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Settling in Ardèche

We stayed with my belle-mère (mother-in-law) when we first arrived in France. After three weeks, we finally moved into our own place in the Ardèche department. The Ardèche is known for its stunning scenery, including rolling hills, vineyards, and forests. We were lucky to find a furnished rental that is just a few minutes from our daughter’s school. After living in San Francisco, we are happily soaking in country life, listening to a rooster crowing and a couple of donkeys braying each morning. We live in a rustic stone building that is a renovated piggery! It’s been renovated to a high standard with a finished rustic/modern look. We’re quite content to stay here for the time being, as it gives us time to look for a house to buy sometime next year. 

It’s hard to believe that every day we have an appointment to start some sort of account or get necessary items at several stores. We’ve been so busy and we’ve been here for nearly a month and haven’t even set foot in Lyon yet. The closest we got was picking up our new car in a little town just south of the city a few days ago. Buying a new car was a feat in itself – talk about necessary! I’m not only getting used to the car but also getting used to driving in France. Although I have driven in England and Greece, during all the times we visited France, never once did I drive. The main challenge is driving a heavier hybrid SUV on these winding roads. I’m not ready to zip around at 80 km on these roads, but the locals sure are. All in good time, I suppose.

Our daughter had her first week of school at collège (middle school in America). She would be starting high school in California, but France has four years of collège as opposed to the American system of three years. Finally, the years of French immersion school are paying off. Her San Francisco school was connected with the French academic system, so the students have a virtually identical curriculum. The teachers that she had were from France, so she is used to the stricter brand of teaching. The main differences are that we live in an area that isn’t so touristic and people moving here from the United States are few and far between. The big surprise is that the students love America and are incredibly excited to meet her. She is a big star, especially coming from California. She finds the girls have the same silly sense of humor that she does and they are very genuine and kind. They are surprised that she speaks such good French but love it when she says things in English to them. She also says that the school lunches are delicious and varied, and served on real plates with real utensils. 

The first time I traveled to Europe, I was 23 years old. I was familiar with shops being closed on Sundays. It was even like that when I grew up. I think the thing that surprised me more recently is that it isn’t just small, local shops that are closed on Sundays, but entire shopping malls. We needed to take our daughter to get some clothes before la Rentrée (the start of the school year) and had planned to go on a Sunday. I’m so glad that I checked the website before we ventured out. We won’t be planning to do that again! I’ve quickly become accustomed to relaxing on Sundays. After a busy week of meetings and phone calls, it feels really good to spend a day being quiet; maybe going for a walk or spending time with family or friends. 

It was my birthday on Sunday, 3 September. My first birthday outside of the Bay Area in California! My husband took me out for dinner the night before, at a little chateau in the area. We had to laugh because we had tried to go there for dinner without a reservation (as we always did in the past) a few nights before, and the owner shooed us out like flies, waving her arm at us as if we smelled terrible. We didn’t take it personally but thought it was very funny, especially considering that my husband ran a San Francisco restaurant for many years, and that kind of behavior would earn a lot of poor reviews on Yelp! It’s not just France, as I know it to be true in many other countries. The United States might be fairly unique in the attitude of “the customer is always right”.

When we returned with a reservation for my birthday dinner, she greeted us with open arms and nodded to the waitress saying, “Remember them? You shooed them out the other night.” My husband corrected her with humor, telling her that she, in fact, was the one to do the deed. All’s well that ends well. The meal was fabulous and we were happy and relaxed. 

The next day was my birthday – a Sunday – and we decided to take a walk around Lac du Ternay.

The weather was quite warm and it was wonderful to see people of all ages enjoying a walk in nature; from parents with strollers to elderly people with canes.

Another thing that I found different was that there was a little cafe next to the lake. It’s something that I would sometimes fantasize about during a long walk in the heat and here was the thing of my dreams! It was a simple affair and really pleasant to sit with a refreshing drink under the trees next to a lake.

On the other side of the lake is Auberge du Lac, where you can dine overlooking the lake.

To remind me that I was in France, I even spotted a Citröen and a Citröen 2CV, enjoying a Sunday drive, to be sure.

Au revoir, à la prochaine fois ! (Goodbye, until next time!)