Disneyland Paris

We had to take Aimee to Disneyland Paris and since it was four years since our last trip, I had to buy tickets. I am not exaggerating when I say I made the stupidest mistake ever by thinking we could take a bus from Paris to Disneyland. Let me say, Google maps totally mislead me. We waited for a bus forever and got frustrated and finally asked another bus driver where the hell the bus was. He told me that bus only runs at night. Since we wasted an hour waiting for the non-existing bus and many of the metro lines were stopped due to a strike I used a last resort of calling Uber. We ended paying $95 for a 40 minute ride. Well, the good news was, it was a beautiful day and Disneyland was a ghost town! We knew there was World Cup game that afternoon but we didn’t know it was the final game so literally all of France was watching the game as we rode every ride three or four times in a row! It is so nice to experience Disneyland without the crowds and tickets that are a little less than $100. Isn’t it like $250 bucks and a kidney in California?

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The park was so empty! We had this police car to ourselves and Liv even got to go behind the wheel.

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Fun fact: You remember that hat box I brought with all our luggage from Los Angeles? Well, I packed a few of my Disneyland Mickey ears in it. I even brought my souvenir Disney pins but I didn’t want to wear them on my neck all day. Aimee bought Liv a new set of Mad Hatter ears.

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She’s actually a good driver in real life. I let her drive my car at Mom’s private roads in the desert.

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We were bummed to find the Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter Teacups ride was closed for maintenance. Oh well, I could ride It’s a Small World all day!

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I couldn’t believe that our favorite ride Le Phantom Manor (The Haunted Mansion) was also closed for maintenance. We had to promise Liv to bring her back when it re-opens in the spring.

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We made up for our disappointment by riding Pirates of the Caribbean and Hyperspace Mountain with a FIVE minute wait! That is like impossible in California, even if you have Fast Passes.

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We figured out how to take the RER train back home and our Metro passes worked. We were lucky to get seats because the station after Disneyland was packed.

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Little did we know that Paris was having the biggest celebration in twenty years. Les Bleus/ The French soccer team won the 2018 FIFA World Cup! It was their first World Cup in twenty years. When we left the metro every single Parisian was celebrating. We sang along even though we didn’t know the words!

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It was exhilarating and a little scary seeing the French celebrate all over Paris. We were so used to seeing them angry because of some protest but this was incredible to witness. This is what we saw when we arrived at our station in Republique which is the center of Paris.

I love my adopted country!! Allez Les Bleus and Vive la France!

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Musee d’Orsay

As many times as my BFF Aimee and I have visited Paris before, we have never made a trip to visit the Musée d’Orsay. Built in a former train station in 1986, Musée d’Orsay is the little sister to the overcrowded Louvre. I bought our tickets online on their French only website and we took the hot, hour long bus there. Guess what? We went on the wrong day! It wasn’t so bad, we ended up walking through the beautiful Jardin de Tuileries and hit up the summer Fêtes des Tuileries. The only thing was I didn’t have euros on me so we couldn’t go on any rides. Liv was placated by the world’s biggest cotton candy. So pro tip, if you want to hit the carnival in Paris, always have euros on you, they don’t take credit cards.

Don’t let those smiles fool you, we were dripping with sweat and so hot we were considering jumping into the Seine!

Beautiful Beau-Arts design.

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Okay, let’s try this again. The next day was much cooler and we took the Metro this time so the ride over was much shorter.
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I relate to her on so many levels!

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I was super excited to see the Edgar Degas Little Dancer of Fourteen Years sculpture. It was much smaller than I imagined it would be.

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Oh my goodness, I was so frustrated by my photos in this light. I tried every possible setting and angles. This was my heavily edited result but there is something about the low lights in museums that work against me. Any tips or solutions?

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Liv was highly amused by this guy. Fortunately for us, Aimee was there for some serious art appreciation so we checked out the Van Gogh exhibit and she was excited to see the Gauguin art. Her Mom is an Art Historian so she has a sophisticated level of art snobbery.

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Liv and I chuckled at the long-legged cat.

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We were blown away by Van Gogh’s pieces. I wish I could have captured the vivid blue paint better than my iPhone did however it’s best to see them with your own eyes. It was an inspiring experience. I have to return to see the Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec artwork.

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We climbed upstairs to see the famous clock but had to wait forever for the selfie seeking mobs for a shot. I guess we are the same, taking the shot for the ‘gram but I don’t get how anyone gets a clear shot that isn’t a dark silhouette against the clock. Thank you Lightroom app!

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Musée d’Orsay
Rue de Lille
75343 Paris

Open Tues – Sunday from 9:30 am – 6 pm and until 9:45 pm on Thursdays
Closed on Mondays

Jusqu’ à plus tard amis!

Summer in Paris: BFF Visit

My bestie Aimee came to visit us for ten days in July! The last time we were together in Paris was March 2015.

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Since it was the middle of summer and unbearably hot in Paris, we took a road trip to the seaside towns of Deauville, Trouville and Honfleur. Lucky for us, the weather was much cooler. We stayed at a beautiful, historic bed and breakfast in Deauville. I finally struck gold with my car rental skills. Not only did I get the actual car I reserved, a sweet ass brand new Volvo, but it was white which they never have (so sick of driving silver and beige cars!) If we ever buy a car in Paris, I am seriously considering a Volvo. I mean, if I can’t find a vintage Fiat Pop 500 with an automatic transmission or my dream car this light blue beauty. I guess Liv would have to sit on the hood.

It was a quick two hour drive west so we stopped in the village of Buorneville which is in the Normandy region. We needed to stretch our legs and I had to take a pic in front of this adorable Mairie. Little did we know that we stopped right in the middle of an insect horde and we were covered with hundreds of tiny black bugs. It was awful. Liv noticed them first and next thing we knew they were all over us. I have many things I cannot tolerate and bugs is high on the list. They were in my braids, all over the rental car, in our clothes. I was miserable during the rest of the drive. I planned to take photos of the picturesque village of Pont-Audemer but we just drove through without stopping. We felt like there should be warning signs saying watch out for tiny almost microscopic bugs that don’t bite but crawl all over you! Has that ever happened to anyone else? I still itch just thinking about it.

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When we arrived in Deauville at our hotel Villa L’Augeval thirty minutes later we immediately jumped into the shower and changed.

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Our room was quaint. Aimee, Liv and Lulu had their own tiny room to share.

The view from our window was more impressive than the room. This lovely church bells chimed every hour. Liv was stoked because our hotel had a pool.

We headed to a restaurant in Trouville-Sur-Mer for dinner which was highly recommended by our French friends.

 

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Trouville-sur-mer is a 15 minute drive from Deauville and it’s so cute. Most of the houses have a Art-Deco Victorian style. We drove around picking which mansion would be our future beachside vacation house.

I am no fan of onions, as many of you may already know, however I have always been enticed by the smell of French onion soup in the past. I saw it on the menu and decided that I would be brave and give it a try. Aimee was excited to order seafood and oysters. Antz got a steak and Liv ordered something simple from the kids menu. Lulu just ate bread.

Well my dears, the onion soup was a big disappointment! I was excited to see the raclette of cheese covering the top and it smelled yummy but beneath the bland cheese was a bowl of warm water and big, almost raw onions. I was hoping for the creamy broth of soft onions I have seen at restaurants in LA but this was Normandy style which seems to translate to no seasoning. The plate of shrimp I ordered were served cold to my dismay and Aimee didn’t enjoy her food either. Yet another expensive meal we wish we just went to McDonalds. I swear I am trying my best to open my palette to French cuisine but no luck so far!

Liv got an ice cream cone for dessert. Antz took these lovely photos by the Trouville harbor, I love my new Modcloth dress which was giving me 1950s vibes and it has POCKETS!!

We dropped Aimee off at the hotel so she could take a nap and sleep off her horrible dinner and we drove to the beach to catch the sunset.

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The Deauville American Film Festival has taken place since 1975. The Promenade des Planches was built in 1923 and now has the names of popular American actors and directors. I was surprised by some of the names we saw but happy to find my imaginary lover Jeffrey Goldblum. Olivia only knew Jessica Tandy from her role in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

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The next day happened to be July 14th which is Bastille day in France! We began the day with a refreshing swim at our hotel.

She still loves to bellyflop!

We checked out of our room and headed to the beach for breakfast. But first, Liv challenged us to a game of table tennis. I beat them both!

I found the OG actors on the planches further down the boardwalk. Liz Taylor, Bette Davis and my girl Grace Kelly.

After promising Liv we would return so she could spend a day playing in the sand. We headed to Honfleur to spend the rest of the day before driving back into Paris.

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Somehow there is an unspoken rule that when we see a Ferris Wheel, Liv must ride it, no questions.

It appears carousels follow this same rule as well.

Being weird with my best friend 21 years later.

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The Honfleur harbor is giving me Copenhagen vibes.

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Aimee was super stoked to finally get a delicious bowl of mussels! I don’t know how she eats them.

We listened to a French band play while we dined. There was a World Cup game playing so the entire town was distracted. I drove through Versailles to see if we could watch the Bastille day fireworks on our way back to the city but it was so crowded we couldn’t find parking and we were tired, so we zapped a few Invaders (how cool is this beheaded Louis the XVI?) and like the old, lame folks we are, we went home to bed.

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Bonjournee!

Places in Paris: rue Crémieux

The city of Paris is a blogger’s dream. Every street is the perfect backdrop full of adorable cafes and vivid blue doors begging to be photographed, so of course I am like a kid in a candy store living here. One of the locations I’ve had on my photoshoot list is rue Cremieux. It’s a residential, short street that has the most colorful, pastel painted houses on both sides. With a majority of Paris covered in six story Haussmann buildings, they definitely stand out. It’s obviously a popular place for tourists to take selfies so the residents of these vibrant houses seem displeased with the constant barrage of people posing on their stoops. We hopped on the metro a few stops towards Bastille and I accidentally caught my skirt in the subway door. Luckily, it didn’t stain or tear. It was a short walk to the street located near Gare Lyon train station in the 12th arrondissement.

I was excited for the shoot but didn’t factor in the weather cooperating. Of course the sky was gray instead of it’s usual bright blue. I tried to use it to our advantage since too much sun can make shadows in my photos. We arrived to find the small, colorful street full of people! There were also a few signs located in front of the candy-painted houses saying no photography. I mean, come on! I’ve seen hundreds of photos of this street on Pinterest and Instagram and there never seems to be a crowd of tourist. I always wonder if the people who post perfect shots wake up at 5 am or are they just photoshop experts? I seem to always get tons of bystanders, trucks and even trash cans when I take photos.

As you can see, there is no right time of day to visit this location. There were unofficial lines of people waiting to take a photo in front of the brightest houses. There was an entourage standing around a woman who was filming a music video. We watched the singer perform her song for so long that she offered us the spot in front of the bright pink house after getting a photo with Liv. I wish I remembered her name!

The street had more of a Caribbean vibe than a traditional Parisian style. We got tired of waiting for people to move so we had to get creative, we utilized the houses that weren’t as busy. Liv and I look like we are about to drop our Christian power ballad album. We were just waiting for people to move when Antz took these candids.

Liv loved this house with a cat painted on it.

Such an awesome door!

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I swear I didn’t see the no photos sign until we took this. Oops!

Right before we left Antz lined me up to block all the people behind me to create the magic that I had the street all to myself. just ignore the guy sitting on the right!

We decided to grab a goûter at Au Petit Versailles du Marais. I wish I took more photos inside because the pastries looked straight out of the Marie Antoinette film.

Best tarte aux fraise in Paris!

A bientôt mes amis.

Day trip to Reims, France

I sometimes freak myself out at how much I OVER-plan things for us to do. We were pretty tired from our trip to Cherbourg but I couldn’t resist getting tickets for the magnificent Marie Antoinette fireworks show. Since I still had the rental car for one more day, I decided it would be worth going since we could drive there from Paris. It was on a Friday evening so we surprised Liv after picking her up from school. The event was held in the beautiful Jardin Orangerie at Versailles. Of course, Liv wore her Marie Antoinette dress.

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Although it was entirely in French, we were able to follow the story of Marie Antoinette’s life in Versailles. It was a whimsical show mixed with classical music and the most insane fireworks ever. Even the character’s costumes had fireworks. As tired as we were, the show was definitely worth it. We all agreed that it was the most spectacular fireworks show we have ever seen!

However, it was painful to get up at 5am the next morning to catch our 6am train to Reims. The good news was the trip was only 90 minutes long which felt like an instant on the high speed train. We were able to take a quick nap on the train.

Traveling from Gare l’est is the best. It’s only a ten minute bus ride away and it’s one of my favorite stations as far as cleanliness, food kiosks and because I use the SNCF app, I just scan a QR code on my phone to board the train.

Reims is in the Champagne region of eastern France and as much as you may want to pronounce it was Rey-ims…for some weird reason it’s pronounced Rance, like rhymes with France.

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We hopped on the tram as soon as we arrived. Hooray for easy, accessible public transportation! This was a rare occasion that I didn’t have an itinerary scheduled for a trip. I always check out the Atlas Obscura website when we visit a new place. I usually visit the local church first, then see a landmark the area is known for and find somewhere off the beaten path. Liv and I also use our MAPS book as a guide to learn about the location we are seeing. It’s super informative and we adore the illustrations. I knew we wanted to go to the local champagne tasting rooms but since Liv was with us, I didn’t make a reservation. I wanted to check out the school named after President Roosevelt where the Germans signed the unconditional surrender of WWII. Liv got May 7th off from school in Paris for Victory Day. I never heard much about WWII when I was in school in America other than Pearl Harbor and Memorial day (which is pretty much celebrated with douchey spring break partying rather than reflection on the horror of war). My Mom always tells me that the reason why Europe is so forward thinking, and provides universal healthcare for their citizens is because they survived a war, so they know how to come together as a nation. Americans are a mess, PLEASE VOTE IN NOVEMBER!

Proud history nerd! Next we went to see Our Lady of Reims cathedral. It was built in 1211 and it is where all the kings of France were crowned. The church has been destroyed by fire but rebuilt many times. In 2011, the city of Reims celebrated her 800th anniversary! The French really know how to build a church.

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Of course Liv lit a candle and we bought a souvenir coin to add to her collection.

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Our next stop was to find a place for lunch. We walked around town but most places were closed since it was too early. We stopped in Flying Tiger because Liv loves that store.

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I wish I bought this cute hand-crank fan because it was the hottest day ever! We couldn’t resist to pick up a bag of chocolates to snack on while we searched for a place to eat.

It was during World Cup fever so we got soccer themed white chocolate. We stopped by Maison Fossier, Liv loves their rose biscuits but we didn’t want to carry around the huge box all day and they sell them at Monoprix.

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We encountered this awesome farmers market and sampled the fruit but they didn’t have any restaurants so we continued our search. We always seem to be too early or too late for lunch!

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We noticed brasseries began to put out champagne bottles while we were walking by but we couldn’t start drinking before eating something. Liv and I got a ice cream cone to cool us down since it was like 100 degrees.

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As tempting as those lovely avocado tarts looked, we continued walking around town to find a place to sit down and eat. We kept getting unlucky because I wanted to visit the town hall but of course it was closed for repairs.

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We finally found an interesting place that was opening for lunch in a few minutes wait.

We were so happy to order fish n’ chips!

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We enjoyed being able to lounge and get out of the sun. Of course as soon as we started eating the crowds arrived and everyone started smoking, cough!

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So I knew it was time for a glass of champagne. We walked to this cool looking place.

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When we inquired about a tasting they informed us they were closing early so no walk-ins. Merde! I called to see if we could make a reservation for the Perching bar which was outside of Reims.

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I saw it on Pinterest and it looked very cool however they didn’t allow anyone under 18 inside so if we went, Liv would have to stay outside of the bar area. There was also a 40 minute drive to get there and Reims didn’t have Uber. The owner gave me a phone number of a car service but the driver wanted €45 each way in cash. We decided to decline because it would have taken too long to drive out there, plus the fare seemed excessive. We ended up walking back to the place we went to for lunch because I couldn’t leave without having some champagne.

To be honest, the champagne was just meh. Antz likes it more than I do. I think it’s too expensive (a bottle started at €75!) We noticed the Veuve Clicquot tasting room was closed while we were walking to the train station.

If you want to go champagne tasting in Reims, make an advance reservation!

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We walked past a medieval church and a plaque dedicated to Joan d’Arc. It was too hot to really enjoy a walk around town so we headed for the train station a few hours early and waited in their air conditioned lobby.

Au revior Reims! Antz and I will have to return without the kid to share a bottle of bubbly.

Moving Abroad: Six Months

Salut!

Well, in the blink of an eye, we have lived in Paris for six months. We are at the halfway mark of our year abroad and those 183 days went by in a flash. 183 days is a significant number for our family because that happens to be the number of days Antz company has allowed him to work remotely. We discovered this just two weeks before our departure date last February. This added to our stress and anxiety but since we put in so much hard work to get approved for our visas, set up a home exchange, took Olivia out of her French school in LA, and we set everything up to be in Paris for an entire year, we just left not knowing what would happen with Antz job.

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Let me explain what the 183 day rule is. There is a treaty with France and the US so that either country can collect income tax from residents living there past 183 days. So in our case, if Antz were to continue working past six months, he would have to start paying into France’s tax system (paying for social services, income tax, etc.) while also still paying income taxes in the US because he is employed by an American company. This article explains it better than I can. To me it sounds like double taxation but there is an exclusion up to the first $100,000 of income in the US. Which for us means he would pay 45% of his income in taxes in France but only 28% past $100,000 in the US. So basically 63% of his income would have gone to taxes for our 2019 tax return. This was not the best case scenario for us financially. Also, his company was not able to set him up as an international transfer employee on a work visa due to the high expenses to add him to European payroll. We even requested to have him work freelance as an independent consultant but that didn’t work either. So his company gave him two choices, return to the US in 183 days or separate from the company. He did both. It was the hardest choice to make, Antz has worked for this incredible company for over 18 years. He was at the top of his career as a Senior Art Director. His company had premium benefits, generous salary and bonus, 401k, profit sharing, traveling to industry events and parties, summer Fridays meant he had every other Friday off, and he worked with some amazing people. I can’t tell you how difficult the decision was. I mean, France is rad but it’s not perfect. We are renting here which feels unstable, but in LA we owned our house and we put so much work into making our house lovely. Every month I worry about the currency conversion which varies so much that sometimes we pay $150 – $200 more depending on the day I pay our rent. We are in the process of getting a French bank account but it is honestly a nightmare. There is also a language barrier that makes simple tasks challenging. Liv is a wonderful translator but even she can’t help with adult things like setting up our cell phone service or making an appointment to have the heat turned on in our apartment. There is crime here like any large city, and if I walk through certain parts of town alone, I feel vulnerable. I had a car in LA so I never had a guy follow me making lewd comments like here. Once I had to call Antz to meet me on our street because a guy wouldn’t leave me alone. There is terrorism here so when we walk in crowded spaces, I can’t help but feel tense or worry about large trucks driving by. There are more grumpy, rude people in customer service than I ever dealt with in LA. I recently tried to make an appointment over the phone but six out of ten people hung up on me when I asked if they spoke English. That is on me, I need to step my French up. I hate the constant smoking, I get I am in a foreign country but blowing smoke directly in my face is infuriating. I also have to deal with renewing our visas every six months which is a headache. However the benefits still outweigh the cons for us. Liv attends a wonderful French school that is only a ten minute walk away for FREE! This is our number one reason for being here. She is attending such a great school here, her French is impeccable and I love that she gets a hot lunch everyday in a cafeteria and after school activities are included in her daily curriculum. She gets a half day on Wednesdays so she can go to ballet, which frees up our weekends for travel. That is our other major reason to stay. Traveling here is so easy and affordable I can’t see going back to LA only to wait all year for Antz to get a few weeks off of work so we have to cram a vacation in a short time and spend half of our travel budget on a long flight from LA. We have traveled more in the last six months than we have in six years. My main goal is to visit 20 countries and they are all just a train ride or a short flight away. I also am looking forward to having actual weather!

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Living in sunny Los Angeles for 40 years was nice, but we rarely had thunderstorms or more than a few days of cold enough weather to bundle up. I have never been in Europe during the fall so I am excited to wear coats and scarves. I am also excited for the lovely Christmas markets coming soon! Well, it’s not like I need to sell living in Paris, my point is moving here comes with huge sacrifice. The first was leaving his job but finding a new job here in Paris won’t be so easy. Everyone I know keeps telling us that French jobs do not pay well. So we had to have a back up plan to keep us going financially. We used most of our savings to move here in March and even though we are saving a lot by not paying tuition or a car payment, it’s still expensive living in Paris. In the end, we realized we weren’t happy in LA and that is most important to us. The bottom line is he made great money in LA but he was working long, stressful days and we only had weekends to spend time together. Most of his salary went towards our bills and tuition so even if he made less here in France, our expenses are less. We also spent all our time in our cars which caused our lifestyle to be toxic and unhealthy. Since moving here, we spend so much more quality time as a family (I am sure it’s mostly because we don’t have a TV!) and walking everywhere is pretty awesome. So, we agreed we would stay in Paris as long as possible!

So a month ago we decided to sell our house. It was heartbreaking to do but really I couldn’t think of any other options. Our tenant was only renting during the summer and she was paying $1,000 less than we listed it for because she was able to pay cash in advance. We couldn’t live here and not have a stable long-term renter in our house. There are also so many expenses of being a landlord which would have been difficult to handle from abroad. Since our house has increased in value recently, I met with our real estate agent who happened to be in Paris on vacation with her family to discuss the idea of selling. She was so positive about it we put together a plan just to see how things would work out. Antz was going to fly back to LA at the end of August due to the 183 days deadline being Sept 1st so we decided that if the house sold in a month, we would stay. If the house didn’t sell (my worst case scenario), I would pack up our apartment in Paris and return to LA with Liv. Thirty days is an insane timeline but our agent was confident we could do it. This meant that Antz had to begin the process of getting our cat Lola legally documented to travel to Europe. He had to take her to an USDA accredited vet for an exam and she needed an official microchip implanted. Then she needed a rabies shot and there was a 21 day mandatory waiting period. We had to keep the house furnished so it would be staged for the open houses. We had four dates scheduled and a deadline of Sept 17th to accept offers. I was super nervous because after two open houses we only received one offer for an insultingly low amount. In order for my crazy plan to work we had to get a magic number and I was sweating when the final day arrived. The offers slowly began to come in that afternoon. All of the offers were over our asking price but nothing was close to our magic number. The good news was since there were multiple offers we could counter everyone and ask for over our magic number. We only got one person to agree to our counter offer but we got a little over our magic number!! I had to go to the US Embassy to sign the escrow paperwork with an American notary. The visit was intense, many French guards were quite mean at the entrance. I had to go through several security check points and they took my phone and held it during my visit. I managed these shots before they confiscated my phone.

My poor husband had the daunting task of selling all the things we no longer needed, (we felt like we gave away most of our furniture for next to nothing but this was our cleansing period) cleaning out the house (he must have donated and thrown away one hundred bags) and garage of twelve years of overwhelming stuff in two freaking weeks! Then he had to pack up the house, move our stuff into storage at my Mom’s house and ship our remaining items to France in a storage cube.

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Our entire lives worth of stuff had to fit in this 7 foot storage box. It will be shipped to France via boat and won’t arrive until January! I will lose my mind if my breakable stuff gets damaged.

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I can’t tell you how stressful this was for Antz, all while he was still going to work everyday and dealing with Lola’s stuff. The sad part was we were apart for a month which seems short, but he missed Liv’s first day of school.

To add to our agony we discovered that Antz cell phone wouldn’t make calls in LA so we could only communicate by FaceTime calling on wifi and texts for thirty days. This guy wins at life. We both had our moments of doubt, frustration and sheer panic but he rose to the occasion physically and mentally in a way I never could. He was running on two hours of sleep by the end of the month. He also had to contend with flying back to Paris with our not so friendly cat Lola. I took two wise precautions for her flight. The first was ordering her these claw nibs (her pink fake nails) so she wouldn’t be able to scratch Antz or the carrier. The second was booking Antz in a premium economy seat on his flight with Air France. It was double their normal fare, but he had more room for Lola and fewer people around to disturb.

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Anyone interested in flying a pet from the US to France? This is a long, tedious process and we didn’t have a day to spare to get everything done. The first step is taking your pet to an accredited USDA veterinarian. Our regular vet wasn’t accredited but there was one nearby that they recommended.

Los Feliz Small Animal Hospital
3166 Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039
(323) 664-3309

I made our appointment online before Antz flew back to LA. The first day he returned he picked up Lola from my best friend Aimee (who was happy to say bye to our cranky feline) and he got her an official microchip inserted. Even if your pet has a microchip in case they get lost, this is a special chip that is registered with the US to track pets abroad. Then she had to wait a mandatory 21 days before getting a rabies shot. It’s important to know that even if your pet has been vaccinated for rabies (like Lola has) they must get another rabies shot 21 days after the microchip has been implanted. We were happy to find out Lola lost weight since her last appointment so she was just under the 8kg restriction. So this put our timeline right on schedule. I made an appointment with APHIS which has an office in Los Angeles to get Lola’s health certificate endorsed. You must make an appointment, no walk-ins.

Los Angeles Animal Import Center
222 Kansas Street
El Segundo, CA 90245

No pet can travel abroad on a commercial airline without this document (this doesn’t apply to service animals). If you have a dog, it is also mandatory to show a test for tapeworms and flea medication. There is the choice of flying with your pet in the cabin or the cargo. Air France said they only allowed pets up to 8 kg on board. Well 8 kg means 17.6 lbs and our chunky Lola was 18 lbs at her last vet visit! I am a member of a Expats in France group and I read many horror stories about pets in the cargo of airplanes so I was very worried about Lola’s flight. I was confused when it came to finding an airline approved carrier. If she was going in the cargo of the plane, she had to be in a hardshell crate with very specific measurements. However if she was flying in the cabin, she could travel in a soft-carrier but the measurements varied by airline. I ended up ordering this backpack carrier from Amazon. I knew with all the luggage Antz was bringing and having to carry Lola’s paperwork and his passport, it would be easier for him to be hands-free. I was so worried she wouldn’t fit comfortably in it but a week before his flight, the carrier arrived and he sent me this.

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She fit snug as a bug and I also ordered these pet pads in case she had an accident. Antz was smarty pants to use a large safety pin to keep the pad in place when the carrier was upright.

I ordered a harness in case Lola tried to escape at anytime. Antz had to take her out of her carrier when going through security and he held her while they did a thorough check. Luckily, our vet gave him calming medicine to give her on the day of the flight. Antz had a couple of hiccups the week before his flight. He had an appointment with the APHIS to endorse Lola’s health certificate at 8:30 am. Because it was near LAX, he had to leave the house before 6 am to be on time. He was the first person there and when he went to pay the $38 dollar fee, they told him that the vet filled out the wrong form! Antz was livid. I never seen him so angry. Turns out the vet gave Antz the form for pets traveling in the cargo hold but Lola was going to be inside the cabin. At least they were sympathetic and allowed him to return the next day with the correct paperwork, or else we would have needed to make another appointment a month later. So this meant that Antz had to drive to the vet’s office, pick up the correct health certificate and drive out to El Segundo the next morning. This all took place during his last week he was working in his office so you can imagine his level of stress. Once he had the endorsed health certificate you have exactly ten days to leave the country. This is important that you already have your flight set up prior to getting all the forms completed. I booked his return flight only two weeks before his departure since we were waiting to make sure our house sold and he would be able to sign all the escrow paperwork before returning to France. Luckily, there were a few premium economy seats still available. I had to call the airline and let them know we were bringing a pet on-board and they charged us $150 fee at check-in at the airport. Most airlines only allow a few pets on-board so it’s a good idea to let them know in advance. The day of Antz flight home was crazy, remember, his phone didn’t work unless he was connected to wifi, so I was only able to hear from him if he was on Starbucks wifi. Terribly frustrating! Lola decided it would be fun to run outside on the morning of Antz flight. He had to ask our neighbors to come help look for her all morning while he was still packing and needed to take a shower before his ride to the airport showed up. We were down to a few hours before he found her under our neighbors house. He had to crawl under there to get her, merde!

My Mom flew to Paris a few days before Antz so I was hosting her all while he was going through the worst of the drama. It was wonderful to have her here as a distraction from all the stress. She has been amazingly supportive of our decision to stay abroad even though that means she will see us less.

Antz somehow managed to pack up and clean the house with the help of his sister and nephew (Merci Clinnie & Justin!). We sold as many pieces of furniture that didn’t fit in our shipping cube. We gifted special items (our plants, and items I couldn’t bear to sell) to our friends and family.

It’s a hard choice to leave the comforts of our home and move to a different country for such an uncertain future but we can always return. We left Antz Honda Element at my Mom’s house and we are renewing our visas in January. I hope this helps anyone thinking of making the move abroad. The past six months was a great test to see if we could make a life in France viable. It’s challenging, frustrating (more so because we don’t speak French yet) but rewarding beyond all expectations.

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I am happy to answer any questions in the comments below.

 

Bisous.

Road Trip: Cherbourg & Beaches of Normandy

June is always a busy but special month for me. Liv’s birthday is at the beginning of the month, then Father’s Day and ends with Antz birthday. I rented a car and we drove to Cherbourg for a weekend trip for Antz birthday. I have wanted to visit Cherbourg ever since I saw the French musical “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg” Since Cherbourg is near the beaches of Normandy, we spent the day visiting Sainte-Mère-Église village, the Omaha Beach Memorial and the American Cemetery. The drive was over five hours and even though I normally would be able to drive longer than that in LA (I drove for eleven hours for our road trip to Portland) something about the French highways seems to lull me to sleep. I drove the first three hours and then Antz took over for the last two.

 

There were many tolls heading west towards Cherbourg. We also noticed livestock on the sides of the highway. At first we thought we were looking at sheep but with a closer look, they were golden cows! They were so pretty we pulled over and tried to snap a photo with some of the cows. The countryside is insanely pretty.

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I was surprised at how small Cherbourg was. Our hotel was just across the street from the harbor.

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We went for a walk around the town looking for a place to eat for lunch. Of course it was after 3 so we missed lunch and nothing was open until after 7pm.

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We found this gorgeous fish market but they didn’t cook the food. Liv bought a bag of apricots, Antz and I got crepes to tide us over.

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Les parapluies were everywhere. I only recently saw the French musical in the last few years although I have always been a big Catherine Deneuve fan. I also discovered that the guy who directed The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is one of Liv’s friend’s from school grandfather! How rad is that?!!

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We walked around for an hour then hung out in our hotel room. By 7pm, we were starving so we went to the first restaurant we found that was open. We ordered a plateau de fruits de mer for Antz birthday dinner. To our surprise, shellfish is served cold and there’s no melted butter to dip. Sadly, no matter how many times we have tried, we don’t like oysters. As fancy as the meal looked, we really missed our annual seafood meal from Duke’s in Malibu.

We drove around town looking for the Cherbourg sign. Oddly, we could find it’s location on Google Maps so I relied on photos from Pinterest and my intuition. Finally, just as I was about to give up I drove right past it on a steep hill! Since the sign was so big, one of us had to run into the street to get a photo. We waited forever for someone to get a photo of all of us but it’s an isolated area. This selfie has made me want to travel with a reliable tripod. I just don’t see where we could have set one up since there were cars passing in the street.

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The next day we grabbed breakfast at our hotel and headed out early.

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I had to take a photo with my umbrella by the harbor before we left. Our first stop was Sainte-Mere-Eglise. We learned the heroic story of Private John Marvin Steele. As the 82nd Airborne soldiers parachuted into the village, they were under heavy attack by Germans. John survived the jump but his parachute got caught in the spinnet of the church. He hung there limp, playing dead for two hours before he was taken prisoner. He later escaped and captured 30 Germans. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his valor. He is featured in the classic film The Longest Day.

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Miraculously, it didn’t rain. The sun actually came out as we headed towards the American cemetery. I spent hours explaining the D-day invasion to Liv and she listened intently. I was surprised to see how interested in history an eight year old was. I think it hit her the most when I told her how many men were drafted into the war and how her Dad would have most likely been sent to fight if we were alive during that time. During the summer of 1944 over 100,000 total men died.

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This was the most incredible experience for our family. France has always been a romantic place for us but visiting these sites where close to 10,000 people lost their lives felt very somber. We visited the memorial and watched a short film about World War II.
Below is Omaha beach.

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Our last stop wasn’t planned but Liv was asking what happened to the German soldiers so we stopped at La Cambe German war cemetery. It definitely had a different vibe to it. There were very few people there. Over 21,000 German soldiers are buried there. The cemetery has 1,200 maple trees as a gift of peace.

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If you are a history buff, I strongly recommend making this trip. Normandy Discovery Tours offers a tour by French locals. We saw a group of school children at the Omaha beach memorial. I really think that the difference between American children and European is our approach to the past. I feel like Americans shield their kids from the dark side of history but I believe that is doing them a disservice. They lack empathy and may grow up to make the same mistakes of bigotry and complacency. I talk to Olivia about everything, not to frighten her but to open her eyes to the world she lives in. She is a multiracial child so she doesn’t have the privilege to ignore the past suffering of her ancestors. Every accomplishment she makes in her life, she has many generations of proud Mexican and Black people cheering her on.

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Visiting French castles

Liv and I were super bummed to find that we missed this year’s Fêtes Galantes (which is a fancy dress up event) at Versailles so I started researching castles nearby to visit. I decided it would be fun to play tourists and booked a day tour with Viator. We took a luxurious air conditioned coach to Château Vaux Le Comte and Fontainebleau. I was pleasantly surprised with the group we traveled with, mostly older folks but very friendly and lovely, not obnoxious tourists types. No-one even took pictures with an iPad!

Our first stop was the Château Vaux le Comte which is a baroque French château located in Mainly just southwest of Paris. The château was constructed from 1658 to 1661 for Nicolas Fouquet, Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV. I read that this place was the inspiration for the palace of Versailles. Olivia was in heaven. She would wear her Marie Antoinette dress everyday if we let her. It was nice to visit a place that wasn’t packed with crowds and we were able to explore the château at our own pace.

This was the tree lined road to the château!

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