How it began. In 2009, I got it in my head that over the next few years my daughters needed to have an international experience before they graduated from high school. It began with casual talk and the planting of seeds about a life in a foreign country and a fairy-tale escape from conservative, suburban life in Colorado. Slowly the idea began gathering enthusiasm with the girls, and half-heartedly my husband got on board, knowing that he was the one who would have to find a job to make this fantasy a reality. In a testament to how much he loves me, he worked overtime trying to find a way to make an overseas assignment possible. We looked at options in the Far East and India, Bonn was floated around, and finally the opportunity to move to Paris came up. My husband, now reverently referred to as Superman, seemed to pull a job, in the cultural capital of the world no less, right out of thin air.
To be honest, none of us were over the moon about the prospect of moving to France. Somehow over the decades we had bought into all the negative stereotypes about the French and France, and weren’t overly eager to jump right into a land full of Frenchies. But in September 2009, we packed up our house in Colorado and crossed the ocean. The first 5 months were an absolute cauchemar, between the ongoing abuse from the French postman and the ghastly French teachers at the girls’ bilingual school, we longed for the ease of America.
Life in Paris was full of highs and extreme lows until about February. From the outside, France and especially Paris, appear to be a dream posting. But the reality is, Paris can be extremely lonely, bitter cold (in more ways than one), and an enormously difficult city to navigate and feel like you belong. Until the French let you in, they can be exceedingly rude. Life in Paris was not all champagne swilling at le Tour Eiffel and lazy days strolling the Champs-Élysées.
But as the days turned into months, we all began to appreciate the things that the French do so well: from all the clichés (baguettes, wine, cheese, chocolate, fashion, perfume and fields of lavendar), to the Frenchies appreciation and attention to beauty and perfection, to their quirky and maddening rules, that force you to slow down and be in the moment. In addition, the numerous benefits of living in a world-class city are not limited to historical, cultural and culinary opportunities, but there are also the practical benefits of not having to own a car, living in a small space with so much less “stuff” to take care of, and having more time to spend with your friends and family. As our eyes opened to this diverse country, we had a curious switch in our attitudes, it became harder and harder for us girls to imagine leaving Paris. We were smitten. By May we were all scheming about ways to extend Superman’s contract. By June we were desperate to make it happen and optimistically paid the deposit on another school year. But no matter how hard Superman tried, by July, the stars stubbornly refused to align, and in August, we were forced to head back to the States.
There and back. The culture shock of being back in America hit us all hard; the girls and I were miserable. On top of that, Kitcat, the older of our two girls was diagnosed with a Giant Cell tumor, while at the same time, my maman was declining rapidly from Parkinson’s disease. I was meant to be in Colorado to take care of them both, and was thankful to be dealing with these difficult medical problems in English.
Still, we had left our hearts in France. In order to retrieve them, a new plan was hatched. It took us two long years, and hundreds of hours of creative persistence on Superman’s part, but in the end, he managed to get us back home to Paris for another two-year stint.
We’ve spent the last year readjusting to life in la ville de la lumière and are finally all on track. But while my France has begun to show its tarnish, I have found myself back in the panic seat realizing that unless Superman comes through for a third time, we will again be sent packing to America in less than 365 days.
Addendum: In September 2015 we moved back to small-town Golden, Colorado. Our two gorgeous girls are now at University–one in London and one in NYC. Superman and I are empty nesters, and I am trying to find my feet in my new life. So far I have been exceedingly lucky to spend part of my time in Colorado and part of my time back in my beloved France. I’ve changed the name of my blog to 365+ Things I Love About France, and try to write about new things I’ve found in France to love and things in the States that are pretty lovable, and of course, about finding a bit of France in the USA.
Thank you for stopping by and sharing my journey.
Fascinated by your histoire, from my vantage point in NYC, that so often is compared to Paris (for assets — and inconveniences). I appreciate hearing from wpress of your response to my FrenchConnected emBryoLOG, and hope you’ll revisit. I was taken by surprise when wpress began sending bloggers (I assume wpress are the culprits!) to my emBryoLOG. FrenchConnected actually will be ready for views soon. Just a little more work….
Best to you for the rest of your 365 French days — and more! — I hope.
I’ll be following your progress and cheering you on.
Thanks for reading, your comment, and especially your cheerleading! I will definitely revisit you when you are completely up and running. I’m looking forward to reading your perspective on things. Best wishes, Nancy
Very very nice blog.
I hope you’ll find a way to stay longer .
Thanks. Me too!
France is great, but it takes a while to adjust and assimilate – happy to hear you enjoyed your time here. I agree that re-entry to one’s home country is more difficult than one would imagine. Merci for visiting my blog et Joyeux Noel!
Bonne année et bonne santé in 2014. Love your blog. Keep writing.
A vous aussi et merci!
What an amazing adventure for you all. I have always loved Paris, having been there on at least 6 occasions, but never more than for a couple of weeks. Living there is no doubt a whole different experience.
I know it’s been ages (I’ve been in the jungle without internet) but thank you for visiting our blog, and for the ‘like’ on the Salt Flats and Bowler Hats post on Bolivia. Salut, Alison
You’re very welcome. I’m very glad I stumbled upon your blog. What a wonderful story and as you say, adventure. Your pictures are wonderful.
I’m a young American expat who’s been here for nearly four years and believe me when I say, I understand the panic that sets in as the papers edge ever closer to no longer being valid…I’m going through the same thing! Bon courage!
Bon courage à vous. I really hope it works out for you…that is, if you want to stay. I’m still in the love-fest stage with France, but I am told it wears off around year four. Thanks for stopping by and for the comment
Thank you for liking our blog http://beinginburgundy.wordpress.com/. Compared to you, we are at the commencement de notre aventure but so far enjoying it very much. We look forward to exploring your posts over them coming weeks and months. 🙂
Sorry, as in *the* coming weeks and months. End of a long, but interesting, day!
Do you mind sharing what your Superman does for a living? Or how he was able to find a job? This seems like the hardest part of moving to Paris. A really wonderful blog, thank you! And I hope you get to stay until you’re good and ready to leave!
He is working for the UNEP on renewable energy, but he has had to make some career trade-offs to be able to come to France. It’s been hard, and I’m not sure how much longer it is sustainable. Come what may, we will always have Paris!
Thank you for your kind complements. I am enjoying the challenge of writing (almost) every day…and of finding the good.
I hope you can find a way to come to France…think outside of the box. That’s what I’m going to have to do if I want to continue to live en France.
Love your blog. I had to leave France suddenly after twelve years due to husbands illness. Had return ticket which I never got to use. Had to leave my friends, house, books, great stuff and still am weepy over it. I found the French to be lovely, generous of spirit, and innovative to a degree we and our government don’t understand. Absorb every last drop cause it does end.
Thank you for your nice comment and for stopping by. Believe me, I am trying my best to enjoy every single second. I’m sorry your time ended so suddenly. How is your husband? Wishing you the best and a future return to France!
thanks for stopping on my blog,and welcome back. France is awesome. I am French-American here since 2003. Before that many trips going back to 1972 as a boy. Hard to let go once bitten by the virus. cheers
Thank you for visiting, France is such a hard place to leave. I hope I will always be able to spend at least 3-4 months a year in France. I am completely smitten.
I know many who spent 6 mos a year for tax reasons
I just wanted you to know I really enjoy reading your blog and I would like to nominate you for two awards… The Very Inspiring Blogger Award and The Versatile Blogger Award. Here is the link http://mealswithmel.com/2015/03/09/versatile-blogger-award-very-inspiring-blogger-award/
There is no pressure at all to participate.
Thank you for the nomination. I am honored. I’ve 3 days left in Paris, and am overwhelmed with some work I need to get finished, but will look at your link when I am back in Colorado. Thank you so very much.