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.

“Home”: Smyrna, Tennessee

Over the past few years, I’ve uncovered a hidden passion in my life – TRAVEL (hence, the travel blog). I love seeing new places, experiencing cultures, adding stamps to my passport and continuously topping the previous trips excitement with the next. However, I also love coming home. Ernest Hemingway said, “There’s something about coming home that reminds you of what you have.” Agree.

Websters defines home as “a place where one lives” which might be one of the most the most limiting and disappointing definitions I’ve ever read. This would mean my response to someone asking me, “Where is your home?” would be “Smryna, Tennessee”. While Fabien & I are here together, this place hardly feels like “home” to either of us, but let me tell you a little bit about this town where we are living.

    • Smyrna is home to approximately 40,000 residents and a 5.2 million square

      Our neighborhood with Nissan in the distance. Looks like we might be the only household without a big truck.

      foot Nissan plant, which produces over 500,000 vehicles per year.

    • On the town corners you will find just about every American chain and because of the large community of foreigners, there are also many independently owned mexican and asian restaurants.
    • Our local watering hole is called (blush) “Willie’s Wet Spot” and, like all small towns, has a super friendly bartender who already knows most of my life story.
    • We are a 5 minute walk to the Stone’s River, which is quite beautiful and dumps

      Stone's River Dam

      into Piercy Priest Lake in Nashville.

    • Downtown Nashville is 30 minutes north and provides anything and everything in the way of entertainment (but nearly no bookstores….grrr).
    • It’s approximately once a day that I get a “Where y’all from?”, which only makes Fabien smile since it’s normally a question he has to answer by himself.
    • Just outside our subdivision are some beautiful country roads. We were really looking forward to biking them, that is until Fabien and his friend were recently chased by 4 dogs.
    •  The downtown is almost cute and consists of establishments called “Country Bride”, “Pop’s Bar” and “Breakin’ Bread-Home Cookin'”.
    • Smyrna’s most famous resident is a confederate war hero named, Sam Davis.

      The cotton fields at the Sam Davis home.

      His home, along with the Stone’s River National Battlefield are local relics. I know it’s a more a matter of southern pride than celebrating the civil war, but I’m not a fan of what this celebration represents. And this Yankee would like to remind y’all who won that war and I think it’s time y’all move on…

All this sounds just great, doesn’t it? I’m sure some of you are cringing and maybe 3 of you are jealous. Honestly, I haven’t determined my feelings yet. I might really love small town, country life, but I also might demand to be taken within walking distance of civilisation at some point. Fortunately, with another adventure just around the corner, I don’t have too much time to stop and smell Smyrna’s roses. My “home” will soon convert into a little village in central France called St. Cyr en Val come January 1st.