Off to Milan, and then Southern France

By   May 18, 2009

Michelle and I leave tomorrow morning at 10:45am for Milan, and then we’re heading back to France via Nice, and then over to Aix-en-Provence and Montpellier (and all the cool villages in between). We just spent the past two days in Chambéry and Annecy wandering around the old towns and the lake. Today I found out we did get the apartment in Chambéry that we wanted, so it’s been a pretty good birthday overall, despite the getting older part.

So once again David has to move without me since I seem to have a knack for planning trips at the same time. Though my trips are always planned really far in advance, so it’s not like I’m trying to get out of helping with the move…  We do the walk-through and sign the lease tomorrow morning, and he’s moving the furniture this weekend. When I come back, I’ll be going straight to Chambery, which is convenient since I return around 10 PM and our new apartment is rather close to the train station.

I most likely won’t be able to get online while I’m gone, and depending on how long our new internet provider wants to take getting us connected, it could be a while before we’ll have internet at the new place. I have a feeling my e-mail’s going to be about three months behind instead of my usual two.

A plus tard !

Still No Answer… But Michelle Arrives on Sunday!!!

By   May 15, 2009

We still don’t know if we got the apartment. Hopefully they will tell us Monday morning, and they let us sign the lease the same day or early Tuesday since I leave for Milan at 10:45 AM. If not, I have no idea what we’ll do. I’ll be back the 30th, but David will be gone until June 12th, which means we wouldn’t be able to sign it and move until June 15th. But even if we are able to sign it this week, we probably wouldn’t move all of the furniture until June anyway, meaning I’d have to stay in Annecy during the week I’ll be home between trips. Or else sleep on the floor of an empty apartment since I really don’t want to have to drive back to Annecy after working 10 hour days at the conference. And we’d start paying rent the day we sign the lease, so if we do sign it soon, that would mean paying for an apartment that no one is living in for almost a month.

I am a tad bit STRESSED OUT. I hate this!!  I really wish we could have found a particulier to rent from, but with the time constraint and the fact that not one of them answered their phone or called us back, we didn’t have a choice but to go through an agency and put together a stupid dossier and waste the equivalent of one month’s rent on stupid fees. I am not looking forward to ever moving again in France but with David’s job, we could be moving every few years. Fun fun.

But Michelle arrives in Chambéry on Sunday morning and we are going to wander around the old capital of Savoie since I have yet to be a tourist there. Then it’s back to Annecy before we head to Milan and then all over the Côte d’Azur and Languedoc-Roussillon. I am extremely excited about finally seeing more of France, but especially excited about seeing Michelle again. She was my roommate back in Flint, and I haven’t seen her since she moved away in February 2006.

And Jason is meeting up with us in Nice! Two friends from Michigan at the same time! He’ll be returning to Annecy/Chambéry with me on the 30th, and we’ll stay in Rhône-Alpes until June 6 when we take off for Istanbul to see Martha (a third friend from Michigan!!). Then it’s home again on June 12th and no more traveling for at least a month, when I return to Michigan!!! Can you tell I’m excited and homesick?

In the meantime I’m trying to pack what I can, which is rather difficult when you don’t know what day you are moving and you also need to pack for a trip, and you have a cat whose idea of “helping” is this:

He slept on those chess pieces three nights in a row. How can that be comfortable??

Renting an Apartment in France (Involves Killing Trees)

By   May 13, 2009

We just spent all day in Chambéry looking at apartments, and I think we’ve finally found one. We’re going to call the agence in the morning and head back to Chambé tomorrow to turn in our dossier (i.e. mountain of paperwork). If for some reason we don’t get it, we do have 2 alternate apartments in mind, one of which we know no one else currently wants. So I think the search is almost over. I still have no idea what day we would be moving though. And then we’ve got to get the electricity/water/internet set up and buy appliances (French kitchens rarely come with an oven or fridge… or even cupboards…)

So what does a dossier involve? Originals and photocopies of:

– ID cards (and student ID, if applicable)

– last 3 bulletins de salaires

– work contracts specifying type and length as well as date of hire

– last 2 tax returns

– last electricity bill (the infamous facture EDF)

– last 3 quittances de loyer (or Taxe Foncière if you currently own instead of rent)

– proof of insurance Multirisque Habitation

– last attestation d’Allocations familiales


Of course, you also need ALL of this same paperwork for the garant/cautionnaire (co-signer), who should be a family member. And if you have no family in France, you’re screwed. It’s not impossible to rent an apartment in France without a French garant, but it makes it much harder.

Hopefully I will have good news to report soon. Wish us luck!

Listening to text messages / SMS / textos in France

By   May 10, 2009

Someone called our apartment this morning, but as it was a 01 number (i.e. Paris) that I didn’t recognize, I assumed it was a wrong number. But they kept calling back every 20 minutes. So I finally answered and heard this:

Vous avez reçu un SMS en provenance du 06 xx xx xx xx. Faites le 1 pour écouter….

WHAAAA? It’s possible to send text messages to a landline and listen to them?

The message was something like “Je suis ?? Je peux passer” read by a female computerized voice. I didn’t recognize the cell number either, and since almost no one has my landline number, I’m assuming it was a mistake.

But I’m wondering how effective this service is with the way people write text messages in French. I still have a hard time figuring out what people are trying to say half the time with all the alternate spellings and numbers replacing syllables!

So if you receive a call from 01 41 00 49 00, you have a new SMS. If you want to send an SMS to a landline, you need to use the original number (the ones that begin with 01 through 05) and not the number that your ISP gives you (09 for Free, etc.)

I’ve tried it with both of our cell phones so far, and Orange uses that 01 number for the caller ID, while SFR uses the actual cell phone number. I always wondered what would happen if I accidentally sent an SMS to a landline, and now I know that it doesn’t just get lost in cyberspace.

Anybody know if this type of service is available in the US too?

Where did all of this stuff come from??

By   May 9, 2009

Packing sucks.

I still don’t know what day we’re moving, but I’m already packing some things that we won’t be using in the next few weeks. We have so much stuff! And I don’t know where it all came from! We’ve only been in this apartment for two years, but I wasn’t even in France when David moved our stuff here in June 2007 (I was visiting Rose in Cairo). So maybe we’ve always had this much stuff and I never really noticed before.

We looked at 4 apartments last week, but only liked the last one. We’re going to try to visit 5 more this week. Michelle arrives on May 17 and we leave on May 19 for Milan, so I’m really hoping we can be moved and settled before then… which is in 10 days!!!

The one we liked is a one bedroom apartment on the 3rd floor (2nd floor in France), near the university, with a huge living room and modern kitchen. There’s no balcony though. We’re going to send in our dossier on Monday and see what happens. If we get that one, we could move in on May 18 (my 27th birthday). Honestly, I’d prefer a 2 bedroom apartment so we can have an office/guest room, but they’re usually too expensive or right downtown where I do not want to live.

This will be the fourth place I’ve lived in France, none of which were really my choice. I rented a room when I was an English assistant, and then David & I lived with roommates for a few months before we moved into this apartment – which we only took because his sister was leaving anyway and it helped us save money over the summer. But I’ve never really liked it and now I cannot wait to leave for good. I’m very anxious and stressed about when we’re going to move, especially with the timing of my trips, the few days I actually work in June and David’s training in Montpellier.

So back to cleaning and packing to work off some of this stress!

May begins with a cold, but ends with a trip

By   May 4, 2009

So I had my last night of baby-sitting and my last English lesson in Annecy this past week, and two days later, I was suddenly sick with a stupid cold. And then I was outside for 10 hours – in the sun, then wind, then cold – at a barbecue on Saturday, which I’m sure really helped my immune system. Needless to say I’ve done nothing for the past 2 days, even though I had planned on finally answering e-mails and working on my site. But tomorrow starts the apartment search in Chambéry at 9:30 AM! We’re looking at a 2 bedroom apartment in the north of Chambéry that is surrounded by a forest. It’s a bit far from the university (I’ll have to drive or take two buses) but it’s worth it to have some espaces verts!

I’m exhausted, but haven’t been able to sleep much. Instead, I’ve been trying to finalize the itinerary for my trip to the south in a few weeks. There are so many villages and towns I want to see. We’re starting in Milan and taking the train to Nice, then picking up the rental car, and staying in Aix-en-Provence and Montpellier. On the list are: Monaco, Cannes, Les Baux de Provence, Nîmes, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Béziers, Carcassonne, Perpignan, and possibly Toulouse. I’m sure there are other little towns that we’ll come across along the way too. Maybe we’ll head up to my beloved Vaucluse or even down to the Spanish border. Any recommendations of other places to see along the Côte-d’Azur or in Languedoc-Roussillon? Menton, Toulon, Sète, Cerbère?

And on a somewhat related topic, know anyone in Chambéry who wants to cat-sit for me?

Do As the French Do (but without the mistakes)

By   April 29, 2009

Which city was the capital of Roman and Christian Gaul?

a. Nice   b. Arles   c. Marseille

The correct answer is, of course, LYON. But Ross Steele’s When in France, Do as the French Do claims the answer is c. Marseille, even though page 92 clearly states “Lyon, where the Rhône and Saône rivers meet, was the capital of Roman and Christian Gaul.”

Another gem is the quote “More recently, in 1996, Mario Botta, an Italian, designed the only new cathedral built in Europe during the 20th century, at Evry, north of Paris.”  If by north, he means south, then there’s nothing wrong with this sentence. Evry is located in Essonne, which lies directly south of Paris, unless you’re holding the map upside-down and disregarding cardinal directions.

I may not be a “renowned expert on French culture” but I sure know somebody who needs a proofreader…

Semester is over and vacation is here. But why am I still so stressed?

By   April 28, 2009

I finished my last class of the semester on Monday and I am now on vacation. Technically I don’t work my regular contract hours again until mid-September when the next school year begins. Though I am working extra hours in June at a conference and proctoring the make-up exams for the other English lectrice who is returning to the US tomorrow. So I should be relaxed and happy and carefree and all of those other wonderful emotions that people feel when on vacation, but I am not.

I suppose it’s just the long “to do” list, to which I endlessly add things, but never accomplish. You would think having all the time in the world to run errands means that those errands will get done, but that is not true. Most of them involve making appointments, which I am too lazy to do, and/or spending money, which I do not want to do. So the only things I accomplished today were mopping the floor and making zucchini bread. But I WILL go to the préfecture on Thursday morning to get my new carte de séjour (they’re closed on Wednesdays, of course).

Plus I am still baby-sitting and doing private lessons this week, so I can’t really say that I’m not working because watching two young boys and teaching English one-on-one is hard work. Those will be finished by the end of this week, and David finishes his current job on Thursday, so we can finally focus on the apartment search this weekend. I’m really hoping we can find a place on the ground or first floor (so Canaille won’t die if he falls from the window/balcony…) that is within walking distance to the university and also David’s job downtown, but we’ll see. I haven’t been impressed so far with any annonces I’ve seen online.

In the meantime, I’m trying to catch up on responding to e-mails. I’ve only got 67 left. If you’ve sent me an e-mail or private message in the past 2 months, I most likely have received it and you will get a response within another, um, 2 months?