Documents needed for school registration in France

Excuse My French - Consultants

Excuse My French – Consultants who deal with your French bureaucracy. (www.emf-france.com)

This post is part of a series on how to plan a 2-3 month séjour in France. You might also find these posts helpful: How to Enroll your Kids in French Public School and How to Register for Summer Camps in France.

In order to enroll your child into a French public school, you will need to visit the local mairie (Town Hall). There are endless jokes and horror stories about French bureaucracy, so it’s no surprise that this process provokes anxiety in most séjour families.

Let me put your mind at ease. No one I know has ever been denied admittance into a school because of incomplete paperwork if they did their homework ahead of time. The key is you absolutely must be in contact with the school before you arrive. If they are expecting you, they can usually tell you what paperwork is expected and the enrollment process should go smoothly. Below is a list of documents that are required. Your school and/or mairie (town hall) will likely require additional paperwork.

  • Copies of birth certificates and passports. If your child is traveling without one or both of his parents, bring along a notarized letter of permission to travel with and be responsible for said child.
  • Proof of address/temporary address. A rental agreement should work. In a small village, a letter from a landlord might also suffice.

Still nervous? Find a French-speaking guardian angel to help you. They are worth their weight in gold!

Happy Friday!

Washington Park Arboretum

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Not to freak you out or anything, but this is the last friday of September. Can you believe it? I’m a little panicky because our fall travel calendar is alarmingly sparse. This weekend I’m hoping to pencil in a few weekend trips. There are some gorgeous places around the Pacific Northwest that we still haven’t been to – it’s time to tick them off our list!  More information coming on Wednesday…

In the mean time, here are some distractions…

Maps that will surprise you.

How to document your travels.

Just because I’m nice, don’t assume I’m dumb. Amen sister!

What we’re watching when the kids go to sleep. It’s (finally) getting good!

Between school, ballet and soccer, I spend a good portion of my day in my car. The audible version of this book is making the drive more enjoyable. (And  since it’s about a million pages long, it is an excellent candidate for whispersync.)

What everyone back home is doing this weekend. Sorry I can’t be there!

Have a great weekend!

Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge, Brazil

Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge, an eco lodge in the Amazon jungle.

Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge, an eco lodge in the Amazon jungle.

Better late than never, right?

I’m finally getting around to posting some photos from our June trip to the Amazon jungle in Brazil. I’ll admit – I was ateensy bit nervous/excited about this part of the trip! Flying in a float plane has been on my bucket list forever – but I generally prefer to sleep in tarantulas-free environments….

Float Plane Arrival, Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge

Landing on the Rio Negro, taxiing to the Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge

Float Plane at Anavilhanas Lodge

Float Plane at Anavilhanas Lodge

We made it! Our group had to take two separate planes to the lodge, so Dan was there to great me when we landed.  No big adventures on the first night — we mostly explored the grounds surrounding the Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge

The Pool at Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge

The Pool at Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge

View from the Observation Deck.  Amazon Jungle

View from the observation deck. So lush…

Our rooms... Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge

Our rooms, tucked into the trees.

Sunset over the Amazon

Sunset over the Amazon

Watching the sunset over the Amazon gave me one of those “how did I get here?” moments. So beautiful, so remote.

A few hours later, my friends decided to go on a midnight boat ride in search of tarantulas and other nocturnal creatures. There are times in life when you act brave and do things that scare you.

And then there are times when you decide to have a glass of wine and call it a night.

the lodge of Anavilhanas jungle lodge

A nightcap in the lodge. Boa noite!

Happy Friday!

date night - go sounders!

date night – go sounders!

How was your week? Mine flew by. Between you, me, and the internet – we might just put our house on the market in the spring!  Hallelujah! Hallelujah! That means we are finally motivated to renovate the bathrooms. I was dreading this process – mostly because I didn’t know where to start. Thankfully I found an awesome contractor who has helped me come up with a plan of attack. (He’s just so organized, I love him!) Between his spreadsheet and my pinterest boards, I’m officially psyched and ready to reno!

A few fun links…

Our song of the week: http://tinysong.com/1833G

I finally got around to uploading some pics from the Amazon Jungle.

Just bought tickets to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada next summer! Check out the awesome official poster!

25 ways to ask your kids how school went. What always works for me: who’d you sit next too at lunch and what did they eat? Who did you play with at recess and what did you do?

My bathroom board on pinterest. ;)

Have a great weekend!

The Benefits of Traveling with Children

The benefits of Traveling Abroad with Children

This post is part of a series about planning a 2-3 month séjour in France. You might also enjoy Summer Camps in France, School Séjours and Monthly Rentals in France.

Traveling abroad with your kids isn’t nearly as stressful as you think it is. In fact, your children will make your experience better: more authentic, more meaningful, more colorful and more social. Why?

You become part of the community.

Your kids are your entrée into “real” French life – school events, play dates, birthday parties, dinner parties, judo lessons, etc. And because of your kids new friends and activities, you will quickly meet people and develop a natural support system.

You have something to talk about.

Kids are the ultimate conversation starter. People aren’t likely to quiz you about your personal life. But they will ask you about your kids: Oh, how old are they? Do they go to school here? Do they like it? Where are you from? Why do they speak French? Suddenly, you’re having a real conversation with someone – in French!

You put yourself out there.

You want your kids to have a good experience, make friends and enjoy school/summer camp. So even though you feel scared and insecure, you put yourself out there. You strike up conversations, schedule play dates and invite families over for dinner.

You keep calm and carry on.

Not every moment of travel is bliss. It’s normal to feel a little nervous or culture-shocked. But as a parent, you know that you can’t fall apart. You know that you need to set an example. So you smile, laugh and explain your way through one teachable moment after another.

And yes, it’s exhausting.

Sometimes you would really rather not go to that play date or dinner party. You’d rather open a bottle of wine and watch the only English-language television channel you’ve got, even if it’s Fox News. But your kids need to make friends and live a normal life. So you will go on that play date and you will struggle through a foreign language and you will live through awkward silences.  And before you know it, you’ll have made a few friends of your own.

Parenting Challenges while on Séjour

parenting challenges while living abroad on séjour

This post is part of a series about planning a 2-3 month séjour in France. You might also enjoy Summer Camps in France, School Séjours and Monthly Rentals in France.

One of the biggest challenges I had while living abroad was learning how to parent in a totally foreign environment. I hope my comments will be helpful to you – or at least you won’t be surprised!

Shifting rules and boundaries

In your home country, the family rules are straightforward and the boundaries are clear. You may not know all the answers, but you know most of them. When you move into a foreign culture, many of your old rules don’t apply. You have to make decisions on the fly.

Is it okay for my kid to go on a play date with a girl when I don’t know her parents? When I can’t even communicate with them? Is it okay for her to sleepover? Is it okay to let her go to the park without me? 

They sense your uncertainty

Kids realize pretty quickly that you haven’t figured out the new rules and they will quickly use this to their advantage.

Mom, you don’t understand, EVERYONE brings candy on field trips. Mom, you don’t understand anything. They said I could stay for dinner and they will bring me home. Mom trust me, I know what they said.

The new environment brings out different things in different kids

Traveling exaggerated the differences between my girls.  Sophia needed more freedom; Sasha needed more mommy time. Sophia needed less sleep, Sasha needed more sleep. It sounds so simple now, but in the middle of it all, it was hard to pinpoint exactly what was going on.

A note on solo parenting

Many séjour families make this arrangement work by sending mom and the kids to France while Dad stays home to work. The hardest part of this (for Mom!) is the emotional responsibility.  You will miss your partner, your sounding board, and your co-decision maker. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are taking on a lot by parenting in a foreign country. Just love your kids and enjoy the ride!

Moving Your Life Online

This post is part of a series about planning a 2-3 month séjour in France. You might also enjoy Summer Camps in France, School Séjours and Monthly Rentals in France.

Leaving the country for a few months? If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to go paperless.

  • dropboxBills. Take this opportunity to move all your bills online. Be systematic: each month when a bill comes in, set up online bill pay. This may take several months to straighten out, but it’s well worth it. While you’re at it, make sure you are getting rewards for all your credit card expenditures.
  • Move documents to the Cloud. Previously known as “the Internet.” Choose your favorite method – Dropbox is mine – but make sure you can access all of your important information from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.
  • Skype. I know it takes some getting used to, but Skype is incredible! They offer free Skype-to-Skype video calls.  But you can also call non-Skype numbers in the US for 1.2-2.3 cents per minute, depending on the plan you choose. A great way to stay connected to friends and family.

 

Traveling with your iPhone?

traveling abroad with your iPhone? be careful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post is part of a series about planning a 2-3 month séjour in France. You might also enjoy Summer Camps in France, School Séjours and Monthly Vacation Rentals.

I ask you – who needs a smart phone more than a traveler? To find a great restaurant, get directions, take pictures, keep in touch with friends back home… It’s as if smart phones were meant for travelers! And yet… traveling abroad with your iPhone can be complicated and expensive. Here are some tips for avoiding a $2,000 phone bill:

Call your provider

Consider purchasing a basic international plan as an insurance policy. Know that even the most expensive plan will not allow you to use your phone like you do at home. It’s easy to exceed your data limits and end up with a $1000 phone bill. I purchase the cheapest international plan so that I can use the phone in case of emergency.

Be vigilant about your settings

When you board the airplane, turn airplane mode ON and cellular data roaming OFF. Keep these settings until you get back on US soil.

Wi-Fi – When you know you are in a Wi-Fi hotspot in France, turn ON Wi-Fi (airplane mode remains ON and cellular data roaming remains OFF).

Calling home

Use Skype –Skype has a free app that allows you to make VOIP calls while on Wi-Fi. So cool! You are in airplane mode, but you can still make phone calls.

Get a local phone

Séjour families will likely want a local phone number. The easiest and cheapest way to do that is to buy a pay-as-you-go mobile phone in France. The two most popular carriers are SFR and Orange. They have storefronts everywhere and the hip young people who work there will likely speak some English. Go in, pick a cheap phone and a plan, walk out 20 minutest later. 50 bucks max.

Leasing vs. Renting a Car in France

French bakery truck

This post is part of a series about planning a 2-3 month séjour in France. You might also enjoy Summer Camps in France, School Séjours and Monthly Rentals in France.

Attention séjour families! If you rent a car in France, you need to know this: Many credit card companies will provide collision insurance free of charge – for 30 days only. Before day 31, you’ll need to turn in the car, close out the account and rent a new car. Yep. A real pain in the neck. That’s why prefer to lease a car instead. Here’s the lowdown:

Long-term Rental Cars

Renting a car online is fairly straightforward. It’s the insurance issue that makes it complicated and costly. Buying insurance from the rental agency can run anywhere from $10 – $35 per day. And when you need a car for 2-3 months, the costs add up fast.

  • It’s worth calling your credit card companies – they will often provide some coverage free of charge. But be sure to read the fine print carefully for rules and exclusions. For example, the American Express Premium Plan will provide collision insurance free of charge – for 30 days. But before day 31, you’ll need to turn in the car, close out your account and then rent another car.
  • Before you leave the lot, make sure you know if you can leave the country.  If you get into an accident in Spain, when you weren’t supposed to leave France, you’ll be responsible for the damages.
  • And make sure you know how to drive a stick!
Short-term Lease Cars

A great alternative to the cost and hassle of renting a car is to lease a new car (also called Purchase/Re-purchase or Lease/Buy-back). There are regional companies (for example, Renault and Peugeot) who make the process fairly simple for foreigners and the benefits are huge:

  • Less hassle and no hidden fees. Unless you really love standing in line at the rental car company and trying to figure out which “extra options” (hidden fees) you need and which ones you don’t. With leasing, the process is simple and the price is all-inclusive.
  • Better insurance, no deductible. With lease /buy back plans, the insurance is included in the price and there is no deductible. Most leasing companies also provide free 24hour roadside assistance.
  • It will probably be cheaper. If you need a car for 17-30 days, you might be able to find a cheaper rental– if your credit card covers some of the insurance costs and you only have one driver. But if you need a car for a month or longer, it will most likely be cheaper to lease. In either case, the longer you keep the car, the more reasons number 1-2 matter.
  • Pick-up and drop-off flexibility. Pick-up in one French city, drop-off in another. No extra fees.
  • You can return the car with no gas in the tank. (although to be fair, you will also receive the car with next to no gas in it.)
  • You get a brand new car!

Here’s how the whole thing works: Europeans must pay a hefty Value Added Tax on new cars – Americans do not. So the leasing company lets Americans take temporary possession of the car – thereby making it cheaper and easier to sell a few months later (to a European or to a rental car company). Since it’s in their best interest to make sure nothing happens to the car, they offer great insurance coverage.

Leasing companies to use

Each of these companies have US-based customer service reps available to answer questions. You could do the process online, but talking to someone is helpful if you aren’t that familiar with the process.

  • Peugeot via AutoEurope – easily my top choice. They have what I’m looking for in a car lease company: a good track record and excellent customer service.
  • Renault via EuroDrive – apparently a very good option. I’ve read many positive reviews about this company and people apparently have had very good experiences.
  • Honorable mention: Europe by Car –Rick Steves recommends this company, so it must be pretty good. Europe by Car offers leases from both Renault and Citroen.
Driving in France
  • Choose a small car – Europe isn’t set up for a giant Costco-sized SUV. If your car is too big, you’ll never be able to park it. Get a car that’s just big enough to hold your luggage.
  • Manual vs. automatic – In some cases an automatic may not be available. If an automatic is available, you’ll likely pay a higher price for it. Learn how to drive a stick!
  • Gasoline vs diesel – Diesel is far more common in Europe than in the US. You’ll find diesel at most petrol stations, and it’s usually a little less expensive.
  • Required items – The following are required in all cars driving in France: 1) hazard warning triangle and a 2) neon vest (to be kept inside the car, not in the trunk). Ask the leasing/rental company if these are included in your car.
  • International drivers permit – Although technically not always required, it’s a good idea to have one. It’s super easy to get – just go to any AAA office, have your picture taken and fill out an application. There’s no test or anything – it’s basically a translation of your license into several languages. (You don’t have to be a AAA member.)
  • Drive with cash – Most Autoroutes in France (blue signs) are toll roads (péage), so get cash before leaving the airport. Your American-style credit card will not work in unbanned tollbooths. You will also likely pay to park in bigger towns and cities. Paying by cash is usually possible, or by EMV credit card.

What are you afraid of?

move abroad. what are you afraid of?

 

This post is part of a series about planning a 2-3 month séjour in France. You might also enjoy Summer Camps in France, School Séjours and Monthly Rentals in France.

How long have you been thinking about this trip? So… what’s stopping you?

I’m busy!  The planning process is daunting.

You don’t do it all in one night. One little thing at a time. Start by Defining the Dream.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m actually a little bit scared.

Make list of your fears and what you can do to prepare yourself. Take reasonable precautions, and then go for it. Don’t make decisions based in fear.

What if someone gets sick? What if we need major medical care?
  1. See your doctor before you go:
    1. Get a clean bill of health and copies of your vaccine reports
    2. Get extensions on prescriptions, get any necessary vaccines
    3. Explain your trip. Ask if there is a way to contact their office via email while you are abroad.
  2. Research the medical care system in the new country. Locate nearest doctors and hospitals.
  3. Look into Travel/Medical/Evacuation Insurance. 
I don’t speak the language.

Yes! So scary! And embarrassing! But it won’t kill you. Start learning the language now. Take lessons when you arrive. Be kind, be respectful and draw pictures. It’s all part of the adventure.

I’m afraid I’ll feel lonely or isolated.

Before you go: Put the word out to friends and family – someone knows someone who has lived in France. Email them. Follow up with them. Learn from them, meet with them if possible.

Connect with the expat community. It’s easy enough to do by taking language courses or English-language enrichment classes. Expats can provide a wealth of wisdom and comfort to the newly arrived.

Make friends with the locals. It’s wonderfully enriching to have friends from other cultures. And it’s nice to know you have a local to call if you need help.

I’m not sure what to do with myself for 2-3 months.

This should be the least of your problems! Take language lessons, art classes or cooking classes. Learn a new skill or volunteer. Go hiking or shopping. Read a book, write a book, start a business or reinvent yourself. Just GO.

 

Defining the Dream

When I help families plan a 2-3 month stay in France, the first thing they usually say is: “I’m so overwhelmed, I just don’t know where to start!”

I know how that feels! Before my first séjour, I thought “research” meant watching House Hunters International with a glass of wine. But it turns out that isn’t very productive. Nor is googling around online before you have a clear idea of what you want.

Better to have a plan of attack. I’ve planned a few séjours now, and here’s how I get started.

Questions to Ask Yourself

sejourhouse

  • Goals: Why do you want to take this séjour? What are you hoping to gain from this experience? (inspiration, adventure, time to reflect, create, work..) What are your personal goals for this séjour? (learn French, take a cooking class, explore a new career path, get creative…) Do you have family goals for this trip? (introduce kids to foreign language, bond as a family…)
  • Family Considerations: Who will be coming with you? What do you need in order for this to be a good experience for the whole family? Ideas: schools, camps or activities for the kids? Language lessons before you leave or when you get there?
  • Timing: What time of year will go? For how long can you stay?
  • Location: What country or region? City, village or rural life? House or apartment?  Farmhouse or modern house? Unique characteristics: access to water, mountains or vineyards? Weather: Hot, mild, snowy?
  • Lifestyle check: Will you go stir crazy in an urban apartment, or feel lonely in a rural farmhouse? How do you picture your daily life? How will you make friends?
Search Criteria

Next, you need to turn these notes into search criteria. Once you do this, you’ll have a clear plan for identifying and eliminating options. Here are a few examples:

sample sejour 1.1

sample sejour 2.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your turn!

Daydream with your partner. Talk about what you’re hoping to gain from your séjour experience. Discuss your ideal locations, lifestyle, budget and timing. Once you have turned your ideas into search criteria, your online research will be much more productive.

Next up – Tips on Finding Monthly Housing

Medical Care while on Séjour

obtaining medical care in france while on sejour

 

This post is part of a series about planning a 2-3 month séjour in France. You might also enjoy Summer Camps in France, School Séjours and Monthly Vacation Rentals.

Medical issues to take care of before you go on séjour:
  • Contact your insurance company and review your benefits information with regard to out-of-network or out-of-country expenses.
  • You might consider Travel/Medical/Evacuation Insurance. SquareMouth.com does a good job comparing quotes and coverage from various companies.
  • See your family doctor(s): 1) Get a check up and a clean bill of health 2) Obtain copies of your children’s vaccine/medical records 3) Get extensions/advances on all prescriptions and 4) Write down any critical medical issues on a piece of paper and keep them in your wallet. If your child has allergies, it might be a good idea to translate those and keep them handy.
If you need health care in France:
  • Pharmacies – Pharmacists in France are able to diagnose and treat some illnesses. If you need further medical care, they can call someone for you. If the pharmacy is closed, they will usually post a sign indicating a nearby open pharmacy.
  • Hospitals and doctors – It may give you peace of mind to identify the closest hospital and doctor’s office to your séjour home. You will need to pay your bill out-of-pocket and then contact your insurance company for potential reimbursement. Costs aren’t nearly as high as they are here in the US.
  • SOS Médecins – This organization is made up of on-call doctors who will come to your home, apartment or hotel room. Although it sounds extraordinarily expensive, it is not. Dial 3624
Emergency medical care:
  • SAMU – for an ambulance or emergency medical care. Dial 15
  • Les Pompiers – fire fighters, can also provide medical assistance. Dial 18
  • EU-Wide Emergency number – Dial 112

Happy Friday!

happy friday - girl power

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Happy Friday! In honor of Joan Rivers, this week’s Happy Friday column is all about girl power!

Until recently, I didn’t know much about Joan Rivers. But she holds a special place in my travel memories…

I was living in Provence with my girls – Dan was still back in Seattle, so I was parenting solo. While the girls were in school, I spent my days exploring the region and trying to speak French without embarrassing myself. It was challenging and thrilling and I loved it!

But it was also exhausting. By the end of the day, I desperately needed to shut off my brain.

And in walked Joan Rivers. Nearly every night after I put the girls to bed, I would pour myself a little limoncello and watch Fashion Police on E! Television. No matter how deer-in-the-headlights I felt, she made me laugh and feel a bit braver. :)

Another ballsy woman: the evolution of Peggy Olsen.

The best music video we’ve seen in a long, long time.

The girls love this song.

Still have questions? Ask Lena.

Have a great weekend!

Happy Friday!

Agua Verde, Seattle in the Sun

Seattle in the Sun – Agua Verde Puddle Club

The girls finished their first few days of school!  They love their new teachers and I love my re-gained freedom… or at least I thought I would.   In fact, I had a terribly unproductive week. My list was too long, I got lost in the weeds and didn’t manage to finish a single project. So frustrating! I guess two months of sunshine and rosé has turned my me into a distracted, unfocused mess. It’s time to get my brain – and body – back in shape!

A few fun links…

One of these days, I might actually do this: Why Summering in the Pacific Northwest is the Next Best Thing to Traveling Abroad.

We’ve been watching the US Open and I’m feeling inspired to take tennis lessons again. Sadly: The Death of the One-Handed Backhand.

How one traveler turns a place into a home: What I do: Buy a good kitchen knife and live stream NPR while making dinner.

How one mom photographed her kids’ first day at school – I think you will relate!

Travel porn: I’ve only been to 19 of these cities. Not bad for a farm girl from Indiana, but I think I can do better. :)

I am in love this new app. It makes it so easy to shoot edit and share short films.

Have a great weekend!

Links I Love

Wanna move to France? Or just find a few blogs to follow? Here are some links I love…

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Learning the French Language:

The News in Slow French

About French

French Today

 

Favorite Books on French Culture:

French or Foe?: Getting the Most Out of Visiting, Living and Working in France

Savoir-Flair: 211 Tips for Enjoying France and the French

 

How to move to France:

Excuse My French – Consultants who deal with your bureaucratic nightmares

Laurence Raybois – Consultant and author of “Chez Moi: The Foreigner’s Guide to buying a Home in France.”

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Travel bloggers:

Prêt-a-voyager – and especially, her Blog lover’s guide to France

Lost in Cheeeland

Girls Gide to Paris

Leah Travels

The Voyageur

Hither and Thither

Context Travel

Kinfolk

 

Lifestyle bloggers:

Cup of Jo

Elephantine

The Londoner

A House in the Hills

The Londoner

 

 

Food bloggers:

Food 52

Smitten Kitchen

David Lebovitz

i am a food blog

Paprika (my favorite app for organizing recipes and planning meals)

 

Family Favorites in Lake Annecy, France

Family favorites in Lake Annecy France

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We’re back from France! This year we spent six weeks in a small village on the east side of Lake Annecy. And even though it rained way too much, we still managed to catch some sun and enjoy life on the water. There is so much to do in the area – we think of this region as summer camp for the whole family!  Here are some of our favorite activities and places.

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General overview

The city of Annecy is in the Haute-Savoie region of France. Fly into Geneva and drive 35 minutes south. Other beautiful places in the region: Lyon (1 hour 45 mins), Chamonix and the Mount Blanc Tunnel (1 hour 10 mins) and Cervinia, Italy (3 hours).

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Water activities

  • Favorite paid beach: Moon Plage. (Soft sand, beds with umbrellas and table service. Kids will love the “epic” water slide.
  • Favorite free beach: La Brune in Veyrier-du-lac
  • Water skiing and wave boarding: Jean-Louis Fountaine in Talloires
  • Boat rentals are everywhere and easy to find (paddle boats, SUPs, kayaks, row boats, sail boats)

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waterskiing, family fun, Lake Annecy France

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Land activities

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Biking, family fun, Lake Annecy France

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In the air

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Paragliding over Lake Annecy France

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Favorite summer camps

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tennis camp, summer camps in annecy, france

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Restaurants

  • Sapaudia- Annecy (la vieille ville)- Order the La Salade Méditerranéenne and the Café Gourmand.
  • Le Pichet - Annecy (la vieille ville) – Order the Tartiflette and Salad Verte.
  • Café des Ducs – Annecy (la vieille ville) – For breakfast: Croissant, espresso, fresh orange juice. Perfect.
  • Pauvert Traiteur – Annecy (la vieille ville) – Absolutely everything you need for the perfect picnic.
  • Moko Plage – Annecy-le-Vieux – Perfect scallops and a good kids menu (fish with tagliatelle).
  • La Trinquette – Annecy-le-Vieux – Good pizza and reasonably priced daily specials. Fun scene; busy with locals during lunch and on weekends.
  • Cafe de la Place – Menthon St. Bernard – Tremendous value and lively local scene, especially at lunch.

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favorite restuarants annecy france

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Shopping

  • Centre Commercial Courier – Indoor mall with FNAC, Zara, H&M, etc.
  • Espace Foot – Soccer store
  • Eclectik – She has a terrible facebook page and no website – but trust me, this is a great little store. My absolute favorite vintage shop in Annecy. I always find something here!

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favorite shops, annecy, France

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Lodging

  • Last year we stayed in this small apartment in the Old Town. It’s right smack dab in the middle of all the action – you can walk to restaurants, shops, markets, and the lake.  We loved the location and the apartment was clean and well-maintained. But we could’ve used an extra room and some more natural light.
  • This year we rented a family home in the village of Veyrier-du-Lac. The view from the terrace is absolutely stunning and the village is nice and not as touristy as others in the area. If there is a downside to this location (and I’m reaching here), it’s that we needed to use our car a bit more.  But overall, I loved this location and would stay there again in a heartbeat.

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home in veyreir-du-lac, france, monthly vacation rental

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Want to know more about Annecy? Contact me!

10 French-speaking summer camps in France

There are so many incredible summer camp options in France. I’ve listed a few of them below, just to give you an idea of what’s out there. If you’re looking for something specific, here’s how to research summer camps in France. And if you need more personalized help, don’t hesitate to contact me!

.Paris
Biarritz and Cote Basque
Provence
Haute Savoie

 

 

Lake Annecy’s Best Beaches

Lake Annecy's Best Beaches

Being a travel blogger is hard work. This week I spent many hours visiting and “researching” all the beaches around Annecy, just so that I could provide you with this information. Many difficult decisions were made and documented. Which sand is softer? Which wine list more extensive? Which toilets less disgusting?

Without further ado…

The Best Beach in Annecy:

Moon Plage Privée at L’Impérial: Yes, it’s the most expensive at 15€ per adult, but wow! This is what affordable luxury is all about: cushioned deck chairs, umbrellas, soft sand and tanned waiters bringing you chilled wine. Meanwhile, the kids are swimming in the lake or squealing their way down the “epic” slide.

Runner up:

Plage de L’impérial: If you don’t want to shell out the Moon Plage premium, go here. It’s essentially the same beach, minus all the luxuries. Instead of cushioned deck chairs, you spread out on the grass. Instead of chilled rose, you drink bottled water. You still pay to get in (4€ per adult, 2.50€ per child), but the toilets are western-style and clean. There’s a decent restaurant and again, the huge slide is “epic.”

The others in/near Annecy:

Plage des Marquisats – Free beach – fairly small – sand and grass – snacks available for purchase – near bike path. Disgusting bathrooms; hold your nose or go swimming.

Plage D’Albigny in Annecy-le-Vieux. Free entry – sand and grass – more options for shade here than at Marquisats – restaurants nearby (across the street) – near bike path. They have those self-cleaning, stainless steel toilet chambers which completely freak me out.

The best on the east side of the lake:

Plage de la Brune: This is “our beach” but we aren’t biased! It’s not only free, but it’s clean and beautiful. There are two small bays of sand, lots of grass and a happening picnic scene on the weekend. There’s also a kiddie pool and a few restaurants in striking distance.

The others on the east side:

Talloires – Pay on entry (2.30€ per adult). Gorgeous bay with smooth, clean waters. Diving board and slide. A decent restaurant.

Menthon St. Bernard – Pay on entry (2.30€ per adult). The restaurant here is decent. The kiddie pool and the shallow end of the lake are clean and nice. But the deeper end of the lake near the diving board seemed to collect dead bugs (?). I know! weird, right? Not a good vibe.

 

Water Taxi

waiting for our taxi

The traffic to-and-from Annecy was starting to bum me out, particularly on the weekend. But then we discovered the Veyrier Express – a speed boat turned water taxi that shuttles to-and-from Annecy several times per day. Suddenly, the commute is the best part of the day!

Roule ma poule

We rented some bikes and toured around Annecy this afternoon. Huge success. HUGE. Meaning: we didn’t crash into anyone and the girls decided they want to move here. Highly recommend this bike company: Roul’ Ma Poule.

p.s. Apparently, Roule ma Poule does not actually mean “roll my chicken.” Although I stand by my original translation. In fact, it’s an expression – something similar to let’s go!  Like: On y va! or Allons-y!  French friends, correct me please!

getting to know the neighborhood

I LOVE our summer rental! I think the owners are new to VRBO so I want to give them HUGE props. The house is even better than advertised. And when we arrived, the kitchen was fully stocked with bread, cheese, fruit and… wait for it…. a chilled bottle of rosé! Are you kidding me?!

The village is super cute and has all the essentials. There is a grocery store called “8h a 8h” – except it’s only open until noon on Sundays, opens at late on Mondays and closes early on Wednesdays. And in August, vacation hours apply. Honestly people, rename your store.

8 French Resources in Seattle

French Resources in Seattle

  1. Best group classes for adults: Alliance Française

  2. Favorite tutor for adults: Danick Jawer

  3. Museum tours (in French) for children: Atelier D’Ichere

  4. Our favorite French immersion school: FISW

  5. Absolutely amazing experience: Canoe Island French Camp

  6. French cooking classes: Paris Eastside

  7. Drink your way through wine school: Le Caviste

  8. French property rentals: French Homestyle

 

 

French Translations of Vaccines

Séjour kids in France don't actually need a Carte Jaune. Just bring along a copy of their medical records.

Séjour kids in France don’t actually need a Carte Jaune. Just bring along a copy of their medical records.

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We’re getting ready for summer camps in France!

Registering for camps in France isn’t nearly as bureaucratic as registering for schools. Nonetheless, I usually bring along copies of the girls’ medical records. The cheat sheet below has come in handy!

Some camps also request a letter from the doctor stating they are healthy enough to participate without restrictions.

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source: CDC

source: CDC

 

Apps for Organizing Travel

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If you know me, you know that I love organize – almost as much as I love to travel! I have three favorite apps to share with you today. Each offer web and mobile access so that you can access the information from anywhere.

Tripit

Pros: After you set up an account, Tripit manages itself. When your email inbox receives a confirmation from an airline or hotel, Tripit recognizes this and automatically imports them to your Tripit Itineraries.

Cons: Tripit only recognizes reservations from places like airlines and hotels. When I travel, I also want to keep track of emails from VRBO, ski school instructors, summer camp operators, restaurant recommendations, etc.

Evernote

Pros: Evernote is like a journal filled with sticky notes –and because it’s online, you can organize everything in a way that makes sense for you. I usually create a new notebook for each trip, adding clips of anything and everything I’ve found online: articles, recommendations, emails, maps, etc.  Here’s an Evernote travel tutorial.

Cons: Data uploads and syncing availability is limited unless you upgrade to a Premium Account (appox $40 per year).

Dropbox

Pros: If Evernote is my personal journal, then Dropbox is my work filing cabinet. All my important papers are here. When my computer died last year, I didn’t panic, even for a minute. Everything was in dropbox, so I lost nothing. You can also share folders with co-works or family members.

Cons: If you use dropbox all the time, you will probably need to upgrade to a Pro Account (approx. $10 per month).

My Seattle Favorites

I cannot believe I’ve lived here for almost ten years! Time flies when you’re having babies. I put together this list for friends and family who come to visit. It’s certainly not a comprehensive travel guide to the city – just a list of our go-to places and activities.

Favorite weekends…
On the water…
Kid approved
Restaurants, downtown
Restaurants, other neighborhoods
For margaritas on a gorgeous day…
See what’s playing

Tennis in Annecy, France

Only 58 days until our next family séjour to France! I’ve been busy researching summer camp options, which got me thinking – shouldn’t there be summer camps for adults?

And low and behold, look what I found: A summer Tennis Camp for Adults! Unfortunately, between my lousy French and my even lousier tennis game, I might not be able to swing it (ha!). But surely I could find a willing instructor at one of these clubs….

Tennis Menthon 

  • Camps for kids: 1/2 day sailing, 1/2 day tennis
  • Adult private and group lessons available

Tennis Club Annecy le Viex

  • Camps for kids: both 1/2 and full day
  • Evening courses for adults
  • Private lessons available.
  • Well-reviewed café serves lunch (reservations recommended).

Annecy Tennis

  • The girls attended camp here last year and it was great!
  • Café serves lunch
  • Gorgeous beach across the street
  • Camps for kids and evening adult lessons

Tennis Club Veyrier-du-lac

  • Looks like 2 courts for rental/community use.
  • Ask about a private instructor at the Offices de Tourisme

 

roland garros

 

How to Buy French Train Tickets Online

train

It’s pretty straight-forward, but follow these steps to secure e-tickets and avoid unnecessary fees.

  1. Go to http://www.sncf.com/en/passengers
  2. When you’ve chosen the routes you want, you will be asked to select a country from the drop down menu. Select FRANCE. (If you select USA, you will not be able to purchase an e-ticket and will consequently pay admin and postage fees.)
  3. Select E-TICKET PURCHASE.
  4. Buy online using your credit card.
  5. Print out your ticket.

There are 4 types of train services in France (all are available at SNCF):

  • TGV
  • IDTGV (discounted TGV with limited routes. You can choose between Quiet Cars and Social Cars.)
  • OUIGO (discounted TGV with limited routes)
  • Intercités (intercity)

p.s. The picture above is of my girls on a Czech train from Prague to Prerov.

My Aspen Favorites

Restaurants:
Family Fun:
Girl’s guide for the non-skier:
  • A day at the spa. Travel + Leisure named Reméde Spa one of the best spas in the world. Signature Facial is $175 and includes access to the oxygen lounge, steam caves, cold plunges, hot tubs, fitness center, and confluence waterfall (whatever that is).
  • Walk, browse, shop Downtown Aspen. Pick up some jeans here, a new bag there and check out the art galleries.
  • Definitely take a yoga class at O2 Aspen.
  • I could spend hours at Explore Booksellers.

Paris Transportation – Links

Airport Transfers:
Metro/Bus:
  • Paris by Train is a helpful website. Learn how/where to buy a single ticket, a book of 10, a weekly pass or a monthly pass.
Train tickets for travel within France:
Taxis:
  • G7 has an English speaking website and telephone line.
So much fun! (but bring your own helmet)

Intro to summer skiing in Europe

summer skiing in europe

Busy planning next summer! Dan plans to SkiThe12, so I’m researching summer ski resorts in Europe. Leaning towards Cervinia, Italy. Here’s what I’ve learned so far…

The highest and largest summer ski area in Europe is Zermatt-Cervinia, otherwise known as Klein Matterhorn.

Cervinia, Italy has a bustling aprés-ski atmosphere when the Italians come in from Turin and Milan on the weekends. Valtournenche, a neighboring village, is quieter. Both have lift access and links to Zermatt (greatly increasing km of piste). For accommodation information in Cervinia or Valtournenche go here. Travel times to Cervinia:

  • 1.5 hours by car from Turin, Italy
  • 2.0 hours by car from Milan, Italy
  • 2.5 hours by car from Geneva, Switzerland

Zermatt, Switzerland is a village at the foot of the Matterhorn. They guarantee 21 km of snowy slopes and claim to be very family friendly. The Matterhorn Museum is said to be great. For accommodation information in Zermatt go here. Travel times to Zermatt:

  • 1.5 hours by car from Sion, Switzerland
  • 3 hours by car from Geneva, Switzerland
  • 3.5 hours by car from Milan, Italy

* Zermatt is car-free; you must park in Tasche and take a shuttle train into the Matterhorn village center.

Chip & Pin Credit Cards

You might think that the U.S. is on the cutting edge of technology, but when it comes to credit cards it most certainly is NOT. The rest of the world uses something called an EMV card. Instead of a magnetic strip, EMV cards have an embedded chip that is both safer and easier to use.

If you stay in the major touristy areas, your card will work fine. But if you are planning to spend 2-3 months in a small village, you may run into some problems:

chip and pin cards- what they are and why you want one!

  • Automated kiosks cannot process your card. This includes tollbooths and parking lots. If you don’t have a EMV card, you will need to pay cash.
  • You cannot “pay at the pump.” You can’t pay-at-the-pump with an American credit card. Someone has to be working there who is willing and able to “swipe” your card. Keep in mind that French gas stations aren’t staffed 24-7 like they are in the U.S. I found I needed to plan my gas purchases in advance. Once I was so desperate for gas that I had to ask a perfect stranger to buy gas for me with their credit card and then I gave them cash in return.
  • Some merchants don’t have a swipe machine. Particularly if their business does not put them in touch with “tourists.” For example, I once needed to buy two new tires for my leased car, but the company only accepted EMV cards or cash. Unfortunately, there was a limit to how much cash I could withdraw on any given day, so I had to come back 3 days in a row to make payments.
  • Some merchants have a swipe machine, but have never used it before. You might have to (kindly) show them how to use it. If you are in grocery store, this transaction will likely involve manager approval.

How to get an EMV credit card

American credit card companies are slowly starting to offer EMV credit cards that also eliminate foreign transaction fees – but most only offer these cards to their Corporate Clients.

At time of publication, there is only one U.S. based institution that offers EMV card to personal account holders: Andrews Credit Union offers a Globe Trek Visa card.  For information, go to www.AndrewsFCU.org.

Note:

If you decide not forgo the EMV card, just remember to carry cash with you at all times!