Every day, I have the great pleasure (and I mean it) of walking my kids back and forth to school a total of four times a day. That’s 8 trips, at about 15 minutes each. I absolutely love it. I bring them to school and walk back home in the morning at 8:00, then I pick them up for lunch at 11:45, bring them back at 1:45, go back to get them at 4:45, and then walk back home. When I pick them up for lunch, we stop at the nearby bakery for a baguette, and this is a really good bakery, by the way! Then at 5:00, we pick up another baguette for dinner. The kids know it’s a special treat when I let them get a snack in the form of some type of pastry at 5, just to tide them over until dinner time. This is one of my greatest pleasures, being able to walk to and from school, bringing them home for a healthy lunch and family time at noon, and getting freshly baked bread for each meal. It’s a much slower pace than what we’ve ever known, and much healthier as well. I’m happy to get in two extra hours of walking each day, not even including walking round and about town while they’re in school. I recorded the following video while walking to pick them up from school at the end of the day today. I hope you enjoy the new video format… Just wanted to do something different for a change!
Tag Archives: France
The Simple Life
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!
French bureaucracy… Hate to say it, but you told me so!
Our container finally made it to Point B!
Ha, ha, ha…. Sometimes you just have to laugh! How did I think it would be any different for us? I guess it’s just one of those things that you hear about, but never believe it can happen to you. Everyone I know who has moved here, and especially those who have written or blogged about their experience, has wished us good luck with the “French red tape”. It’s basically a seemingly endless Catch 22. I’m choosing to remain positive, and believe that by the end of August it will all be worked out.
For the moment we are living at my sister and brother-in-law’s house while they’re away on vacation, so it’s really nice to have some extra time to finish up paperwork and get our apartment cleaned up and fixed up the way we want it. As you can see in the picture below, it’s not such a bad place to be spending the month of August. The only thing is that it is out in the countryside, and it’s not really possible to get a good Internet connection. I’m so looking forward to getting the Internet set up at the apartment so that we can easily go there to get some work done.
Here’s some exciting news! A young English woman who is living in Barcelona teaching English and studying French and travel journalism at the same time found my blog and Love Learning French Facebook page, and she’ll be in Béziers this weekend. She’s asked me to give her a few hours of immersion classes around and about town on Friday and Saturday. I’m really, really looking forward to doing that, so fun!
It’s been a long journey, but now we’re almost there!
It’s been a lot harder to keep up with blogging this month than I thought it would be. Working in Montpellier for five weeks, about 70-80 hours a week, and with only three days off doesn’t sound very French! I love it here though, and I’m really happy to have the experience. All of the people I work with are fantastic, and the students are great as well. I didn’t know I’d be the only anglophone working here, but that’s also been good for me.
François and the kids are in Béziers, and have been there for a few weeks. I’ll join them once and for all on August 1, but in the meantime our container has arrived in Marseilles! It should be in Béziers on Thursday, so now we’re just looking for some people to help us unload it. It’s a bit of a challenge, and since I’m not there to help it makes it a little difficult for François, but somehow it will all come together 🙂
That’s it for the little update, back to work! After August 1, I’ll post more frequently and keep everyone up to date on our new life in Béziers. I’m so excited to have our things and start unpacking boxes. It’s been a long road, but now we’re almost there!
Pictures of our apartment in Béziers
I’ve arrived in France! La Belle France! I’ve been in Paris for a few days, but as we speak I’m getting ready to head over to the Gare de Lyon to take the TGV down to Béziers. I’ll spend a few days there with my sister-in-law and her family (can’t wait to see them!!), then I’ll head over to Montpellier to start my summer job. I’m not sure if it will be today or tomorrow, but I will soon get to visit our apartment and meet M. et Mme Pascal (the owners). After seeing it for myself, I’ll write another post and tell you all about it. I know it’s going to be just perfect for us, and I have no problem seeing beyond imperfections. It will be nice to get down to the South where I hope the weather is better than here in Paris. For the sake of it being the first day of summer and “La Fête de la Musique”, I hope it will warm up a bit and not rain. I really hope I will get to visit the apartment today, it’s so exciting!!
Wow, Paris sure has changed since last time I was here!
Don’t worry! I’m just kidding! So I got to the airport to take my flight from St. Louis to Chicago today at 1:30, and the flight was supposed to leave at 3:30. Apparently, if there’s any lightening within a five mile radius, the ground crew can’t fuel the plane or load the luggage. To make a very long story short, we sat in the plane until almost 6:00. My flight from Chicago to Paris was at 5:55, so that means I get to have one more night in the US before leaving! That’s why I’m sitting at a table in Bar Louie with about fifty televisions, a bunch of people wearing hockey jerseys, and Blondie blaring in the background.
While I was still in St. Louis I used one of the red courtesy phones provided by American Airlines and I called to rebook my flight. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that there was no way I was going to make that flight. No problem, I was able to book the same flight for tomorrow at the same time. I was assured by the gate attendants that American Airlines would provide me with hotel and meal vouchers. However, when I arrived in Chicago, I learned that it’s their policy not to provide vouchers when delays are caused by bad weather. The lady working at the gate was very nice to me, and I was also very nice with her (it’s certainly not her fault). I politely asked if there was someone else I could talk to about the situation. She told me that if she called over her supervisor, he would most certainly say no. She suggested I go to the ticket counter outside of security because the supervisors over there are nicer. I didn’t need more encouragement than that, so off I went!
When I got to the ticket counter I saw a supervisor, and I told him my story. He told me I’d have to talk to a different supervisor about this. I asked if the other supervisor was nice, and he told me that if I flash a big smile and talk with a Southern accent that maybe I’ll have some luck. Indeed, he was very nice, and I’ll be darned if it didn’t work. I got a voucher for a hotel and three meals, and that explains why I’m sitting in Bar Louis at a hotel near O’Hare and not on a flight on my way to Paris. I’ll just consider this evening of hockey, Blondie, and quesadillas a little bonus and a last call for Americana. I do feel guilty though. François and the kids are at home sleeping on air mattresses that deflate during the night (b/c we shipped all of our furniture last Friday) and I get to sleep in a comfortable bed.
Moving day has arrived, and the container is here, but will it all fit?
20 Foot Container…We Need A Miracle to Make it all Fit!!
This may look like a lot of stuff, but let me tell you, this is only the beginning! As we carefully packed, bubble wrapped, shrink wrapped, numbered and inventoried every single item in our house, the total number of items came out to 203. The sofa counts as 1 item just like a trashcan does, so you have to consider that. It’s been one heck of a week trying to get all of this done by today, Friday. François and I ended up going to bed at about 3:00 in the morning, deciding to wake up early to finish up the rest before the movers would arrive.
When the team of three movers arrived, they took one look at all, and first told us that it’s “the best wrapping we’ve ever seen.” I asked if I could quote them 🙂 But then they told us that in their opinion there’s “no way that’s gonna fit in a 20-foot container, so you should start to consider what you would like to leave behind.” What??? That’s not what they told us when we reserved this thing! After about fifteen minutes of real stress, mostly from my sweetie, I went out and had a look at the container. The thing is huge. As of right now, the movers are still here and trying to load it all up. I’ve decided to remain optimistic (is this a trend?) and believe it will all work out. I’ll keep you posted, but for now I’m sitting here on my living room floor blogging away while I watch them try to fit the sofa through the front door. This is the first time we’ve ever had movers do the work for us, and I would highly recommend it. I can’t help thinking about when our container arrives in France and we have to unload it without a crew. Every time I packed a box, I imagined that the next time I would see our things would be in our new apartment in Béziers. By the way, we decided on the first apartment!!! We listened to what all of you said, and took the plunge.
I’ll stop writing now so that I can go and see the progress, but for now, everyone repeat after us:
“We believe it’s all going to fit!!”
Departure in 7 Days
Since I’m leaving in exactly one week, I was very happy to get my passport back over the weekend…. with a year long visa inside! It’s such a relief to finally have it in my hands and not have to worry about that small detail. Now I need to see about getting an Illinois driver’s license, even though I’m not a resident, so that I can exchange it for a French one. France and Missouri don’t have an exchange deal, so if I can’t procure an Illinois license I’ll have to go to auto-école over there. I am going to be positive and believe that luck will be on my side at the DMV, what do you think?
It’s worth noting that I’m the only one leaving in 7 days, and that’s because I have a job that will begin on June 25 in Montpellier. My husband and kids will follow on July 3, and the container won’t leave St. Louis until June 21.
We’re still not sure about the apartment in Béziers. My sister-in-law has been so sweet, going around to lots of different apartments to check them out for us. She says that the problem with the first one she saw (the one from my previous post) is that a few of the rooms are really ugly, meaning that they are in desperate need of repainting. The other bad thing is that it’s huge and it will cost a fortune to heat it in the winter. I did find out that it has 13 foot ceilings and it’s 167 square meters (1800 square feet)! I really love the idea of having that much space. I’d be so happy to have both an office and a guest bedroom. I keep going back to the fact that it’s in a good neighborhood and there are no agency fees or deposits to pay. Also, they just went down on the rent by 100 €. Anyway, I’ll be able to go and visit it myself next week to see what I think.
We may have found an apartment in Béziers!
I’ll begin the official 10 day countdown tomorrow, but for today, it’s worth noting that I’m leaving for France in 11 days! I’ll be there for about a week before heading down to Montpellier to start my summer job with Oxbridge Académie de France. François and the kids will follow, but not for a few weeks. They’re staying here to tie up some loose ends and to deal with the shipment of our container.
Originally I thought the container would take months to arrive in Béziers, but now they’re convincing me that it will be there in 30-35 days (!) and they need an address for delivery. We were planning to take the month of August to look for an apartment, but now it looks as though we’d better have one by August 1 when our container arrives. This may seem a bit stressful, but it’s not! It’s really very exciting, and this is when I realize (once again) how very fortunate we are to have family who are happy to help.
My sister-in-law in Béziers has found an apartment for us, and it seems like it will be the perfect place. What’s really nice about it is that the owner’s are friends of friends, and they’re willing to reduce the rent by €50 and not charge us a deposit. That’s great news, and the apartment is in a nice and safe part of town. It’s right across the street from the university and médiathèque, and it’s only a 12 minute walk from the school where our kids will go.
I asked my sister-in-law to give me the not so good news about the condition of the apartment first. Basically, there is a lot of painting to be done, and some of the windows don’t close very easily. But now for the good news! It’s HUGE! The apartment measures 167 square meters, or 1800 square feet. There are four large bedrooms, an office, living room, dining room, kitchen, three small balconies on the back side and one large one all across the front. There’s only one “toilette”, and it’s separate from the bathroom, and that’s all fine with us. There’s a nice size kitchen, but it doesn’t come equipped with a stove or refrigerator or any of that good stuff. From what I hear, that’s very typical in French apartments, and it’s what we were expecting. There are fireplaces in all of the rooms, and though I’m sure none of them are functioning, they’re still pretty. There are 13 foot ceilings. Yep, that’s right. When you walk into the apartment, you enter a large (wide) and very long hallway, and you enter all of the rooms from either the left or the right of this hallway. It’s big enough to furnish and serve as a sort of foyer. The “toilette” is at one end, and the bathroom at the other.
To give an idea of what the place looks like, I’ll show a few pictures. It’s obvious in the pictures that the place needs some sprucing up, but at the same time I can see it’s charm.
Here’s a picture of one of the bedrooms. This one is on the front, and the windows open up to a balcony and view of the university and library below.
This is the big hallway that I mentioned earlier.
This is the living room, the picture’s taken from the balcony.
It’s all very exciting, especially now that we can visualize our new home. Having spent a lot of time in Béziers, and with the help of Google Earth, it’s easy to imagine exactly where the apartment is located.