Three years ago, I made one of the most significant decisions in my life. I chose France as my new home. Alone. To compound the weight of my choice, I knew very few people in my new “hometown” of Uzès, and I didn’t even know the language.
Anyone who has followed me on the journey from South Carolina to the south of France knows I started my expat life with a three-year plan. (For those new to the saga, click the hot links for more of the story.) I sold my belongings in the States, except for a few very “special” things, and said goodbye to my friends and family. With a long-stay visa, I moved into an empty apartment in Uzes, which I quickly filled with brocante furniture and dreams. That was September 2013.
It’s 2016. Where has the time gone?
Before moving to France, the only places I’d been in the country were Paris and Nice. I’ve visited over a hundred French towns, villages, and cities in the south and southwest. There have been short trips to Italy, Spain, England, Scotland, Istanbul, and a tour of Nepal since 2013. Also, I spent three 6-month stays in the US, one of which was for dental surgery, and the other two were to help welcome a grandbaby boy into the world, then a grandbaby girl.
French Holidays and Fetes
Bastille Day was the only French holiday I knew about before moving to France. Funny, it’s not even called “Bastille Day.”It’s “Fête Nationale française” , “July 14th” or “bon fête.” Festivals like Fete Votive and Nuit Blanche, music festivals, and Ferias were new to me.
French customs. It’s a subject I learn more about with each passing day. From “what to eat when” to “how to cut cheese,” there seems to be “rules” for everything — or at least, good etiquette. For example, whenever you are with a friend(s) and have your first cocktail or drink, there’s always a “toast.” The proper language is a vote santé which is spoken while lifting your glass, clinking your glass with everyone in your party, looking each person you’re toasting straight in the eye, then taking a sip of your drink. Any step in this ritual that you omit curses your sex life for years. (No comment)
How do they dress in France? It’s one of my favorite finds. I live in the south of France, very close to Provence. Fashions here are as varied as the people who live here. You see it all: blue jeans, t-shirts, and frilly bo-bo or provençal styles. What I love the most is that it doesn’t matter what you wear. You can be as flamboyant or as reserved as you like. It’s all OK. I will say, however, you can spot a tourist if he/she’s wearing a baseball cap.
OMG! The best food ever! I don’t know where to start on this subject except that I’ve enjoyed every food moment. Everyone knows about bread, pastries, cheeses, and wines. I didn’t know how French foods and palettes changed within the country’s regions. A mystery to me was why Paris restaurants offer rich, creamy foods and dishes that are not as easy to find around Uzes. It’s because there are very few pastures and cows around here. Rocky, garrigue terrain surrounds this area. So foods align with the Mediterranean diet — olives and olive oil, goat and sheep cheeses, and lots of garlic.
Another treat to living here has been attending cooking classes. There are two world-class cooking schools in Uzès — Cook’n with Class Uzes and Le Pistou. Each offers a different type of experience, making both a “must” to do!
Dining out is my passion. It’s more than a weekly event here since many bistros and cafes offer a “plat du jour” at such reasonable prices. Then there are the many restaurants with dishes that are superbly designed in taste and appearance. Truly masterpieces. I miss my tacos and sushi, but you can’t have it all!
Even the French laugh about the struggles you go through getting things done around here. Mostly, you know it will take two to three times longer than you’d hoped to get things done. Which is partly why I chose to live here. To learn to be patient. There are daily lessons.
Everyone says your long-lost friends appear “out of the woodwork when you move to France.” Agree. Visitors have come here I haven’t seen in 40 years. I’d be thankful for the move if I had to go to France to meet up with them again. Many of my closest friends from the US have stopped by to check out my new “digs” and to play in France and beyond. More are signed up for future trips.
New friends made along the way are the best rewards for changing continents. I never imagined meeting so many lovely people by moving to Uzes. The French have welcomed me with open arms. They award me daily with big smiles when they recognize I’m trying to learn the language. The town is a magnet for tourists from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Europe. Barefoot Blogger followers who have told me they’re in town have become my best buddies.
Life’s so unpredictable. Who knows what the future will bring. Right now, I’m happy as a clam in France. The only drawback is that I’m far from my adorable grandchildren. I miss them at their most precious ages –toddlers. We “FaceTime” every week, though, and I’m hoping they will be ready to travel this way soon. I would have liked a”grandma in France” I could visit.
In the back of my head, I feel another big move still left in me. Maybe to Spain, where I know a little more of the language than I did French. As I’ve said, “While I have the energy and curiosity to travel and experience this great big world of ours, I’ll find a way to get there.”
Frankly, change is better for you than you can ever imagine.