Moving Abroad: Scouting Trip Week 2

For the second week of our scouting trip, we continue to explore Annecy, and visit the nearby cities of Lyon, Geneva, and Annemasse.

My partner and I are taking a preliminary scouting trip to our new potential home in Annecy, France. Two weeks into our journey, Em and I share our impressions of some of the cities near Annecy, and how our visits are helping us decide where we want to live.  You can read more about our plans and preparations ahead of the trip here, or revisit week one here.  The transcript below was edited for clarity and length.

Tess Circle

Tess:

So, we’re at two weeks, three apartments, four cities, and about fifty baguettes.  Does that sound right?

Tess Circle

Tess:

So, we’re at two weeks, three apartments, four cities, and about fifty baguettes.  Does that sound right?

Em Circle

Em:

Exactly right!

Em Circle

Em:

Exactly right!

Tess Circle

Tess:

Another week into our scouting trip in France and we’ve been busy.  One of the things we did early in week two was meet with a relocation specialist.  We  talked before about what sort of help we thought might want, but I’m curious about your impressions of the meeting.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Another week into our scouting trip in France and we’ve been busy.  One of the things we did early in week two was meet with a relocation specialist.  We  talked before about what sort of help we thought might want, but I’m curious about your impressions of the meeting.

Em Circle

Em:

I think it was a really good meeting.  I think that they will be able to help us with everything we need.  And if they’re not an expert in a certain field, they can connect us with an expert they works with.  For example, immigration is not their specialty, but they know someone who specializes in helping people move to France.  I feel really good about getting connected with someone who can help us find the right type of visa for how we will be living and working in France.  I think the relocation expert can also help us find the right apartment.  They told us our budget is reasonable, which is very reassuring.  And depending on how much help we need, they can probably assist us with just about anything – a tour of the city, or setting up utilities, or transporting personal items from the US, for example.

Em Circle

Em:

I think it was a really good meeting.  I think that they will be able to help us with everything we need.  And if they’re not an expert in a certain field, they can connect us with an expert they works with.  For example, immigration is not their specialty, but they know someone who specializes in helping people move to France.  I feel really good about getting connected with someone who can help us find the right type of visa for how we will be living and working in France.  I think the relocation expert can also help us find the right apartment.  They told us our budget is reasonable, which is very reassuring.  And depending on how much help we need, they can probably assist us with just about anything – a tour of the city, or setting up utilities, or transporting personal items from the US, for example.

Tess Circle

Tess:

I learned a few things during the visit.  One is that our French is even more terrible than we realized, and we did know that it was pretty bad.  They were very polite.  They said your writing is much better than your speaking.

Tess Circle

Tess:

I learned a few things during the visit.  One is that our French is even more terrible than we realized, and we did know that it was pretty bad.  They were very polite.  They said your writing is much better than your speaking.

Em Circle

Em:

I didn’t want to tell her that we used Google Translate.

Em Circle

Em:

I didn’t want to tell her that we used Google Translate.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Only a little bit!  They described to us a lot of details.  We knew finding an apartment would be difficult as foreign residents, but they went into a level of depth on the renting complications that I did not fully realize before, and it was good to get a picture of all of the challenges we will be facing. It’s nothing we can’t overcome, but there are a lot of potential obstacles and headaches that hopefully we can smooth over as we prepare to come over here.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Only a little bit!  They described to us a lot of details.  We knew finding an apartment would be difficult as foreign residents, but they went into a level of depth on the renting complications that I did not fully realize before, and it was good to get a picture of all of the challenges we will be facing. It’s nothing we can’t overcome, but there are a lot of potential obstacles and headaches that hopefully we can smooth over as we prepare to come over here.

Em Circle

Em:

Yeah, I agree.  There was nothing that was so daunting that it would prevent us from moving.  I think that we met with someone who can help us, someone who loves their city and wants to assist people in moving here and getting settled and so others can enjoy the city and the region as much as they do.

Em Circle

Em:

Yeah, I agree.  There was nothing that was so daunting that it would prevent us from moving.  I think that we met with someone who can help us, someone who loves their city and wants to assist people in moving here and getting settled and so others can enjoy the city and the region as much as they do.

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Tess:

I do think we are a little bit unusual for them insofar as we are not coming to France for a French job.

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Tess:

I do think we are a little bit unusual for them insofar as we are not coming to France for a French job.

Em Circle

Em:

Right.  And that makes it a little more difficult maybe for people offering apartments to trust that we can afford the rent even though we can show proof of employment in the United States.  It makes it a little more challenging for us.  It’s not impossible, but we just have to go through some extra steps to ensure that we can find a place to live.

Em Circle

Em:

Right.  And that makes it a little more difficult maybe for people offering apartments to trust that we can afford the rent even though we can show proof of employment in the United States.  It makes it a little more challenging for us.  It’s not impossible, but we just have to go through some extra steps to ensure that we can find a place to live.

The right home for us is out there somewhere... if we can convince the banks and landlords to rent to us.
Tess Circle

Tess:

In week two we have also been continuing to explore different neighborhoods in Annecy.  We visited some places where the location was good and the apartments were brand new, and we thought ahead of time that we might like to live there.  But once we were there in person, maybe the street experience wasn’t great, or there was a lot of traffic, or there wasn’t a good way to get from the apartment to the places we wanted to go.  So I thought it was very helpful for us to physically be in those places and see how they felt, because it definitely changed some of my opinions about where we might want to live.

Tess Circle

Tess:

In week two we have also been continuing to explore different neighborhoods in Annecy.  We visited some places where the location was good and the apartments were brand new, and we thought ahead of time that we might like to live there.  But once we were there in person, maybe the street experience wasn’t great, or there was a lot of traffic, or there wasn’t a good way to get from the apartment to the places we wanted to go.  So I thought it was very helpful for us to physically be in those places and see how they felt, because it definitely changed some of my opinions about where we might want to live.

Em Circle

Em:

I agree.  I think there were a lot of neighborhoods that were really nice, really pretty, but just didn’t feel as magical to me as my favorite places.  We visited an area with a central plaza, a movie theater, restaurants and shops, and everything that you would need to live and be comfortable.  But it was further away from the city center.  And because everything was brand new, it just didn’t feel like we were moving to a different country or a different experience.  So one of the things we talked about this week was that you didn’t know how it important it was for me to live somewhere that is old and that has a lot of history.

Em Circle

Em:

I agree.  I think there were a lot of neighborhoods that were really nice, really pretty, but just didn’t feel as magical to me as my favorite places.  We visited an area with a central plaza, a movie theater, restaurants and shops, and everything that you would need to live and be comfortable.  But it was further away from the city center.  And because everything was brand new, it just didn’t feel like we were moving to a different country or a different experience.  So one of the things we talked about this week was that you didn’t know how it important it was for me to live somewhere that is old and that has a lot of history.

We visited some beautiful neighborhoods in Annecy that were just not the right fit for us.
Tess Circle

Tess:

Let’s talk about that.  One of the cities that we are considering is Annemasse, which is near Annecy on the Swiss border.  And it is basically a suburb of Geneva.  So, it is a place where we could live a short streetcar ride away from the heart of Geneva but still be in France.  I think on paper Annemasse checks a lot of boxes for us.  Our readers can go back and look at the older stories – when I asked what factors are important to you, Annemasse seems to match up in many ways.  It’s close to Geneva.  It has great transit access.  There are lots of shops and restaurants and things to do.  It has its own city center with lots of new apartments and amenities.  But when we got there, you said, “This is not where I want to live.”

Tess Circle

Tess:

Let’s talk about that.  One of the cities that we are considering is Annemasse, which is near Annecy on the Swiss border.  And it is basically a suburb of Geneva.  So, it is a place where we could live a short streetcar ride away from the heart of Geneva but still be in France.  I think on paper Annemasse checks a lot of boxes for us.  Our readers can go back and look at the older stories – when I asked what factors are important to you, Annemasse seems to match up in many ways.  It’s close to Geneva.  It has great transit access.  There are lots of shops and restaurants and things to do.  It has its own city center with lots of new apartments and amenities.  But when we got there, you said, “This is not where I want to live.”

Em Circle

Em:

Yes.  I do think it is a really nice city.  Again, it is full of modern buildings with all of the amenities, shopping, restaurants, and things to do, but to me it felt too much like when we visited Seattle or Portland.  It just didn’t seem so different from where we were living in Kansas City.  So I learned that day when we visited Annemasse that if I am going to move to Europe, it is very important to me to live somewhere with a lot of character and history.  At least at first.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to live in an old building with exposed beams—

Em Circle

Em:

Yes.  I do think it is a really nice city.  Again, it is full of modern buildings with all of the amenities, shopping, restaurants, and things to do, but to me it felt too much like when we visited Seattle or Portland.  It just didn’t seem so different from where we were living in Kansas City.  So I learned that day when we visited Annemasse that if I am going to move to Europe, it is very important to me to live somewhere with a lot of character and history.  At least at first.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to live in an old building with exposed beams—

Tess Circle

Tess:

It’s not the House Hunters definition of character.

Tess Circle

Tess:

It’s not the House Hunters definition of character.

Em Circle

Em:

I think I need to live somewhere that is at least near to old buildings with history.

Em Circle

Em:

I think I need to live somewhere that is at least near to old buildings with history.

Tess Circle

Tess:

So your new number one criteria: “Is it magical?”

Tess Circle

Tess:

So your new number one criteria: “Is it magical?”

Em Circle

Em:

Exactly.

Em Circle

Em:

Exactly.

Annemasse has new apartments, amenities, great transit access, and a lively city center. But for us it lacks that certain "je ne sais quoi."
Tess Circle

Tess:

Okay.  From Annemasse, we hopped on a short streetcar ride to Geneva and we were able to walk around central Geneva for a bit.  We really just scratched the surface this time and we have much more to see and do in the city.  You’ve been to Geneva before, but mostly to catch a plane or train.  This was the first chance you got to really soak it in.  What were your impressions?

Tess Circle

Tess:

Okay.  From Annemasse, we hopped on a short streetcar ride to Geneva and we were able to walk around central Geneva for a bit.  We really just scratched the surface this time and we have much more to see and do in the city.  You’ve been to Geneva before, but mostly to catch a plane or train.  This was the first chance you got to really soak it in.  What were your impressions?

Em Circle

Em:

My impressions are that Geneva is a very beautiful city.  There seemed to be a lot of people out and about.  We spent our time in a more touristy area so I’m looking forward to going back and exploring different parts of the city to see how it feels elsewhere.  I would say that if for some reason on a second visit to Geneva I absolutely fall in love with it, then I could live in Annemasse.  And maybe Annemasse is not the magical city I’m looking for, but I live close to the streetcar or train station that takes me into Geneva.  So I don’t want to say that I would never consider Annemasse.  But of all of the visits we have done so far, Annecy still feels like the best place.

Em Circle

Em:

My impressions are that Geneva is a very beautiful city.  There seemed to be a lot of people out and about.  We spent our time in a more touristy area so I’m looking forward to going back and exploring different parts of the city to see how it feels elsewhere.  I would say that if for some reason on a second visit to Geneva I absolutely fall in love with it, then I could live in Annemasse.  And maybe Annemasse is not the magical city I’m looking for, but I live close to the streetcar or train station that takes me into Geneva.  So I don’t want to say that I would never consider Annemasse.  But of all of the visits we have done so far, Annecy still feels like the best place.

Tess Circle

Tess:

My observation of Geneva is maybe a little bit esoteric.  Geneva to me feels very multipolar.  Many cities have a center of gravity, and the closer you get to that center of gravity the more there is to see and do.  Here in Annecy, the river and canals and old town are the center of gravity.  Or maybe the lakefront promenade.  And everything sort of pulls you to those places.  But in Geneva you have the historic medieval city, which is a center of a kind, but it is on a hill and it is a little bit isolated from other places.  You have the lakefront and riverfront where there is a lot going on, but it is not quite where the train station is or some of the other business or residential districts.  I think if someone spent a long time there it would all become very familiar and you would intuitively understand how the places connect, but at first glance a place that is so multipolar can feel a little bit disorienting.  So as an urban planner it is interesting to me how the logic of Geneva is a little bit layered or hidden, and initially seems to have this discombobulated feel.

Tess Circle

Tess:

My observation of Geneva is maybe a little bit esoteric.  Geneva to me feels very multipolar.  Many cities have a center of gravity, and the closer you get to that center of gravity the more there is to see and do.  Here in Annecy, the river and canals and old town are the center of gravity.  Or maybe the lakefront promenade.  And everything sort of pulls you to those places.  But in Geneva you have the historic medieval city, which is a center of a kind, but it is on a hill and it is a little bit isolated from other places.  You have the lakefront and riverfront where there is a lot going on, but it is not quite where the train station is or some of the other business or residential districts.  I think if someone spent a long time there it would all become very familiar and you would intuitively understand how the places connect, but at first glance a place that is so multipolar can feel a little bit disorienting.  So as an urban planner it is interesting to me how the logic of Geneva is a little bit layered or hidden, and initially seems to have this discombobulated feel.

Em Circle

Em:

That’s an interesting perspective.  I think it will good for us to go spend a little bit more time in the city over the next few weeks and see if your first impressions match your future impressions.

Em Circle

Em:

That’s an interesting perspective.  I think it will good for us to go spend a little bit more time in the city over the next few weeks and see if your first impressions match your future impressions.

Outdoor dining on a slope in Geneva's historic Place du Bourg-de-Four
Tess Circle

Tess:

We were also able to make it Lyon this week – another big city not too far from Annecy.  We have much, much more to do there, surely, but what are your first impressions?

Tess Circle

Tess:

We were also able to make it Lyon this week – another big city not too far from Annecy.  We have much, much more to do there, surely, but what are your first impressions?

Em Circle

Em:

My first impressions are that Lyon is a really big, bustling city.  Even though Lyon has about the same population as the Kansas City area, it seems much busier.  People are rushing around at all times of the day to get to places.  It seems like the lifestyle in Lyon is less laid-back than it is in Annecy.

Em Circle

Em:

My first impressions are that Lyon is a really big, bustling city.  Even though Lyon has about the same population as the Kansas City area, it seems much busier.  People are rushing around at all times of the day to get to places.  It seems like the lifestyle in Lyon is less laid-back than it is in Annecy.

Tess Circle

Tess:

It seems weird to call a city of more than two million compact, but there is so much dense goodness there.  Neighborhood after neighborhood, block after block, you don’t have to seek out little islands of interest or activity or liveliness.  The entire city is rich and full and bustling, and each little pocket has its own personality.

Tess Circle

Tess:

It seems weird to call a city of more than two million compact, but there is so much dense goodness there.  Neighborhood after neighborhood, block after block, you don’t have to seek out little islands of interest or activity or liveliness.  The entire city is rich and full and bustling, and each little pocket has its own personality.

Em Circle

Em:

And I really love that even though we spent a short amount of time there, we were able to see a very modern and new part of the city, we were able to see an old part of the city, we were able to visit the medieval part of the city, and we also saw the ancient Roman part of the city, all within a couple miles.  And we were able to take public transportation.  We had a day pass that allowed us to go on the subway, the streetcar, the funicular, all of the things.  It was so easy to get around. 

Em Circle

Em:

And I really love that even though we spent a short amount of time there, we were able to see a very modern and new part of the city, we were able to see an old part of the city, we were able to visit the medieval part of the city, and we also saw the ancient Roman part of the city, all within a couple miles.  And we were able to take public transportation.  We had a day pass that allowed us to go on the subway, the streetcar, the funicular, all of the things.  It was so easy to get around. 

Near the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers in Lyon, new neighborhoods are filled with striking modern buildings.
Tess Circle

Tess:

Coming from the United States and a mid-sized midwestern city, it is so satisfying to be able to seamlessly hop off the regional train, hop on a streetcar, catch the subway to the funicular, and be able to move wherever we want to go without any problems really.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Coming from the United States and a mid-sized midwestern city, it is so satisfying to be able to seamlessly hop off the regional train, hop on a streetcar, catch the subway to the funicular, and be able to move wherever we want to go without any problems really.

Em Circle

Em:

Yeah, I think that’s really important for you if you are having a bad day and can’t move around like you used to do.  Being close to public transportation is important wherever you live.

Em Circle

Em:

Yeah, I think that’s really important for you if you are having a bad day and can’t move around like you used to do.  Being close to public transportation is important wherever you live.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Lyon feels like a great walking city.  But unfortunately I am no longer a great walker. 

Tess Circle

Tess:

Lyon feels like a great walking city.  But unfortunately I am no longer a great walker. 

Fast, frequent, and everywhere you need it, Lyon's transit system makes it easy to move around the city.
Tess Circle

Tess:

So my question for you:  Lyon, is it magical?

Tess Circle

Tess:

So my question for you:  Lyon, is it magical?

Em Circle

Em:

Absolutely, Lyon is magical.

Em Circle

Em:

Absolutely, Lyon is magical.

Tess Circle

Tess:

So it is a place we are still considering.

Tess Circle

Tess:

So it is a place we are still considering.

Em Circle

Em:

Yeah, I think so.  And as we eventually live in France, maybe Annecy is where we move first.  But after a period of time if Annecy seems too small for us and we want a new French adventure, Lyon would be a very easy city to live in.  We certainly wouldn’t run out of things to do.  The only downside for Lyon is that it is a little bit further away from the big mountains and lakes.

Em Circle

Em:

Yeah, I think so.  And as we eventually live in France, maybe Annecy is where we move first.  But after a period of time if Annecy seems too small for us and we want a new French adventure, Lyon would be a very easy city to live in.  We certainly wouldn’t run out of things to do.  The only downside for Lyon is that it is a little bit further away from the big mountains and lakes.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Those are also magical.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Those are also magical.

Em Circle

Em:

But Lyon does have mountains, and I hear that on a clear day you can see Mont Blanc from Lyon, although I haven’t yet seen it myself.

Em Circle

Em:

But Lyon does have mountains, and I hear that on a clear day you can see Mont Blanc from Lyon, although I haven’t yet seen it myself.

A little bit of magic on Rue Victor Hugo - one of Lyon's lively pedestrian arteries.
Tess Circle

Tess:

I don’t want to finish off week two without mentioning that we were also able to get out on the lake finally.  The core activity of our entire monthlong trip is unquestionably the paddle boat rental – the greatest source of joy that exists for humankind.  We got to jump in an absolutely frigid alpine lake for a few moments as well.

Tess Circle

Tess:

I don’t want to finish off week two without mentioning that we were also able to get out on the lake finally.  The core activity of our entire monthlong trip is unquestionably the paddle boat rental – the greatest source of joy that exists for humankind.  We got to jump in an absolutely frigid alpine lake for a few moments as well.

Em Circle

Em:

It wasn’t that frigid!  I bet it was a similar temperature to the Mediterranean.  But I am more used to getting up early and swimming in cold pools.  However, it was very hot outside, so it was very refreshing to paddle out into the middle of the lake, bask in the sun, jump in the water, and cool off.  It was also really nice to sit back and look at the mountains and look at the city.

Em Circle

Em:

It wasn’t that frigid!  I bet it was a similar temperature to the Mediterranean.  But I am more used to getting up early and swimming in cold pools.  However, it was very hot outside, so it was very refreshing to paddle out into the middle of the lake, bask in the sun, jump in the water, and cool off.  It was also really nice to sit back and look at the mountains and look at the city.

Tess Circle

Tess:

It’s a fun perspective on the setting and the scenery.

Tess Circle

Tess:

It’s a fun perspective on the setting and the scenery.

Hop on a paddle boat for stunning views and a refreshing swim on Lake Annecy.
Tess Circle

Tess:

We’re over the hump here on the second half of our trip.  What are you looking forward to next week?

Tess Circle

Tess:

We’re over the hump here on the second half of our trip.  What are you looking forward to next week?

Em Circle

Em:

I am looking forward to visiting some other cities outside of Annecy. We’re going to visit Aix-les-Bains and Chambery.  We will go to Grenoble and back to Geneva with a little bit more time.  And I am mostly looking forward to spending time in Annecy and continuing to get to know the city better.

Em Circle

Em:

I am looking forward to visiting some other cities outside of Annecy. We’re going to visit Aix-les-Bains and Chambery.  We will go to Grenoble and back to Geneva with a little bit more time.  And I am mostly looking forward to spending time in Annecy and continuing to get to know the city better.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Thank you very much.  We’ll check in again at the end of week three!

Tess Circle

Tess:

Thank you very much.  We’ll check in again at the end of week three!

The conversation continues!  Click here for week three.

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