Bonjour!

About me (and the blog)

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

Also, the lease on our family’s Brooklyn apartment was up December 31, 2017, so we had to move anyway. But that sounds way less dramatic.

Fun fact: We–me, Shon (my husband), and our two boys, Ben (now 5) and Jake (now 3), plus our dog–arrived in France 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–since 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. Shon worked for a nonprofit and I freelanced. 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 FRANCE, and I’m 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. (Haha. If you’re familiar with acquiring a French visa, you’re now cry-laughing.)

Why Alsace?

We live in the French region of Alsace, in a town called Colmar, 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 N.Y.C. Our first handful of weeks in France’s second-largest city were spent in Airbnb apartments (8 to be exact) exploring bakeries, parks, museums, and playgrounds–and we found great neighborhoods that we could have called home. But cold, cloudy weather coupled with having just left the warm confines of a city I loved kept me from really falling for Lyon. I recognized but felt numb to its greatness.

This hit home one late-February morning as we headed to 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 (which I knew solely as a computer desktop theme). Plus, there was the issue of Ben. At three, he was basically a baby Bear Grylls, intent on digging, exploring, and eating as much of the natural world as possible.

Ben: Can we eat flies?

Me: No.

Ben: I’m gonna eat this fly. 

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

And so, Alps-ho, we trudged from a car rental place in Lyon’s center through a long stretch of bland suburbs and onto a small, mountain-bound highway where we promptly got stuck in toll traffic. The whole process was slow and painful, a lot like trying to escape NYC’s car-packed arteries, 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 at all. After nearly 15 years in Brooklyn, we had the chance to try something new, to live somewhere with easy access to more than urban parks and pigeons. A place with stars instead of city lights at night and air that smelled like something other than old beer, food carts, bus fumes, and whatever makes that steam that emanates New York City streets.

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.

GIF image

And so began the mission to find a new home. Over a handful of weeks, we visited various spots in the northern and southern Alps, looking for what I started calling the “Telluride of France”: a mountain town with a year-round population, good services, and skiing–the latter to serve as a salve for French winters, which it turns out, are very gray.

With Lyon as a base, Shon and I took turns 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. It was an experience that rendered two take aways: The Alps are beautiful, intimidating, and overwhelming. And we had no idea where we’d live.

Meanwhile, I’ve always liked Vosges chocolate. So naturally, I felt a connection to France’s Vosges mountain range before I could even place it on a map. I knew even less about Alsace, the northeastern department in which some of the mountains are located. But the more I read about the area–the skiing, hiking, and lakes; the vineyards and tiny villages; the proximity to Germany’s Black Forest–the more I thought…maybe? A quick visit on Shon’s part to Colmar, one of the area’s largest towns, and here we are. It was as abrupt a decision as it sounds.

We live in Colmar’s historic district. There are stork nests on churches in the summer, crooked cobblestone streets, and swan- and duck-dotted canals. Pretzels, too, as the German border is just 30 minutes away. It’s not exactly the great outdoors I envisioned–there’s no yodeling to mountains yonder (the Colmar area is flat, haha)–but there’s enough green space in and around town, plus the Vosges’ pine forests just 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

Leave a Reply to Angela Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s