Tag Archives: béziers

Meme visits France (Bless Her Heart)


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This is a picture of me, my sister, and my mom.  Don’t we all look alike?  Let’s take a leap back in time about 14 years to 1998, and that was the first time that I lived in Béziers.  I had just gotten married (three times, all to the same man), and we were living in France, waiting for my husband’s Green Card approval.  All of that is a story for another time.  What I’d like to write about is the time Mom came over to visit us.  It was October, and that’s my birthday month.  Mom was still working back then, but had taken a few weeks of vacation.  She’d already been to France once, at the time of our wedding, and felt adventurous enough to make the long trip from Louisiana on her own.

Getting to Paris was no problem.  She just hopped on a direct flight from New Orleans, and ten hours or so later, she was at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.  My father-in-law very graciously met her at the airport and drove her to the Gare de Lyon.  She was to take the TGV directly to Montpellier, then make a connection to Béziers.  This was our big mistake.  We should have just had her fly down to Béziers, because she doesn’t speak any French, and she’d certainly not had any experience with train travel in Europe.

The ride on the TGV was perfect, and she made it down to Montpellier with absolutely no problems.  Before getting on the train in Paris, my father-in-law had spoken with a fellow traveler (who spoke English), and had asked him to direct my mom to the right platform to make her connection to Béziers.  The kind traveler did just that, or so mom thought. Trusting soul that she is, she didn’t think about double-checking to make sure she was in the right place.

Long story short, she hopped on a non-stop TGV that took her directly back to Paris.  I don’t think she realized it right away, with the jet-lag she was certainly experiencing, but before too long she understood that she should have been in Béziers by then!  But it was a non-stop TGV.  When the conductor came around for tickets, and she didn’t have one, he was kind and patient enough to finally understand what had happened.  They didn’t charge her anything, but there was no option except to sit back and enjoy the ride to Paris.  Now by this time, she’d been traveling for quite some time, and was really getting tired.  This was in 1998, and it wasn’t like today when everyone has cell phones.  She didn’t have one, so she couldn’t call us.

When we got to the train station in Béziers, with my husband and son who was then only 7, we fully expected to find “Meme” and bring her home with us for a nice two week visit.  But there was no Meme getting off of the train.  I was desperately worried.  Had she fallen asleep on the train?  Where was it heading to next?  We only had two or three minutes to look around on the train for her before it left for the next destination.  No Meme.

Not knowing what in the world to do, we waited for the next train from Montpellier to arrive.  Still no Meme.  I could just imagine her having fallen asleep on the train, only to wake up somewhere in Spain not knowing where she was.  I was worried sick.

We went back to our apartment, called my brother and sister-in-law (who also live in Béziers), and told them what had happened.  We waited by the phone, not daring to leave the apartment for fear of missing her call. About two or three hours passed, then the phone rang.  It was my brother-in-law, Jean-Marie.  He had only one declaration to make, and that was, “J’ai trouvé Meme!!” (I’ve found Meme).

“What??  Where is she??”  Jean-Marie explained that he’d received a phone call at home from my mom.  She’d arrived in Paris, and had called the only number she had with her, which was his.  You know how it is, hind sight is 20/20 when it comes to traveling, especially to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language.  She’d explained to him what had happened, and thankfully his knowledge of English was MUCH better than what he’d ever led me to think!  Not wanting to disturb my parents-in-law in Paris (though she should have, but that’s not her style), she’d purchased another ticket to Béziers that very night.  How many hours had she been traveling??  I’m not sure, but we’re probably beginning to move beyond the 24 hour mark.  This particular train was not a TGV, it was too late for that.  It was a very slow-moving night train.  Meme was scheduled to arrive in Béziers around 8:00 in the morning.  Poor thing, and as a born and bred southerner, there’s only one phrase that fits.  “Bless her little heart”.

I sure didn’t sleep well that night, and keep in mind that I hadn’t yet spoken to my mom.  At 8:00 in the morning, we were at the train station waiting for her, still with a doubt in my mind whether she’d step off of the train or not.  Lo and behold, an understandably exhausted and somewhat frustrated Meme emerged (though she’s a Southern Lady, and you wouldn’t have known anything was wrong if you’d seen her).

We brought Meme home, had a big ole pot of American-style coffee brewed and ready, and heard her firsthand account of her adventure.  Now how many grandmas have that kind of story to tell?  I can tell you one thing, now that she knows we are moving back to France, she hasn’t sworn off traveling over there to see us.  However, she will not be taking the train.

Teaching English and French Classes Online


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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.

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.  

House has sold, and we’re really moving to France.


After seven months of pursuing our dream of selling our house then moving to France, today it has officially happened.  We closed on the sale of our house in St. Louis!  Neither of us was quite ready to believe it until all of the closing papers had been signed.  Until the last minute, we were living in doubt.  Since putting our house on the market back in March, 2012, we have had six different contracts fall through for one reason or another.  We really wanted to move to France this past summer, and it was a harsh reality to accept that it just wasn’t going to happen, not exactly the way we wanted it to.  Looking at the big picture, we can both see that leaving next summer will be much more practical on many levels.

We will be staying on in St. Louis until mid-June 2013 due to the nature of our jobs (we are teachers), and also to avoid interrupting the school year for our children (ages 5 and 8).  This wait will also give us the opportunity to save more money, as we will now be paying to rent an apartment rather than paying a home mortgage!  In addition, we won’t feel rushed and unsure about everything as we did last spring.  Not knowing if we were going to move put us in a position where we couldn’t really talk to  many people about our grand adventure.  This time, we will be able to share our dream coming true with friends, family, colleagues.  There will not have to be any secrecy about it now.  In the spring, when we were hoping to sell our house quickly, we still knew that there was a huge amount of uncertainty involving our move.  We couldn’t inform our employers of our move, just in case things didn’t work out.  We knew that if the house didn’t sell, we would need to have our jobs in the fall.  That was good thinking on our part, even if it was very difficult to stay quiet about it all.

Our first step now will be to find an apartment to live in for the next seven months, and it shouldn’t be hard to find one right in our neighborhood.  The next step will be to eventually inform our employers that we will not be returning in the fall.  I think that can wait a few months, still giving them time to find our replacements.  Beyond that, there’s everything we need to get done logistically speaking for the big plunge:  French nationality for me, and American nationality for my husband being the two main tasks at hand.

As the months go on, we will plan out (as best we know how) our first year of living in the south of France.  We need to find jobs, some reliable source of income to support our family.  I feel very optimistic about this as we are two very marketable professionals with many talents, and we have some pretty good ideas already.  My husband is a little less optimistic, but I think that’s just a result of (1) being a husband and father, and (2) being French!

It does help to know that we are moving to a very familiar place where we have family, and we have also already spent a year living there (14 years ago).  We have also spent the last 14 years spending the whole summer over there, so we feel comfortable.  The kids and I already speak fluent French, which I’ve read all over the Internet as being one of the main obstacles of other American families who have the same dream of living in France.  Here in the US, I’d say we already  live as much of a “French lifestyle” as possible.  It’s just the way we are.  The way we live daily and the way we raise our children corresponds much more to a French norm than to the American way.

Over the next seven months, I’ll do my best to record the steps we will take to get prepared.  Hopefully this blog will serve to help others in the same boat (we can’t be the only ones doing this, right?).  So now, let the fun begin!  Thanks for reading, and I’d love any comments or questions that my readers may have.

Let the French adventure begin!


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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!

Round-trip or one-way flight to Paris?


Pour mes amis francophones:

En ce moment j’essaie de prendre une décision importante.  Le moment du départ arrivant, je ne sais pas si on doit acheter des billets aller-simple ou des billets aller-retour (deux fois le prix).  Si on achète l’ aller-simple (très tentant), on risque de ne pas vendre la maison avant de partir et on sera bien embêtés du coup!!  Et bien sûr, dès que j’achète l’aller-retour, la maison se vendra sans doute et on aura perdu des milliers de dollars pour rien.  Mais il faut positiver, n’est-ce pas??  Je crois qu’on attendra encore quelques semaines avant de les acheter.  Que ce serait chouette d’être plein de fric et de ne pas avoir à réfléchir comme ça!  Si jamais vous avez des idées de génie, dites-le-moi!

For my English-speaking friends:

Trying to make a very important decision.  Our departure date is quickly approaching, and I don’t know if we should buy one-way tickets or round-trips (twice the price).  If we buy the one-ways  (very tempting), we risk not selling the house before leaving et as a result will be really bothered!!  Of course, as soon as I buy the round-trips, the house will sell and we will have lost thousands of dollars for nothing.  But we have to stay positive, right?  I think we’ll wait a few more weeks before buying them.  How great it would be to have lots of money and not have to think about things like this!  If ever you have a brilliant plan, let me know!

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.

Steps we’ve been taking to get ready to move to France ASAP


Step 1

The first thing we had to do back in the fall of ’11 was to really decide once and for all that this is what we want to do, and that this is the best decision for our family.  My husband and I have just hit the big 4-0, and we have two small children, as well as one who is now 21.  We lived in Béziers, France back in 98-99, right after getting married.  When we came back to St. Louis, it was mainly to allow me to finish my Master’s in French.  At the time, it seemed like it would be so easy to pick up and go back whenever we felt like it.  13 years later…….  In a perfect world, we will move back to the south of France this summer (2012).

Step 2

Time to tell the family about our big move.  My husband is French, and his whole family lives in France.  Telling them was a piece of cake, and they were thrilled!  My whole family is in Louisiana.  To them, St. Louis is already too far away.  This proved to be a bit more difficult, but six months later, Mom & Dad gave us their support (whew!).

Step 3

Tell the family, but not the kids just yet.  It was really hard keeping such a big secret, but for job security it was necessary.  We finally decided to tell the kids (they were ecstatic), and of course the news spread like wildfire.  Lots and lots of questions were aimed in our direction, and we still don’t have all of the answers.

Step 4

Right after Christmas, we decided it was time to get busy!  Spring was on the way, and we had a house to get ready to put on the market.  It took one solid month to go through every single item in the house while getting ready for the moving sale of the century (not really).  We had our sale in mid-February, and we sold everything we do not plan to bring to France, with just a few exceptions.  We’ll still need a 20′ container, though.

Step 5

With the moving sale accomplished, it was time to get the house ready to put on the market.  With the help of an awesome real estate agent, we found out exactly what we needed to do to make this house sell.  Without going into all of the details, I can tell you that it was the hardest job we have ever embarked upon.  Ever.  Working day and night, we got the house market-ready in 6-7 weeks.

Step 6

Two open houses, about 10 showings, one contract that fell through, two home inspections…. lots of stress.  Still playing the waiting game.  Had to lower the price on our house today in hopes of getting some more showings.

Step 7

Lots of administrative things to do.  Working on finalizing French nationality for the children (and for me), enrolling the kids in school both in France and in St. Louis (just in case), reserving a 20′ container for the move, making lists of what to do when the time comes to move.  It’s pretty difficult, because most of what we need to do cannot actually be done until our house sells and we’re certain of the move.

Step 8

This is not really “step 8”, it’s been a constant since we decided to move:  Looking for work in France.  We’re fortunate in that my husband is French, so it will be easy for me to get a “carte de séjour” until my French nationality has been finalized.  Here in the US, I’m a French teacher.  I’m exploring many avenues to make money while in France, all the while keeping my schedule free enough to accomodate a school schedule that’s less than friendly to mothers who work full-time.

I’m sure I’ve skipped out on many of the details, and I may need to further edit this post, but I wanted to get it out there.  This whole year, I’ve scoured the Internet for people like us, making the big move.  It’s hard to find information, so if you have questions for someone who’s going through the transition right now, feel free to ask me questions 🙂