Tag Archives: south of france

Putting France on Hold…. Hanging in there in St. Louis


I haven’t written on this blog since the month of May.  4 months ago.  I think I just spent so much of last year getting ready for the move to France that wasn’t.  We spent almost a whole year getting the house ready for the market, packing, taking care of administrative details, and just gearing up emotionally.  We’d decided 100% that moving to France was what we wanted for ourselves and for our family, and we never really put much thought into what would happen if our house didn’t sell.

We still are very fortunate in that we were able to spend two months vacationing in France this summer.  It’s a good thing neither of us quit our jobs, that we went ahead and enrolled the kids in school “just in case”, and that we booked round-trip flights.  Our flight back home was scheduled for August 6, and until the end of July we were still holding out for something to happen with the house so that we could stay in France as planned.

August 6th has since come and gone, and here we are back in St. Louis working and living our lives as usual.  St. Louis happens to be a wonderful place to live and raise a family, but we are still hopeful about our move to France.  We’re just putting things off for one year (hopefully).  The house is still on the market, and we even have a contract.  Closing date is supposed to be on October 19, but we have learned not to get our hopes up too high.  If everything works out with the sale of the house, we will move into an apartment for the remainder of the school year and make the move to the South of France next summer.

So I apologize for disappearing without a trace.  Something about writing it all down just made it not possible for me there for a few months.  Talk about an emotionally charged summer!  But I’m back now, and ready to keep on keeping on 🙂

Crossing all my fingers and toes


Contract #4, Let’s do this already!

My last post started out, “Moving to France in 24 days, and long-stay visa”.  That was on May 14, and two contracts ago.  The funny thing is that there are a lot of people interested in our house, but for reasons way out of our control (nothing to do with us or our home), the sale just keeps falling through for one reason or another.  We are now (or most likely will be tomorrow) on contract #4.  I think it’s a good sign that the people who want to buy our house are French.  They need a car too, so we’re going to throw in the Beetle for good measure (I needed to sell it anyway).  Everyone who has been crossing fingers and toes for me, please don’t stop now!  This is it; I can feel that this is going to happen now.

In seven days I’ll be leaving on a trip to Europe with my students.  I’m leaving François at home with the kids, and he still has to work until June 15.  It wouldn’t be very nice of me to leave him with two kids to care for and a whole house to pack, so that’s what I’m going to start working on tomorrow.  I guess we will go ahead and reserve the container, get everything ready to load into it, and if it doesn’t work out…. Well if it doesn’t work out then I just have no idea what to think about what the next step should be.

I did get to Chicago last week for my long-stay visa.  I was so nervous leaving my passport at the French consulate, knowing that I need it for my trip next week.  They pretty much assured me that I’d have it back in time.  I sure hope so!  Say what you like about French bureaucracy, but I had a great experience once I actually found someone willing to answer my emails.  In the course of one day, about ten emails were sent between us. She helped me locate the documents I needed and assured me that when I came to my meeting in Chicago everything would be fine.  Guess what?  My meeting was scheduled for 10:20.  They called my name at 10:10 because I got there a bit early.  By 10:14, we’d completely finished and I was out the door.

Now I have to psyche myself into believing that we’re really moving, and that this time next week I’ll be on a flight to France with my students, and I won’t be coming back (not to live here, anyway).

Checklist for the next week

1.  Reserve 20-foot container for a date in late June.

2.  Pack up everything François and the kids won’t need over the next few weeks and get it ready to ship.

3.  Empty my classroom and desk at work.

4.  Put finishing details on student tour of Europe.

5.  Inform my friends and family that this is really happening and somehow manage to say good-bye (???)

6.  Organize a big, huge play date in the park with kids and their friends who they may never see again… That’s going to be rough.  BBQ maybe?

7.  Quit my job…. No, I’d better wait till after closing to do that one.

8.  Get banking in order….401K thing may need to get done after we’ve moved.

9.  Purchase one-way flights for François and the kids…. at the last minute just to be sure.

10.  Stay calm, cool and collected (this may be the hardest part).

 

Traveling to Europe with Students


My experience leading student tours to Europe

Image


One month prior to departure with my students (about twenty of them this year), I’m beginning to think about everything that goes into putting together a student trip to Europe.  The 2012 trip will be the fourteenth tour that I’ve organized, and the twelfth I’ve led.  Thinking of the many years spent doing this, I decided to do a little calculating just to see how many teenagers I’ve accompanied on trips that last anywhere from 16-29 days:  about 300.

Where I’ve traveled with students

I’ve accompanied students to many countries in Western Europe:  France, England, Spain, Holland, Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Italy.  After this summer I’ll be able to add Czech Republic.  These trips are sometimes a bit of a whirlwind, but we have such a good time.  I really love my students, and they (usually) don’t give me any trouble.  They’re all 17-18 years old at the time of the trip, so I’m free to give them a little liberty.  They’re also all  boys, which in many ways is easier than a bunch of teenage girls!

How do I organize the tour? 

I always get started organizing the trip about a year and a half in advance.  It may seem extreme, but a lot goes into planning such an excursion, and it does take time.  It’s also nice to give the students enough time to take on a summer job, or to ask for monetary gifts from family members for birthdays and Christmas.  I believe that opening the tour for enrollment so far in advance allows for more students to sign up in the long run.

The first thing I do is brainstorm about the places I’d like to visit.  It’s simple enough to eliminate cities or regions once you pull out a map and have a look at the logistics of it all.  Once I come up with a rough plan of where I want to go and what I want to do there, it’s time to have a look at the price.  At that point in the game, it’s more than likely time to rework a few things to bring down the cost.  Once I reach a price that seems reasonable (though it’s always expensive), I publish the tour and start getting students to sign up.  The more the merrier, and the more students we have, the less expensive it is too.

Though I am a French teacher, and most of the kids who come with me are my own students, usually about a third of them are not.  These other students may be students of Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Latin or Greek.  I like to keep my tour open to any student who wants to come (after his junior year).  However, I have to be careful about accepting student I don’t know, and who don’t know me.  To help me make an informed decision about allowing to the student to participate, I ask him to provide two faculty recommendations.  That usually helps a lot.

Why do I travel to Europe with students?

Parents, other teachers, friends, and even students ask me why I do this.  Why would I take out 2-4 weeks of my precious summer vacation to bring a bunch of kids over to Europe?  It’s not because I want a free vacation, because it’s much more intense than the school year (think 24/7, 7 days a week).

It’s because there’s nothing like experiencing Europe for the very first time.  Unfortunately, you never get to go again for the first time… Unless you relive the experience through the eyes of your students.

 

I do send the students back to the US with the other chaperone (usually another teacher).  Doing so permits me to spend my remaining two months of vacation in France with my family, who meet up with me in Paris once my students have left.

Any questions or comments? 

Please do ask any questions or write any comments that come to mind.  Especially when I first started organizing these trips, I really found it helpful to toss around ideas with others who had had the experience.

You do tend to come across a lot of negative comments about traveling with students when searching on the Internet.   A lot of it probably does have to do with what kind of students you’re going to be dealing with, but I’d say that the majority of the time it has to do with one’s own attitude and organizational skills.

Bon Voyage

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.

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 🙂

Sell the house, move to France


Hold on tight, here we go!

Image

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.