France trip coming to an end.


#1

I’m lucky to have found my wife. I would never do somewhat adventurous things like live in France for 7 months. I’d bob down the currents of least resistance, just experiencing what comes my way. I resisted this trip and she still made it happen and I’m grateful for that.

This has been a great experience. I’ve always wanted to visit Europe. In addition to living in Grenoble, we got to visit Austria, pop over to Castle Neuschwanstein, have lunch in Northern Italy, spend a week in Norway, drive through the Loire Valley and soak in some history in Normandy. It is priceless. 99% of the people we came into contact with have been friendly and helpful. I’m not sure where the French get the reputation for being snobs.

We watched the Tour de France from our apartment balcony, experience the joy and pride of the French people for their World Cup victory, had tram service disrupted due to the December protests. The French love their food, and I love it too. There aren’t 100s of McDonald’s throughout the city, but small sandwhich shops and restaurants, fresh bread and cheese, great desserts. Not every place serves the same boring brownie sundae, cheesecake, blah blah blah.

And healthcare…? I saw a specialist and paid around 80 dollars without any insurance! Even with an ultrasound! We need affordable healthcare in the US. People should be able to get healthcare regardless of wealth.

A big part of me is ready to return home. I’m not a city person and living in the middle of a city is a bit draining for me. I’m used to a house on an acre lot, not having other people living above, below and to the sides of my walls. I don’t know how the people upstairs walk, but it sounds sometimes like they jump around in clogs. This has been the biggest adjustment, not the language barrier (I still don’t speak much French).

I miss my yard, a peaceful jog through the nature conservatory near my house, all the choices at my large grocery store, my gaming PC and PS4. I want to play tennis with my friend Paul, kick a ball in the yard with Brennan and sit on out front porch with Tammy.

These may not be the best pictures, but I just wanted to share some of what we’ve done here in France, and I’m very thankful for it.

Just arriving in France. First stop Paris

Versailles

View of mountains in Grenoble

Hike in the hills near Grenoble.

A side trip to Castle Neuschwanstein - I’ve wanted to see this for 30 years.

Austrian Alps

My favorite patisserie in Grenoble. I’ve probably had 100+ treats here.

Some of my favorite treats.

View from apartment

A huge oak tree on a hike we enjoyed.

Hike with Tammy’s Dad who visited us in October.

Chambord Castle - I love castles.

A trip up to Normandy to learn about WW2 and the allied efforts.

A hike near the clouds.

Yep, we love to hike.

Nice place for a rest.

More beautiful views from Grenoble near our apartment - there can be quite a bit of graffiti in places, like this park.

Skiing in the Alps


#2

From Parisians, presumably. At least that’s what non-Parisians tell me.


#3

I would like to go to there :)

Thank you for sharing your trip with us, @robc04! That was a fun read, and some awesome pictures.


#4

Very cool, thanks for sharing!


#5

That does look like a blast. In my experience, folks in foreign countries will just about always help if you try to meet them halfway. Not that you need to be told to try not to be the typical “ugly American” but I’ve found that deferring to local customs, making an attempt to speaking their language, even if mangling it badly, shows good faith and helps a lot to help start relationships.


#6

In my experience it’s projection. It’s Americans expecting French to be rude, so interpreting everything through that lens.

At least that was the case with my father in law. He thought the French were incredibly rude all the time, I thought he was on crack. Amazing how differently we perceived every encounter.


#7

Sounds like you had a great time. Oddly enough, we were in Grenoble for about four days back when France was winning the World Cup. Sorry we couldn’t get together for an espresso!

We loved it too. The mountains are beautiful. Grenoble was cool though the woman who ran the boulangerie near us and who made the best croissants ever insisted I order in French. That was kind of fun. “Je voudrais duex croissants et un pain du chocolat” was my typical order. Man, they baked some amazing stuff. Really wonderful cuisine there. We even went to a Chinese restaurant and it was great too.

Everyone I met was friendly to me, even in Paris. It helped that I would stammer a sentence or two in French, I think, before switching to English. The customer-facing folks in Paris all seemed to know some English so it went well. In Grenoble fewer people knew English. I think a lot of them study Italian as their second language since it’s a short trip across the mountains. I was told a lot of them have relatives in Italy too.

I loved it. I’d go live there, though in a smaller town like Grenoble rather than Paris. You are lucky to have a wife to gently pushed you into this.


#8

Great pictures, Rob. That sounds like a fantastic experience. A great partner knows when to drag you along for your better being. And I think your summary was similar to mine when I came home from Italy. You learn to appreciate a lot when living abroad. You understand a lot more of the culture of other countries and the great things they have to offer and you learn to understand that great people abound, everywhere. When in the US it is way too easy to become myopic in our viewpoint of others.

But your summary brought back the flip side of that. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I love my place here in the US so much -more- because of those travels. Welcome home, man.


#9

I always started off trying to speak French with lots of help from Google translate. Many times they would start to speak English to me. Pantomiming always helps too while I’m butchering the language :-)


#10

That would have been cool! Sorry we missed each other.


#11

Man … memories right there. I had the same thing happen with the guy who ran the register at the bakery we went to nearly daily in Italy. He wasn’t mean about it, but I think it was his way of helping me learn. And I can still quote the phrase, “vorrei due cornetti con cioccolato per favore.” I just now had to look up the spelling for chocolate, however. The spelling in Italian can get complicated with the double consonants.

Rob did you guys try anything outside your comfort zone for food?


#12

My son is awesome at that. He had escargot, frog legs, haggis, and something else I can’t recall right now. Me, I’m not so good. I did have some pate, which I didn’t really enjoy. I also don’t like mushrooms, but I did have a mushroom and chestnut tart that was interesting.

I pretty much loved the things I had that were made from things I would normally eat - beef, pork, fish, chicken, lamb. I also loved raclette and other cheeses, breads, pasteries, etc… The regional food here in this part of France are small raviolis with cheese and or pesto, and tartiflette.

The pizza was great too. Our favorite place used cream with the sauce in addition to a tomato base. We also enjoyed having the produce here. I had never had a Kaki (persimmons) and they are quite good.


#13

That is awesome, Rob! Thank you for sharing all of that!


#14

Man, when we were in Paris we stayed in more of a working class area at an Air BNB and they had an open air market a couple of times a week with the most fabulous produce and fresh meats and seafood. That stuff looked so good! We bought some and did a bit of our own cooking and also grabbed some paella from a guy who had a huge giant wok or something like that of it cooking. So good.

And man, the French love their pastries, too. There seemed to be a bakery on every block and in some they had large photos of the chef blown up that listed his or her rewards. They were like giant baseball cards!


#15

Oh wow that sounds delicious.


#16

It is. One of the street food markets near my work has a tartiflette stall and I go for it a pretty often.


#17

That all looks so great, congratulations on taking such an adventure, even if your wife had to drag you! :)

I have to ask how you could afford it. Are you retired? I couldn’t be away from my job for anything like that length of time.


#18

Yeah, in Grenoble (population 160K) there must be at least 50 patisseries and chocolatiers. I made it my duty to try practically every one I’ve encountered. I’ve put on 10 pounds in 7 months. They should make cards and keep stats, such as pounds added.

My wife took a class at La Foret Noir so she n=knows how to make my favorite treat there!


#19

My wife is on sabbatical from her job as a professor so she was still getting her salary. I stopped working when our son was born 11.5 years ago so I could take care of him. One downside of the trip is that it did burn through about 15K of savings, which is pretty substantial. That was a big factor why I was reluctant to go. Still, the experience was great!


#20

This makes me think of my financial advisor, who is a pretty good dude. While he definitely helps me keep things lined up on the money side of things, he is also a big time proponent of quality of life stuff. You guys have had a life experience that few get to share, and you’ll have those memories for the rest of your lives. There’s something to be said for that.