As someone who lived in NYC all through college and for several years after, I thought I’d seen it all. From the Naked Cowboy to protests to all kinds of crazy, nothing fazed me. But moving to suburban France introduced me to things I’d never seen with my own eyes. Some strange, some just different and some completely and mind-blowingly awesome. Cheers to new experiences! (and check out Part 1 here)
Things I’d never seen or done until I moved to France: Part 2
1. Baguette vending machines
Baguettes are a French culture staple, so of course you can grab a fresh one from a vending machine (and milk too)! This comes in handy after hours once the bakery has closed for the evening or when all you want is a baguette and you don’t have time to wait in line. Since first spotting a baguette machine a few years ago, I’ve noticed they’ve become even more popular and now I see them quite often. I wrote a whole post about it here.
2. Gotten up close and personal with a hedgehog
One of these spiky guys crossed the sidewalk in front of Dagny and me on a nighttime walk and I did a double take. They don’t exist in suburban New Jersey! Calm and slow moving, they’re nothing to be frightened by and mind their own business. They’re actually kind of cute, and since that first run-in at night, we’ve seen a whole bunch of them including the little guy pictured above.
3. Experienced a winter without snowEvery single winter of my entire life before moving to the Maine-et-Loire region of France, I’d seen snow. Maybe we didn’t have multiple blizzards, but New Jersey and New York have what I consider “real” winters. Snow is my happy place and winter is and always will be my favorite season. Here in my neck of the woods in France, it rarely snows, and if we get one centimeter every few years, it’s considered normal. Now I know how you Floridians feel. I think an Alps Christmas is in order one of these years!
4. Seen processionary caterpillars
These caterpillars are NOT your friends. I had no idea what these things even were until a French woman alerted me to their dangers after posting a picture on Instagram and warning me to keep Dagny away. They can cause a severe skin reaction due to toxins in their hairs and can cause a dog to lose its tongue or worse. Steer clear. You can read more here — I did a whole post on processionary caterpillars to warn others who aren’t familiar with these pests.
5. Tasted some of the most refined, beautiful, inventive desserts in the worldThe French do pastries like no one else in the world. Millefeuilles, religieuses, eclairs, YUM! I interviewed a local pastry chef here in case you’re into that sort of thing.
6. Some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen with my own eyesFrance is full of diverse landscapes that will take your breath away. Case in point? Corsica, where it looks like this.
7. People parking backward on the sidewalkThe French make New Yorkers look good when it comes to driving. That’s all I’ll say there. Just keep in mind people have interesting ways of parking in France.
8. Horse meat in the supermarketAnd whole rabbits. Like this. No thanks!
9. Learned how to tackle canal locksMany countries have locks, but I’d never actually gone through one with a boat myself until our recent canal cruise in Alsace. They look scarier than they are and you can read more here.
10. Confidently spoken in FrenchI studied French a little bit before moving to France but no amount of prep can adequately prepare you for full-blown life in the French language. It’s one thing to feel confident speaking in front of your peers in French class but another thing entirely to confidently stand up for someone else in your second language, haggle a price, navigate the details of a medical issue, etc. I didn’t gain this confidence until I used the language daily, and with time, I’ve become more at ease in French than I was.
11. Gone up in a hot air balloonYou can go for a hot air balloon ride in many places all over the world, but it just so happens that my first flight was for Tom’s birthday last month in Chinon, France… and WOW! It was so incredibly calm — not scary — and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I wrote a whole post complete with a video about the experience here.
Want more? Read Part 1 here.