Moving Abroad: Scouting Trip Week 1

After one week in France, my partner and I discuss how our scouting trip is progressing, as we prepare to move abroad.

My partner and I are taking a preliminary scouting trip to our new potential home in Annecy, France. After one week in Annecy, I talk with Em about our observations and expectations of the trip so far.  You can read more about our plans and preparations ahead of the trip here.  The transcript below was edited for clarity and length.

Tess Circle

Tess:

We’re sitting here in Annecy, looking out from our balcony at the mountains and the lake and the town below.  We’ve been back in France for one week now, so I thought we could talk a little bit about how it’s going so far.  Why don’t we start with getting here.  How did it go?

Tess Circle

Tess:

We’re sitting here in Annecy, looking out from our balcony at the mountains and the lake and the town below.  We’ve been back in France for one week now, so I thought we could talk a little bit about how it’s going so far.  Why don’t we start with getting here.  How did it go?

Em Circle

Em:

Well considering your health and your inability to move quickly, I think it turned out okay.  When I initially booked our flights, we had enough time for us to leisurely walk between gates during our layover.  But our layover ended up being shortened when our flight was rescheduled so there was only an hour to get from our arrival gate to our departure gate.  And unfortunately, when we landed flights were backed up, so we sat on the runway for quite a while.

Em Circle

Em:

Well considering your health and your inability to move quickly, I think it turned out okay.  When I initially booked our flights, we had enough time for us to leisurely walk between gates during our layover.  But our layover ended up being shortened when our flight was rescheduled so there was only an hour to get from our arrival gate to our departure gate.  And unfortunately, when we landed flights were backed up, so we sat on the runway for quite a while.

Tess Circle

Tess:

There was some unexpected airport sprinting.

Tess Circle

Tess:

There was some unexpected airport sprinting.

Em Circle

Em:

To make matters worse, we shared a row with a poor young woman who projectile vomited all over the plane because of turbulence.  Multiple rows of people were absolutely covered in vomit, but luckily the woman sitting in the aisle next to us blocked most of the spray.

Em Circle

Em:

To make matters worse, we shared a row with a poor young woman who projectile vomited all over the plane because of turbulence.  Multiple rows of people were absolutely covered in vomit, but luckily the woman sitting in the aisle next to us blocked most of the spray.

Tess Circle

Tess:

I think some of the other passengers were wishing they were masked like we were when that happened.

Tess Circle

Tess:

I think some of the other passengers were wishing they were masked like we were when that happened.

Em Circle

Em:

I am always prepared!  I was able to thank our human shield with some wipes and sanitizer.

Em Circle

Em:

I am always prepared!  I was able to thank our human shield with some wipes and sanitizer.

Tess Circle

Tess:

I will admit that at the time I was distracted by the Manhattan skyline.  I didn’t actually know that it had happened until you started giving out wet wipes.

Tess Circle

Tess:

I will admit that at the time I was distracted by the Manhattan skyline.  I didn’t actually know that it had happened until you started giving out wet wipes.

This view of Midtown Manhattan distracted me from what was happening across the aisle.
Em Circle

Em:

I’m not sure how you could have missed the noise and the sounds of it splashing off the television screens and the sounds of the other passengers gagging and generally being very upset that they were now literally all covered in someone else’s vomit.

Em Circle

Em:

I’m not sure how you could have missed the noise and the sounds of it splashing off the television screens and the sounds of the other passengers gagging and generally being very upset that they were now literally all covered in someone else’s vomit.

Tess Circle

Tess:

So moving on…

Tess Circle

Tess:

So moving on…

Em Circle

Em:

Maybe you don’t have to write that part.

Em Circle

Em:

Maybe you don’t have to write that part.

Tess Circle

Tess:

I’m not a fan of airports, as you know.  But I am a fan of trains.  And once we arrived in Geneva, I was struck again by how seamless it is to get around by train in Switzerland – getting from the airport to the train station, and then catching the connecting trains.  We were able to purchase our tickets at the kiosk in less than a minute, the trains we needed arrived every ten minutes, and other than forgetting which class of cabin we were supposed to board, it was pretty simple.  It is such a contrast with flying.  With the trains, we could quickly buy a ticket, quickly board the train, and quickly get where we wanted to be.  And once we were on the train there was lots of room to spread out, big windows, comfortable seats, and we were able to relax, which we definitely needed to do after a long flight. 

Tess Circle

Tess:

I’m not a fan of airports, as you know.  But I am a fan of trains.  And once we arrived in Geneva, I was struck again by how seamless it is to get around by train in Switzerland – getting from the airport to the train station, and then catching the connecting trains.  We were able to purchase our tickets at the kiosk in less than a minute, the trains we needed arrived every ten minutes, and other than forgetting which class of cabin we were supposed to board, it was pretty simple.  It is such a contrast with flying.  With the trains, we could quickly buy a ticket, quickly board the train, and quickly get where we wanted to be.  And once we were on the train there was lots of room to spread out, big windows, comfortable seats, and we were able to relax, which we definitely needed to do after a long flight. 

Comfortable seats and big windows on the (relatively new) Leman Express from Geneva to Annecy.
Em Circle

Em:

It was a very nice train ride from Geneva to Annecy, and I think we both probably would have fallen asleep if we weren’t so excited to see the scenery.

Em Circle

Em:

It was a very nice train ride from Geneva to Annecy, and I think we both probably would have fallen asleep if we weren’t so excited to see the scenery.

Tess Circle

Tess:

And we made it back to Annecy finally, after eleven years.  What were your first impressions when we arrived?

Tess Circle

Tess:

And we made it back to Annecy finally, after eleven years.  What were your first impressions when we arrived?

Em Circle

Em:

My first impression of the city was that it was just as beautiful as I remembered.  It was bustling.  There were locals and tourists walking around.  It just seems to me to be a very livable city.  There are all kinds of amenities.  Of course, there is the lake and the mountains, but since we were last here there is all kinds of new infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, modern apartments, and all of the shops we could need in walking distance.  Some of these things I maybe didn’t notice as much when I was here only for vacation.

Em Circle

Em:

My first impression of the city was that it was just as beautiful as I remembered.  It was bustling.  There were locals and tourists walking around.  It just seems to me to be a very livable city.  There are all kinds of amenities.  Of course, there is the lake and the mountains, but since we were last here there is all kinds of new infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, modern apartments, and all of the shops we could need in walking distance.  Some of these things I maybe didn’t notice as much when I was here only for vacation.

The recently pedestrianized Rue de la Paix is bustling with activity.
Tess Circle

Tess:

You have named a couple of the things that I noticed that were different from the last time we were here.  One of those is the infrastructure.  There just seems to be much, much more biking infrastructure, pedestrian infrastructure, and it’s not just in one spot or on a few streets.  It seems to be everywhere.  It is just very easy and comfortable to move around.  And also, oh my gosh, thousands and thousands of new apartments with more under construction everywhere.  I don’t think we are the only ones falling in love with this city, and it will be interesting to see how housing prices change over time. 

Tess Circle

Tess:

You have named a couple of the things that I noticed that were different from the last time we were here.  One of those is the infrastructure.  There just seems to be much, much more biking infrastructure, pedestrian infrastructure, and it’s not just in one spot or on a few streets.  It seems to be everywhere.  It is just very easy and comfortable to move around.  And also, oh my gosh, thousands and thousands of new apartments with more under construction everywhere.  I don’t think we are the only ones falling in love with this city, and it will be interesting to see how housing prices change over time. 

New walking and biking infrastructure is everywhere in Annecy, including this cycle track on Quai Eustache Chappuis.
Em Circle

Em:

It will be interesting to see what part of the city we really can afford.  But I do think that any part of the city can be a good place to live.

Em Circle

Em:

It will be interesting to see what part of the city we really can afford.  But I do think that any part of the city can be a good place to live.

Tess Circle

Tess:

I also noticed that with restaurants there seems to be a lot more outdoor dining and a lot more food to go, which maybe is a result of the pandemic, but certainly suits me just fine.  So no more mandatory four-hour lunches when you’ve got places to be.  That’s a little bit of French dining culture I’m happy to see evolve a little bit.  Is there anything else you have seen that maybe you weren’t expecting?

Tess Circle

Tess:

I also noticed that with restaurants there seems to be a lot more outdoor dining and a lot more food to go, which maybe is a result of the pandemic, but certainly suits me just fine.  So no more mandatory four-hour lunches when you’ve got places to be.  That’s a little bit of French dining culture I’m happy to see evolve a little bit.  Is there anything else you have seen that maybe you weren’t expecting?

Outdoor dining in Annecy's City Center
Em Circle

Em:

This is something little, but maybe big for us.  As we’re walking, if we’re at a crosswalk, all the cars, cyclists, and scooter riders stop for us immediately to let pedestrians cross the street.  That would never happen in Kansas City, or New York, or most American cities.  It’s definitely a different driver culture.  That was surprising to me.  Just the ability to get around the city seems really easy.  If you don’t want to walk there’s so many different bus routes, or during the summer even boat buses that will take you across the lake for free.

Em Circle

Em:

This is something little, but maybe big for us.  As we’re walking, if we’re at a crosswalk, all the cars, cyclists, and scooter riders stop for us immediately to let pedestrians cross the street.  That would never happen in Kansas City, or New York, or most American cities.  It’s definitely a different driver culture.  That was surprising to me.  Just the ability to get around the city seems really easy.  If you don’t want to walk there’s so many different bus routes, or during the summer even boat buses that will take you across the lake for free.

Tess Circle

Tess:

For a city of one hundred and thirty thousand people or something like that, everything seems very easy to get to.  Even someone like me can walk to the edge of town and farm fields in just a couple miles.  But it doesn’t feel small.  It still feels like a big city.

 

Tell me a little bit about what you have been doing in the past week, after you arrived and got settled.

Tess Circle

Tess:

For a city of one hundred and thirty thousand people or something like that, everything seems very easy to get to.  Even someone like me can walk to the edge of town and farm fields in just a couple miles.  But it doesn’t feel small.  It still feels like a big city.

 

Tell me a little bit about what you have been doing in the past week, after you arrived and got settled.

Em Circle

Em:

The first thing I did was take a shower!  But the next thing I did was visit the grocery store to stock up on food for the next few days.  And I was excited to do that so I could understand what foods and what products are available, and what kind of prices to expect.  I ended up going to a store just a few blocks away, and basically everything we buy in the US is available there.  The brands are different, but there is a wide range of vegetarian, vegan, and other specialty products.  So that was reassuring to see. 

 

We have been spending our mornings wandering around and going on short walks, so that we can get to know different parts of the city and better understand areas of the city where we might want to live.  Before we arrived, we researched some areas that look interesting, but we have also visited some different areas this week that seem really nice, with lots of amenities, where it’s easy to get to around by bus.  So it’s been great that we have discovered new parts of the city that we definitely didn’t see the first time we were here.

Em Circle

Em:

The first thing I did was take a shower!  But the next thing I did was visit the grocery store to stock up on food for the next few days.  And I was excited to do that so I could understand what foods and what products are available, and what kind of prices to expect.  I ended up going to a store just a few blocks away, and basically everything we buy in the US is available there.  The brands are different, but there is a wide range of vegetarian, vegan, and other specialty products.  So that was reassuring to see. 

 

We have been spending our mornings wandering around and going on short walks, so that we can get to know different parts of the city and better understand areas of the city where we might want to live.  Before we arrived, we researched some areas that look interesting, but we have also visited some different areas this week that seem really nice, with lots of amenities, where it’s easy to get to around by bus.  So it’s been great that we have discovered new parts of the city that we definitely didn’t see the first time we were here.

Tess Circle

Tess:

What kinds of things are must-haves for you in the neighborhood?

Tess Circle

Tess:

What kinds of things are must-haves for you in the neighborhood?

Em Circle

Em:

I really would love to have a grocery store, a pharmacy, a boulangerie, and other shops all within at least three blocks.  The apartment we are staying in now has a boulangerie, a patisserie, a fruit store, and a wine store all on the same block, and two different grocery stores just two blocks away.  If I could get something like that in Annecy, that’s ideal.  And especially for you since you can’t walk a lot, it’s good to have those things around.

Em Circle

Em:

I really would love to have a grocery store, a pharmacy, a boulangerie, and other shops all within at least three blocks.  The apartment we are staying in now has a boulangerie, a patisserie, a fruit store, and a wine store all on the same block, and two different grocery stores just two blocks away.  If I could get something like that in Annecy, that’s ideal.  And especially for you since you can’t walk a lot, it’s good to have those things around.

Small neighborhood grocery on Avenue de la Maveria
Tess Circle

Tess:

I think it’s interesting to compare the availability of things here and in the US.  In the US there might be a supermarket that isn’t a block away.  Maybe it’s a mile or two away.  But it will probably be much larger, and it will have many different varieties of the same product in the same store.  I think the common perception is that when you’re shopping in Europe, rather than stocking up your car with two weeks of groceries you are going somewhere closer and smaller and stocking up for a few days.  But maybe that smaller, closer place doesn’t have the same variety or selection.  So there’s this idea that you are trading convenience for selection.  But I don’t know if that’ actually true, because while maybe the store you are shopping in only has a few items, maybe next door there is a different store with different items, and next door to that is a different store with different selection.  So I don’t know if it’s actually true that you have less selection or less variety with the smaller stores.  It’s just that all of the items in an American supermarket are instead spread out into seven or eight different stores that are still on the same block.

 

So for me it doesn’t feel like you have to make a lot of compromises in terms of selection.  There certainly is an appeal to having lots of choices right outside your door.

 

I do imagine that maybe the cost of food is a little bit higher in these smaller stores than larger stores where there is an economy of scale, but I think the quality might be higher in the smaller stores as well.  It’s interesting to me to compare what you get and how you shop in Annecy compared to Kansas City.

Tess Circle

Tess:

I think it’s interesting to compare the availability of things here and in the US.  In the US there might be a supermarket that isn’t a block away.  Maybe it’s a mile or two away.  But it will probably be much larger, and it will have many different varieties of the same product in the same store.  I think the common perception is that when you’re shopping in Europe, rather than stocking up your car with two weeks of groceries you are going somewhere closer and smaller and stocking up for a few days.  But maybe that smaller, closer place doesn’t have the same variety or selection.  So there’s this idea that you are trading convenience for selection.  But I don’t know if that’ actually true, because while maybe the store you are shopping in only has a few items, maybe next door there is a different store with different items, and next door to that is a different store with different selection.  So I don’t know if it’s actually true that you have less selection or less variety with the smaller stores.  It’s just that all of the items in an American supermarket are instead spread out into seven or eight different stores that are still on the same block.

 

So for me it doesn’t feel like you have to make a lot of compromises in terms of selection.  There certainly is an appeal to having lots of choices right outside your door.

 

I do imagine that maybe the cost of food is a little bit higher in these smaller stores than larger stores where there is an economy of scale, but I think the quality might be higher in the smaller stores as well.  It’s interesting to me to compare what you get and how you shop in Annecy compared to Kansas City.

Em Circle

Em:

As an example of that, today I went to a grocery and wanted to buy blueberries but they didn’t have any, so on my way back I just stopped at the fruit and vegetable store and picked up what I needed.  I didn’t have to travel out of my way or make an extra trip.  I imagine if we needed something very specific, we could take the bus to the suburbs of Annecy to a giant supermarket and pick up that specialty item, but I don’t think we would need to do that very often.

Em Circle

Em:

As an example of that, today I went to a grocery and wanted to buy blueberries but they didn’t have any, so on my way back I just stopped at the fruit and vegetable store and picked up what I needed.  I didn’t have to travel out of my way or make an extra trip.  I imagine if we needed something very specific, we could take the bus to the suburbs of Annecy to a giant supermarket and pick up that specialty item, but I don’t think we would need to do that very often.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Aside from groceries, another thing we have focused on is access to transportation.  How close we are to the train station is important, but I have noticed as you said how many buses are everywhere.  And they come so often that you don’t have to plan your day around a bus that comes once per hour or every ninety minutes.  And I think that means there are a lot more places in the city that can work for us, even if there are times when I’m not very mobile.  That’s been something else I’ve been looking for in neighborhoods.

 

It’s been pretty hot while we have been here so far – maybe unseasonably warm.  Our apartment, like most French apartments, does not have air conditioning right now.  I wonder if air conditioning is on your must-have list?

Tess Circle

Tess:

Aside from groceries, another thing we have focused on is access to transportation.  How close we are to the train station is important, but I have noticed as you said how many buses are everywhere.  And they come so often that you don’t have to plan your day around a bus that comes once per hour or every ninety minutes.  And I think that means there are a lot more places in the city that can work for us, even if there are times when I’m not very mobile.  That’s been something else I’ve been looking for in neighborhoods.

 

It’s been pretty hot while we have been here so far – maybe unseasonably warm.  Our apartment, like most French apartments, does not have air conditioning right now.  I wonder if air conditioning is on your must-have list?

Em Circle

Em:

I think it’s a very nice-to-have feature.  I think no air conditioning is something I could get used to.  Millions of Europeans are used to it.  But it’s rarely so hot in Annecy, and I think a fan in the heat of the day is good enough.  It would be nice to have, but I don’t want to pay extra for air-conditioning.

Em Circle

Em:

I think it’s a very nice-to-have feature.  I think no air conditioning is something I could get used to.  Millions of Europeans are used to it.  But it’s rarely so hot in Annecy, and I think a fan in the heat of the day is good enough.  It would be nice to have, but I don’t want to pay extra for air-conditioning.

Tess Circle

Tess:

I very much want to adapt to local culture.  But air conditioning…I think that might be my line in the sand.  I may just have too many decades of American living to survive without climate control.

Tess Circle

Tess:

I very much want to adapt to local culture.  But air conditioning… I think that might be my line in the sand.  I may just have too many decades of American living to survive without climate control.

Em Circle

Em:

The other issue is that many apartments here have shutters rather than screens.  That means bugs.  But I’m so hot that I don’t care about the bugs anymore.  I think if we can find an apartment with air conditioning that we can afford, that’s ideal. 

Em Circle

Em:

The other issue is that many apartments here have shutters rather than screens.  That means bugs.  But I’m so hot that I don’t care about the bugs anymore.  I think if we can find an apartment with air conditioning that we can afford, that’s ideal. 

Trading air conditioning for scenic mountain vistas
Tess Circle

Tess:

We are a little bit spoiled.

Tess Circle

Tess:

We are a little bit spoiled.

Em Circle

Em:

Yes, we are spoiled Americans.

Em Circle

Em:

Yes, we are spoiled Americans.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Hopefully we are spending most of our time outside the apartment.  What is coming up next in week two?

Tess Circle

Tess:

Hopefully we are spending most of our time outside the apartment.  What is coming up next in week two?

Em Circle

Em:

During week two we will be meeting with a relocation assistant, who is an expert on all things related to Annecy relocation.  So we will be talking with them about things like visa advice, apartment searches, moving services, and other things we might need for our move.  It will be interesting to hear what they say. 

 

We also have some additional neighborhoods to explore in Annecy.  And then we have some other cities to visit.  Geneva, Lyon, Grenoble, and others.  We like Annecy very much, but we need to spend some time in these places to do a real comparison.

Em Circle

Em:

During week two we will be meeting with a relocation assistant, who is an expert on all things related to Annecy relocation.  So we will be talking with them about things like visa advice, apartment searches, moving services, and other things we might need for our move.  It will be interesting to hear what they say. 

 

We also have some additional neighborhoods to explore in Annecy.  And then we have some other cities to visit.  Geneva, Lyon, Grenoble, and others.  We like Annecy very much, but we need to spend some time in these places to do a real comparison.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Merci beaucoup.  À la semaine prochaine!

Tess Circle

Tess:

Merci beaucoup.  À la semaine prochaine!

The conversation continues!  Click here to check out week two.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
a

Quam viverra orci sagittis eu. Lacus vestibulum sed arcu non odio.

m