Salon de l’Agriculture

Every spring, Paris plays host to a massive agricultural expo, called the Salon de l’Agriculture. Held in the exact same location as my beloved Salon du Chocolat (but about 18 times larger), this event is something I’ve been curious about since seeing it featured briefly on TV once, and since wondering whether there was a Salon du Fromage or something of equally delicious interest.

With a mind to see some cows and taste some cheese, Frenchman and I decided to pay a visit to this festival of French agriculture.

We did not know what we were getting into.

Salon de l’Agriculture

salon-de-lagriculture-pavillons

We bought our tickets and made our way to the Porte de Versailles convention and expo area, blissfully unaware of the chaos that awaited us. I honestly cannot convey to you the immense scale of this event. Continue reading

Polling the People

When I started this blog, oh say 18 months ago, I had a lot of grand ideas about what I would do with it. Clearly I was going to be a blogging rockstar, gain tons of followers, get invited to cool exclusive Paris things, and post all the time about my oh-so-cool life.

I had so very many plans for themed posts, series to maintain, and fun blog updates. Sticky notes galore. And, for a while anyway, I actually kept it on track! I posted frequently, I had a surprising number of visitors that weren’t my family, and I was feeling good.

But then, of course, real life got in the way and it became very hard to juggle all the things.

all-the-thingscollage

I dropped the ball on blogging and let it take a back seat to, well, everything else. Somehow immigration paperwork, a near-3 month stint back in the US (away from interesting things to blog about), followed by resume- and interview-packed unemployment before starting a very busy brand new job all took priority over writing about where I went to brunch.

But! Now I’m newly motivated to get this thing back up to speed. And so, without further ado, I present to you ::drumroll::

A POLL!

Here are a few of the ideas that were bouncing around my brain at some point in the past year+ of things to do with the blog. Vote for the type(s) of posts you think would be most fun to read!

Also, to stay on theme (who am I to say no to such an easy double entendre, eh?)… I voted! I went to the digital polls and cast my absentee ballot from abroad. #America 🇺🇸

voting

I don’t get a sticker this year, so here’s a whole roll of ’em

Friendly Expat PSA: There’s just 2 weeks left before Election Day – Whatever your political persuasion, make sure you get your butt out to vote! It’s a super cool thing to do AND you get a sticker!

But no really, tell me what you want!

I can’t wait to see what you all have to say about what you want to see from me here. I’m excited to write and post fun things again. Crossing my fingers that more than 2 people respond, and that the responses are better than “Other: please stop. Just, stop.” Be cool, guys, be cool.

Not an optimist [UPDATED]

UPDATE 3/14/16:

It has come to my attention that this blog post fell flat like a pancake crêpe and/or totally confused everyone. Here are some clarifications to hopefully make it all make more sense.

  1. This post was written in total snark and sarcasm.
  2. Everything is fine. No really, I swear.

For a bit of context, this post was intended to be a funny, quick exploration of French vs. American perspective and attitude. It was written in response to a funny exchange with my Frenchman in which, after reassuring me that X would be fine, Y would be fine, and Z would all be fine, he also expressed “I am not just being optimiste, I am just realiste.” I interpreted this moment as a silly, succinct example of one of the many differences between Americans and the French, in the way he felt compelled to clarify to me that he was not, in fact, being optimistic (apparently a bad thing), he was just being realistic when he said everything was going to work out perfectly smoothly.

I thought it was funny. Apparently everyone else did not.

Does that help? With all that in mind, please proceed with the following blog post keeping humor and snark in perspective.


 

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog silence with a lesson in French worldview.

STand by
Je ne suis pas optimiste… juste realiste” – I’m not being optimistic, just realistic.

Used as justification of a positive outlook on a situation. Did you know that being an optimist is a punishable offense?

If this isn’t the perfect illustration of French ideology, I don’t know what is. Having to explain away your reasoning for fear that someone might interpret you as an optimist? The horror!

Meanwhile, in America, telling someone not to be so optimistic is akin to kicking a puppy. Being a staunch realist makes you boring; a real bummer at parties. Who knew that a jaunt overseas means your “everything will be alright” perspective becomes an embarrassing show of optimisme?

Looks like this Boston cynic will have to dial it all the way up next time she discusses a matter and whether or not it’ll work out.

Homeless in Paris: the musical!

5 days and counting… and still no place to live.

That’s what I think about every day, since we learned the rug was pulled out from under us with our original apartment. I have to laugh. I knew this was all going too smoothly!

Back to the listings we went, looking at place after place online assessing whether it would be acceptable for us. Unfortunately, it seems we’re looking for a bit of a unicorn at this point, with mere days to go. Good area, decent size, real oven, place to put a desk… It wasn’t too much to ask a month or so ago, but it seems like it is now.

Over the weekend, Frenchman went to see 2 places. One was in a great location but is too small. The other was bigger, but not in a great location. When I learned he didn’t sign for either of them, I was a liiittle concerned. I might have cried. Maybe. He wants to keep looking at other options. I reminded him that we only have a couple of days left…

Stay tuned for Homeless in Paris (the hottest new musical, opening on a street corner in an arrondissement near you!)

Just kidding. It’s going to be fine.

Is it a bit stressful? Sure. But we won’t actually be homeless with his parents right there and we’ll find a place eventually. I just would really like to have a place to put my suitcases when I roll in after an overnight flight.

He says to trust him, and I do. But it’s really hard to not have any control over where I’m going to sleep in just a few short days.

It’s been an interesting week.

In lighter news, the secret’s totally out at work, which is nice. I met with my own team about 3 weeks ago to break the news and discuss how we would handle workflow. Last week I sent an announcement to a couple of other managers letting them know I would be remote and to inform their own teams as necessary as there would be no official announcement… and they immediately announced it. #ParisProblems

Slowly but surely the news has spread, and it feels nice to have it out in the open. Am I getting the same questions over and over? Totally. Do I mind? Not one bit! I get to talk about my plans on repeat, reliving it for each excited listener. It’s a narcissist’s dream.

I get to tell everyone that yes, I’m going to be living in Paris, yes in the center like actually in Paris. I get to talk about the things I want to do and all the places I plan to go.

I get to remind myself over and over that I’m really doing this and I’m about to do the coolest thing I’ve ever been crazy enough to do. I’m freaking moving to Paris!

Now and Zen

I should be freaking out.

For the past 2 days, I’ve had drafts sitting waiting to be posted, narrating my fears and worries and nerves. I just couldn’t bring myself to post it. It just didn’t feel right or true to what I’m feeling. Those notes and paragraphs were certainly true when they were written, and that was only a couple of days ago. But somehow between yesterday and today I am just not feeling that anxious (or angsty).

This may be the most zen I’ve ever been in my entire life.

A week and a half away and I have nowhere to live, I’m moving across an ocean, and I am not as confident in speaking the language as I should be. But it’s fine. It’s all going to be fine.

As far as the apartment drama goes, there’s just not a whole lot I can do. We’re looking at every listing we can find and Frenchman’s making phone call after phone call. Each time we find a perfect place, inevitably it turns out to have just been rented, and back to the drawing board we go. We’re doing everything we can. We’ll find a place, and in the meantime we’ve got backup options (his family and even hotels) to cover us until we do. It just seems like a waste of energy to get worked up about something I can’t control.

Laduree Ispahan

One of these should do the trick!

For the other stuff? Ditto. It’s going to be fine, and what’s the value in worrying about it? Cross that bridge ocean when you come to it. It’s Paris – how bad could it be, really? Terrible day? Have a croissant. Somebody’s mean to you? Here, have a macaron. Missing home? Skype mom and eat some fromage. Problem: solved.

Every time I’m asked about my Paris plans, the person asks “Do you speak French?” I chuckle and say, “We’re about to find out!” Sure, it’s going to be difficult living in a foreign country with a language that’s not my own, but I’d rather look at it as a big adventure than psyche myself out into thinking I can’t do it.

I’m feeling very positive today. How very uncharacteristic of neurotic ol’ me. And how un-French! I’ll have to get that out of my system in the next week or so…

An 18-pound cat

You know that feeling when your chest is constricted and you can’t breathe and it feels like an 18-pound cat is sitting on top of you and you can’t move it? No? Just me?

For those who need a visual aid:

Georgie, the 18-pound cat

Georgie, the 18-pound cat

An 18-pound cat is sitting on my chest, and I can’t breathe.

Our apartment fell through.

We got this apartment locked down weeks ago; I felt great. Flights? Check. Place to live? Check. We were all set and I felt confident that we were well-situated for my arrival so I didn’t have to stress.

The apartment was huge – way bigger than we needed – but we got a great deal. It was a temporary rental (Frenchman doesn’t want to pick anything permanent without me there to see it, too) but it had everything we needed. Furnished, 2 bedrooms, with a desk/office, great location – perfect. The only caveat was that the woman was trying to sell the place, so we signed on monthly with the risk of having to leave sooner than expected.

Way sooner than expected.

She sold it, and we got an email this morning that part of the agreement is that she cannot rent it. Apparently this is kosher in France despite us having signed a contract already.

Merde.

I arrive in just 2 weeks and we have nowhere to live. Juuuust great.

It was hard enough to find an apartment the first time around. There were a lot of things to consider: location, features, square footage (meterage), and all the tiny details to see whether we could see ourselves living there.

Apartment requirements:

  • Furnished
  • Close to a metro stop
  • Safe neighborhood
  • Cats allowed
  • Within our budget
  • 2 bedrooms (preferably – for guests!)
  • Workspace (I’m working remotely, indefinitely. I need a desk)
  • Real shower (no open bathtub with a shower head laying down)
  • All normal kitchen appliances

But, we had time to research and dig and find just the right place…

The apartment we had found had everything we needed. You’d be surprised how many listings we looked at that didn’t have an oven, or the second bedroom was through the first bedroom, so any guests would basically have to crawl over us to pee in the middle of the night. And I absolutely refuse to live in an apartment that doesn’t have a real shower. I 100% believe that I would have a complete nervous breakdown if, after a stressful or difficult day, I couldn’t just take a normal shower but instead struggle to hold the showerhead and soap myself and try not to soak the room. I could do it once, but every day?

Nightmare French Shower

My nightmare: no walls, loose shower head. HOW are you supposed to wash your hair?!

And now we’re homeless and need to start all over again… with just 2 weeks’ notice to our move-in deadline.

Breathe in… breathe out… move the 18-pound cat.

Ms. Hepburn was right

Time is counting down and I’m nervous.

With just 2½ weeks to go before I leave for Paris, I’m starting to feel the pressure. There’s still a lot to do, a lot of things to take care of, a lot of people to see. I keep adding to-do’s to the list, but not checking off nearly as many as I’d like. Each one that’s added I think “hmm, I can get to that another day, after work” but the number of “after works” is dwindling faster and faster as days pass and calendars get filled with events.

There’s a car to sell, and people to share my news with. There are items to buy because I don’t know what I’ll be able to get in France. There are errands to run. Organizing to do.

I’m anxious and excited, dreading it and wishing it would happen already.

There’s a lot at stake and I have no idea what to expect when I arrive. It’s certainly not going to be all roses and rainbows once I get down to the day-to-day, working from home and trying to shop for groceries and attempting to navigate the métro. And understanding the language. Ohh boy am I nervous about the language!

As different waves of nerves have hit me, I started looking for some inspiration, some words of (cliché) wisdom to make myself feel better. Some sign that I’m making the right decision and this is going to be a good thing.

Paris Audrey Hepburn

Ever the symbol of effortless cool and Parisian dreams, Ms. Hepburn came through for me when I was reminded of this quote. It’s not revolutionary, and there are probably a million tween girls circling this quote with hearts and sparkles. But I think it speaks to the decision I made months ago, when I thought… “What’s the worst that could happen?

It ten years, will I regret going to Paris or will I regret not going? Never knowing what it might have been like or what could have come of it seems a terrible fate.

Ultimately, nerves and all, Paris is definitely a good idea.

The Secret’s Out!

I’m so excited I finally get to talk about this big adventure out in the open.

The secret is out!

I have known for months now that I was going to be moving to Paris. I didn’t know exactly when at first, but I knew it would happen eventually. I am freaking moving to FRANCE!

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to continue working for my current company, doing my regular job all while I’m abroad (I’m not sure I ever explained that?) It’s such a relief after all that stressing, and I feel so fortunate to have a company that values me enough to tell me to go for it.

So since the end of June, I have known that I am moving, when I am moving, and all the exciting details that go with that kind of plan – and I haven’t been able to tell a soul.

Why haven’t I been able to talk about Paris?

A few reasons, most of them strategic and tied to work dynamics. First and foremost, I needed to tell my team myself, before they heard it from anyone else. And I didn’t need to tell them until a more appropriate time as the date got closer. If I was quitting, the most they’d get is 2 weeks. I’m not quitting, so 3 weeks is plenty to allow time enough for advance notice but not so much time that they start to worry about what it all means for our team (or for the rumor mills to start running). Since I wasn’t telling my team until 3 weeks out… I couldn’t tell anyone else.

Now, obviously my family knows, and I’ve slowly but surely shared the news with a few very close friends, all under the caveat that they couldn’t talk about it themselves. The concern, of course, was if anything wound up on Facebook or someone dropped a casual mention around the office, it could make for some awkward moments (you never know who’ll be upset about something innocent – it’s never who you’d expect). People mean well, but a simple slip of a “hey, check this out when you get to Paris”…. it would have been terrible if my own team heard by accident and not from me directly

Of course as these few months have gone by, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I revealed my secret to more and more people, expanding that group of “only very close friends” to include… well, more people than I’d typically refer to as my closest confidantes.

But now.. the CAT’s out of the bag!

I’M MOVING TO PARIS!

Phew. That feels good.

Now it’s out and I’m free to be excited and nervous and to talk about what’s happening in my life (moving, packing, kitty roommates!) — all the things I’ve been dealing with and stressing over and having to hide. And now I’m free.

Country Countdown

1 month. 4 weeks. 30 days.

The countdown is on.

I officially leave for Paris in exactly 1 month, on October 10th. In fact, at just about this time that day, I will be on my way to the airport with my multitude of suitcases.

With each passing week it’s becoming more and more real. Day to day, my feelings aren’t changing. But suddenly as 2 months turns into 6 weeks turns into next month… it’s real. I want to say I can’t believe it, but I can. There’s a strange calm that’s taken over me. It’s strange, but I like it.

When I moved to Wales (I promise I’ll stop talking about this one day) I remember feeling oddly blank right up until we boarded a plane and left the country. It was bizarre. Interestingly, my mother felt the same way as she came with me to go on a great adventure to help me settle in.

To provide some context, I should explain that I am normally a very anxious traveller. Even for the most mundane of trips, I get nervous and my stomach does flips, and I get all sweaty right up until I’m sitting in my assigned seat in my chosen mode of transportation. It’s not a pretty sight, and for those unfortunate enough to have travelled with me, I’m not much fun up until that point. Once I’m seated and I know I haven’t missed my plane/train/automobile, then I can relax and get excited.

The trip to Wales was an anomaly. I felt… nothing. Not excited, not scared, not anxious enough to pee 18 times before my flight… Nothing.

I was worried that the same thing might happen again this time. I didn’t want this amazing experience to be ruined by a void of emotion. I want to feel excited and scared.

I’m excited.

Oh, what a relief to feel excited! It’s subtle, sure, and there’s a lot of things to think about and take care of before I go, but it’s there. I can tell.

I’m also scared. And that’s such a great feeling. It’s a good kind of scared, the kind you feel when it’s something you so want to do and are doing. It’s a little like a rollercoaster, when you’re climbing that big hill and you know (and don’t know) what will happen when you crest that peak… your stomach clenches, your teeth grin wide, you hold on tight….

I’m excited and scared and it’s coming up so fast. I’m ready the free fall.

moving abroad rollercoaster

Support that matters

A while ago, I talked about the experience of telling my parents that I decided to move to France. I had been really nervous to tell them, and really unsure of how they would react. I was afraid they would think it was a bad idea. I was afraid they would ask me questions about how I was going to do it, or about my relationship, or about something else that would make me doubt the decision and doubt myself.

After I broke the news, I called the experience “anticlimactic”. And it was, in a sense. After all that buildup and stress about their response, the fact that they were totally fine and never asked those scary questions made it seem like a meow instead of a roar. It was “meh” instead of “ahhh”

But looking back, I regret my choice of words, to a point. While it was true to my feelings at the time – and I won’t edit those feelings in hindsight – I think in some ways it’s a bit unfair.

I had a lot of anxiety built up around the idea of telling them, and the letdown of them being perfectly fine with it manifested as anticlimactic. In reality, it’s really amazing how supportive they are of this idea, and how they immediately jumped on the bandwagon.

They asked what my plan was, but they didn’t push. They let me figure things out, and tell them about it. They helped enormously as I began packing and moving.

They made phone calls and researched movers and storage facilities both with me and for me. They visited storage places to find the good ones so my time could be focused on work during the week and go out to see the ones that were worth it on the weekends. My mom drove into the city every single weekend for weeks in a row – with fresh baked goods, no less – to give moral support and intensive help packing all my things. And she carried bags and bags of things home with her, which my dad immediately put in his car to take over to a donation spot.

In the months since that post, my dad has been increasingly decisive about coming to visit me in Paris, as well. You may remember that he initially told me that he wouldn’t come to France, that I would have to come home to visit. I was disappointed, and though my mom explained that it was just his awkward reaction and of course he would come, it still was tough. I know he’s not comfortable with flying, especially that length of time. I know he’s nervous about it, for a variety of reasons.

But today I got a text from my Dad that he had submitted his passport application.

People ask if my parents are sad. I just answer that they’re excited for me. And they are. And I know that. And that’s pretty cool.