* Between The Sea (the Med) and The Alps -- {Pronounce: ontruh la mair eh lay zalp}

Monday, August 24, 2015

25 years later after Destination: Paris

25 years 01Once upon a time, we were a totally typical American family of two parents and three offspring, all born in different states and regions of the country.  While we entertained the unreachable dream of "going abroad" since we were young marrieds, we occupied ourselves with the world we did live in.  While Doc Leo started traveling all over the US and into Canada (it was so exotic to get an emergency help phone call from Vancouver!) in the first half of the 1980's, he started spending more time in Europe than at home in the second half.  Not being Florida natives in the first place, it became quite interesting contemplating living where all the current business was.  When the company finally agreed, and gave us the choice of where to locate ourselves, the Doc picked Paris, as he thought he knew the language and it was quite centrally located with a major airport to everywhere.

Thus began an experiment on this date that actually continues until this day and probably for the rest of our lives.

25 years 02
The end of an era

We waited to make the grand move until our eldest graduated from high school, then we did a little Caribbean graduation trip, taking one of our final family photos before going our separate ways. 

25 years 03
Surprise party!
The movers were packing up our worldly goods on my 40th birthday while the Doc was in Germany (not France, where he could possibly have found us somewhere to live!), and my Sunday school class threw me a surprise Bon Voyage party instead of teaching a biblical lesson.

25 years 04
A family tradition

An interesting factor was our choice of moving companies.  While we got several estimates, we ended up really trusting the guy (with good reason) from Mayflower. 

It just so happens that the Doc is a direct descendant of the original Mayflower through both parents.  So while we were an American family thanks to the historical Mayflower coming from Europe, we used the Mayflower moving company to head back over to Europe, not understanding at the time it would probably be a lifetime change. 

25 years 05

After taking our eldest to FSU the previous weekend, the rest of the family boarded an Air France plane with as many boxes as allowed to start our new life in a new country until the shipment of the rest of our belongings arrived. 

The flight schedules at the time were just one a day, leaving in the evening and flying all night.  Thus, we left on Thursday night and arrived Friday morning, way too excited to have gotten much sleep on the plane.

Once we'd collected all our baggage, we stopped at the Info desk to find out where the car rentals were.  While waiting for all the paperwork to get a vehicle, I started counting all our stuff to make sure we had it all.  Oh, no, we were missing one!  So my daughter and I backtracked to see if we could find it, while the Doc and our son remained to rent our transportation.

25 years 06
Up close and personal with the law
When we got to the main concourse, the whole area was shut down.  What's going on?  The whole center area was totally empty, and nobody was allowed to continue.  Suddenly, I saw the Info desk we'd stopped at, and there was our missing suitcase, totally surrounded by SWAT type personnel.  Oh, oh, oh.  We bravely pushed through the crowd and admitted that was our suitcase.  They made me pick it up (it had shoes in it, no bomb!), then the chief of police took us down to the police office. (The irritated crowd hurled quite a few unpleasantries we fortunately couldn't understand.)  He wanted our passports, but the Doc had them all!  As we looked every bit the extremely tired bedraggled foreigners that we were, and not at all like some kind of terrorists, he finally let us go.  Of course, airport police did not speak a foreign language, so it was quite interesting dialogue.

When we got back to the Doc and the child who had left the baggage unattended, they of course had no clue what we'd just gone through and didn't understand in the slightest why we were so stressed out!

And THAT was our introduction to our supposedly exciting new life!

25 years 07
A never tiring view
25 years 08
Our first Parisian restaurant
Our first night found us up at Montmartre (if you know the city) looking for dinner.  As our very Florida kids looked all around standing on the steps of Sacré-Cœur and the very quaint surroundings, they exclaimed how much everything looked like Epcot!  I've always just found that so funny.  The restaurant choice was out of some tourist info, so it was probably every bit as touristy as this image, but I just have warm and fuzzy memories of that night.  I so remember how the kids loved the French cornichons (pickles). 

25 years 09
Following tradition
25 years 10
We climbed the Tower

We learned immediately to pick at the tip of a baguette on the way home from a bakery.  I finally had to stop my daughter if I wanted any bread left by the time we got back to the apartment! 

Even though I never managed to climb the Eiffel Tower the one time I'd been there for a visit, the kids did get up there before school and life became our time priorities.

25 years 11
Moving Day in the snow
While we'd brought a bunch of stuff with us to hopefully get by with until our shipment arrived, we didn't expect that to take four months, thanks to paperwork problems.  As the weather got colder than Florida ever did, kind people loaned us jackets. Would you believe that while it apparently hadn't snowed in Paris for a few years, it decided to snow again the day our shipment finally arrived, in December.  The French were quite amused by our footwear in the winter, as all I had for closed shoes were my tennis, their word for simple sneakers.  I was not nearly as amused, as I was freezing!

25 years 12
Finding Columbus
25 years 13
A fairy tale photo

Because the Doc's main purpose was to visit customers all over Europe, occasionally we got to travel with him and see Europe for ourselves. 

When we went through Genoa, Italy, birthplace of the same Chris Columbus who is credited with discovering our own homeland, I was sure they'd have something to his honor.  Sure enough, we managed to find a statue without knowing how to ask for anything!  As we traveled through France, we discovered the castles of the Loire Valley.  How terribly unlike anything we ever saw back home, how terribly ancient, many being older than our own country's existence!

25 years 15
Neuschwanstein, the model for Disney

In the early days, the Doc spent a lot of time in Germany, especially Munich.  In reality, that isn't any further from Paris than the two ends of Florida.  But my American girlfriend eventually commented on how I went to Germany as often as she went to the grocery store!  Not quite, but it was an interesting observation. 

25 years 14
Munich campground

Our first summer, when our eldest daughter came over, we had a chance to take a vacation after a business trip to Munich.  There happens to be a campground right in the middle of Munich, but it was no campground like anywhere we'd ever stayed in the US.  No "take a number and here's your practically private space."  No, it was more like "there is the field, find a bare spot big enough to squeeze in your tent."  Nobody ever spoke to anybody in the bathing areas, unlike friendly US campers do.  I finally decided it was because nobody knew what language anybody else was going to speak, not something we were familiar with in the US, so conversation wasn't worth it.

25 years 16
Our Parisian home for 13 years

As we wound down our first full year, and as our eldest prepared to return back to the US to continue university, we got one of our last pictures of our offspring as part of our family unit. 

One by one, they then started going off into their own lives.  Lives that were forever changed by our adventure into a foreign culture thanks to the Doc's job, supposedly for just a couple of years.

It's amazing to see how simple and empty our backyard patio was.  Here is where I learned from my neighbor how to garden, and the whole patio was eventually totally covered in plants and pots by the time we left! 

25 years 17
The end of a grand and successful experiment

Eventually, the sun did set on our Parisian life.  And now, here we are, a quarter of a century later, permanently ensconced in the southern part of the country. 

This coming weekend marks the 14th anniversary of finding our little house on the mountain and starting a whole different adventure.  And our totally American family now includes two little French citizens.  I would say that our European roots have now come full circle in just under 400 years.


  1. What a neat post. You have quite a story, Ms. Alpine Queen, and I'm sure you wouldn't have traded a minute of it for the ordinary life.

    Love the shoulder pads and big hair.

  2. I knew I'd seen a Columbus statue but couldn't recall where it was. Thanks for including that. Good heavens, but we all look so amazingly young when we all felt like such big stuff. For heaven's sake, I'm the same age now as you were in some of those photos! How is that possible?

  3. Oh, I enjoyed reading your post. Happy 25th anniversary!


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