Moving Abroad: Scouting Trip Week 4

In the final week of our scouting trip, it's all about "les bains," as we visit Aix-les-Bains, Thonon-les-Bains, and Évian-les-Bains. We also explore the villages around Lac d'Annecy by bike. Finally, we reflect on our time in France and our big decisions moving forward with moving abroad.

My partner and I are taking a preliminary scouting trip to our new potential home in Annecy, France.  In week four of our exploration we prepare to return to the United States and look back on what we have learned and what it means for our future in France.  We also do some traveling in our final week, visiting towns and villages around Lac du Bourget, Lac Léman, and Lac d’Annecy.  You can read more about our plans and preparations ahead of the trip here, or revisit week one, two, or three.  The transcript below was edited for clarity and length.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Okay, we’re back in Kansas City.  We stepped off the plane into a wall of humidity with a heat index of 106 degrees.  We just avoided by a few days multiple tornados, so everything is normal here.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Okay, we’re back in Kansas City.  We stepped off the plane into a wall of humidity with a heat index of 106 degrees.  We just avoided by a few days multiple tornados, so everything is normal here.

Em Circle

Em:

Everything is normal in Kansas City, but I miss France.

Em Circle

Em:

Everything is normal in Kansas City, but I miss France.

Tess Circle

Tess:

There was a little bit of a delay with this conversation.  Do you want to tell our readers why?

Tess Circle

Tess:

There was a little bit of a delay with this conversation.  Do you want to tell our readers why?

Em Circle

Em:

Well, we were going through security in Newark, and we were a bit distracted.  You left a mask in your pocket, so they pulled you aside to be scanned.  And in all of that confusion and rush, you forgot to put this laptop back in your bag.  You didn’t notice, and I didn’t notice, and on our flight from Newark, my typical anxiety said, “I think we forgot the laptop.”

Em Circle

Em:

Well, we were going through security in Newark, and we were a bit distracted.  You left a mask in your pocket, so they pulled you aside to be scanned.  And in all of that confusion and rush, you forgot to put this laptop back in your bag.  You didn’t notice, and I didn’t notice, and on our flight from Newark, my typical anxiety said, “I think we forgot the laptop.”

Are we forgetting something?
Tess Circle

Tess:

Like a Home Alone scene, except we didn’t forget a child.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Like a Home Alone scene, except we didn’t forget a child.

Em Circle

Em:

So we had to contact lost and found with the TSA.  I was convinced it was lost forever, but they found it.

Em Circle

Em:

So we had to contact lost and found with the TSA.  I was convinced it was lost forever, but they found it.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Thanks to the hard-working people of the Newark Liberty TSA Lost and Found, we have our laptop with all of our notes and we are back on track!  Back in Kansas City, France already kind of seems like a dream that is fading away, but let’s try to put ourselves back there and review our final week, because we did quite a lot.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Thanks to the hard-working people of the Newark Liberty TSA Lost and Found, we have our laptop with all of our notes and we are back on track!  Back in Kansas City, France already kind of seems like a dream that is fading away, but let’s try to put ourselves back there and review our final week, because we did quite a lot.

Em Circle

Em:

We sure did.

Em Circle

Em:

We sure did.

Tess Circle

Tess:

First, we visited Aix-les-Bains, which is another town that is on a lake like Annecy, about thirty minutes by train west of Annecy.  And like Annecy, it is a place with a lot of history and a lot of visitors.  What did you think of Aix-les-Bains?

Tess Circle

Tess:

First, we visited Aix-les-Bains, which is another town that is on a lake like Annecy, about thirty minutes by train west of Annecy.  And like Annecy, it is a place with a lot of history and a lot of visitors.  What did you think of Aix-les-Bains?

Em Circle

Em:

I liked Aix-les-Bains.  I don’t think we gave it enough time or went to all of the areas that most tourists go.  We didn’t go to a spa.  We didn’t go down to the lake.  We stayed in the main town, and our time there was maybe different than most other people.  But it was still really nice, and I enjoyed it.

Em Circle

Em:

I liked Aix-les-Bains.  I don’t think we gave it enough time or went to all of the areas that most tourists go.  We didn’t go to a spa.  We didn’t go down to the lake.  We stayed in the main town, and our time there was maybe different than most other people.  But it was still really nice, and I enjoyed it.

Place Carnot in Aix-les-Bains
Tess Circle

Tess:

I think that does hit on one of the differences between Aix-les-Bains and Annecy.  The reason we didn’t go to the lake is because the heart of town is not on the lake.  There is a bit of hike from the town center down to the water.

Tess Circle

Tess:

I think that does hit on one of the differences between Aix-les-Bains and Annecy.  The reason we didn’t go to the lake is because the heart of town is not on the lake.  There is a bit of hike from the town center down to the water.

Em Circle

Em:

I think if your health was better and you felt well enough we would have done it.

Em Circle

Em:

I think if your health was better and you felt well enough we would have done it.

Tess Circle

Tess:

But it was too much for me this time.  And obviously in a pandemic we have been avoiding indoor locations where possible, and that’s where some of the attractions in Aix-les-Bains are located.

Tess Circle

Tess:

But it was too much for me this time.  And obviously in a pandemic we have been avoiding indoor locations where possible, and that’s where some of the attractions in Aix-les-Bains are located.

Em Circle

Em:

What did you think of it?

Em Circle

Em:

What did you think of it?

Tess Circle

Tess:

I was kind of surprised.  I knew Aix-les-Bains was a resort town and that it was a historic resort town based around the thermal baths that are there, going back to Roman times.  And we saw some Roman ruins during our visit.  What I didn’t expect is something that I think is more common here in the Midwest of the United States than where we have been travelling in France, which is buildings that are vacant, areas that are neglected.  It felt like a very ritzy resort that was a little bit past its prime.  That was the first impression I got.  There were some very nice places, but it looked to me like maybe its best days were in the past.

Tess Circle

Tess:

I was kind of surprised.  I knew Aix-les-Bains was a resort town and that it was a historic resort town based around the thermal baths that are there, going back to Roman times.  And we saw some Roman ruins during our visit.  What I didn’t expect is something that I think is more common here in the Midwest of the United States than where we have been travelling in France, which is buildings that are vacant, areas that are neglected.  It felt like a very ritzy resort that was a little bit past its prime.  That was the first impression I got.  There were some very nice places, but it looked to me like maybe its best days were in the past.

Roman ruins and renovations in Place Maurice Mollard
Em Circle

Em:

Well when we move to Annecy, I am definitely going back to Aix-les-Bains and staying at a spa for a night or two, and getting the full spa experience.

Em Circle

Em:

Well when we move to Annecy, I am definitely going back to Aix-les-Bains and staying at a spa for a night or two, and getting the full spa experience.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Yeah, maybe I’m not adequately appreciating what the spas have to offer.  All I’m doing is walking down the sidewalk, and I’m not really living the best parts of the Aix-les-Bains experience.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Yeah, maybe I’m not adequately appreciating what the spas have to offer.  All I’m doing is walking down the sidewalk, and I’m not really living the best parts of the Aix-les-Bains experience.

Em Circle

Em:

Maybe if you jumped in the hot springs that are said to have healing qualities you would feel differently.

Em Circle

Em:

Maybe if you jumped in the hot springs that are said to have healing qualities you would feel differently.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Maybe the cure to long covid is hotel spa spring water in Aix-les-Bains, and the greater fool am I for dismissing them.  There is something else I noticed, which is not something I have talked about in other places because there hasn’t really been anything out of the ordinary.  I think that in general we were dramatically younger than most of the people we passed on the sidewalk in Aix-les-Bains.  It seemed to be a very senior dominant destination.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Maybe the cure to long covid is hotel spa spring water in Aix-les-Bains, and the greater fool am I for dismissing them.  There is something else I noticed, which is not something I have talked about in other places because there hasn’t really been anything out of the ordinary.  I think that in general we were dramatically younger than most of the people we passed on the sidewalk in Aix-les-Bains.  It seemed to be a very senior dominant destination.

Em Circle

Em:

It could just be that the park where we sat for a long time was a senior hangout.

Em Circle

Em:

It could just be that the park where we sat for a long time was a senior hangout.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Yes, in the park, but we walked in all different parts of the town, up and down the streets, and it seemed to be true everywhere.  To me, noticeably so.  So I’m interested to do a little digging into the demographics of Aix-les-Bains to see if my anecdotes match the broader data for the community, or whether we just had some sort of bizarre experience while we were there.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Yes, in the park, but we walked in all different parts of the town, up and down the streets, and it seemed to be true everywhere.  To me, noticeably so.  So I’m interested to do a little digging into the demographics of Aix-les-Bains to see if my anecdotes match the broader data for the community, or whether we just had some sort of bizarre experience while we were there.

Tranquil rest in Parc floral des Thermes
Em Circle

Em:

There could be elderly people who live there, or maybe just a lot of elderly people who like to visit.  Do you have some sort of problem with elderly people?

Em Circle

Em:

There could be elderly people who live there, or maybe just a lot of elderly people who like to visit.  Do you have some sort of problem with elderly people?

Tess Circle

Tess:

No!  I’m just saying there were a lot in Aix-les-Bains.

Tess Circle

Tess:

No!  I’m just saying there were a lot in Aix-les-Bains.

Em Circle

Em:

Okay, moving on…

Em Circle

Em:

Okay, moving on…

Tess Circle

Tess:

So also in week four, we visited more of the “Bains.”  We visited Thonon-les-Bains on the shore of Lac Léman, and I’m interested in your impressions of this place.  It has a charming historic city center.  It was very active.  It has beautiful panoramic views of the lake and Swiss shores beyond.  It is perched up on a cliff and hillside where you see for miles in many directions.  It seems to have a lot of the things you have said you are looking for in a place to live, so I’m curious what you thought.

Tess Circle

Tess:

So also in week four, we visited more of the “Bains.”  We visited Thonon-les-Bains on the shore of Lac Léman, and I’m interested in your impressions of this place.  It has a charming historic city center.  It was very active.  It has beautiful panoramic views of the lake and Swiss shores beyond.  It is perched up on a cliff and hillside where you see for miles in many directions.  It seems to have a lot of the things you have said you are looking for in a place to live, so I’m curious what you thought.

La Grande Rue in Thonons-les-Bains
Em Circle

Em:

This town surprised me for a few reasons.  I didn’t do a lot of research before we visited, so I didn’t really know what to expect.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It was a very cute town.  We went in the morning and there were lots of people out and about.  The old town was quite cute, with beautiful views of Lac Léman and the villages down below.  I will say it is a bit of a hike to get down to the lakefront, compared to Annecy which is more flat.

Em Circle

Em:

This town surprised me for a few reasons.  I didn’t do a lot of research before we visited, so I didn’t really know what to expect.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It was a very cute town.  We went in the morning and there were lots of people out and about.  The old town was quite cute, with beautiful views of Lac Léman and the villages down below.  I will say it is a bit of a hike to get down to the lakefront, compared to Annecy which is more flat.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Well there is a funicular train for your convenience.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Well there is a funicular train for your convenience.

Em Circle

Em:

There is a funicular train, and it wasn’t too expensive, so I suppose if we lived there and you weren’t able to walk up and down the big hills you could take that.  But I think the town was absolutely beautiful and the views were spectacular.

Em Circle

Em:

There is a funicular train, and it wasn’t too expensive, so I suppose if we lived there and you weren’t able to walk up and down the big hills you could take that.  But I think the town was absolutely beautiful and the views were spectacular.

The funicular train connects Thonon-les-Bains' town center to the lakefront.
Tess Circle

Tess:

It’s nice that Thonon-les-Bains is connected to the same regional rail system as Annecy, tied into Geneva.  There are frequent trains to Geneva and all of the cities in the region that are part of that Léman Express network.  So even though it is right on the border of France it still feels well connected to other places.

Tess Circle

Tess:

It’s nice that Thonon-les-Bains is connected to the same regional rail system as Annecy, tied into Geneva.  There are frequent trains to Geneva and all of the cities in the region that are part of that Léman Express network.  So even though it is right on the border of France it still feels well connected to other places.

Em Circle

Em:

I agree.

Em Circle

Em:

I agree.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Obviously, it’s a much longer trip to somewhere like Lyon or Grenoble.  But there are multiple daily ferries to cities like Lausanne or Montreux in Switzerland.  We didn’t take the ferries while we were there, but I think if Thonon-les-Bains was our home base of operations, we would be oriented more to the Swiss cities than the French cities.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Obviously, it’s a much longer trip to somewhere like Lyon or Grenoble.  But there are multiple daily ferries to cities like Lausanne or Montreux in Switzerland.  We didn’t take the ferries while we were there, but I think if Thonon-les-Bains was our home base of operations, we would be oriented more to the Swiss cities than the French cities.

Em Circle

Em:

I agree that it would be easy to get around the lake and visit those cities.  I could definitely see myself enjoying living there.

Em Circle

Em:

I agree that it would be easy to get around the lake and visit those cities.  I could definitely see myself enjoying living there.

The lakefront of Thonon-les-Bains with the Château de Rives in the background
Tess Circle

Tess:

Just down the lakeshore from Thonon-les-Bains was Évian-les-Bains, another French city on Lac Léman with great connections to Swiss cities around the lake.  It’s the end of the line for the high frequency rail network we mentioned.  It’s another historic resort city as well, and I think it’s interesting to compare Aix-les-Bains and Évian-les-Bains. 

 

They both have this grand resort of yesteryear feel.  They both have these turn of the century casinos and old hotels.  They are both resorts based around local springs with lots of history.  But in Évian I did not see the vacant buildings or run-down areas.  It seems like a place that has been better able to sustain and adapt its historic tourist character.  There are more people around, more variety of attractions, more investment in the old historic properties.  It just seemed a little bit more lively.  I also think it benefits from the town being directly on the lake, and there was a beautiful lakefront promenade we were able to walk along.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Just down the lakeshore from Thonon-les-Bains was Évian-les-Bains, another French city on Lac Léman with great connections to Swiss cities around the lake.  It’s the end of the line for the high frequency rail network we mentioned.  It’s another historic resort city as well, and I think it’s interesting to compare Aix-les-Bains and Évian-les-Bains. 

 

They both have this grand resort of yesteryear feel.  They both have these turn of the century casinos and old hotels.  They are both resorts based around local springs with lots of history.  But in Évian I did not see the vacant buildings or run-down areas.  It seems like a place that has been better able to sustain and adapt its historic tourist character.  There are more people around, more variety of attractions, more investment in the old historic properties.  It just seemed a little bit more lively.  I also think it benefits from the town being directly on the lake, and there was a beautiful lakefront promenade we were able to walk along.

A lively promenade connects Évian-les-Bains to the lakefront
Em Circle

Em:

I think the Évian marketing executives for the expensive bottled water have done a good job of helping the city’s tourism.

Em Circle

Em:

I think the Évian marketing executives for the expensive bottled water have done a good job of helping the city’s tourism.

Tess Circle

Tess:

You think mass-market bottled water is what gives Évian the edge?

Tess Circle

Tess:

You think mass-market bottled water is what gives Évian the edge?

Em Circle

Em:

I think…it doesn’t hurt.  I think everyone knows the name.  It’s a global brand.  I think it’s exciting for people to visit there.  The town definitely has kept up and modernized over the years and seems to be a place where people still want to go.

Em Circle

Em:

I think…it doesn’t hurt.  I think everyone knows the name.  It’s a global brand.  I think it’s exciting for people to visit there.  The town definitely has kept up and modernized over the years and seems to be a place where people still want to go.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Aside from its corporate legacy, how would you evaluate Évian?

Tess Circle

Tess:

Aside from its corporate legacy, how would you evaluate Évian?

Em Circle

Em:

I really liked it.  It has a nice lakefront promenade.  The old town goes up and down the hill.  It’s not extremely difficult to get around, but I think for you it was a little bit difficult.  We skipped going to the Évian spring source.  It was a beautiful city with lots of public art.  There were lots of restaurants and things to do.  It has mini-golf, and I know you love some good mini-golf.

Em Circle

Em:

I really liked it.  It has a nice lakefront promenade.  The old town goes up and down the hill.  It’s not extremely difficult to get around, but I think for you it was a little bit difficult.  We skipped going to the Évian spring source.  It was a beautiful city with lots of public art.  There were lots of restaurants and things to do.  It has mini-golf, and I know you love some good mini-golf.

Lausanne and Swiss shores beyond the blue waters of Lac Léman
Tess Circle

Tess:

This is a cultural export that I think has not yet fully translated.  I am ready for a European mini-golf sensation to sweep the continent.  It seems like nowhere that we visited has the quality of miniature golf that you might find here in Missouri.  I think everyone is missing out and once they experience it, they will demand more.

Tess Circle

Tess:

This is a cultural export that I think has not yet fully translated.  I am ready for a European mini-golf sensation to sweep the continent.  It seems like nowhere that we visited has the quality of miniature golf that you might find here in Missouri.  I think everyone is missing out and once they experience it, they will demand more.

Em Circle

Em:

The mini-golf in France that we have seen is just simple courses.  They are missing the kitschy decorations.

Em Circle

Em:

The mini-golf in France that we have seen is just simple courses.  They are missing the kitschy decorations.

Tess Circle

Tess:

It’s sad.  If that’s what people in France think mini-golf is, that makes me sad.  Maybe we need to open a real miniature golf experience that can be our contribution to French society.

Tess Circle

Tess:

It’s sad.  If that’s what people in France think mini-golf is, that makes me sad.  Maybe we need to open a real miniature golf experience that can be our contribution to French society.

Em Circle

Em:

Okay, write up a business plan.  We’ll look into it.

Em Circle

Em:

Okay, write up a business plan.  We’ll look into it.

Scenic but tragically uninspired mini-golf in Évian-les-Bains
Tess Circle

Tess:

My final comment about Evian is related to our final moments there.  The train station is a bit of a hike from the town and there is topography, and it was yet another moment where I was appreciating Annecy, and the proximity of the train station to the heart of town, and the proximity of the town to the lake, and the flatness of town near the lake.

Tess Circle

Tess:

My final comment about Evian is related to our final moments there.  The train station is a bit of a hike from the town and there is topography, and it was yet another moment where I was appreciating Annecy, and the proximity of the train station to the heart of town, and the proximity of the town to the lake, and the flatness of town near the lake.

Em Circle

Em:

I agree.  If you were to live in Évian, the area around the train station is nice, but it is definitely a walk to the city center.  And if you were walking to the train station several times a week, it would be a haul.

Em Circle

Em:

I agree.  If you were to live in Évian, the area around the train station is nice, but it is definitely a walk to the city center.  And if you were walking to the train station several times a week, it would be a haul.

Rue Nationale in Évian-les-Bains
Tess Circle

Tess:

So plans for our final day for our final week in France changed as we went.  Initially, we were going to be going back to Geneva.  Why don’t you tell everyone why?

Tess Circle

Tess:

So plans for our final day for our final week in France changed as we went.  Initially, we were going to be going back to Geneva.  Why don’t you tell everyone why?

Em Circle

Em:

Well at the time, the United States required a negative test result twenty-four hours before the departing flight, and the test results could not be earlier than twenty-four hours before the flight.  I knew this when we booked the tickets, but what I didn’t realize is that we are flying back on a Monday and pretty much every pharmacy in France is closed on Sunday.

Em Circle

Em:

Well at the time, the United States required a negative test result twenty-four hours before the departing flight, and the test results could not be earlier than twenty-four hours before the flight.  I knew this when we booked the tickets, but what I didn’t realize is that we are flying back on a Monday and pretty much every pharmacy in France is closed on Sunday.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Not every pharmacy was closed!  There were lots of pharmacies that were open.  They just weren’t doing covid tests.

Tess Circle

Tess:

Not every pharmacy was closed!  There were lots of pharmacies that were open.  They just weren’t doing covid tests.

Covid test in France on a Sunday? Good luck!
Em Circle

Em:

This is true.  I guess I just thought there would be covid testing every day of the week at pharmacies like there is in the United States.  So we did some research and found a pharmacy in Geneva that was open and taking appointments, and we booked covid tests in Geneva.

Em Circle

Em:

This is true.  I guess I just thought there would be covid testing every day of the week at pharmacies like there is in the United States.  So we did some research and found a pharmacy in Geneva that was open and taking appointments, and we booked covid tests in Geneva.

Tess Circle

Tess:

For Sunday.

Tess Circle

Tess:

For Sunday.

Em Circle

Em:

For Sunday.

Em Circle

Em:

For Sunday.

Tess Circle

Tess:

And what did we learn on Saturday?

Tess Circle

Tess:

And what did we learn on Saturday?

Em Circle

Em:

On Saturday evening we learned that the rules changed and the US government decided that covid tests were no longer required for entry back into the United States.  This was a good thing for us because we didn’t need to take an extra trip back to Geneva.  But it was a bad thing because everyone on our flight could have covid and no one would care.

Em Circle

Em:

On Saturday evening we learned that the rules changed and the US government decided that covid tests were no longer required for entry back into the United States.  This was a good thing for us because we didn’t need to take an extra trip back to Geneva.  But it was a bad thing because everyone on our flight could have covid and no one would care.

Tess Circle

Tess:

So in the end, the last day of our trip was returned to us and we decided to spend some time around Lake Annecy.  We rented some electric bicycles which are the only kind I can use right now.  We took a bit of a gamble with my health and stamina and rode along the old railroad trail on the west side of the lake and visited some of the towns and villages along the lakeshore.  We have spent a lot of time in the City of Annecy, but we have not spent much time in the communities around the lake, even though we visited them many years ago.  Now that it’s fresh in your memory, tell me your impressions of the communities around the lake that we were able to visit.

Tess Circle

Tess:

So in the end, the last day of our trip was returned to us and we decided to spend some time around Lake Annecy.  We rented some electric bicycles which are the only kind I can use right now.  We took a bit of a gamble with my health and stamina and rode along the old railroad trail on the west side of the lake and visited some of the towns and villages along the lakeshore.  We have spent a lot of time in the City of Annecy, but we have not spent much time in the communities around the lake, even though we visited them many years ago.  Now that it’s fresh in your memory, tell me your impressions of the communities around the lake that we were able to visit.

This gorgeous bike trail around Lake Annecy follows the path of an old railroad through beautiful countryside and charming villages.
Em Circle

Em:

I’ll tell you that bike ride was quite magical.

Em Circle

Em:

I’ll tell you that bike ride was quite magical.

Tess Circle

Tess:

I think you shouted at one point, “This is fucking glorious.”

Tess Circle

Tess:

I think you shouted at one point, “This is fucking glorious.”

Em Circle

Em:

I sure did!  And I meant it.  It was fucking glorious.  It was sunny. The birds were chirping.  There were a lot of people out, but it wasn’t too crowded for a Sunday.  We left from Annecy and rode along the lake to a park where we had a picnic next to a castle, and it was quite lovely.  It was a really nice way to see what the towns were like and see if we potentially wanted to live in a different town around Annecy.  And I think that all of the towns, while quite cute, are probably a little bit too small for me.  But they are quite charming.

Em Circle

Em:

I sure did!  And I meant it.  It was fucking glorious.  It was sunny. The birds were chirping.  There were a lot of people out, but it wasn’t too crowded for a Sunday.  We left from Annecy and rode along the lake to a park where we had a picnic next to a castle, and it was quite lovely.  It was a really nice way to see what the towns were like and see if we potentially wanted to live in a different town around Annecy.  And I think that all of the towns, while quite cute, are probably a little bit too small for me.  But they are quite charming.

Château de Duingt was our backdrop for a lovely lakeside picnic.
Tess Circle

Tess:

My impression of the villages around the lake before we took this bike ride was that the villages are beautiful, the lake and mountains are beautiful, but the circle road that connects them is a non-stop traffic jam.  And that didn’t appeal to me.  And even the trail. The road is full of cars.  The trail is full of cyclists.  The beaches are packed with people.  There are just a lot of people crowded around.  That was my impression.  And I think all of those things are mostly true.  But when we were able to get off of the main road and off of the trail – just a few feet away – suddenly those places were quiet and peaceful and charming.  You could hear a dog barking or kids playing, and it was a very different experience than when you are on those busy connectors that everyone is taking around the lake.

Tess Circle

Tess:

My impression of the villages around the lake before we took this bike ride was that the villages are beautiful, the lake and mountains are beautiful, but the circle road that connects them is a non-stop traffic jam.  And that didn’t appeal to me.  And even the trail. The road is full of cars.  The trail is full of cyclists.  The beaches are packed with people.  There are just a lot of people crowded around.  That was my impression.  And I think all of those things are mostly true.  But when we were able to get off of the main road and off of the trail – just a few feet away – suddenly those places were quiet and peaceful and charming.  You could hear a dog barking or kids playing, and it was a very different experience than when you are on those busy connectors that everyone is taking around the lake.

Just a few feet from the main road, the village of Duingt is surprisingly quiet and peaceful.
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Tess:

I initially hoped to avoid the road traffic by visiting these villages by boat.  And we skipped the dinner cruises on the lake – just getting on a boat to be on a boat.  But during the summers there is a boat bus service that will ferry you between the different villages.  Unfortunately we had to leave Annecy just a few days before that service began. I think that would be a good way to avoid the traffic and have another unique perspective on the region.  I very much like the idea of a boat bus connecting those communities but we weren’t able to do it this time.

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Tess:

I initially hoped to avoid the road traffic by visiting these villages by boat.  And we skipped the dinner cruises on the lake – just getting on a boat to be on a boat.  But during the summers there is a boat bus service that will ferry you between the different villages.  Unfortunately we had to leave Annecy just a few days before that service began. I think that would be a good way to avoid the traffic and have another unique perspective on the region.  I very much like the idea of a boat bus connecting those communities but we weren’t able to do it this time.

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Em:

We’ll do it next summer!

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Em:

We’ll do it next summer!

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Tess:

As we consider those villages as alternative places to live, I think in some cases we might be able to find homes or apartments that are a little bit less expensive than Annecy.  I do worry about the challenges, even though there is good bus service, of being dependent on that heavily- trafficked two-lane road in and out of town, or anywhere you might want to go in any direction.  That seems like a downside to being on the lakeshore outside of Annecy proper.

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Tess:

As we consider those villages as alternative places to live, I think in some cases we might be able to find homes or apartments that are a little bit less expensive than Annecy.  I do worry about the challenges, even though there is good bus service, of being dependent on that heavily- trafficked two-lane road in and out of town, or anywhere you might want to go in any direction.  That seems like a downside to being on the lakeshore outside of Annecy proper.

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Em:

I agree.

Em Circle

Em:

I agree.

During the summer, public boat buses connect Annecy to several villages around the lake.
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Tess:

That wraps up the new places we visited in our final week.  But thinking about the trip as a whole, I would like to talk about some of your overall takeaways or impressions from the trip.  To start, I want to ask you: after this trip do you still want to live in France?

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Tess:

That wraps up the new places we visited in our final week.  But thinking about the trip as a whole, I would like to talk about some of your overall takeaways or impressions from the trip.  To start, I want to ask you: after this trip do you still want to live in France?

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Em:

Yes!

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Em:

Yes!

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Tess:

Do you still want to live in Annecy?  We visited lots of different places with different pros and cons and characteristics.  Is Annecy the place where you think you want to be?

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Tess:

Do you still want to live in Annecy?  We visited lots of different places with different pros and cons and characteristics.  Is Annecy the place where you think you want to be?

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Em:

Annecy is the winner.  Maybe Annecy is not where we will live forever, but Annecy is where I want to live next year.

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Em:

Annecy is the winner.  Maybe Annecy is not where we will live forever, but Annecy is where I want to live next year.

Shady Quai Jules Philippe along Annecy's Canal du Vassé
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Tess:

We thought that we wanted to live in Annecy before we visited France, but now that we have spent a month there, what have you experience or learned about Annecy, or about France as result of our trip?

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Tess:

We thought that we wanted to live in Annecy before we visited France, but now that we have spent a month there, what have you experience or learned about Annecy, or about France as result of our trip?

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Em:

I’ll answer that, but you haven’t told me if you want to move to France and live in Annecy.

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Em:

I’ll answer that, but you haven’t told me if you want to move to France and live in Annecy.

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Tess:

I think I’m on the same page.  In France I felt better than I have in a long time.  I was happier than I’ve been in a long time.  We have talked about this idea of micro-affirmations – little tiny moments throughout the day that make you feel good or happy, and that add up over time into a better quality of life.  I just felt that every moment that we were there – whether it was having a car stop for us at a crosswalk, or looking out the window and seeing the Alps, whether it was being able to show up at a train station and within fifteen minutes hop on a train in almost any direction, and know that if we missed it another one would be behind fifteen or twenty minutes later.  There are just all of these little moments that we found in France and in Annecy that I want more of.

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Tess:

I think I’m on the same page.  In France I felt better than I have in a long time.  I was happier than I’ve been in a long time.  We have talked about this idea of micro-affirmations – little tiny moments throughout the day that make you feel good or happy, and that add up over time into a better quality of life.  I just felt that every moment that we were there – whether it was having a car stop for us at a crosswalk, or looking out the window and seeing the Alps, whether it was being able to show up at a train station and within fifteen minutes hop on a train in almost any direction, and know that if we missed it another one would be behind fifteen or twenty minutes later.  There are just all of these little moments that we found in France and in Annecy that I want more of.

From polite drivers and comfortable crossings to tree-shaded benches and alpine backdrops, this street in Annecy is full of little "micro-affirmations" that add up to a better quality of life.
Em Circle

Em:

Right.

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Em:

Right.

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Tess:

And there are those good moments, but there is also the absence of bad moments.  We walked past a school and there were kids out at recess, and we remarked to each other that none of those kids and none of their parents were going to worry that day about whether someone was going to show up and start shooting kids in the school.  Which is normal.  Which should be normal.  But where we live now that’s not an expectation.  And that’s just one example, but on the whole, there are these layers and layers of moments that felt affirmative – that this is where we could live well together.

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Tess:

And there are those good moments, but there is also the absence of bad moments.  We walked past a school and there were kids out at recess, and we remarked to each other that none of those kids and none of their parents were going to worry that day about whether someone was going to show up and start shooting kids in the school.  Which is normal.  Which should be normal.  But where we live now that’s not an expectation.  And that’s just one example, but on the whole, there are these layers and layers of moments that felt affirmative – that this is where we could live well together.

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Em:

Yeah.  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Em:

Yeah.  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Tess:

I want to come back to this – is there anything you think you have learned about moving abroad or living abroad as a result of this trip?

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Tess:

I want to come back to this – is there anything you think you have learned about moving abroad or living abroad as a result of this trip?

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Em:

I realized that my life there will be easier in some ways.  It will be more difficult in some ways.  But in France I can live my best life, doing the things I want to do, and still have the amenities and creature comforts I am used to in the US.  All of my favorite foods are at the grocery store.  For all of the things I buy, there is a version for that in France.  Besides my friends and family, there is nothing I am going to be without while we live there.  I think it was great that we were able to walk around different neighborhoods in Annecy.  It’s one thing to look at a map and remember the city from eleven years ago, but being there in person, I realized that things are a lot closer than they may seem on a map. And there are a lot of beautiful neighborhoods that are close to the city center that would make me very happy to call home.

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Em:

I realized that my life there will be easier in some ways.  It will be more difficult in some ways.  But in France I can live my best life, doing the things I want to do, and still have the amenities and creature comforts I am used to in the US.  All of my favorite foods are at the grocery store.  For all of the things I buy, there is a version for that in France.  Besides my friends and family, there is nothing I am going to be without while we live there.  I think it was great that we were able to walk around different neighborhoods in Annecy.  It’s one thing to look at a map and remember the city from eleven years ago, but being there in person, I realized that things are a lot closer than they may seem on a map. And there are a lot of beautiful neighborhoods that are close to the city center that would make me very happy to call home.

Local products at Annecy's Sunday market
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Em:

One of the most surprising things I learned while we were there is that from Annecy you can get to Paris by train in three hours and forty-five minutes.

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Em:

One of the most surprising things I learned while we were there is that from Annecy you can get to Paris by train in three hours and forty-five minutes.

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Tess:

On a direct train.

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Tess:

On a direct train.

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Em:

It was shocking to me that I could be in Paris in the same amount of time it would take to drive to St. Louis.

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Em:

It was shocking to me that I could be in Paris in the same amount of time it would take to drive to St. Louis.

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Tess:

Two cities not often placed on a level pedestal.

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Tess:

Two cities not often placed on a level pedestal.

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Em:

Or in four hours we could go to the beach on the Mediterranean.  And it made me very excited because there is a lot more exploring that we are going to do next year.  There are a lot of things to do and places to go, and it will allow us to get there without having to need a car.  I think one of the things we were thinking about when we were planning our move was whether we need a car.  And I think the answer is absolutely not.

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Em:

Or in four hours we could go to the beach on the Mediterranean.  And it made me very excited because there is a lot more exploring that we are going to do next year.  There are a lot of things to do and places to go, and it will allow us to get there without having to need a car.  I think one of the things we were thinking about when we were planning our move was whether we need a car.  And I think the answer is absolutely not.

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Tess:

I think there are parts of the French countryside, small towns and villages, that I absolutely want to visit.  But for our day to day living and getting most places, we don’t need to drive.  It’s even possible to be strategic about taking a train to a small town and from that small town accessing a wilderness area or ski lift and get to some pretty remote places without a car.  But I agree.

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Tess:

I think there are parts of the French countryside, small towns and villages, that I absolutely want to visit.  But for our day to day living and getting most places, we don’t need to drive.  It’s even possible to be strategic about taking a train to a small town and from that small town accessing a wilderness area or ski lift and get to some pretty remote places without a car.  But I agree.

Trains and other transit make it possible to reach small and remote locations without a car.
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Em:

Sometimes the train takes a little bit longer because of the stops, but when you think about the stress it takes to drive somewhere, and on a train or bus you can just sit back and relax and read or take a nap or just enjoy the scenery and not have to worry about driving.

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Em:

Sometimes the train takes a little bit longer because of the stops, but when you think about the stress it takes to drive somewhere, and on a train or bus you can just sit back and relax and read or take a nap or just enjoy the scenery and not have to worry about driving.

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Tess:

Last question for you:  Now that we are back, what is next on our journey for moving abroad?

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Tess:

Last question for you:  Now that we are back, what is next on our journey for moving abroad?

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Em:

We still have a lot to do to plan our move.  We need to have some difficult conversations with friends and family and let them know that we are going to be moving.  I need to talk to my employer and find out if they are going to be okay with me working in France long-term.  I don’t have major concerns but I am still going to worry about it.   We have to figure out what to do with all of the stuff in our house that we have accumulated over the years.  Are we going to sell it? Are we going to put it in storage?  Are we going to rent our house fully furnished?  We have to think about that.  We have to start working with the relocation specialist and visa experts and tax experts.  There are going to be a lot of very stressful things that we need to do before we move, but I think because we have started this process early, we can try to have as little stress as possible.

Em Circle

Em:

We still have a lot to do to plan our move.  We need to have some difficult conversations with friends and family and let them know that we are going to be moving.  I need to talk to my employer and find out if they are going to be okay with me working in France long-term.  I don’t have major concerns but I am still going to worry about it.   We have to figure out what to do with all of the stuff in our house that we have accumulated over the years.  Are we going to sell it? Are we going to put it in storage?  Are we going to rent our house fully furnished?  We have to think about that.  We have to start working with the relocation specialist and visa experts and tax experts.  There are going to be a lot of very stressful things that we need to do before we move, but I think because we have started this process early, we can try to have as little stress as possible.

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Tess:

And maybe we will also learn to speak French?

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Tess:

And maybe we will also learn to speak French?

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Em:

Oh yeah.  That’s the probably most important thing.  We need to learn French within the next nine months.

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Em:

Oh yeah.  That’s the probably most important thing.  We need to learn French within the next nine months.

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Tess:

Alright.  We have a lot to do and there’s no time to waste, so I think we should call it here and we’ll check in again after a few of our next milestones.

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Tess:

Alright.  We have a lot to do and there’s no time to waste, so I think we should call it here and we’ll check in again after a few of our next milestones.

Em Circle

Em:

À bientôt!

Em Circle

Em:

À bientôt!

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