Uzès on that Saturday morning ten years ago was more than I expected. The weekly market was in full swing. The circular street surrounding the historic Uzès district had vendors’ tables and covered booths. Cars crawled slowly along the one-way road, often stopping to give way to pedestrians crossing from side to side.
On both sides of the narrow street, garments swirled on plastic hangers from the awnings of makeshift stops—displays of shoes, jeans, handbags, and jewelry lined up on a succession of folding tables. Samples of bizarre-sounding saucissons, chewy nougats, and exotic honey flavors were all along the way.
As I entered the heart of the market, the Place aux Herbes. It was magical. Sellers with cheeses in refrigerated cases, more cheese in huge rounds on wooden blocks, fancy cheeses with flowers on top. Wine in bottles, wine samples in glasses, boxed wine. Season-ripe fruits and vegetables. Butchers, bakers — lavender soap makers. They surrounded the Place’s centerpiece fountain in orderly rows. As they breezed through the scene, women with straw hats and flowing scarves caught my eye. Couples and families gathered chairs at cafes to reserve the best seats for lunch.
The sights took my breath away. That was the day I fell in love with Uzès. I swore to myself I would return.
Three months later, I was living in Uzès.
Life in France: Managing Expectations
Moving to France happened so quickly that I’m unsure when reality kicked in. I’d never really thought of living abroad. It just happened. It was just another move because I’d been transplanted so many times during my life.
But wait a minute. What about the language? The red tape? A new culture? Strangers? Loneliness? Outfitting a home? Buying groceries? Getting around?
What did I expect to move to a new place? A different world?
I’ve lived in France for eight years, so I wonder how it happened. How did I find my way, make friends, buy groceries, serve a meal, find a doctor, or accomplish any other daily task?
Those who have followed my blog since the beginning know I have been incredibly fortunate to stand still. Yes, there was that fall in Aigues Mortes.
You have heard the good (travel and friends), the bad (annual Carte de Sejour), and the ugly (driver’s license).
It’s been an incredible ride. An opportunity I never imagined possible.
Over the years, I have watched several American expat friends come and go from the “dream” life in France. For most, the language, paperwork, and bureaucracy were too much. Others missed family and their former lives in the US.
A few friends expected lower costs in France to stretch their retirement monies. While some things may be less expensive — like housing and utilities, it is not significant enough to relocate.
Healthcare, on the other hand, is a huge bonus. Residents have access to “free” healthcare after three months. There is a small charge for services, procedures, and some drugs. A low-cost private health insurance policy (mutual) covers those expenses.
What is the best part?
Friendships. Easy travel. Experiences.
My friends are from all over the world. Like me, they came to France to discover what life is like elsewhere. Not unlike my longtime buddies, they are fun and adventurous. Supportive and caring.
Traveling around Europe is inexpensive and accessible. You can get to the most exotic, unique, and famous places by car, train, bus, or air. Paris, the Coté d’Azur, the Loire Valley and Dordogne. Spain, Italy, the UK, and Croatia. They’re practically “next door. “
Bulls run in the streets in my French world. Flamingoes gather for winter. Roman sports events happen in nearby arenas. Prehistoric caves are open to the public. I can roam famous artists’ trails, taste the finest chefs’ foods, and walk in the footsteps of pagans and kings.
While the days of my life are flying by, I am blessed still to have the curiosity of a child for new adventures. Years of COVID-19, with its confinements and fears, are altering many of my plans and dreams. Nevertheless, I need to do a few more things. Places I need to see. The hard part? Managing expectations.
Thank you for staying on this journey with me. I appreciate hearing from you and would love to meet with many of you in Uzès.
But wait … there’s more ahead. Stay tuned…
More to read about living abroad from the Barefoot Blogger