Happy Anniversary, Nashville

Technically, if you add up all of the days I’ve slept in the city, they definitely don’t equal a years time, but, November 15th marked the one year anniversary of us making the Nashville area our new home.  And I’m very happy to report that so far we are loving it here. The area is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and we regularly take advantage of the landscape and awesome weather by hiking, running, biking, rollerblading, etc.  So, in addition to that, here’s what we’ve been up to…

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Our 1st weekend in Nashville

Back in August, I joined a running group at my local YMCA and have rekindled my love of the sport. I’m running longer and faster than I ever have thanks to the encouragement of the group. Consisting mostly of housewives, these women give me hope that one day I will be able to maintain my active lifestyle with kids. Don’t get me wrong, these housewives are pretty hard-core. Many of them are training for marathons and other endurance events that I don’t have the stomach for anymore, while raising kids and managing life at home. Seriously, they are amazing and probably the main reason I am enjoying the Smyrna community so much. The coach of the running group also talked me into weekly Boot Camp at a park. The first week, I was so sore I couldn’t sit down or get up without assistance.

The YMCA Running Club after one of the sweaty summer runs.

The YMCA Running Club after one of the sweaty summer runs.

As for my french, I’m hanging in there and trying my best to not forget.  When I returned home we were really good about talking in french all the time, but I have to admit that we’ve both gotten a bit lazy.  However, in July I found out that I did pass the DELF exam (yay!) and I almost cried tears of joy considering where I started from back in January. I have been continuing classes at the Alliance Française and will also have the opportunity to use my skills at my new job (I’ll get to that later).

smyrna-plant

What started out as a big room has turned into a pretty cool assembly line

Fabien is also enjoying life in Tennessee. He’s busier than ever at work after the plant started production in January. And he has been fortunate enough to be playing soccer three times a week – much to my dismay. In the Summer, his team won the Nashville Championship. Then in the fall, the team that he captains, made the comeback of the season after losing their first 2 games. They made it to the finals where Fabien lead the team to victory by scoring both goals in the 2-0 game. He was so excited and I was so excited to have a huge trophy which took up residency on the living room coffee table .

Winning the Smyrna World Cup is pretty exciting.

Winning the Smyrna World Cup is pretty exciting.

And last, but not least, since August, I have been looking for a job and am happy to report that as of last week, I have accepted an offer. The company, Schneider Electric, is french owned and I’ll be working on a team of 8 as the Marketing Communications Coordinator for their Nashville office.  Schneider is huge energy company with over 130,000 employees in 100 countries, so the new industry will give me a nice challenge.  In addition to communications and other marketing projects, I will be using my french abilities to liaise with the french expats in the office. The position really couldn’t have worked out better in terms of company, job responsibilities and future opportunities.  I’m excited to begin work on January 7th!

But of course, I am missing Michigan and France. Between the two of us, we were fortunate to travel to Michigan over 6 times this year (phew) and to France 3 times. So, because it will be a while before I do anymore major traveling, we’ve decided to spend Christmas in the warmth of the Bahamas and take a little road trip through the south. To make it even more great, 4 other friends will be joining us. And, I’ve just renewed the website for another year, so even though I will soon have a normal life, it will be my normal, which means making the best of each day and exploring as many inches of the world as possible. So, here’s to another year of kinda living in Nashville.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

The Little Things

I was really, really, really happy to be back in the US these last couple weeks. Even though I love France, being there for 2 months has given me a renewed appreciation for my home country. My absence also has me missing those certain little, familiar, often taken for granted things in US life….

Not A French Home

  • Big, beautiful American houses. They’re so colorful, pretty and have so much life. While French homes have old charm  and are built to last, they also seem a little sad. 99% are gray with a brown or orange roof. There, you’d never see a great big  house with a grand front porch and a meticulously landscaped yard.

A Small Line at the Prefecture

  • Government administration. Oh, I could write a book on the inefficient, incompetent, heartless, blood pressure raising experiences of dealing with French administration. After waiting for 5 hours at one of the world’s saddest places, the Immigration office (called the Prefecture), a week before I left, I walked out of the building without being able to extend my visa. It’s a long story, but I was advised to return at a date closer to my visa expiration so my next one could be issued with enough time to carry me until the end of May.  Considering this, on top of my initial visa experience, I’m not sure how I will survive the 4 years until citizenship.  But, I am sure a french friend who is living in the US would say the same thing about American administration after she waited 4 months for her work permit only to have it lost in the mail. She was then told the process must be restarted from the very beginning.

  • Convenience. Business’s in the US want to make money so they are driven by customer wants and needs. For example, if I wake up at 3am and decide I want to eat a taco, buy a pair of yoga pants, followed by a workout at a gym it’s not a problem. In France, it would be nearly impossible. In fact, one time I walked into a Paris restaurant and was told that they were not serving food that week because the cook was on vacation.
  • Cheap gas. Yes, you read correctly. In the US it cost $60 to fill the tank on my Pontiac G6 compared to $108 to fill the economically friendly,  Henri in Europe.
  • Breathing. And what I mean by that is being able to take a good breath outside without inhaling second hand smoke. This french stereotype, unfortunately, is true. 

Of course, being back in the States has me realizing a few things not so good. Things that give other countries a lot of ammunition to making fun of us and things that I, myself, have been guilty of (I won’t admit which ones).

Never would this happen in France and thank God for that...

  • First things first, unless you’re Mark Zuckerburg, put the pajamas away. Those are for sleeping only, not for going out in public, America.
  • Young American girls, I mean this with nothing but love – stop dressing like skanks. I never realized before spending 2 months in France, but a lot America college age girls could take example from their French counterparts. Last Friday night, in Nashville, we went to a sports bar on the Vanderbilt University campus.

    These only belong one place and that place contains a pole and super expensive drinks.

    Throughout the bar were scantily clad girls. One had on a red dress that barely passed her underwear line with a pair of glossy red stripper style shoes. The only instance where that would happen in France is if the girl was “working”. On a weekend night in Orleans, most of the girls could be found in something stylish, classy, but yet sexy and pretty.

  • Anyone denying our obesity epidemic needs to hop on a plane to France for a couple of days. Search for a fat person and maybe you’ll find one. Sadly, it’s true.  I can go for a week without seeing someone overweight. Basically, it’s

    In France there are 857 McDonald's compared to the United States 12,804.

    made me realize we must do something before we all die of heart disease and diabetes. Also, it’s just not fair that the French are so thin.

So, the past two weeks I throughly enjoyed American life, time with Fabien, our animals, going shopping, running, reading, watching Netflix and just relaxing. The past two weeks have me refreshed and ready to tackle the next 3 months with gusto. Also, I ‘m working on Spring Break trip that gives me heart palpitations and butterflies in my tummy! Details soon…

Tennessee – A State of American Classics

A really exciting aspect of living in a totally different part of the country is traveling to the little areas that would we probably never make it too had we stayed in Michigan. While Fabien & I have only been in Tennessee for 1 month, we have found time to explore. Through these explorations, we have found Tennessee to be a state of true American Classics.

Country Music Culture. Other than Baywatch, there is nothing outsiders associate with America more than Country Music and its surrounding culture. When we were living in Detroit, Fabien and his friends loved to go to a Coyote Ugly-esque bar called ‘Coyote Joes’. On any given night you would find the girl next door shaking her barely dressed body in an American flag bikini top to ‘Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy’. This American flag wearing, cowboy boot sporting, country music listening scene is oozing from Nashville and the whole state.  Having been a fan of the music for years, I love it.

Jack Daniels. Say you live in Tennessee to a foreigner and they’ll picture you sitting on your wooden porch, shotgun at your side and a Jack on the rocks in your hand. Lynchburg is an hour from our house and while some friends were visiting we ventured to the one and only Jack Daniels Distillery.   While I’ve never tasted whiskey without gagging, I really enjoyed the tour. The grounds are absolutely beautiful and are similar to a Michigan Cider Mill, but in the mountains. I love that their business is run in a simple and grass-roots manner. The headquarters is no bigger than the office at my last job and once a month employees walk away with a free bottle.  My favorite fact surrounding the brand is that the headquarters is located in a dry county which has been since Prohibition (1920-1933).  It’s a vicious cycle really- the county does not have enough voters to overturn the law and no one will move there because they can’t drink. However, through a huge financial bribing disguised as taxes, the company has arranged to legally sell alcohol on their grounds.  The rule is: you can buy, but you can not consume. To see pictures of our visit at the Jack Daniels Distillery, click here.  One tip if you ever find yourself in Lynchburg – go on a weekday when the actual bottling takes place.

Elvis. Okay, seriously. How can you not love Elvis? He is such an endearing icon of American culture and the driving force behind Memphis’s tourism industry. I could not wait to go to Graceland, so as soon as Fabien got a couple of days off, we drove 3 hours west to see the King’s Castle. From the front, it doesn’t look like much, but the property is impressive in the way of elaborate decor, rooms full of awards, a car museum, planes (yes, planes) and countless wardrobe displays. It should be a sin to go to Memphis and not visit the home, just be sure to bring some cash. To cross the gates, it costs $35 causing Fabien to say “Elvis raped me.” for the rest of the day.  However, if you visit the attraction website (Graceland) and become an Elvis Insider (free), you get free parking and a few dollars off your tickets. For pics, click here.

Fried and Fattening Anything. No wonder this season of the Biggest Loser had two Nashville area residents as finalists. Everything is fried, dipped in BBQ sauce and then refried. Recently, I went to lunch and in lieu of french fries asked for the vegetable of the day. Guess what I got? Fried pickles. As yummy as I find them, I don’t consider anything fried a vegetable.

Total Cheesiness. Note the bullets above and all of it has an element of American cheese. This was most evident when we visited Ruby Falls in Chattanooga. As a teenager, I visited Lookout Mountain in the area and thought it was only a tad smaller than Everest. So, when we arrived and Fabien said, “That’s it” (He’s such a mountain snob), we decided to go to Ruby Falls instead. As your driving to the city there are literally 200 signs located on farm lands, billboards and painted on barns urging you to “See Ruby Falls”. Upon arrival, you can expect to pay $17.95 per person and  to get on an elevator that takes you a 1,120 feet towards the earth’s core. The falls were quite beautiful and interesting, but whoever manages the attraction slathered them in cheese. Our guide thought he was a comedian and his plan was to hold us all hostage for an hour to listen to his stalagmite and stalactite jokes. And when you finally arrive at the falls, dramatic music and disco lights are queued on the water.  “Why can’t they just shut up and leave the beauty alone?” (Fabien) If you are ever lured to the attraction via the highway signs, go to the Falls. It’s neat. Skip Lookout Mountain and drive to Point Park for even more beautiful, natural (and free) views. Pics are here.

Having been in the state for only a month and finding all of these great things to do, we are really looking forward to exploring even more American Classics over the next couple of years. Feel free to leave comments of not to miss places in the great state of Tennessee and/or other areas in the south.