i love france, 28 june 2008

Today I leave France with Abby and Carter to return to Arizona. Dave has been there for a day already. Our home exchange is over. Like almost all good things in life, it passed by too quickly. We have all been transformed by this experience.

As I was getting ready to go this morning, I ran across this email that Dave wrote to me in March, about the time we started to realize that a year in Mougins just might not be long enough. All blogs must end and I think this one should end here, with this. I hope you enjoyed reading it. I loved living it.

I Love France
I love the language, the food, the culture, and the history. I love the music and the art and the architecture and the whole way of life. But mostly I love the people, because almost nothing is good if there's no one there to appreciate it with you.

I have always loved Paris. The way it shines in the light at night, and all the people that walk the old streets no matter what time it is. I love the medieval stone bridges that separate the Île de la Cité from the Left Bank. I love the way the Gare du Nord is a world underground, teeming with French people going in all directions. I love the tunnels under the Champs Elysees that bring you up to the sunlight, staring straight at the Arc de Triomphe.

I love Christmas in France. The extra white lights in Paris and in every village, waiting for Père Noël. I love the warmth inside the Galleries Lafayette while the cold drizzle falls on the cobblestones outside, just near the Opera House. I love the pride that the people of Provence take in the 13 desserts that represent Jesus and his disciples. I love that Père Noël visits so many French children on Christmas Eve: he can come even when the children are awake. I love that after Père Noël has gone and the presents have been opened, parents stay up late holding each other, sipping champagne in front of the fireplace, talking about their children.

I love Provence. I love the narrowness of the roads, the cypress trees that grow wild around every corner, and the black and red and white road signs that tell me when I leave one town and enter another. I love the way the street lights shine on the wet storefronts when I drive through the village during a rainstorm. I love the parents of my children's friends, the children who teach my children this beautiful language. I love the teachers, who treated my children with respect and care even when they were strangers they couldn't talk to.

I love that so many French people seem to care more about understanding the world than about the size of their houses. I love the way they accept American films as films, not as American films. I love the way they embrace American music and English music and African music. I love when French musicians sing about love and sex and loss and death and longing, because it reassures me that they are just like me.

I love that in France you can say "ça va" for everything. I love how any adverb in English is the same in French, but with a "ment" on the end. I love the way so many French get a little frightened when they get to speak English, but are so excited to have the opportunity. I love the way their faces darken when someone won't even try to speak French in France. I love the way their brows furrow when they talk about the English. I love the pride in my wife's face because she knows it's only a matter of time before she conquers the language. I love the way she sounds when she's speaking to her friends. I love her smile when she's just spent the afternoon with one of her friends. I love the way she rescues me when I can't understand: quickly, quietly, on the side.

I love the way the sea is so blue from Cannes to Nice - more than the ocean - and that the beach is nearly everywhere. I love that I can stare at the snow-capped mountains while laying in the sunshine on the beach. I love the stone houses with the bright blue and yellow shutters, and the flowerboxes on the streets and in the windows. I love the roundabouts with olive trees in the center, the mimosa trees that turn the hills yellow in February, the stone villages perched on the hills, and the tiny streets surrounded by medieval houses.

I love that my daughter's class, all nine-year olds, can go on a trip for two weeks together as a class, to a ski resort. I love that every school has a day care so working parents can pick up their children as late as 6:30 every night. I love that each child has her own cubby outside the classroom, so you can drop off playdate invitations anytime you want. I love that there is no school on Wednesdays. I love that I get to talk with other parents as I drop my children off at school, planning our weekends. I love that I must walk the little ones to their classroom every day, and that their teachers are there to say hello and goodbye.

I love that when my children are sick they can see the doctor immediately, and that the doctor is one of our closest friends. I love that a prescription can be filled immediately and that there is no drive-through at the pharmacy. I love that there is no wait at the Emergency Room and that you don't have to fill out forms before you get treatment. I love that our French friends often call us on the phone at home, just to say hello and to chat. I love that I must sometimes ask my 7-year old daughter what she just said because her French is so much better than mine, and that she replies matter-of-factly, never rolling her eyes. I love that my two-year old son says French words and English words and doesn't realize there is a difference.

I love the way you must pay for plastic bags at the grocery store, because they want to discourage their use. I love that so many cars get good gas mileage and that there is not one Hummer or Excursion in the entire country. I love the way they hate American arrogance and wastefulness but admire everything else. I love the way no one carries guns on the street or shoots up high schools. I love that they don't care if their politicians have an affair. I love that in France you're never more than two months away from a two-week vacation.

There are some things I don't like, but those things are so small that why bother? The beauty of France is so deep that to get to know it could take a lifetime. I love that when you're in France everything outside of it just doesn't seem to matter all that much. I love that so much of what I love has always been here, waiting for me. I'm glad I've found it.


Anonymous shimber said...

So many gifts from a loving Heavenly Father to be grateful for! Thanks for sharing this - I could see in my mind's eye each scene Dave described.

Anonymous emily in sac said...

I love France, aussi. Tears welled up in my eyes as I read Dave's eloquent description. He gets it. You get it. Your children get it. I have thought about my year living in Paris every single day for the past eight years and long to be living in France permanently. Thank you for letting me vicariously live there again through your blog. :)

Anonymous Pascaline said...

merci dave pour tous tes commentaires sur notre France; je n'ai pas tout compris malgré le dictionnaire mais j'ai compris l'essentiel et je sais que c'est vraiment sincère;

Blogger mdcano said...

can i email you with advice on vacationing in the french riviera?
i'm interested in home exchange (based in UK but home in north coast of spain to exchange).

we have 2 little ones (1 & 3 this summer) and thought you'd be perfect for getting advice on the area.


Blogger mdcano said...

sorry---i meant FOR advice.

Blogger cheri said...

This makes me just want to pack up and move to France! Thanks for sharing. It was so nicely worded and very descriptive- i loved imagining everything he described! Your family was so blessed to be there for a year!

Blogger La Vie Échangée said...

Hi Monica: Please do email me and my husband or I would be happy to respond. You can reach me on stashaATgmailDOTcom. Hope you have a great exchange!

Blogger La Vie Échangée said...

Emily thanks for all your comments and nice words over the last couple of months. I appreciate them very much. Hope you get a chance to get back to France soon!

Anonymous husband of la vie echangee said...

Merci Pascaline - tu sais que l'experience etait vraiment magnifique grace a toi et votre famille...le chose plus important dans la vie c'est la famille et les amis. Merci pour tous...

Blogger Melanie said...


I've been reading your blog more or less assiduously since my uncle in Nice (I'm half French) sent me the link last Fall. I think you really do "get" the French and their culture. And you also understand that they're not that different from you/us, either. If only more people did the same(in whatever part of the world), I'm convinced it would be a better place!

I hope you get to go back really soon. I came back 2 years ago from a 6-year stint in Paris, and I'm still nursing a broken heart.

Best to all of you,

Anonymous nicolas said...

Mes amis
Je partage avec vous l'amour de la France et le plaisir d'y vivre.Je vous remercie d'avoir choisie mon pays pour passer une partie de votre vie et merci encore pour votre indulgence en occultant beaucoup de ses défauts. Mais je suis d'accord avec celui qui a dit "Le paradis sans les amis n'est plus le paradis"

Anonymous beachygirl93 said...

this was so beautiful! i wish i could live in france...maybe someday

Blogger Our Juicy Life said...

sasha - what happened to the part of your blog from when you got home? I'm missing it.....

Blogger Courtney said...

stasha, where are you? is az really that boring?

Blogger Julie said...

I loved reading that! Thanks. I'm sad your stay in France has ended. I will miss reading about your adventures.
I have only visited France for a very short time, but I loved it too. Especially the food.


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