Vive la France!

Oh my goodness. We’re really doing it. We found a house and sent off our contract and security deposit last night.

So. It’s now officially official.

WE’RE MOVING TO FRANCE!

Next up: shopping for plane tickets. We’re aiming to move on February 1st. Which is just 6 short weeks away.

I’m so excited I can hardly stand it.

I’ve been talking about the possibility of this move for months and curious readers have sent in lots of smart questions about the whole adventure. I’ll answer some below.

1) Why are you doing this?

Mostly, it’s because we can. My husband and I both work at home and the kids aren’t in high school yet. We’ve always talked about doing something like this and realized if we didn’t make it happen soon, it wouldn’t happen at all. We hope an experience like this will be very formative for our family and will help our children have more world-minded viewpoints. We are planning to go for a year, but would definitely consider extending our time there if it makes sense.

2) Do you speak French?

Un peu. I studied French in high school and for 2 semesters in college, but I can only remember a few words and phrases. I better get working!

3) Will you keep blogging while you’re there?

For sure. I’m pretty much addicted. Plus it’s my job. I’ll be reporting on all our adventures in case you’re curious to see what a year abroad for a family with young children is like.

4) How did you decide where to live?

Good question. After lots of research, we narrowed our country choice to France. I wasn’t interested in living in Paris (families of 8 don’t always make good city neighbors), but I wanted access to the city. So we looked for towns within 1 or 2 hours of Paris with a direct train. Then it came down to finding an actual house. We wanted something that would fit our large family, was furnished and was in our price range. The house we found (it’s in the countryside of the Normandy region) is amazing! I’ll tell you all about it in a separate post.

5) What about your husband’s job?

His job will remain exactly the same. He works for K12.com as the Director of Foreign Language Curriculum. K12 is based in Washington D.C., but because their offerings are online, Ben Blair can work from anywhere.

6) What are you doing for school for your kids?

K12 is an easy choice for us because of Ben Blair’s work. But we’re determined to help our kids master French as soon as possible, so we’re also looking into the local schools or hiring a tutor. I’ll keep you updated as things develop.

7) What about practical things like selling your house? Getting a car while you’re there? Renter’s insurance and health insurance? Your kids yearly doctor visits?

Some of these things are easy. For example, we rent our house here in Denver and our contract is month-to-month so we can leave at any time. Simple. Other things are more complicated. But we’re working through the challenges one by one. Whenever I have a good tip, I’ll let you know. In fact, I’m considering writing a weekly post where I can discuss some of these practical things. Is that a feature you would like?

8) Are you scared?

Terrified. I keep remembering when Ben Blair and I lived in Greece. Those first few months were so challenging! But ultimately, being there was wonderful for us as a couple and influenced our marriage and our lives in hugely positive ways. I hope (and suspect) the same will be true for our year in France.

Watercolor of Dinan, France by Wayne Roberts

249 thoughts on “Vive la France!”

  1. What a great Christmas present: “Kids, we’re moving to France.” Santa sure came through this year, eh? In all seriousness, that is beyond exciting! I can’t wait to live vicariously through you!

  2. I’m sure I wrote a comment but doesn’t seem to have come on here. Hrmph.

    I’m so excited for you too! Here’s to great food, better breads and awesome wine! Also, maybe one day when you’re roaming down the streets of Paris you’ll bump into David Lebovitz sharing some sample sof the stuff he makes (I did NOT make that up, he actually does that :D).

    Oooh, I’m so jealous! :o But happy too! :D Yay!

  3. Oh what an incredible time you are going to have. Almost any big project we do as business/personal were inspired from our visit in France three years ago. Someday, we would love to live there too. We will all be thinking of you and your family.

  4. You’ll have so much fun. I’m not sure I could commit to a full year (mostly because I don’t anticipate having a job that would allow for it), but I’ve always wanted to spend a month or two in Europe. My DD is only 8 months, so we’ll probably wait until our planned second child is about eight. The weekly post of tips would be nice.

    Good luck!

  5. Go for it!! I moved to US after 40 (people in my country usually don’t do that, they say ‘it takes lots of courage) without regrets – it is not easy, but it doesn’t kill, just made us stronger!
    Happy adventure!!! Your kids will always be grateful for this open mind way of life!!!

  6. Oh my gosh! I got to visit the Normandy region this fall – it is beautiful!!! I loved France! (I know I’m wearing out the exclamation point key but I am so thrilled for you!)

    I am envious and excited for you. What a wonderful opportunity for your family! *squee*

  7. Are you the real superwoman? Do you hide your cape under your fabulous clothes? I can’t believe all that you manage to accomplish with 6 kids, a booming career, and all of the creativity that spills out of you on a constant basis. Truly, I want to be you when I grow up. All my best wishes to you!
    Are you changing the name to Design Maman?
    -Amanda

  8. I personally would love to hear all of the practical aspects of your venture to France. Warts, wonders and all.

    Sounds Awesome!!! Best of Luck to you and your family.

  9. Si jalouse!!!! (so so so jealous.) France is wonderful. And SO quirky. Have you read A Year in Provence? Funny. Gosh, Gabby. I think this will be such a great experience.

    Here’s a tip: There is a store in Paris (I’ll have to ask Ben for the name, we always called it the American Store, but I am sure that’s not the correct name) that sells american food like Peanut Butter, root beer etc. It’t not cheap, but it’s worth it every once in awhile when you’re feeling a wee bit home sick!

    Also, there’s an english speaking ward in Versailles, FYI.

  10. Wonderful- I lived in Switzerland for a year when I was 18- such a great experience- it is a dream of mine to move our family for a year or two before they get too old- My husband has looked at doing locum positions in various parts of the world and I am hopeful!

  11. Do you remember that time we were sitting in your living room and you said I could visit and then Olive and Maude were all “YEAH!”? Remember that? Sooo ummmm…when can I come?

    (AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!)

  12. AHHHHHHHHHH i’m so happy that we’re only blog friends (friends being very one-sided :) ) because if we were real friends I’d be mourning. Congratulations. sooo coooool!

  13. Congratulations! This is great news and I’m so happy for your family. This is experience will change your lives, open the minds of your children and enrich your family for a lifetime. What a wonderful opportunity and exciting Christmas gift!

  14. One of my favorite people — my mentor & a former fashion editor — moved to Paris when her daughter was young, to give her the sort of formative experience you’re talking about. She meant to stay a year or two. Twenty years later, she’s still there!

  15. Wow! Is it wrong to be jealous? Because I am. Very, very jealous. But also very, very happy and excited for you, so I hope that evens out any bad jealousy karma. Can’t wait to live vicariously through you!

    P.S. I too studied French in high school and two semesters in college. When a good friend went off to Paris to visit an old friend of his, I sent him off with these two very useful phrases: “Oui, mais je n’aime pas les bateaux.” and “Mon dieu! Un oeuf!” Hysterically, he actually had reason to use the egg one!

  16. I’m so excited for you, and it makes me even more excited for us move to a different country. It will be fun to read about your adventures. We are having to wait 17 months, because my oldest is a junior in high school, so we feel the need to wait until he graduates, because he truly believes leaving his school and friends and football team would “totally” ruin his life (chuckle). But, our other two boys are in 1st and 2nd grade, and they are counting down the months with us. My husband and I also work from home, so where ever there is reliable internet connection, we can live!

  17. Congratulations! So excited for you! We’ve just finished our fourth month here in Switzerland as expats from Canada, and I know you’ll love every minute! And it does fly by! All the best on this wonderful adventure!

  18. Congrats! How exciting! Like so many others, I look forward to hearing about your adventures. I have some cousins who lived all over the world growing up, and I think they are some of the most confident and well-rounded people I know.

  19. Congratulations! I am terribly excited for you. It will be a grand adventure. We have been living in Europe (Luxembourg to be exact. Right in between France, Germany and Belgium) for over 2 years. We came with my husband’s job at Amazon.com. My girls are 6 and 4 now. We have less than a year left. We are willing time to slow down so we can enjoy each and every last day we have here. I absolutely love (and can relate to) your optimism about learning the culture, the language and opening young minds. :) It’s the dream isn’t it?!? I’m curious to see how that all plays out for you and your family. We’ve found ourselves more fluent in British culture and language than in Luxembourgish. Its all about who you make friends with . . . or who your kids do.

    A friend, who was an expat in S. Italy, told me she would never go abroad again (it was her 3rd expat experience) if it wasn’t for at least 3 years. I balked at this, thinking 1 year is it for me. Now, 2 years later I see that she is completely correct. Year 1 is a steep learning curve. Year 2 is better and “living” begins. Year 3 is GREAT! I think the 3 year rule applies when there is a foreign language involved. I’m curious to see if you end up feeling the same.

    We put our girls in an international school. While it is true they are not learning Luxembourgish and German, they really and truly are learning about differences in people and cultures in the world. There are students in their classes from Iceland, Italy, S. Africa, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, England, Poland, Romania, India, China. . . their is 1 other American in my oldest’s class and my youngest is the only one in her class. For me, I get the pleasure of meeting all these wonderful parents and learning bits and pieces about their cultures. I guess my point is don’t automatically rule out an international school.

    I’ve taken too much space already. Sorry about that. I could talk all day about this. My blog has followed our experiences, our trips, and day to day life. It is not as romantic as everyone thinks it is (sometimes it is, though). You still have to clean the toilet and do the laundry. Living is living no matter where you are. I’ve also documented many of the differences between life in Seattle and life in Luxembourg. You will find many of the differences in France too.

    I’m terribly excited for you. It will be absolutely wonderful (it will be other things too . . .) I can’t wait to follow your experience!!

  20. wow! i’m so thrilled for you… and secretly jealous. i wish my husband’s work was flexible like that to offer us some time abroad. i’m sure you will have a wonderful time. your kids will make amazing memories and you’ll be teaching them SO much!!! do you plan to travel around europe? i can’t wait to live vicariously through you as you enter this exciting journey! God bless you guys oodles and oodles!! :) xo

  21. Congratulations!! That is so, so exciting! I lived in London for a year when I was 13-14, and it was one of the most positively-influential experiences of my childhood. You are doing such a great thing for your kids! I hope their adjustment (and yours!) goes well. I did have a hard time at first, but when my family returned to the states (to denver, actually) I looked back and absolutely loved our time in england.
    Also, a weekly post discussing those practical things would be awesome! I hope to live abroad with my family one day (maybe 10 years from now– my one and only child is only 2 right now), but I am obsessed with the idea. I want to know more about how you make it work!

  22. Amazing! I am so happy for you. Melissa Summers once wrote this great post about how sometimes when you want something you have to WORK HARD to get it. This reminds me of that–so many people might say you are lucky for getting to live in France. But isn’t it mostly that you decided to make it happen and then made it happen? And even though they don’t believe it, those people who say you’re just lucky could do the same thing!

  23. Served a mission in the south of France (it was then the Marseille mission)…always wanted to return as a non-missionary. I will live vicariously through you, okay!!

  24. I love that you’re doing this! Good for you! There is a great website called http://www.wandermom.com. That family is taking a year-long world trip. A different situation, but she’s written some posts about finding health insurance, etc. and you might find it informative for your adventure. Good luck! This will be a wonderful experience.

  25. I’ve been waiting to hear that all this was actually happening! How cool! I can’t wait to read about your adventures.. and yes, please post about the practical things you have had to do to prepare for the move. My husband and I are contemplating a year abroad in Korea, and I’d love to know about the experience of making the transition. Best of luck in the next 6 weeks!!

  26. Wow, this is all quite amazing. I think it’s fantastic that you are able to move to France because your jobs are ‘portable.’ (haha!) I can’t wait to hear about all of your experiences!

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