Friday, February 25, 2011

A Year in France--Anniversary Post

Today's my one year France Blogiversary and I cannot believe a year has passed so quickly. This week marked our sad goodbye to Ireland, our bright, shiny anticipation of life in France, two ferries, one drive across England, one drive across France and the shell-shocked feeling of having struck out, no going back.

We'd been planning this move, moreover this life, for years; talking, dreaming, negotiating and hoping. The move to Ireland six years ago was a stepping stone to European life--a way to land softly in a country with a shared language, lifestyle and for me, genetic history. It was so much more than what we expected in many ways and changed us all irrevocably. I love Ireland, my Irish friends, and our time there more than I can say.

Irish send off
France was the goal and so we came. The day we left our Irish 'estate', neighbors and friends came out for a last cup of tea, photos and  goodbye hugs, waving us along the road in a loaded down Great White. We were in such a packing frenzy at the last that we ended up leaving piles of things by the rubbish bin and offering up last minute gifts of things that just wouldn't squeeze in--like a coffee press, big wooden fruit bowl (there was always fruit in it so I forgot to pack it!), a giant hiking backpack, frozen lobster and canned tomatoes. And still the car overflowed.

The night ferry between England and France eased us into the way of things to come. There was soft music, French, French everywhere, pain au chocolat and chocolat chaud for breakfast in the little ferry cabin and quiet, calm from our French fellow travellers.
Goodbye Ireland
Bonjour France
We landed in Caen at 7am to a light blanket of fresh snow and Mon Mari proudly announced that we were to live here as he showed his passport to the Immigration officers. A stopover at Versailles, why I don't know it just seemed like a good idea, for more hot chocolate and pastry and then back on the road through the snow to Lyon.
Snowy Caen

Versailles in February
We stayed there for the night, terrorized a neighboring hotel guest with our American noisiness effervescence,watched our first French television about a gestating lion and then crammed everyone back into the car for the last leg--for home.
I remember wanting to take it all in, to really see the place where  my new life was going to be. And as I looked at the area around Nimes and Sommieres I was reminded of the Texas Hill Country and the area around our hometown of Austin. There are the same scrub oak trees, white limestone hills, and big blue sky but there are also rows and rows of grapevines, olive trees and the occasional nuclear power plant emitting puffs of steam.

The differences in my family as a whole and as individuals through this year are immeasurable. For us, this has turned out to be better than the dream we nurtured for so long and even with the challenges, perhaps because of them, we feel like we've done the right thing.
The other night I went to a meeting of Anglophones living in France and it was wonderful to speak English freely with other adults--to have a complex point to explain and to be able to do so without stammering, gesturing and butchering French to get that point across. Everyone else seemed to feel the same way judging from the noise level in the bar.
In one of my conversations we were talking about how the life abroad becomes addictive. How it can be hard to know when or if to go back home and indeed where 'home' is. I've said many times that home for us is where we five are and this continues to be true. And the addictive kernel is found in the everyday challenges and small victories as well as in the longing for people and past conveniences, flavors and customs.

I am eternally naive and optimistic. And that's ok with me. I look forward to this second French year with a tingle of excitement. I am ready for the changes of spring like the budding vines, fresh asparagus, longer days and fresh air. And then the summer of visitors, sun, beach, berries and sausages and lazy wine afternoons on the terrace with friends.

I hope you've enjoyed the year with me and that you'll stay with me for what's next. I love writing this blog because it connects me to all of you. Life abroad before this connective technology would be an entirely different prospect. I'm happy I'm not alone.

the first of many terrace lunches
If you want a refresher you might like these:

When I Went Crazy for An Egg

 The New Neighbor Monsieur Coq


House Hunting Blues

Do NOT Speak French to Your Small Children

Falling In Love with Language


  1. Happy 1st year in France anniversary!

  2. Happy first year and for being such a positive inspiration and mentor to those of us coming behind! Our one year milestone is coming up in 3 months--can't believe how quickly time passes--and as you know I have not adapted and celebrated as well as you! I will aspire to find the joy that you have found and to appreciate the good things about la vie Francais! The best part about it so far has been 'meeting' those doing the same--and I have to tell you that I look forward to reading your words and thoughts everyday! You add so much to this perspective of such a different life! Cheers to you Aidan! Thank you! xx! C

  3. Happy Anniversary! You have done an amazing job and I always look forward to your posts. I can't believe its been a year, time flies! xxoo-susan*

  4. Congratulations! Well done surviving a year!
    We passed ours in November and I couldn't believe how quickly it went. You'll have been here 6 years too before you know it.

  5. Thanks Linds!
    You are too sweet and I'm so glad we found each other. I wish you were close enough to meet in Aix! I'll be happy to hear about your year milestone this spring. And you should give yourself a break because you were pregnant and going through all this and that is really hard in a different country. Let's plan a meet-up midway sometime soon!

    I went to la poste today and forgot to take the check. I'm sorry...don't send it to me until I do! And thanks for always supporting me and reading this. Love you.

    The days get sucked up by kids and learning how to make it through don't they?
    Six years and I'll be past mid-40s! I can't think about that right now. I'm having a hard enough time as it is.

    Aidan xo

  6. Happy FranciBlogiVersary! Beautiful post - the adaptation to new surroundings and experiences are so priceless.

  7. Oh, this post is full of joy! Enjoy the anniversary of year One, we look forward to more in the year to come...

  8. Thanks Valerie. That one really snuck up on me to be honest. I wonder where my french will be next February...hopefully further along.

    You are nice to see the joy. I try to find it where I can. I'm glad you're along with me. How many years have you been here?

    Bon weekend,
    a x

  9. not paul but me instead.
    thanks guys,

  10. This is so fascinating and I have so many questions as this is something my husband and I have discussed before. How did you decide on France? What do you do for work? Did you speak French before moving? I could go on...


It makes my day to read your comments. They're an answer to my floating words in blogland.