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.