Last summer while we were in France for two months, we seriously began to think about the possibility of moving there for good when our children (4 and 7 at the time) begged us not to go back home. They like France more. Sounds too simple, right? But they are children, and that was their only excuse.
We tried reasoning with them, explaining that if we really lived in France, we’d have to work and go to school like everyone else. That didn’t slow them down. As it turns out, trying to reason with them quickly turned into trying to reason with ourselves. Well, we started to think about it. We’ve wanted to move back to the south of France for 13 years. Why not just do it?
That’s when it all began. When we got back to St. Louis last August and geared up for the school year, I went into my first faculty meeting of the year knowing in my heart that it would be my “last first meeting of the year”. Since then, we’ve been quite busy trying to get our house ready to go on the market.
Now it’s almost May, the house has been on the market 36 days, and we’re playing the waiting game. It would be so nice to just know where we’ll be in three months time. No home sale = No move to France (not for another whole year).
In my next post I’ll summarize how we’ve spent the last nine months preparing for the big move.
We’re on the real countdown now… In exactly one week 11 of my students and I will leave on our 23 day European Capitals trip. First stop, London. I’m officially starting my version of the sun dance today, and will continue it everyday until we leave the UK. Had lunch with my college age son today and he just laughed and laughed when I reminded him that I’m bringing these eleven 17 year old guys to Amsterdam. What’s so funny about going to Amsterdam with a bunch of teenage boys??? This is gonna be fun. I’m especially looking forward to my annual excursion to Space Electronique nightclub in Florence. Just CAN”T GET ENOUGH of chaperoning a bunch of teenagers in a club where they don’t open till midnight and they serve alcohol. Just CAN”T GET ENOUGH of that! So, I’m thinking of putting together a sort of scavenger hunt for some of these cities we’re going to. If anyone has any ideas for any of these places, please let me know! Time’s running short now! Here’s the list: London, Amsterdam, Heidelberg, Cologne, Munich, Innsbruck, Venice, Florence, Assisi, Rome, Lucerne, Paris & Madrid. Come on y’all… help a girl out!
This whole time I’ve been planning the summer trip with my students I’ve been thinking I’d be the only chaperone (it’s only 11 kids, after all). Well….. that’s all changed now! I’ve got another teacher going with me now. Probably a good thing, in case anything should happen to go wrong. Will know for sure tomorrow who it’s gonna be, but it looks like it will be one of the Spanish teachers. That’s cool, b/c I really like him a lot. He usually does a trip to Spain every year but this year there weren’t enough kids to do it (again I’ll say it, DARN ECONOMY). He knows Madrid like the back of his hand, good thing for me b/c that’s one of the two places on the trip I’ve never visited. He says we can easily take a day trip to Toledo on the train. OH… and I bought my ticket back to Paris from Madrid today. 9 EUROS!!!! MERCI, RYAN AIR! Well, you do have to pay 15 euros for one bag and it can’t weigh more than 15 KILOS????? Gonna have to pack WAY lighter than usual. Ever flown Ryan Air? Wonder what it’s like. Can’t be worse than Southwest Air. C’mon… 9 Euros? As long as we take off and land safely, I’m game!
It’s almost scary how much I’ve heard (or overheard) people saying that they’re not going to travel this summer. Why? It’s not because of the economy or because they’re afraid of terrorist attacks. They aren’t going to travel because their kids are too small. While I haven’t given advice where advice is not requested, I did think about it a good bit. We’ve always traveled with our kids, and though the flight to France or 12 hour drive to Louisiana may not be the MOST fun we’ve ever had, the reward has been enjoying our summer travels to places near and far even if we do have little ones. In this post I’m going to focus on traveling with kids in France. We all know that France is the world’s #1 tourist destination, but what usually comes to mind are the museums, fine restaurants, wine tours, etc. In a nutshell… We think of grown-up stuff. When traveling in France with little kids, you may be amazed at how much there is for them to do. It’s just that before you have kids you don’t pay as much attention to what’s going on for the younger set. I’ve been digging around in my pictures looking for shots of our kids having a blast in France. Sometimes you’ll see we’re in Paris, other times in the south.
You can go directly to their website @ www.bateaux–mouches.fr for pricing and schedules. The ride doesn’t last too long, and if you choose to go on the cruise on a day when it’s nice out you can sit outside on the deck as we were in this picture. The cruise along the Seine gives you really nice views of practically all of the important monuments in Paris. In the summer, you have to wait until it’s pretty late if you want to see the monuments illuminated… which might be a challenge if you have really small kids with you. Here’s my baby having so much fun on the carousel in the Champs de Mars park, Eiffel Tower. I wish I could remember how old this carousel is. Let’s just say it’s VERY old and old-fashioned. What I mean is, there’s a guy who stands in the middle and hand cranks the thing so it will turn! Only in Paris! There’s so much fun stuff to do in the Champs de Mars. You’ve got this great park with swings, jungle gyms, this carousel, a sand box. There’s also, on the other side of the park, an area where the kids can ride donkeys, ride in little go-carts, watch a Marionnette show. Here are some pics from the Champs de Mars:
By the way, these swings go REALLLLLY high! So much fun, but make sure you strap ’em in real good! They also have swings like these in the Jardin du Luxembourg, which is over in the Latin Quarter. Another really neat place for people of all ages. Here are some pictures taken over there:
There are plenty of marionnette theaters all over Paris, but for some reason I really like this one in the Jardin du Luxembourg. So much fun. The old man comes out with his bell in hand and starts ringing it when it’s puppet show time. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t speak French (but of course, it helps if you do!) because the show will entertain both your kids AND you regardless. There’s probably no better way to have a truly Parisian experience, right along with REAL French parents and their kids, than at the marionnettes.
This is one of the most beloved activities of our kids at the Jardin du Luxembourg. You rent one of these little sailboats, especially fun on a moderately windy day, and you play to your heart’s content. There’s just a small fee, but you’re good for a solid hour of seeing your sailboat fly across the basin and running to catch up with it. If you go on a day with no wind… you may have to wait awhile for your boat to get to the other side but it’s still so much fun.
Who knew there were so many donkeys in Paris? As at the Champs de Mars, your little one can take a donkey ride at the Jardin du Luxembourg.
What kid doesn’t like trains? In France, a great option with the little ones is to board the fastest train in the world (on rails) and head down for le Midi (the south) where you’re sure to have nice, warm weather and you’ll meet some of the sweetest, most kid loving people on the planet!
When most people think of the south of France, they think of “The Riviera”… La Côte d’Azur. Yes, it’s quite lovely! BUT if you’re on a budget and want to really get to know the south of France, where there are more French people and less tourists, head on over to the Languedoc region. It’s just as beautiful, it’s less crowded, and it’s cheaper!
You’ll be hard pressed in Paris to find an outdoor swimming pool where you can relax, but in the South, finding a pool is no problem! Now here’s something just as much fun for Maman et Papa as for the kids. Go and take a walk through the vineyards. They’re everywhere, literally. Along the way, maybe you’ll run into a little “dégustation de vin”… WINE TASTING!! Did you know that the Languedoc produces the largest quantity of table wine in France?? And if you’re on foot or if you have a bike, you don’t even have to worry about driving! Yeah… Watch out if you’ve been to a dégustation and then have to drive while you’re in France. They’ll stop you and you’ll get a DUI. It’s gotten really strict. Just don’t do it!
Our kids love to gather up as many escargot as possible, get them a little wet, then have races to see which one is fastest!
La cigale, the so-called symbol of the South of France. You’ll find them depicted everywhere, on tableclothes, in ceramic form, just everywhere. If you’re really lucky you’ll find one coming out of it’s shell, just being born. It’s a real privilege!
Bullfighting is really big in the south of France in the summertime, but it’s not exactly something you want to go see with your kids…..a liitle too much blood. In Provence, you can go with your kids to see a provençal style “bullfight” where the guys taunt the bull but nobody gets hurt. You can see the guy jumping over the wall here in this picture. It’s pretty exciting, no matter your age.
It’s true. There’s really nothing better than butter. Especially SALTED butter. Yum. Butter makes everything so much better. I’m a firm believer in using only real butter in cooking, never margarine. When we take the time to cook and bake, much love goes into these actions. By using real butter, we are giving ourselves, our friends, our children, our family a little taste of heaven instead of a mere substitute for the pleasure they could be enjoying. Let’s hear it for real butter!
Yes, I feel very lucky! Woohoooooo!! This summer I’ll be in France, well I guess I should say in Europe, for two whole months. Leaving June 1 with my students for a trip all over Europe for 23 days, then my husband and kids are going to come over and meet me there and we’ll stay until August 2. But what am I gonna do???? Charlene!!!! I’m so sad you can’t help me chaperone this year. Just to fill everyone in, I usually can afford to bring along a chaperone on these trips. Darn economy.
So what’s on the agenda? With the students we’re going to London, Amsterdam, Munich, Innsbruck, Venice, Florence, Rome, Paris & Madrid. Can’t wait to go to Amsterdam and Madrid, those will be new destinations for me! Maybe I can get some suggestions on how to deal with eleven 17 year old boys in Amsterdam??? Eh……. ok. So I already told them that we could go IN a coffee shop, but that we WON’T be placing an order. And I told them that we would walk THROUGH the red light district, but that we won’t be placing any orders there either. We’ll see how that goes!
When the guys go back to St. Louis we’re gonna have some real vacation time. 6 weeks of relaxation….or at least some relaxation. About a week or so in Paris, then it’s off to the south for the rest of the time. This year we’re not taking the train. We’ve decided to rent a car for four of the six weeks we’ll be there. It’ll be easier to get around that way. CANNOT wait….. Just 13 more official days of school, we’ll just not count those exam days. Now… All I need to focus on is losing 10+ pounds before I go. Yeah, right. Keep repeating mantra: Real women have curves, Real women have curves. Everyone say it with me now: Real women have curves.
See, if we were living in France, my kids wouldn’t be hungry for dinner at 6:00. We wouldn’t be having dinner until at least 7 or 7:30. BUT, they wouldn’t go to bed at 7:30 either! So it’s a trade off. Hectic around here at 5:00 trying to figure out what to cook for dinner but so worth it when Maman et Papa have adult time in the evening.
So, dinner. What’s it gonna be? We made a lavish trip to Whole Foods this weekend so the frigo is plein à craquer.
I’ve just about psyched myself into preparing “Steak au Poivre” à la Julia Child. Pretty sure we’ve got everything it takes. Sure would taste great with some homemade freedom fries but I used all of the patates last night. Will have to make do with a ratatouille….NEVER a bad choice. Unless I decide to sauté some ‘shrooms instead. Yes, that’s it. A sauté of mushrooms and a full-bodied red are a fine match! Bon appétit!
….hours later….. Ok so I decided to go with the ratatouille. Mushrooms disappeared somewhere. Set the table in the backyard. Gotta enjoy these cool St. Louis nights while we can. Soon the mosquitos will attack.
Oh heaven forbid…. 4 o’clock is creeping up slowly and I’ve obviously forgotten about the goûter. My kids are going to riot. The goûter. The God-given right to all children big and small. 4 o’clock snack. Don’t be mistaken, the goûter is not to be had at 3:45 or even at 5 till 4. Nope, they don’t call it the “4 heures” for nothing, and today my darlings, Maman has forgotten. Off to Panera we go, unless I can come up with something better on the way home. Think maybe I have some slice-n-bakes in the frigo.
A little about me… I’m from Louisiana, which may somehow explain my obsession with all things French. Not living there anymore, moved away when I was 23 to see what it was like “away from the south”. If anything, I’ve come to have a much greater appreciation for most things southern than I ever had when I was living there. I’m living in the big middle of the midwest in the great city of St. Louis. Some will say that St. Louis is a small town, but if you come from a place somewhere in Louisiana that isn’t even considered a town and doesn’t have a post office… St. Louis is pretty damn big. Ok Louisiana people, especially those who know me. YOU may be from a town, but I’m from a community. A community that has only a gas station (with some darn good boudin, if I may say so myself) and a golf course.
Been living here in ole St. Louieeee off and on since ’96. In the meantime I’ve managed to earn a Master’s degree in French, get married to a very sexy Parisian, procreate a mini-me troop of three, live in Béziers, France (mediterranean coast, west of Montpellier), come back to St. Louis to be a high school French teacher, and the list does go on… More about all of that later.
I decided to get started on this blog when I realized that this American-French lifestyle I live certainly isn’t unique to me. When you fall in love with someone from another country, there’s way more to it than what you can see when you say “I do”, or just “Oui” as I did at our wedding in France. There are the first days, before the days of real jobs and children when you seem to focus entirely on perfecting, as in my case, the French language. Then there are the little cultural differences that make life very interesting. And then…. drum roll…. And then you have the kids. What a pleasure, yes I’ll agree there’s nothing quite like being a parent. This is, after a certain number of years of marriage, the time when you’re really going to make it or break it. Of course I know that’s true for all married couples, probably with or without children, but boy let me tell you something. Raising the kids the international way, growing up in America with a very French lifestyle, speaking only in French at home with the kids…. Now in my mind, this is the stuff good blogging is made of! So if anyone actually clicks on this link, even by accident, I hope you’ll enjoy.