12 Jul Chasing The Dream: 1 Month In France
As I rap up this blog post and write this recap of our first month living in France, we have just finished an 8-day cruise around the Mediterranean, visiting places such as Majorca, Ibiza, Sardinia and the Cinque Terre.
Sounds like heaven, right?
Well let’s dive a little deeper into the past month and how it has played out and discuss if the reality of this dream move to the south of France, is as we had hoped it would be.
It was 10:55pm on the 31st of May, on a cold night in Melbourne that we waited in the Qantas lounge for the call to board our plane to Paris. It was just over a year ago that I had posted a blog titled, Thirty, Fit and Throwing It All Away (Read it here), detailing how I wished for something more and to live a life full of experiences, rather than chase a dream life that the world tells me is what success looks like. Some had said it was silly, some even said it was irresponsible, however my wife and I knew it was going to be one hell of an adventure, whatever the outcome may be.
With my Valium’s in my carry-on luggage (if you don’t know I am a horribly nervous flyer) and a very tired 1 year old daughter in my arms, we waked onto the plane and we were away. We had received notice that we had been upgraded to Premium Economy, not the business class upgrade we had hoped for, however any extra room with a baby in tow would be great. We had been placed in a seat with a bassinet in front of us and within the first 30mins of take-off, Amelia had gone to sleep and we had our hands free to eat and sit back to “enjoy” the 15-hour flight to Dubai. To be fair, the flight went really well and with my 4 Valium’s, spread out over the 14 hours, my nerves had been kept at bay and I even managed to sleep! Amy also got some sleep along with Amelia sleeping almost the entire way to Dubai with just a few wake ups to look for a boob to suck on and get a little feed.
We were then in Dubai and ready to run to the next gate to board our plane to Paris. The flight to Paris is a little over 6 hours and again it was fairly uneventful. Before we knew it we were arriving in Paris and the adventure could begin. After a nervous wait to see if our entire hoard of luggage had made its way to Paris, we were into the parking lot and hailing a cab to get to our hotel for the next 5 days. We would use Paris as a little stop over before we would make our way south, where we would call home for the first 2 months. We were all exhausted, Amy more so, as let’s be honest she did most of the heavy lifting when it came to taking care of Amelia on the flights. We piled into the hotel room, dumped our mountain of luggage on the floor and proceeded to get into bed and have a quick lie down. It was only 4:30pm in the afternoon by the time we arrived at the hotel, and to avoid jetlag we agreed that it would just be a quick nap before dinner. To our surprise we all woke up, including Amelia, at 5am the following day still clothed and now ready to start our day!
Amy and I have both spent quite a bit of time in Paris and so these first 5 days were more about getting Amelia into her new routine and getting her used to the new time zone.
We had decided that we weren’t going to do any of the regular sight-seeing as we had seen much of it before and were not too keen to do it all again with a baby (and baby paraphernalia) to lug with us along the cobblestone streets and metro system of Paris. Within our first 5 days, we had found the greatest patisserie store known to mankind and would frequent it every day. We had made a visit to the Luxemburg gardens to enjoy a walk around the parks and green grasses, walked from our hotel to La Tour Eiffel and bought our train tickets to Aix-en-Provence. We were now set and ready to take the next big trip, down south to our new home. After a fast train rocketed us down to the Aix En Provence TGV station, we jumped into a cab, piled all of our luggage into the back and headed to our first stop.
The first place we have booked is a gorgeous roof top apartment with an amazing terrace and balcony. The terrace was the main reason we booked this place as we wanted to be able to spend as much time outside eating and enjoying the beautiful evening weather. This was a great idea in theory, however, the weather has been nothing short of spectacularly hot with almost every day reaching at least 30 degrees and many days going beyond 35. This has meant, the air conditioner has stayed on 24 hours a day, every day, for the past month (god knows what the owner’s electricity bill will be) and it’s been too hot to use the outside terrace as much as we would have liked. That all said, we love our little apartment and have enjoyed the time we have been able to spend outdoors, even with the climb up the 4 flights of stairs that we are doing on average 2-3 times a day.
Aix en Provence, for those who don’t know, is a little town in the very south of France about 30 minutes out of Marseille. It is mainly a University town that is central to the mountains, beach and country side and is why it has become such a popular tourist destination. It is famous for its daily fresh-produce farmers markets, shopping and for being the birth place of the Post-Impressionist artist Cézanne. Amy and I fell in love with this place when we spent 4 days here on our honeymoon just 2 years ago. We can both remember that trip with vivid detail, and when we mentioned to each other that we could see ourselves living in a place like that one day. Well what do you know, we made that come to life just 2 years later and we have not been disappointed with this gorgeous town.
The people are friendly, accommodating of Amelia and the pram, and the fresh food markets each day mean we have a fantastic place to go to buy our food and choose what we will eat that day. I have never been a big advocate of the whole organic movement and making sure you know where your food comes from. I have been happy to pay the cheaper prices that Coles offers and feel comfort in the knowledge, that whatever the farmers are doing to produce such plentiful food for the big chains, can’t be all too bad for me. With that all said, going to these farmers markets every day, getting to know the producers and see their fresh food daily has been a real joy and learning experience. Some of the food even has dirt all over it and literally looks like it was just been picked that morning. I LOVE IT and I will surely make more of an effort to visit farmers markets when we return back home later this year.
That brings me to where we are now and what my thoughts are on making this change a permanent move or just a well-deserved rest and time to spend with my gorgeous girls. Amy and I have spent far more time together over this past month, than we probably have during our entire 10-year relationship combined (… I might exaggerate a little bit here). For those of you who don’t know, Amy was a professional swimmer when I first met her and a client of mine (rest assure she was of legal age when I asked her out on a date). This meant most of her time was spent either training or competing. When she retired from swimming she sought to complete her Master’s Degree in Science (Geology) which was her main priority and immediately after she then took a job as a Fly-In Fly-Out Mine Geologist which had her working a roster that might see her home around 13 days each month. During that time, I have been running my business, as well as launching some other projects on the side, which has taken up 60-70 hours on average each week for 10 years straight. This meant that anytime that our diaries did coordinate to being in the same place, at the same time, we would inevitably be too tired to truly communicate much with each other.
That all said, we obviously found time to fall in love with each other, get engaged, get married and yep we even found the time to make our gorgeous daughter Amelia. But now that I have taken this time off from running my business back in Melbourne, Australia, we can finally take a breath and enjoy each other’s company, as well as use this time to spend with our daughter which I am positive she will benefit from in the years to come.
I digress…. This has also given us time to really talk about the future we want and where that future might be. I think the dream of living in France was more appealing than the actual reality and I think it comes down to 2 major factors.
- The language barrier
While Amy does speak a basic level of French, it has been hard trying to communicate with the locals. Before you lash out at the French and how the stereotype states they are all arrogant and refuse to speak the English language, just hold your tongue. They have been incredibly accommodating and despite what the stereotype is, I have always found the French to be very kind and open to speak English if you give the French language a go. If you are arrogant yourself and don’t even bother to say Bonjour (Good day) then of course they will put a wall up and treat you with a sign of disgust. Imagine you were the shop owner and a foreigner came into your shop and just started barking orders in their own language, would you be kind to them? I’d take a guess that you would not.
First rule then, say Bonjour in EVERY situation and try your best with what you know. If you have trouble, excuse yourself and ask if they would mind speaking English and I am yet to find a French man or woman that isn’t happy to help.
That all said, it has been difficult in some situations and our lack of expertise in the French language has made it quite hard to get things done as quickly and as easily as we would have liked to.
I am a family man and always have been. While I may only see my parents 8-10 times a year, as they live 2 hours out of Melbourne, the knowledge that I can just go and see them whenever I like is a welcome thought. Amy’s parents live just around the corner from us and have been an invaluable source of help over this past year, with Amy’s mum happy to babysit at the drop of a hat when Amy has called on her. This had meant that Amy and I were able to have some alone time, to go on a date or allow Amy to get some chores done around the house while I have been at work. What I am trying to say, is that having family close by is something I think we took for granted and didn’t fully take into consideration when thinking of moving to another country. That is not to say that we haven’t been able to make it work here, it’s just that we both are missing our families and this would be tough to let go of for good.
The final point I want to make is this: The dream, that I think many of us have had, that we want to just sit on a beach and do nothing for the rest of our lives, is a false dream. It is nice as a dream in your head, however, in reality we all need a purpose in life. Sitting on a beach is fun for a 3-week holiday, but gives us no sense of satisfaction or accomplishment if it was to become lifelong.
I have, in recent times, worked more hours than I care to think about and it had made me tired, wishing for that life of nothing. However, what I have come to understand on this trip, is that having a purpose to your day and a sense that you are contributing to something greater than yourself, is paramount to your overall happiness and success. You see this in people who win the lotto or come into a big sum of money through a family inheritance. When the fun runs out and you have played with all the toys and gone on exotic trips, you still have to look in the mirror each day and ask yourself what are you doing with your life. I have missed work and a day to day routine much more than I thought I would and it has meant I have had to organise my diary each day to ensure I have something to do that I can tick off, to show myself that I have achieved something that is bringing value to the world and pushing me forwards in my career and my life.
At this point in time, I cannot see us making this a permanent and lifelong move. However, we have 5 months left in this trip and are open to whatever opportunities come our way. Who knows what might happen? What I know for certain, is that I have enjoyed watching my daughter grow up before my very eyes each and every day. She is a cheeky devil, that has a spark in her eye and with more personality than any human should ever be gifted. The locals have loved her constant smiles and infectious laugh and we are blessed to have her in our lives. Regardless of where we end up living into the long term, this first month of our adventure has been a joy and a gift, and I cannot wait for what the next month brings.