November 6th marked the five-month anniversary of our arrival in France, AND I still pinch myself daily. Sometimes it’s from the indescribable joy that we are living our dream in France, and other times it’s from the hellish nightmare that we are living our dream in France, which brings me to The Mantra.
The mantra began upon our arrival in Paris. I was thrilled to spend a couple of days in the romantic city on the Seine before heading south. We usually travel with just a couple of bags, but with our belongings coming by sea, I chose to pack additional suitcases…like eight, and they were heavy. VERY HEAVY. Once the taxi dropped us off at our hotel, I knew we were in trouble, and the look on the bellman’s face confirmed it.
Our time in Paris was terrific; however, I was preoccupied and for a good reason. Eight of them. Under my breath, I regularly repeated, ‘but we live in France‘, which became my mantra. And let me tell you that mantra can be said with a variety of expressions and emotions.
Paris to Montpellier to Béziers to Pézenas-Whew!
Okay, the next morning, when the taxi dropped us off at Gare de Lyon to board the TGV to Montpellier, my folly became REAL. It was a long walk to the platform, and our children (the eight bags) were not cooperating. One of the largest bags refused to roll forward, while another had fallen on its side. Two had gone ‘rogue’ and run into people: where was the French joie de vivre? Ray was not amused. When we finally arrived at our carriage, ‘the children’ needed to be loaded aboard, but with passengers pushing and shoving, it became difficult. It was ugly. TRULY UGLY. At that point, I questioned my decision to travel with eight bags. Hell, I questioned my decision to move to France.
Once the bags were loaded and we were seated with a lovely glass of wine, I forgot about the bags for a few hours. Ray didn’t. He started mumbling, and I told him to say the mantra…which he did, in a rather unpleasant way.
First stop- Montpellier
Let me begin by saying I love Montpellier and think they have an excellent train station, especially when the elevators are in working order. Thank God the elevators were having a good day when we arrived. It took several trips, but we were able to pile the bags in, out, and then drag them across the street to our hotel. You know you look frightening when the lovely front desk manager tries to hide her laughter (she is the model of decorum). Imagine this…hot, sweaty, glasses hanging off our noses, and Ray breathing like Darth Vader. The term ugly Americans came to mind.
All aboard to Béziers
Ray slept like a baby, Thank God, while Moi laid awake thinking about our next day arrival in Béziers. After checking out of our hotel, and rolling the ‘kids’ over to the train station, we found the platform and boarded the train. Easy peasy. Twenty minutes later, we arrived in Béziers, where the nightmare began in earnest.
The platform we arrived at, was just that—a platform with stairs…many stairs to reach the other side. Upon descending to the bottom of the stairway, I knew we had to weave around and then climb up another long set of stairs, which would lead to the station building. From there, we could quickly grab a taxi to Pezenas.
The Stairs From Hell
So, Ray had forgotten about the stairs. As we started to drag the “You brought too much stuff, Barbara, they sell things in France,” bags down the stairs, I reminded Ray of our mantra. Under his breath while gritting his teeth, and bracing himself to keep from tumbling with a rogue bag, he began to repeat, “But. We. Live. In. France“. I was going to acknowledge it but decided against it. Twenty-five minutes later, voila, we made it to the door of the train station. Now to drag the bags across the street to the taxi stand.
When I pointed out that the mantra provided a nice rhythm for dragging bags, Ray looked me in the eye and said, “BUT WE LIVE IN FRANCE,” all the while huffing and puffing (I thought I could see the hint of a smile, but I think it was a muscle spasm). The taxi driver just smiled when he saw the bags and asked, “Are you Americans?” Ouch.
So much has happened since our arrival in Pezenas five months ago, and the mantra has come in handy.
Our belongings cleared customs on-time (six weeks) but were held hostage by the moving company. After numerous phone calls, emails, and finally additional, cold hard cash, our goods were delivered. BUT WE LIVE IN @#@*&%# FRANCE.
We are now legal residents of France. There were some “hiccups” in the process, but we live in France, and it was worth every tear (mine) and all of the frustration with the level of paperwork. And more paperwork. And more paperwork. In French.
There’s a handful of ex-pats from all over the world, in and around Pézenas. The town is lively, the people friendly, and we’ve made some good friends. Let me say, Google Translate conversation is pure genius and is used regularly.
So, what’s next? I see a post about life in a 17th-century building in my future. Pure quirkiness, but we live in France.
Seriously, I am so grateful for the opportunity to try France on for size. Visiting a country even for a length of time is remarkably different from living there, day in day out.
A French friend shared, “You know you have made a successful transition to French life once you have navigated the bureaucracy, and lived to tell the tale.” I couldn’t agree more.
Thank you for visiting and reading my very lengthy post. If you’re ever in the area, look us up.