again at ease.  It’s so much fun.  You just use the chat box like you would a white board.

I’ve also started creating free French lessons on YouTube.  This is just for fun, and there are only three lessons on my channel so far.  I put a link to my YouTube channel at the top of my blog page. I’m going to try to put up at least one lesson per week and we’ll see how that goes.

I wanted to get started with this new method of teaching right away, so that I could become familiar with it and hopefully get established before moving (and before my teaching paychecks stop this summer).  Looks like I’m on the right track.  I’m also getting a website, business cards, and flyers ready for one-on-one English (or French) classes in Béziers.  Wouldn’t it be great if this took off?  Call me an eternal optimist, but I really think I will find success in this venture.  I always see the glass as half full, and so far that’s worked out very nicely.

Hemingway’s Paris


ImageJust before leaving for my very first trip to Paris back in 1992, my French teacher told me to go and see the legendary bookstore “Shakespeare and Company”.  That’s what I did, and since then I’ve had a bit of an obsession with the history of this legendary English bookstore and all of those who helped to give it a name in history.

Fast forward about twenty years, and my obsession is mainly focused on Ernest Hemingway and his life in Paris in the twenties.  Of course, sometimes I deviate and become fascinated with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald,  his wife Zelda, and Gertrude Stein just to name a few.

Like many others, my passion was renewed with the release of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.  I first saw this movie in June, 2011, while in Paris.   I heard that the movie was released in Paris before being released in the United States, but I’m not sure if that’s true.  Anyway, I was traveling with a group of my students, and had dropped them off for some exploratory time at the Louvre.  It was pouring down rain, and I didn’t have an umbrella.  I knew it would be pointless to rush, so I strolled at a leisurely pace through the Tuilerie Gardens, beyond the Place de la Concorde, on up the Champs-Élysées, and right into a cinéma where I spent the next hour and a half or so falling in love with the Paris that had just seen me drenched to the bone.  What a treat it was to walk out of the theater only to find that it was still raining.

Fast forward another two years, and I’m back in Paris.  I had about ten days in the city by myself.  On the one hand, it sounds like a dream for a working mom who spends the entire school year trying to keep up with a hectic schedule.  On the other hand, after about day 4, Paris can get a bit lonely when you’re missing your husband and kids.  I decided to take advantage of the time and do something just for me.  I spent a few days scouring the Internet , trying to map out a personalized walking tour of Hemingway’s familiar haunts.  I found a travel blog that was MOST helpful to me, and if you’re interested in knowing exactly where to go on a Hemingway walk, I strongly suggest you read it:

http://www.slowtrav.com/france/paris/rl_hemingway.htm

When I’d at last finalized my itinerary, I knew it would be a long walk that would take all day.  What an adventure!  I put on my not so comfortable walking shoes (had to look good, it’s Paris, after all), grabbed a book and my  journal, and I started out from the 15th arrondissement where our studio apartment is located.  I made my way, by foot, over to the Montparnasse district.  I basically did the walk described on the SlowTravelFrance blog, except I did it in reverse because it was more practical for me.  I started down the Boulevard du Montparnasse, walked past La Coupole, La Closerie des Lilas…  Originally I had intended to stop at La Closerie des Lilas for an afternoon refreshment.  It was one of Hemingway’s favorite writing (and undoubtedly drinking) spots.  Also, I’m of the generation of Robert & Mireille in French in Action, and many of their rendez-vous took place in this café.  My plans changed when I had a look at the menu prices.  Thankfully they’re listed outside.  Instead, I planted myself on the bench out front, drank my bottle of water, smoked a cigarette from the pack that cost me almost $10 USD, and chewed on a piece of Hollywood Chewing Gum that I’d bought at the Tabac.

Once I’d rested up a bit, I continued on to the Rue de Fleurus, and that’s where Gertrude Stein’s apartment can be found at #27.  I was mainly reminded of scenes from Midnight in Paris when I got there.  I was the only person on the street who was stopping to have a look, and I felt a bit strange because even though it was Gertrude Stein’s apartment, it’s somebody else’s apartment now!  I was gazing up at one of the windows, and when I caught sight of someone gazing back at me, I embarrassedly scurried off toward the Jardin du Luxembourg.

By this time, it was mid-afternoon, and it was hot in Paris on that day.  I was ready for a cold drink, so before entering the Jardin du Luxembourg, I stopped in a shoddy little café for a beer.  I’m usually not a beer drinker, but it sure did taste good as I sat on the terrace of this dirty-ish café and wrote in my journal.  I don’t remember the name of the place where I had my beer, but even though it was dirty and they only had a one Turkish unisex bathroom, I’d recommend it because I made a great memory for myself on my Hemingway Day all by myself in Paris.

Next I went into the Jardin du Luxembourg.  I decided to sit and read for a while.  I knew that Hemingway had spent a goodly amount of time here, and some of that time was caught catching pigeons to eat so that he, Hadley, and Bumby wouldn’t starve to death.  I wonder if the pigeons of the twenties were the mutant pigeons of today?  It was a gorgeous day, so I found a shady spot on the grass and laid down with my book.  I was quickly distracted by an American couple who were so in love!  What I appreciated so much about them, and why I watched them unabashedly for about fifteen straight minutes, was because they were in love in Paris!  And they weren’t attractive.  They were not very well-dressed, they were slightly over weight, but they were in full PDA mode, and it was beautiful.  I don’t think they would have behaved like that in the US.

After the PDA and about a chapter of my book, I was ready to carry on.  I headed up to the Boulevard St-Germain-des-Prés, had a look at the famous café les Deux Magots, continued  on rue St-Sulpice, and finally down the rue de Vaugirard.  I made my way along the Quai des Grands Augustins and perused the bouquinistes of which Hemingway was so fond.  On to Shakespeare and Company where Sylvia Beach once loaned books, and even fed and housed Hemingway and his contemporaries from time to time.  Sylvia Beach had to close shop after WWII, but it has since been reopened by one George Whitman, who carries on the tradition of caring for artists and writers alike.

I only had two more stops to make on my walking tour.  I wanted to find Ernest and Hadley’s first apartment at 74 rue du Cardinal-Lemoine, and I wanted to also see the room Hemingway rented in a hotel nearby at 39 rue Descartes.  I couldn’t find the former, even though I must have walked up and down the narrow street a dozen times.  I wonder if it’s just not marked with the number 74??  However, I did find 39 rue Descartes, where Hemingway rented a room and tried to write.  There is a small plaque on the wall that says (in English) that “Ernest Hemingway lived in this building from 1921-1925”, but it’s not true.  That’s just where he went to work, or more likely to get away from family life with Hadley and Bumby.  There’s a larger plaque on the wall that says (in French) that “Dans cette maison est mort le 8 janvier 1896 le poète Paul VERLAINE…”  I wonder if Hemingway knew that when he took the room?

By this time, it was probably getting close to 7 pm.  I was tired (in a good way) from walking all day, and was starting to get hungry.  It would have been easy to have a seat in one of the many Latin Quarter cafés for a little something to eat and to people watch, but I opted to take the Métro back to the 15th.  When I got back to my neighborhood, I stopped chez l’Arabe (the neighborhood convenient store) and picked up some pasta, Barilla sauce aux olives, shredded emmenthal cheese, and a bottle of wine.  I went back to our 11th floor studio apartment, cooked my poet’s repast, and opened the window to the view  you see in the picture below.  That was a day well spent.

IMG_0754

I Love Paris in the Springtime…


I’m so ready for spring to get here.  Yesterday it was snowing up a storm, so we may have to wait a little while before seeing some nice weather.  With the arrival of spring, the countdown to summer gets shorter and shorter every day.  I figured out that we only have about seven more full weeks of teaching left (not including holidays), and then we will quickly be getting our furniture ready to ship on the container.  It’s supposed to take 3-8 weeks to arrive in Béziers. My last day of work is in May, but François has to work until June 18.   I’ve been spending some time (when I can find it) looking at apartment websites, just to see what’s out there, how much the rent will be, what the conditions are, etc.  Of course, that’s a bit frustrating because as soon as I find something I love, I remember that it’s a little to early to start signing papers!  I really hope we will be able to find a spacious apartment in a nice area of town so that we can walk everywhere (bringing kids to school, grocery shopping, going to restaurants and cafés!).  On the other hand, there are some really cute “villas” for rent, and they’re more spacious, newer, have private gardens….  But they’re not right in town.  It sure would be nice to have an extra bedroom to have for when people come to visit.  I’ve got a feeling we’ll have quite a few visitors now that we’re going to live in France!!  It really is hard to stay focused on the tasks at hand though.  I’m so excited and ready for this adventure.  My husband is a bit antsy and nervous about the whole affair (especially about finding jobs), but I just know that it’s going to be great.  I have a very good feeling about it all.  

Let the French adventure begin!


Image

It’s kind of hard to believe that this is really going to happen for us.  All of last year we were getting our house on the market, thinking all the while that we would be moving to France during the summer (after the successful sale of our home, of course!).  By now we would have been settled down in the South of France, children would be learning lessons in a French school.  Things sure don’t work out the way we sometimes imagine, do they?

After the heartache of six failed contracts on our home, we now have a rather official looking “sold” sign in the front yard.  The closing won’t be until next week on the 19th, but at this point there’s really no turning back for either parties.  This is going to happen, and we need to find an apartment to live in for six months.  We have negotiated staying in the house until the end of November, giving us time to pack and find a place to live.

Everything now seems so official, and we both hope that we’re making the right decision.  It’s going to be very hard to leave the house where our children have grown and continue to grow up.  We have many, many memories after ten years in our little nest.  The truth is, we really love our house, our home.  I hope I won’t be too emotional on moving day.  After ten months of really being proactive about moving to France, now it seems rather surreal to me.

In many ways I consider us fortunate to not have sold our house in a rush during the summer.  Selling it now will give us the proper opportunity to enjoy our last 6-7 months here and to live through the different emotional stages of such a transition.  It will also give us a chance to save some money, and I’m sure we will be very glad we did!

Top Ten Reasons to Live in France


My TOP TEN reasons for wanting to relocate to France:

(maybe I forgot something, or maybe you know better!  in any case, let me know what you think!)

 

Reason # 1

Quality of life


Reason # 2

Work to live, not live to work.  Taking time to enjoy life, spending time with family, longer lunches and dinners.  Slower pace of living.  Sundays are what they used to be in the United States forty years ago.

Reason # 3

Healthier lifestyle, pedestrian friendly cities, beaches, mountains, walks in vineyards.

Reason # 4

High-quality health care system, affordable to all, low cost prescription drugs.

Reason # 5

French gastronomy, locally grown fresh produce markets, bread, cheese, olive oil, Mediterranean diet.

Reason # 6

Easy travel to diverse locations (other European countries); children grow up (with the possibility of)  being exposed to more foreign cultures.  And no matter where you live in France, Paris is just a quick train ride away.

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” -Ernest Hemingway

Reason # 7 

Some of the best, and most affordable wine regions in the world.  Summer wine festivals in the Languedoc are fabulous.

Reason # 8 

Mediterranean climate:  The weather may not be so fantastic in every part of France year round, but in the Languedoc, it really is quite pleasant most of the time.

Reason # 9

Manners are still important in France, and the vast majority of children are raised to show respect.  This is very important to me.

This is a picture of my son, my niece, and some friends.

Reason # 10

Comparatively low violent crime rate.  We are not planning to live in a big city, but even in Paris I feel safe walking alone at night.

What we’re going to put in our 20-foot container


Our house still hasn’t sold.  42 days or so on the market and two weeks since we’ve had a showing, but I’m still curiously optimistic.  I don’t know how I’ll deal psychologically if this doesn’t work out.  Let’s just not think about that 🙂

Here’s what our container will look like.

 

Doesn’t look that big, but we’ve been assured that everything we have left in our house should fit in there:

Dining room

Kitchen

Living Room

Three bedrooms

Clothes/Shoes for 2 adults & 2 children

Toys, bikes, etc.

We did get rid of a LOT at our moving sale back in February so when moving time does come, NO CLUTTER.

While getting rid of things, we didn’t keep anything electronic that we thought we could do without.  That includes mostly all kitchen appliances, one television, some lamps.  Now that I think about it, I shouldn’t have gotten rid of so many things.  However, at the time we didn’t know we’d have enough space in the container.  Oh well, no regrets!

Originally, we’d planned to sell or give away the electrical appliances we still have just before moving.  That would include a television, PS3, Wii, DVD player, hair dryer, flat-iron, iron for clothes, a couple of lamps, coffee maker, espresso machine, rice cooker, and a few other little things that we consider important.  Now that I think about it and I’ve done a bit of research (and I know we have enough space in the container), I do believe I’ll just go and buy enough $10 electrical adapter/converter devices and hold onto our appliances.  That will save us a lot of running around buying things when we get to our apartment in Béziers, and it will be cheaper too.

A word about keeping the television.  The only reason we will do this is to play video games and watch DVDs on it.  It happens to be a nicer, newer T.V., so maybe we’d like to have the little luxury of having it, even if we won’t watch real television programs or French DVDs.  We will need a larger size converter for this.  Suggestions?

We’re not going to bring the car, though.  I love my VW Beetle, but it’s just not worth what it would cost to ship it over.  Plus, I’m pretty sure we’d have to have some changes made to the car once in France just to make it street legal.

What do you think?  Any comments?  Many of you probably have a lot more experience shipping personal goods overseas, so I’d be thrilled to receive any advice you may have.