By now, I’ve lived in France for a total of just over one year (excluding my months-long visits to the US), and I recently realized that I’ve never written a post about my life here!
Click HERE to go directly to the slideshow [NEW FEATURE!] or click “Continue reading” for a brief summary of my life in this lovely country.
My last two posts were about road trips Mathieu and I took in France in 2018 to Corsica and Les Alps. And before that, I wrote about the first time I visited Mathieu in Paris in late 2015. However, I’ve spent a lot of time here! After traveling through Asia, I spent the summer of 2016 in France with Mathieu. And after Mathieu and I finished an 8-month trip through Mexico, Cuba, and the western US, I officially moved here in July 2017 (on a 1-year visa), and am living here still (now on a renewed 1-year visa).
So besides road trips in Corsica and Les Alpes, and multiple visits to Paris, what have I been doing in France since July 2017? The short answer: sharing my life with Mathieu. I never planned to live in France, but then again, I never planned to fall in love with a French guy. I guess that’s what happens when you “let life happen.” Ha!
When I moved here in 2017, Mathieu and I lived in Cassis, a lovely, destination town on the Mediterranean coast, where Mathieu had started a new job. We lived in a tiny studio with a Murphy bed (a bed that pulls down from the wall). At about this time, I adopted a plant-based eating style and got really into cooking. I spent a lot of time (likely way too much) going “down the internet rabbit hole” learning more about the health benefits of plant-based eating and finding new recipes. Mathieu (a lover of his native cuisine) was OK with my new cooking hobby, especially since he could adapt my meals to his suit his French palate. On the weekends, we went hiking or kayaking in Parc national des Calanques, visited nearby towns and cities (e.g., Marseille, Nice), and/or just enjoyed our new home town.
In December, after several months living in Cassis, we moved to “La Borie”, Mathieu’s family home in the Drôme Valley. The thick walls of the original structure, constructed in the 1800s using river rock from the nearby Drôme River, once housed a farming family and, in the winter months, their livestock. The driveway to the house is lined with ancient mulberry trees, all hundreds of years old. I love drinking my morning coffee on the stone terrace in the shade of my favorite of the mulberry trees, a beautiful, majestic, gnarled tree with an undoubtedly old soul.
The house is surrounded by wheat fields, with just a handful of other houses scattered in the area. It’s very beautiful and tranquil. The house is primarily used in the summer months for vacations/family gatherings. However, we planned to live there for several months. So, Mathieu decided to undertake some long-awaited DIY (do-it-yourself) projects to improve the house. Together we spent many hours decluttering, re-organizing, and decorating the house. Going through a family’s treasures, collected over many years, is an interesting way to get to know their history. When we weren’t working on the house or garden, we explored the Drôme Valley and beyond. We hiked (a lot) and took scenic drives through the mountains, and visited tiny ancient villages. Even after visiting and driving through countless villages, I continue to be in awe of the lovely stone houses, typically with light blue wooden shutters, and the cobblestone streets that have remained largely unchanged over the centuries. We also skied a few times, once at a small local resort and another time at Méribel, a large ski station in the Alps.
We also spent time with family and friends. Mathieu’s sister and her family, who live abroad, return for about a month each summer to visit and enjoy the beautiful summer weather in France. In the summers of 2016, 2017 and 2018, we had various family gatherings in Cassis, Cavalaire (also on the Mediterranean coast; where Mathieu’s mom lives), and at La Borie. We gathered for delicious meals, kayaked, hiked, and just hung out. Mathieu’s friends and family (mom, sister, brother-in-law, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins) are wonderful! They’re always very sweet, and have welcomed me since Day 1. Being so far from my own family and friends, it feels great to be part of his family.
In early 2018, I decided to pursue my goal to become a personal trainer. It’d been a long time dream of mine to try to help people live healthier lives and this seemed like a good time to go for it. So while Mathieu continued working on his long list of DIY projects, I spent much of my time studying (and still trying new recipes). However, we made sure to get out of the house and hike and take short trips to explore other areas of France.
I passed my personal trainer exam in September 2018 (yeah!) then flew to California to visit my peeps. After a great 3-month visit, I returned home to France. Mathieu and I spent Christmas with his family in Châtelus, a quaint village of about 130 people in the farmlands about an hour from Lyon, and celebrated the coming of the new year with friends in Samoëns, a popular ski-town in the Alps about an hour from Geneva, Switzerland.
Now it’s February 2019, and not much has changed. We’re still living at La Borie. Mathieu is still enjoying his DIY projects. This old house definitely keeps him busy! On most days (when not helping with DIY projects), I start my day with a yoga session and/or take a short walk to visit the Drôme River, then I spend time reading about health and fitness and all things related to being a good personal trainer. I’m also trying to learn French (bonjour, je m’appelle Tannika), so often try to listen to a Coffee Break French podcast and/or watch Learn French with Alexa videos on YouTube. Then in the afternoon, I do a workout. In the evenings, I cook dinner (still plant-based), typically while watching an episode of MasterChef or Chopped [I love watching cooking competition shows while cutting and chopping!]. After dinner, Mathieu and I do some research for our upcoming long-term travel adventure (Africa!) and/or watch a movie (in French with English subtitles or visa versa depending on who’s turn it is.)
So that’s a brief summary of my life in France since 2017. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking. Our daily life is homey and often quiet, except for the times we blast the jams in the new kick-ass sound system Mathieu installed in the living room (one of my favorite of his DIY projects). Our days are often busy, occasionally boring, but almost always punctuated with moments of affection, silliness, and laughter (usually to a soundtrack of killer jams).
I never planned to live in France but I’m so glad I do.
Enjoy the slideshow! [It’s my first attempt at a slideshow so not perfect but fun]
[Next post: our travels in Africa – starting March 4, 2019! Stay tuned]