Showing posts with label Australians in France. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australians in France. Show all posts

Monday, 12 November 2018

Take a chance and do something different (Amazing Annecy - Part Two)


In Amazing Annecy - Part One, we met Fiona and her family. Originally from Melbourne, Fiona took us through their pre-departure preparation (including their choice of visa) and their arrival in Annecy. It had been a long-held dream to move country and experience life differently but their journey was not to be all French fun and laughter. Today you will read, despite major setbacks, of Fiona's bubbly personality and strong optimism, which serve to emphasise the 'doing' - now, not later.


Can you share with us a couple of the most memorable/funny experiences that you have had living in France? 

We arrived in Annecy during the French summer, thinking we would have a couple of months to settle in before school started. However, while it did allow us to explore the region at a beautiful time of year, it was more difficult getting things organised with small kids in tow. For instance, we were trying to buy a car, but we kept turning up at the car yards around 11am, spending ½ hour looking around and waiting for someone to help us, and then, when they finally did, they’d say that it’s too close to lunch time to test drive a car now and to come back after 2pm! All normal here but quite frustrating at the time.

Our kids were not enthused about going to see yet another car yard either. On one particular occasion, Ben said he was tired and sat down on a mat inside the dealership building. We wandered outside to look at some more cars, but before we knew it, the shop had closed and locked its doors - with our son fast asleep inside! We knocked (banged) on the door and rang the phone number but it seemed as though no-one was there and Benjamin was fast asleep on the mat. Eventually, someone heard us, but instead of opening the door for us, they scooped Ben up and carried him to us!

Of course, we have also had many more memorable experiences while living over here. We love being in the Alps and enjoying the mountain sports (downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, cycling, hiking, staying in mountain refuges, rock climbing, etc), and also the lake and water sports when it’s warm (beach picnics, stand-up paddle boarding, wake surfing, rowing, etc). Just writing this it amazes me how much there is to do here - and still lots more we haven’t even tried yet. 

We’ve also had some great side trips to other areas that are so hard to travel to from Australia. Some of our favourites have included Italy (Venice, Cinque Terre, Pisa, an opera in Verona, etc), Jordan (dead sea, Petra, deserts), Greece, Morocco (camels, desert camping, Souk markets), Netherlands, Croatia, Portugal, Sardinia, Germany, London, and Cambridge.


What have been the most difficult aspects?

By far the most difficult aspect was uncannily similar to your story. In fact, I was gobsmacked when I read your book, first realising how close you were living to us, and then when I learned you’d discovered you had breast cancer while here, I couldn’t believe it. After we’d been living here for about a year, I found a lump in my breast which didn’t seem right. I went to the doctor thinking it would end up being nothing, but after a series of tests, it was confirmed to be breast cancer. After more tests, I also discovered I had thyroid cancer.

As you can imagine, this was a huge shock to me - I was healthy and at 41, I considered myself to be too young for any of this. I was also unsure of what to do - should we abort this French experience and head back to Australia for treatment? Or maybe just go back to Australia short term and then return? Fortunately, some Australian doctor friends of ours had just finished a 6-month sabbatical in Lyon so we sought their advice on the relative comparisons between the two medical systems. We had a discussion over FaceTime with them and came to realise that the two systems are equally good, and also that the treatments were likely to be long. We decided to stay in France.

Navigating the French medical system was challenging at times, but all of the medical staff were extremely helpful and prepared to take the extra time to ensure we properly understood everything. Paul attended all the early appointments with me so that we had two brains to decipher the French. (We now know a lot of French medical terminology I never expected to learn!) I ended up having two surgeries, chemotherapy, and two types of radiation - all of which took about 9 months from the diagnosis.

I was lucky that I handled the treatments quite well without the side-effects being too severe, and we were so lucky to be surrounded by lots of good friends that rallied around. Our families from Australia also helped a lot with my parents coming to spend Christmas with us (our plans to travel to Australia that year had to be cancelled), and Paul’s parents taking our kids on a trip through the UK for their school holidays. Some of my friends also booked trips over to spend time together and cheer me up. It was a hard time but there were lots of silver linings!

 I know that you and your husband have continued to work in France. Can you give us a snapshot of a typical day for the family? 

Paul and I both work from home on different technology businesses. We are lucky that we can do this work remotely which has enabled us to continue living here. Paul mainly works on Powerdiary.com- a practice management system for health professionals, and I’ve started a new business - Actioned.com- a productivity tool for individuals and teams. I also do some coaching for small businesses.

A typical day usually sees us waking around 7am (or earlier if we have a lot of work on). Paul generally gets straight to work in order to overlap with Australian business hours. I’ll usually get the kids ready for the day, do a few chores, then drive them to school. A couple of times a week I go straight to a boot camp class where I get some exercise and mix with others in the neighbourhood. Then I’ll go home and work for the rest of the day until the kids get home. For me, that involves managing my developers (I currently work with two who are both located in Ukraine - so only one-hour time difference), refining the app design, writing content, preparing marketing messages, etc. I’ll also have a few video calls throughout the day. Paul works closely with his team of developers for most of the day and will sometimes go out for a ride with friends in the afternoon, or in winter, go cross-country skiing. 

The afternoons see us picking up the kids and sometimes shuttling them to their various activities (at the moment, that’s piano, gymnastics, trampolining, and art classes). We eat dinner together and then Paul and I generally get back to our computers and work - usually until midnight or later (but I’m trying to change that!). We’re lucky to enjoy our work and usually, it doesn’t actually feel like work!

Wednesdays, there’s no school, but the kids have some activities, and often playdates with friends from school. In winter we try to ski most Wednesday afternoons (it’s only 30 minutes away so really easy to do).

On Friday nights, Paul helps a group of teenagers learn about technology and software, while the kids and I watch a movie at home. For the rest of the weekend, we’re often busy with friends - picnics, bbqs, dinners, or doing activities like boating together, skiing, or hiking - there rarely seems to be a quiet moment!!

Do you have any words of advice for other families who are dreaming of their own French adventure?

The way I look at it, you can either live your life with more of the same, and when you look back it will be hard to distinguish one year from the next. Or, you can take a chance and do something different. Even if it doesn’t work out, chances are it will be memorable! (And chances are it willwork out anyway!)

Moving to France has been one of the best things we’ve done - both individually and as a family. It’s made the bonds between us closer, opened us up to new cultures and ways of thinking, and given us all a much greater appreciation for the world around us. It’s hard to explain many of the cultural differences that we’ve come to appreciate, but we even have a better understanding of Australian culture. It’s hard to see the water you’re swimming in, but being away has given us fresh eyes.

Learning a new language has been challenging for Paul and me, but also something that feels like it must be good for us! Our children are now completely fluent in French, and although they don’t yet realise what an amazing gift this is, I’m sure they will one day!

If you’ve got any inkling to have an experience living in France or somewhere else, I’d strongly encourage you to find a way to make it happen.

Thank-you Fiona for taking the time to answer my questions... and now a personal post-script.

Although we have only connected a few times, Fiona has always tried to reach out and help push me onwards from my cancer, which I have found very hard to do. Although I am sharing her French story here as part of my 'Australians in France' series, there is definitely a secondary theme: that of support, friendship and understanding when life throws you a curve ball. There is no doubt in my mind that she is a very special person.

For our French story - Kindle or print - click here But you are in France, Madame 


Sunday, 28 October 2018

Amazing Annecy - Part One

What is it about France that attracts? Why do so many Australians feel such a connection to France, and why do so many push convention aside for a chance to experience first-hand what French living is all about?

In my occasional series on Australians in France, we have already met Jodie, Tahnee and Meredith, all with very different, but cherished, French stories. They go some way to answering these questions.

Today, I'd like you to meet Fiona and her family in the first slice of a two-part interview.

Fiona, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. You are originally from Melbourne but have been living for several years now in Annecy in the French Alps. Can you tell us a bit about your family and what it was that prompted you all to head to France?  

For us, moving to France is a good example of what can happen when you set an intention to do something. My husband, Paul, and I got together when we were quite young and after our university years, a lot of our friends went to live in London or took off on a year backpacking around Europe. By then, we were already immersed in building a business and couldn’t possibly leave for more than a few weeks. But at that time, before we were married or had children, we decided that when we had children of primary school age, we would go and live in either France or Italy for a year.

Having planted that seed of an idea, we kept it in mind and with our youngest child about to start school, we did a 2-week recce trip to Annecy and fell in love with the place. Paul was running a business with his brother but was primarily working online with a team of developers from around the globe, so he knew his work would be portable. On the other hand, I was running a different business (WordOfMouth.com.au) and, along with my co-founder, we were managing an office full of people. At that stage, my partner and I had been working on the business for 9 years and after some deep thinking and conversations, we decided to sell. A few months later, the business was acquired, and we started putting the wheels in motion to move to the other side of the globe.


To undertake a trip such as yours there must have been a fair amount of preparation? What were some of the things on your pre-departure to-do list and do you have any hints for families who might be thinking of doing the same thing?

There was a lot of preparation in terms of packing up our house, putting our affairs in order, selling our cars and various other things, and getting our house ready to rent, but for us, the hardest part was getting our visas. Neither of us had European nationality and while we knew we could easily get a one-year visa, we wanted the option to stay for longer. Eventually, after reading through all the options, we decided to apply for the “Competences et Talents” visa, a 3-year, renewable visa. We were unsure as the lawyers we were talking with strongly advised against this, saying that they’d never seen this type approved. But we seemed to tick the criteria, so we decided to apply ourselves. We were very nervous about whether this would be successful so put a lot of effort into our application. Then, Paul had to fly to Sydney to present our case - but fortunately, it worked, and we were granted the visa. It shows that the professional advice you receive is not always to be relied on!

How did you end up choosing Annecy and how long did you set off for?

Our very initial thought was to spend one year in France, but as we realised the logistics of packing everything up, we questioned why we should restrict ourselves to just one year. So we left with the intention of spending “a few years” in France. (It’s now been 3 and we’re still loving it here!)

Similarly, we initially thought to find a really small town in rural France. But then, we were driving through a very rural area of Victoria on the way back from a camping trip and we realised that we’d never live in such a tiny town in Australia, so why should we do that in France?

We still didn’t know where to live though so we started asking our friends for advice. We had a few criteria we were hoping to meet… somewhere near ski fields, near a large airport and a town that was not too big, and not too small. We have a lot of friends that are keen cyclists and several of those suggested Annecy. This area meets all those criteria and more! In fact, one of my favourite things is living on the lake.

You have two children. How easily have they made the transition into French living? Can you tell us a bit about their experiences of school, making friends, adjusting to new routines, food etc? 

We were worried about how our children would go, but like most people seem to say, this turned out to be nothing to worry about at all. Our daughter, Bianca was 7 years old and our son, Benjamin was 5 (almost 6). We’d tried to expose them to a bit of French language, but it was very difficult to do this from Australia and they (understandably) were not particularly interested. 

After a few months of school here, they were speaking French comfortably. Even the transition period was not too bad - there were never any tears or protests about going to school as I’d expected. We did notice that they were extremely tired though and it was a good thing there was no school on Wednesdays as after two days, they needed some recovery time. 

As I recall, Benjamin had decided that he “wasn’t going to learn French” so after a month or so of school, I asked him how he was going with the French. He replied saying that he still wasn’t learning French, but it was ok because his teacher was now speaking a lot more English. This puzzled us for a moment, but then we realised that his teacher was definitely not speaking English, but he was understanding her speaking French - so in his mind it was English!!

Before leaving, we also wondered whether we would have any friends or whether we’d just have to get used to our own company all the time! However, as it turned out, there are a lot of expats living in this region and very quickly, we were surrounded by great groups of interesting people. Of course, our intention was also to mix with French people, and we’ve now got some great friends through the school, and also through the first Airbnb that we rented.

In Part Two, Fiona shares a personal story. A must-read for those of you who have been thinking, dreaming, talking about your next step.
Until then. Thank-you Fiona.

And, of course, another French story for you ...ours... 'But you are in France, Madame'. Here for your Kindle or as a print copy.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Aix marks the spot - Part Three


For those of you who have enjoyed Part One and Part Two of Meredith's French adventure, here is the final chapter (of the blog story, but not altogether...as you will read).

Can you share with us a couple of the most memorable/funny experiences of your time in France? What were the most difficult aspects?

Because I had an English passport, I was allowed to live and work in the EEC, however, my husband needed to apply for a ‘carte de séjour’, the right to reside.  We had a wonderful time with the French bureaucracy in Aix and when they told me Colin had to go to Marseille, in person, and get it there, Colin simply didn’t believe me.

We decided to book in to a hotel in Marseille, despite the fact that Marseille was only 25 minutes away.  We had heard horror stories about having to line up early in the morning, so the afternoon before we walked down to the Préfecture to make sure we knew where he had to go.  We finally found the destination in some back street, deep in the city of Marseille. I am sure you are all aware of the French reputation for ‘grèves’ (strikes), and much to our dismay, Marseille was in the grip of a massive garbage strike. The city was literally stinking.


On arrival, we noticed some people were already queuing.  We approached one African-looking person and asked if we were in the right place.  He was very helpful, confirming that we were, in fact, at the correct destination. He was already in the line for the following day and said that he would be happy to mind Colin’s spot! How lucky were we?

So, off Colin went at 6.30am in the freezing cold, through the stinking garbage to arrive with coffee and
croissants for the kind man who had spent the night on the street, holding his spot in the line from the day before.

We were the lucky ones. Only one hour later Colin was the proud owner of a five year ‘carte de séjour’ (right to live). I doubt anybody else in the queue would have had the same success. It was worth its weight in gold for our kids to see all the other people from different countries, queued a mile long, desperate to get permission to live in France. I only hope our kids appreciated how lucky they truly were.

This next little ‘histoire’ is for all the coffee addicts:
The French take their culture and their cuisine very seriously, but given that Aix is a very international city, it is natural that some coffee shops would also sell take-away coffee.  But there are limits and when an English woman got on a local bus with her takeaway coffee, the bus driver demanded:

“Madame, descendez de mon bus!”.  (Madame, GET OFF MY BUS!)
Nothing like insulting the bus driver for bringing a takeaway coffee on his bus.
Be Warned!  Take some time out and don’t rush your coffee!

Part of going to live in another country is being open to trying new things.  I had always wanted to dance salsa, so I signed up for salsa classes and my husband decided to come too.  Towards the end of the year our teacher started teaching us a routine that she wanted us to perform at the end of year ‘spectac’ (show). Of course, there was no way my husband was going to dance a salsa routine on stage, so I signed up ‘toute seul’ (alone).  In the end, the teacher managed to talk him into it. The curtain came up, and front of stage we did our 3-minute sexy salsa routine with 5 other couples in front of 300 people, including the kids.


You couldn’t wipe the smile from his face.  He turned to me and said:

“If you’d told me I was going to dance the salsa on stage in France in front of 300 people, I would never have believed you!”

Therefore, my advice would be, never say never.  Just embrace every opportunity and see where it leads you.


Did I find anything difficult?

Some of you might find this story amusing, but I can assure you my husband took a while to appreciate the irony.

Finding a suitable place to live is no easy task. Colin had sent me over on a reconnaissance trip three months before we were to leave, and he gave me an exact brief.

“I would like a four-bedroom house and pool on an acre of land with spare rooms for visitors.  I would like an open fire to lounge around, a large kitchen so I can shop at the local markets and cook delicious meals each night and all within walking distance to the local bar where I can have my coffee in the morning, my pastis in the afternoon and read Le Journal."

It sounded like a perfectly reasonable brief to me.

However, it became apparent almost immediately I touched down in Aix-en-Provence that I was going to have a hard time fulfilling his dreams.  Aix-en-Provence was not a small French village; it was an energetic university town with a population of over 160,000 people.

So, with some reservation, I set about finding the house of Colin’s dreams.  I imagine it was like looking for the perfect man on RSVP, systematically crossing off every listing you look at. The fact was that nothing remotely resembled what Colin had in mind. Not only were these sorts of houses in the middle of nowhere, they had no charm, they were ridiculously expensive and the owners expected you to vacate during July and August so they could rent them out for more money.

However, on my second-to-last day in Aix, I was introduced, by chance, to a French lady who suggested I contact an agent she knew.

“I don’t have anything suitable, but I do have a very charming cottage in the middle of a vineyard. It’s called La Petite Maison. It is very small", she told me, somewhat apologetically.

The next day I found myself on a dirt driveway with lush vineyards on either side leading up to a magnificent house, just like the one my husband, I am sure, had dreamt of.  For the first time during my two week visit I really felt like I was in the south of France. It was picture postcard and I was so mesmerised by my surroundings that I completely missed the fact that the woman standing at my side was pointing...to a tiny cottage on my left.


The real estate agent opened the door to reveal a very cosy, 62-metre-squared, fully furnished cottage with sliding doors to a huge terrace, only metres from a vineyard, that seemed to go forever.  I fell in love immediately.  And when one falls in love, it is only natural to completely gloss over the minor imperfections associated with one’s love.

“It is very small isn’t it?  But charming, non?” remarked the agent.

I looked around and noted there were two bedrooms separated by a combined lounge living room with an open fire.  I recalled Colin really wanted an open fire and conveniently forgot he had also specified four bedrooms and a pool.  There was a tiny kitchen with a bar fridge and it came with unlimited wood for the fire. It was already connected to wi-fi and we didn’t even have to move out for two months in summer.  After all, Colin had requested land, and voilà, I’d found a house on a vineyard with a view to die for.  Surely, he would be thrilled.

La Petite Maison had our name on it.

“We’ll take it”, I cried.

And promptly signed a one-year lease before I flew out the next day.



Postscript:  Colin did end up with his pool, but I’m afraid it was one of those blow up backyard versions…

Back now in Australia, what do you miss the most? How do the children view their French adventure? Have you visited France since your return to Australia? Do you have any long-term French plans?

Probably the thing one misses most is being so close to everything.  We travelled at every opportunity, visiting Egypt, England, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Spain and many other places. You just can’t do that from Australia.

The children settled straight back in.  Kids are generally very adaptable and if the parents are relaxed, the kids are too. They loved their time in France but were very happy to come back to Australia. We return to Aix regularly and continue the connection. For me, it feels like a second home.

In fact, I love the area so much I have joined forces with a company called On The Tee Travel to create and host some exciting ‘Golf Getaways’ to Provence', The Riviera and even Mallorca, Spain.  I hope to extend to Bordeaux and other parts of France going forward.

Combining my love of France with my obsession for Golf is my ultimate dream job.

When we were living there a friend gave me a lovely little olive tree in a pot and, before leaving, I asked our landlord if I could plant it in his oliveraie (olive grove) of 200 trees out the back. He happily agreed.

It is now huge and I visit it every time I go back.  I love that I own my own olive tree in the South of France! How cool is that?

Overall, would you recommend the experience to other families?

I couldn’t recommend it more highly. Giving your children an experience of living abroad, especially in a place like France, is such a gift.  I am sure my boys will fully appreciate it when they are older.

I truly believe that taking people out of their comfort zones empowers them with greater life skills. I have no doubt that it was the best thing we ever did.

Thanks so much, Meredith. Your energy and positive attitude shine through and no doubt contributed in no small measure to the success of your family's adventure. Best of luck with On The Tee. I'm afraid our journeys by necessity part at that point as my past experience with golf was not note-worthy⏤ except perhaps to the members who, from the clubhouse, witnessed my step-up-and-thwack-like-a-hockey-ball drive, which propelled the divot spectacularly further than the ball.

***A reminder to US readers that the latest Kindle deal for 'But you are in France, Madame' finishes today.***


Thursday, 6 September 2018

Aix marks the spot - Part Two


In previous blogs, I have introduced you to other Australian families who, like us, have been so drawn to France that they have up-ended their 'normal' and headed there to live. What is interesting is that each of us has a very different story. Of course, there are similarities (from the simple - markets, fresh food, administrative hurdles... to the complex - profound emotions) but our stories - what we have each done, what we hoped to get from our experiences, how long we stayed and where we stayed - have varied quite significantly.

In Part One of Aix marks the spot, we met Sydneysiders Meredith, her husband and their two children as they readied themselves for departure followed by their early experiences in Aix-en-Provence.



Today, in Part Two of 'Aix marks the spot', Meredith relates a funny story, which I enjoyed so much that I thought it was deserving of a Friday blog of its own. 

One of the most amusing things about living in France at that time was the fact that my husband bore an uncanny resemblance, in both age and appearance, to a ‘très connu’ (well known) French policitian, fondly known as DSK.  Dominique Strauss Kahn seemed to acquire more and more notoriety throughout our stay due to  his involvement in several financial and sexual scandals. 

Highly intelligent, charming and sophisticated, DSK was the Head of the International Monetary Fund and was tipped to become the next President of France until a lurid sex scandal turned him into a total pariah.  Even his wife of 20 years threw him out.  His career and political aspirations came to a rather spectacular end on 14 May 2011 when, in high international drama, his Air France plane was stopped on the runway, he was escorted off by the US authorities and arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a New York chambermaid. Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper dubbed him ‘le grand séducteur’ (the Great Seducer).

So, whilst DSK had a monopoly over the world stage and the front cover of all the local french newspapers, for sexual assault and general bad behaviour including orgies and pimping, Colin and I thought nothing about attending the local Set Club for a summer cocktail party.  I was quietly sipping my rosé, chatting with some friends I played tennis with, when friends of their friends started showing up.  I noticed they were laughing and pointing at my husband who was about 15 metres away:

Oh mon dieu… Regarde là-bas!  C’est DSK!”.
(Oh my god.  Look over there.  It’s DSK)

I chimed in :
"En fait, c’est mon mari”. 
(Actually, that’s my husband).

When I walked over to share this with Colin he declared loudly in their general direction:
“Ce n'était pas ma faute. J’ai demandé le service en chambre, c'est tout”.
(It wasn’t my fault, I asked for room service. That’s all”….)


To find out what Meredith is doing these days, head to the following sites. https://www.onthetee.com.au/provenceandluberon/

For Kindle copies of 'But you are in France, Madame', click here

Monday, 20 August 2018

Aix marks the spot - Part One


In previous blogs, I have introduced you to other Australian families who, like us, have been so drawn to France that they have up-ended their 'normal' and headed there to live. What is interesting is that each of us has a very different story. Of course, there are similarities (from the simple - markets, fresh food to the complex - profound emotions) but our stories - what we have each done, what we hoped to get from our experiences, how long we stayed and where we stayed - have varied quite significantly.

Today, in Part One of 'Aix marks the spot', we meet Meredith, her husband and their two children who left Sydney for their French life in Aix-en-Provence. 

What was it that prompted you to head to France with your family?  

My husband is a natural cook and had studied catering with the French chefs.  From that day on, he wanted to live in France.  It was all my husband’s idea, although he would say that I made it happen.  

 To undertake a trip such as yours there must have been a fair amount of preparation? What were some of the things on your pre-departure to-do list and do you have any hints for families who might be thinking of doing the same thing?

There is an enormous amount of work that goes into living in another country.  We made our decision to leave Sydney around February 2010 and were on our way 4/5 months later.  My husband had been talking about wanting to live in France for so long that I was sick of hearing about it.  I gave him an ultimatum, that we either go in August 2010 or that he simply never mention it again.

He looked me in the eye and said “Alright, let’s do it”.   
I held out my hand and replied “You have to shake on it”. 
And he did.

We always felt that 1 year would never be enough and assumed 1-3 years would be the probable outcome. The children were 7 and 10 years old when we left and almost 10 and 13 when we returned, two and a half years later. 

So, probably the main piece of advice that I would give to any prospective families wanting a similar sea change is to allow as much time as possible.  It takes most people a year to settle in and the last thing you want to do is to have to turn around and come back.  

Of course, packing up a family and moving to Europe is no easy task.  You just need to make extensive lists and work your way through them. Given that I have a British passport and my husband and I both spoke some French, we had quite an advantage to start with.

I would certainly suggest that anybody thinking of living in France should start learning the language in earnest.  On the other hand,  don’t be put off if you don’t speak French.  Most French speak English and it is relatively easy to get around without it. 


How did you choose where you would live? Did this area live up to your expectations? 

Once we’d decided to move to France, I asked my husband the same question,
"Where do you want to live?".   He looked at me as if I was an ‘imbécile’,
“The south of France, where else would you go?”.  And he was right.

My search began with schools.  We assumed the kids would go to an international school and I could only really find three such schools in the south.  There were two on the Côte d’Azur and one in Aix-en-Provence.  Put simply ‘Aix marked the spot’ and that was where we went.

Aix-en-Provence boasts 300 days of sunshine a year, is 25 minutes from the sea, 3 hours by TGV to Paris and is the gateway to the Luberon valley.  It was no surprise that Aix was voted the most desirable place to live in France by the French!
  
I really didn’t have any expectations.  We were going to live in the South of France and we were going to have a totally different life experience with our kids.
  
Of course, it was extraordinary and the best thing we ever did.

You have two children. How easily did they make the transition into French living? Can you tell us a bit about their experiences of school, making friends, adjusting to new routines, food etc? 

We actually decided to put the kids in the local French school initially, which only lasted 4 months.  My youngest son was struggling with phonetics in English and therefore he was drowning in French.  I was very proud of them both, they never cried.  They just went off every day to school and came home talking about what they had for lunch. That is the best thing ever. The French schools provide a 3-course lunch every day for the kids and it is outstanding.

We quickly decided that having an authentic ‘French’ experience wasn’t as important as having happy children and therefore settled on an ‘International’ experience, moving them to the local International school.  They were ecstatic and loved the change.

They adapted very quickly to their new school and once they had English speaking friends they were very content.  They quickly became connoisseurs of olive oil, cheese and what was the best saucisson at the market.  But they never really embraced going to museums and art galleries, they were far more interested in skiing and climbing trees.


Once settled, what did a typical day look like for you and your husband?

A typical day started with us checking our emails for any work issues back home.  Then we would drive the kids 15 minutes to school stopping on the way back for a morning coffee and a few fresh goods at the market.
  
If it was a Tuesday we would be going direct to the hiking group, a combination of French and international people being led all over Provence to places you would never find on your own.

Two days a week we would go into the centre ville for our French classes.  We only lived 5 kms from town but it was always fun to go into Aix for French lessons followed by a wander around the market and lunch.

We had to work a bit from home but this would normally be followed by walks around the property, a visit to the local Set club for tennis, or an excursion around the region.
We were kid free during the day so we had plenty of time to explore.

And my husband would delight in deciding what he would cook for dinner and then cook something delicious every night.

In Part Two of 'Aix marks the spot', Meredith will share some of their more colourful moments living in France and talks about their eventual return to Australia. 

PS A sneak preview to the continuation of this story is that Meredith loves the area so much that she joined forces with a company called On The Tee Travel to create and host some exciting ‘Golf Getaways’ to Provence, The Riviera and even Mallorca, Spain.  More next time...


Plus...in Part Two, a funny episode related to the following photo will be revealed.

I wrote about our family's French adventure in 'But you are in France, Madame', please contact me on cb222@me.com for a print copy or click on the following link for a Kindle copy.

And finally, I am linking this post with #farawayfiles - varied collection of travel stories.