Tag Archives: living in France

Happy New Year for 2021

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“The best laid plans of mice and men …” John Burns never said a truer word!

We started the year with lots of travel plans and the first was a trip to Crete in March to break the winter blues. Covid 19 at that time was still a minor issue, although we did wear masks in the airport. After three most enjoyable days at a home exchange in Chania, we moved to Agios Nikolaos, by which time bars, restaurants and cultural venues had closed. Even though we were in an apartment, it wasn’t much fun. After visiting a 3500-year-old olive tree, there wasn’t much left to do and lockdown was about to start in France.


We took the next flight out of Heraklion, getting up at 4 am to do so! We wore masks for the whole trip and arrived back in Blois just two hours after lockdown, did some food shopping and holed up for the next 55 days! Lockdown eased on 11th May and we were no longer restricted to essential shopping and physical activity for one hour within a 1 km radius of our home. We also no longer needed to fill out a form when we did go out. After two weeks, on the 15th June, all restrictions were lifted and we started making holiday plans!

In the meantime, my daughter and her Dutch fiancé, who live in New York, had had to cancel their wedding plans in northern Italy in May while my son and his American girlfriend decided to get married on a ski slope in Vermont in the presence of only two other people! We watched the wedding on Skype but unfortunately there was no sound. We then had a virtual aperitif drinking the same champagne that my son bought on his last trip to France in November when we met his fiancé. We are delighted to welcome her into the family. Since then, the newlyweds have bought a house in Boston while my daughter and her fiancé have tentatively set September 2021 as a wedding date.

Cycling in the Jura

Holiday-wise, Germany seemed the safest as their Covid figures were very low (compared with France, Italy and Spain!) and we knew that we could count on outdoor eating venues and strict observance of hygiene protocols. We chose to avoid hotels and B&Bs and only stay in holiday flats with balconies or gardens, having breakfast and dinner at home. Our top priority was cycling and enjoying Germany’s many beautiful towns and villages. On June 26th, we started our 3-week journey in the Jura mountains in the east of France, discovering an area we didn’t know and which has an impressive number of bike paths.

Lake Constance

Next stop was Austria, from which we were able to visit Gallen with its famous baroque library over the border in Switzerland and cycle along Lake Constance. We followed the good weather as we always do and went back to the beautiful Bavarian mediaeval town of Bamberg, then Nuremberg, before spending four absolutely perfect days on the Forggensee. We had been there before, in our pre-e-bike days. This time we were able to appreciate the absolutely stunning scenery without straining our knees.

The Forggensee

We started heading back to France via the Neckar with some wonderful rides along the Kocher-Jagst Radweg near Heilbronn. Our last stop was the Black Forest. The scenery is beautiful and we had a breath-taking view from our balcony, but the cycling is a disaster! We arrived home on 17th July after driving 3380 K and cycling 773 K!

After we got back, we had a visit from my son who needed a new working US visa for his new job. The story is a bit complicated, but the upshot was that he left Boston wearing a mask (after getting a negative Covid test) and did not take it off until he got in his hire car at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. He then came straight to Blois, only doing a same-day return trip to Paris to go to his Embassy appointment. He needed another test in Blois before returning to Boston. It was lovely to see him for a few days.

Château de Chaumont

Otherwise, we have kept ourselves occupied and feel grateful every day for having a large house and garden that we love. While we could, we cycled as much as possible exploring many new areas and making the most of our annual pass to Château de Chaumont.

Our back garden view when dining outdoors

I have continued to work part-time, mainly as a sworn translator (I only just broke even on my holiday rental studio in Blois, which was supposed to supplement my terrible retirement pension), and my husband Jean Michel has completed various projects including two cold frames, two raised vegetable beds and two staircases for the garage and wood shed. There is still another one to go in the barn. We gardened extensively during the warmer months, growing a lot of plants from seed and increasing our collection of drought-resistant perennials. It made up for being so restricted in our movements. I also blogged every day on www.loiredailyphoto.com, especially during the different lockdown periods. It has helped me to stay connected with the outside world.

We did manage another 5-day cycling holiday in September in the Nièvre, based in La Charité-sur-Loire (near Sancerre). The Covid figures were low at the time and we could still count on outdoor eating at lunchtime. It was a welcome break. When we got home, we bought a garden heater so we could continue to enjoy eating outside throughout October. We went back into lockdown on 30th October for a month, followed by a 2-week easing period when non-essential shops opened again under extreme pressure from the public in the warm-up to Christmas.

Cycling along the Nièvre

What I have missed and continue to miss most are my children and friends. I haven’t seen my daughter since November 2019 when we shopped for her wedding dress. I occasionally go walking with a friend and we briefly met up with other friends in December in a park. During Christmas and New Year, which we naturally spent alone, eating home-made foie gras and drinking vouvray wine, we spent a lot of time reading our travel diaries aloud and looking at the corresponding digital photos. We FaceTimed with all the children and their partners on Christmas Day, which cheered us up no end. They are all doing well despite Covid.

If you’ve been tracking the Covid situation in France, you will know that we are not out of the woods. We have a large and somewhat reticent population to vaccinate and we are not in the immediate target group. We have another two months of cold, stay-at-home weather in front of us, then we’ll be able to go back to our outdoor occupations. By then we might be eligible for vaccination. In the meantime, we are exercising maximum precaution, only going to shop once a week at the local market and supermarket and, occasionally, the plant nursery. We buy everything else over the Internet. I continue to make our bread and yoghurts.

The Loire River near our house

Our hopes for 2021 are to see our children again, including Jean Michel’s two sons who live in France, celebrate my daughter’s wedding wherever it may be, visit my son and daughter and partners in Boston and New York and find a safe venue for our annual cycling holiday.

I would like to wish everyone a happier 2021, full of hope, inner strength and new horizons! Thank you for reading  my very sporadic blog!

Last Three Months in Paris

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We are well and truly back from our cycling holiday in Germany. It’s amazing how far away it already seems. Our next holiday, a six-day home exchange in Lisbon, is scheduled for September.

Closerie Falaiseau in Blois last time we were there at the end of our holiday
Closerie Falaiseau in Blois last time we were there at the end of our holiday

Now we have to get ready for our move to Blois at the end of October, which means we only have three months left. It’s a bit daunting even though I’m ready to leave Paris (though I might occasionally miss the view from our balcony). Closerie Falaiseau will be our own home, as opposed to our apartment in the Palais Royal which is part of Jean Michel’s job.

As we have guests in our gîte up until 6th October, we’ll be going down for a couple of weeks after that to get everything ready for the movers.

The current downstairs bedroom will become our combined study which means redispatching the furniture, putting some of it in the little house while waiting for re-use either in the future gîte or an investment I’m hoping to make in Tours.

The upstairs living room with its secondhand sofa
The upstairs living room with its secondhand sofa

The furniture in the other rooms will also have to be moved around to take the content of our apartment in Paris. Some, such as the upstairs sofa and chairs we bought at Troc de l’Ile, will be resold.

I’ve been planning what will go where and I think I have everything sorted out. Despite the fact that it is a big house, the rooms are very large and we don’t have much storage space so I don’t want to take anything we’re not sure we’ll use again.

The view from our balcony which I might miss ...
The view from our balcony which I might miss …

It’s a pity that I will still be working as a freelance translator for the next 5 years – I could have got rid of the entire content of my office! But I’m having a change of furniture and am resolved to only take what I really need.

Many people have asked me if I’ll miss Paris. I don’t think so. What I will miss is seeing my friends who live here and those from further away who will come to Paris but not to Blois. But we’re not that far away (less than 1 ½ hours by train) so we can schedule regular visits.

The overgrown vegetable patch when we got back from Germany
The overgrown vegetable patch when we got back from Germany

What I’m looking forward to is the garden and the nearby forest, less traffic and more friendly people in shops and restaurants.

I’d say that the only real drawback of Closerie Falaiseau is that it’s on the edge of town and there are no shops within walking or even cycling distance. I’ll have to plan more carefully. Since I make my own bread, it doesn’t matter that we don’t have a bakery close by. Even living in the middle of Paris, we practically never go and buy fresh croissants …

Catching up with Australian friends in Paris - Carolyn from Holidays to Europe in the Palais Royal Gardens
Catching up with Australian friends in Paris – Carolyn from Holidays to Europe in the Palais Royal Gardens

As I’ve always worked from home, I’m used to spending the day by myself, but it will be different for Jean Michel who will need to plan activities that involve other people.

We’ve already make several friends in and around Blois, especially through the Loire Connexion, so I’m not worried about our social life as a couple.

A drink with fellow bloggers and friends in Paris
A drink with fellow bloggers and friends in Paris

We both love the house and garden and would presently much rather be there than in Paris, so I think that’s a good start, don’t you?

Meet Kathy, a francophile with big dreams

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I have often quoted paragraphs from Kathy Stanford’s blog Femmes Francophiles in my Wednesday’s Bloggers Round-up. Kathy’s permanent home is in Adelaide, but she comes to France as often as she can. In my contribution this month to My French Life, the global community & magazine for francophiles & French, I tell the fascinating story of how she manages to reconcile her love for France and her life in Australia. Enjoy!

Meet Kathy, a francophile with big dreams

kathyThirteen years ago, when she was preparing for a trip to France, Kathy became enthralled with the French language and culture.

This was the start of her French dilemma, because her home and husband are in Adelaide and her French connection has grown stronger with the passing years.

She began learning French at the Alliance Française in Adelaide to ressurect her dim memories of school French. She has done several courses in France; in Rouen, Toulouse and Vendôme – as well as Noumea. She has worked as a volunteer for the Alliance Française in Rouen. Read more

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