Bonjour!

About me (and the blog)

I rang in New Year’s 2018 mid-flight on Air France, and I’ve been in France ever since.

(Also, the lease on our family’s Brooklyn apartment was up at end of December, so we had to move anyway. But that sounds way less dramatic.)

Fun fact: We–me, my husband Shon, and our two boys, Ben (4) and Jake (2), plus our dog–arrived knowing fewer than 50 words of French between us. Of those, the majority were farm animals and colors.

But good thing, since we moved to France to learn French! If we spoke the language, where would the challenge be in wrapping our heads around foreign visas, local school systems, buying a car, renting an apartment, and equipping said apartment with a stove, fridge, and dishwasher–as most French kitchens, it turns out, offer up little more than a working sink, a shrug, and a “why make this easy for you?”

I started blogging a handful of years ago when Shon and I lived in Guatemala and traveled around Central America and Mexico. (My blog’s original name was Not Quite Roughing It.) We had the luxury of time and the power of the dollar, and there wasn’t a car seat, crib, or baby carrier in sight. How I’d love to spend a day in my former life now. I’d yell at my younger self: Write a book! Become a doctor! Watch WAY more of the Bachelor!

Sadly, old me isn’t listening. She’s filling up on beans and tortillas and beer in Belize and worrying about bad ombres.

In 2014, we returned to Brooklyn and had two kids. I mostly stopped blogging, which is unfortunate for two reasons. Posting would have motivated me to organize 86 million baby photos. And—despite assuming I’d age out of it eventually—I love New York. It’s expensive and impractical, but it’s my true north. Alas.

Of course, France is, well, FRANCE, and I’m so happy to be here. I’m happy to be blogging, too. See that whole organizing photos problem. Also, I like to write. It’s my job as a content creator, which you can learn more about here.

Why France?

We moved to France for work. Sort of. Shon’s job requires French and lots of time spent in Africa. My work requires a computer and internet access. In an effort to learn French, make travel easier for Shon, and get fat on croissants, we decided to give France a go. We didn’t have to leave Brooklyn, but croissants.

Decision made, we packed up and moved. Easy peasy. (Of course, you’re laughing long and loud if you’re familiar with acquiring a long-term French visa. But more on that never, since visa talk is mind numbing.)

Why Alsace?

We live in Colmar, France, but our time here actually began in Lyon, a stunning city that could only fail to wow those with blinders on–in my case, blinders branded NYC. Our first few months in France’s second-largest city were spent exploring bakeries, parks, museums, and playgrounds–and we found great neighborhoods we could have called home. But constant cloudy skies and the nagging feeling that we should be doing… something else (because, obviously, moving to France from New York wasn’t enough), meant I never fell for Lyon. I recognized but felt numb to its greatness.

That “something else” began to turn into “somewhere else” one frigid, wet February morning as we drove a rental car toward the French Alps for a day trip. Having grown up in the U.S. Northeast, camping and hiking in what could only ever be described as gentle mountains, I could. not. wait. to see the Alps–those gnarly, snow-covered peaks I knew only as a computer desktop theme.

Also, there was the issue of Ben. At three (then), he seemed intent on digging, exploring, and eating as much of the natural world as possibly, basically becoming a baby-size Bear Grylls.

Ben: Can we eat flies?

Me: No.

Ben: I’m gonna eat a fly. 

His excavating large chunks of earth from Lyon’s mostly manicured confines in search of worms and treasure wasn’t exactly ideal. We needed to get him outside outside.

And so, Alps-ho, we trudged from Lyon’s center through city outskirts, bland suburbs, and eventually onto a small mountain-bound highway where we ground to a halt, our already-slow progress halted by toll traffic–all of which felt almost exactly like leaving NYC on a Friday night. In a word: PAINFUL.

And it dawned on me why I wasn’t falling for Lyon. It was a fine city, but I wasn’t sure we needed be in a city. After nearly 15 years in Brooklyn, we had the chance to try something new, to live somewhere with easy access to more than city parks and pigeons. A place, maybe, with dark skies and stars at night, real forests, and air that smelled of…I don’t know, fresh stuff, as opposed to boiling hot concrete and bus fumes. I pictured readily available skiing, too, as it turns out French winters are long and gloomy.

Little by little, I introduced the idea of “maybe moving…?” to Shon. Naturally, having just arrived in Lyon, he didn’t love the thought of up and leaving. But eventually, he warmed to the idea. I wasn’t surprised. He’s the one who waxes poetic about raising chickens and bees in a backyard.

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And so began the mission to find a new home. Over the course of a crazed few weeks, we explored the northern and southern Alps, basically looking for the “Telluride of France” (which as it happens, produces zilch as a Google search term): a lively but smallish mountain town with a year-round population, good views, good services, and maybe even a ski school.

We took turns (Shon would go on one trip; I’d handle the next) visiting quiet hamlets and bustling hubs, like Chamonix. There were snowstorms and brutally steep, mountain-hugging roads that reduced one of us (Shon? me? who can recall?) to tears, but only when death seemed imminent. It was an experience that rendered two take aways: The Alps are intimidating, overwhelming, and ominous in a brutally beautiful way. And we have no idea where we’d live.

Meanwhile, I like Vosges chocolate. So naturally, I felt a connection to France’s Vosges Mountains before I could even place them on a map. I knew even less about Alsace, the northeastern department in which part of the mountains are located. But the more I read about the area–the mountains and skiing, the “half-timbered” homes, vineyards, and proximity to Germany’s Black Forest–the more I thought…maybe? A quick visit on Shon’s part, and here we are, in the town of Colmar. It was as abrupt a decision as it sounds.

We live in Colmar’s historic district. There are storks on churches, cobblestone streets, and flower-lined canals. Pretzels, too, as the German border is just 30 minutes away. It’s not exactly the great outdoors I envisioned–there’s no throwing open the window for a mountain yodel (ironically, Colmar and the surrounding area, which is mostly vineyards, is totally flat)–but there’s plenty of green space in and around town, plus the Vosges Mountains with pine forests and skiing 30 minutes away, to make this move feel like progress. It’s certainly NOT the Telluride of France, but with two little kids, Alsace feels easy and right, for now.

Also, driving here doesn’t make me cry.

4 thoughts on “Bonjour!

  1. Dear Melissa,

    My name is Joe Pinzone and I’m casting an international travel show about expats moving abroad. We’d love to film in Central America/Caribbean and wanted to know if you could help us find expats who have moved there within the last 15 months or have been there for 3-4 years, but recently moved into a new home. The show documents their move to a new country and will place the country in fabulous light. The contributors on the show would also receive monetary compensation if they are filmed. If you’d like more information, please give me a call at 212-231-7716 or skype me at joefromnyc. You can also email me at joepinzone@leopardusa.com. Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Joe Pinzone
    Casting Producer
    P: 212-231-7716
    Skype: Joefromnyc

  2. I see a lot of interesting articles on your blog. You have to spend a lot of
    time writing, i know how to save you a lot of work, there is
    a tool that creates unique, google friendly posts in couple of seconds, just type in google – laranita’s free content source

  3. Hi melissa, I really enjoyed reading your blog. your life and guatemala sounds very exciting and adventurous.
    With your expertise in cooking and baking I thought maybe you’d be the perfect person to ask your opinion . I made a german chocolate souffle and the middle would just not set up. I baked it in a 10″ springform pan. The recipe calls to bake for 40 to 45 minutes.
    When I checked on it, it was still wiggly in the middle, I kept it in for at least another 15 min.. I let it cool only to find out that it was still very wet.. So I put it back in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes and decided that was enough I was just gonna have to go with it.
    so my question is, did the recipe have it wrong? Are you supposed to baked soufffes an hour and 40 to 45 minutes, or are they supposed to be wet in the middle?

  4. Bravo, Melissa!
    Love your blog!
    Love your writing!
    Had me laughing out loud.
    Keep it coming, please.
    Teresa

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