Missing France

February 2012 marks 12 years since I moved to America from Grenoble, France, a picturesque town surrounded by three masterful mountain ranges. Three hours by train from Paris, one hour by car from Lyon, two hours by car from Geneva and just shy of four hours to the Cote d’Azure, Grenoble was the perfect town in which to live “la vie francaise” from 1997-2000.

Those were three of the best years of my life. I find it hard to believe that I have lived in America now four times longer than I lived in Grenoble. Those three years were packed full of emotion, experiences, adventure and ambition. It was a small town life but it was big with fun and friendship.

Frequently, as I go about my day-to-day life here in the U.S., I get pangs for France. It’s more than just longing for times gone by, my “misspent youth”, memories of good times. It’s visceral. When I’m missing France, I’m missing:

  • How my brain feels energized by speaking and thinking in French, my second language
  • Amazement and gratitude for the multi-cultural friendships created and sustained
  • Viewing the world through a European filter
  • The powerful seductive smell of cheese shops and patisseries
  • Discovering – and being completely swallowed up by – the voice, lyrics and harmonies of Francis Cabrel and Lara Fabian
  • The serendipity of being introduced to works of author Paulo Coelho
  • Experiencing the mountains, lakes and countryside in all their overwhelming raw beauty
  • The cobblestone streets, the ever-flowing wine, the boutiques,
  • Living within and among history and architecture
  • Hunting for chanterelles and then making omelets with them
  • The deep sleep that follows a day of skiing in the Alps and a cheese fondue
  • Did I mention the ever-flowing wine?

The urge to go back, not just to visit but to stay, is powerful. Life in Grenoble made an indelible mark on my soul.

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12 Comments

  1. eugeniestreet

     /  February 9, 2012

    Hi Sam!
    I admit I’m honored by the chanterelles bullet!
    I’m sure your Grenoble gang could add many other bullets with places and memories!
    – Crepes (or pizzas) and ER mondays
    – …
    -…

    Reply
  2. Tears swell as I read this – mon dieu, you nailed the emotions I was feeling as I started my day! Interesting, particularly as I share (2 months later) the 12-year ‘coming (back) to the U.S.’ anniversary. Is it the 7-year itch on jetlag? ; )

    I could feel my heart agree more intensely with each bullet point. I also miss the simplicity of French life, the natural, basic approach and philosophy to almost everything. C’est plus sain. Thinking, living, dreaming in another language allows expression of myself in a fuller, deeper way. Perhaps it’s the construct, vocabulary and the creative expressions of the french language – qui donne ce sens de plus de liberté. And with all of the ‘french parenting’ articles flying around lately, I’d be remiss not to mention that children in France are *part* of the family — and not its nucleus, as is most often the case in the U.S.

    Yep, I suspect that it’s not another petite vacance that’s going to squelch these feelings … donc, peut-être à bientôt outre-atlantique, ma chère !

    Reply
  3. Hi Samantha, Sam?,
    Just wanted to say hi ! I too miss cheese fondue and the enchanting smells of patisseries…
    I am happily surprised to see that you like Francis Cabrel and Lara Fabian.
    I love French music – surtout la variete francaise, parce-qu’il y a de tres beaux textes.
    Est-ce que tu connais Benjamin Biolay? Je trouve qu’il ecrit de tres belles choses, et si tu aimes les jeux de mots, tu vas adorer ! Une chanson en particulier que j’adore ces temps-ci, c’est “Lyon Presqu’ile”: http://youtu.be/Xe623ZcqAB8.
    Je te conseille egalement “Paris” de Marc Lavoine, “Rive Gauche a Paris” de Alain Souchon: http://youtu.be/AhYRIbGVNl0. J’aime aussi beaucoup Serge Gainsbourg, Charles Aznavour, Pauline, Camille…You got me going ! Sorry…!

    Reply
  4. ps: I love Paulo Coelho as well ;).

    Reply
  5. I hear you.

    France Is always calling me too. I have spent many summers there (my mom is French) and now that I have a child, I feel the lack of integration of kids with life that is pervasive in North America.

    Hope we all get back there!

    Chantal

    Reply
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