Monday, June 27, 2011

Apartment search #2....

So today we were lucky enough to get an appointment to see a place.  Since multiple people have to be called and schedules matched, it seems quite a feat to pull off an actual showing.

It was a truly lovely, bourgeois style apartment and very roomy, was 1750 Euros ($2450 US) but lacked any outdoor space.  And we REALLY want outdoor space.  Ideally a terrace or back yard big enough for all three children to play and mommy to sit, drink her coffee and read a magazine.  Ahhh, one can dream.  And poor Charlie is going through withdrawals from Grandpa's balcony in the Port.  Me too to be honest.  He/we would people watch all day long.  

Maybe we're crazy, but we said no to this fabulous apartment and the search continues. Why should we end the fun of searching so soon anyway???

Bedroom #1
The library between the bedrooms
That's it for the kitchen, in France you get a sink cabinet, and you supply the rest
Bedroom #2, Emm chose this one for herself
The library again

A screen shot of the living/dining room from a video I took
The building is just beautiful 

Now, things just don't run the way we're used to here in France.  Customer service and a real drive to work just doesn't seem to exist.  Like....we call about an apartment that's on the Internet and the woman on the phone says we can't see it.  Why?  The realtor is on holiday and won't be back for a week.  No one else can show it?  No.  So it sits there being advertised but not shown?  Yes. 

That isn't the first conversation we've experienced liek that.  Here's another... We're calling about the apartment on such and such a street.  It's louer (rented).  ...silence... Well, ummm, do you have anything else?  No.  Um...maybe you can take our number and call us if a 4P comes along? Well....okay.  (Sorry we intruded on your coffee break)

It's so mind boggling to us from a very customer service/go get em oriented country.  If what you're asking for isn't available, they fail to ask what your criteria is and suggest something else or put you on their list to call when ones does come around.  Neither J or I are used to this kind of business, or should I say lack there of.

AND, you have to deal with the whole fact that the country closes down from 12-2 for lunch.  It's a wonder anything gets done!  Guess we'll be up here on the hill for quite some time, better get used to it....sorry Charlie

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Bright Side...

So after a difficult week, we decided to try and have some fun this weekend.  Thanks to the little orange car we did two outings.  

Saturday we drove to La Turbie, walked around the old narrow streets around the monument, Le Trophee d'Auguste, took a look at the views and had a lovely long lunch. It's a little tiny town HIGH up in the hills above Monaco. Practically a mini mountain. The drive up and down was a nail gripper...

The guard rails are only about 2 feet tall!

Obviously a height requirement for this part of town.

Ahhh, our new house in the hills. :)
Monaco from above.

Sunday, today, we spent the day at the Miami (a little nod to home) Beach Club in Monaco.  Rented a couple of beach chairs and treated ourselves... 

I don't think you could fit one more person on the beach!
When you live in Europe, go European. :)
Next thing you know I'll be topless.  (Hahahahaha, wait can't type, too busy laughing...)
Monaco's beaches have tiny pebbles so it's nicer than Nice's big stones, and not as messy as sand.  But, I'm still partial to sand, something about it says VACATION.  

So, when life gives you a beach chair and relax.  I think I'm ready to tackle the "to-do" list again on Monday!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Decisons, Decisions, Decisions....

So today we were at a crossroads between two events to attend.  ABC School had a graduation ceremony for the students at the same time Terra Amata, T's new French school for next year, had a "Spectacle" and Fete just like ABC did on Saturday.  

ABC had bought these really elegant graduation outfits and wanted the parents to pay 55 euros for one, or you could rent it for 25 euros.  (remember the exchange rate here...multiply by 1.4 ish) It wasn't just the cost, to be honest I didn't see the point of the outfits except for the school to have great photos for publicity purposes.  Just my opinion here.  Cause really, if the kids have to wear uniforms everyday, why can't they wear their own nice clothes for the graduation?  And he's only graduating Pre-school, not college!  And only kids in the outfit could "graduate."

Well, we chose to go to Terra Amata's event.  Is that wrong?  Will I regret that when I'm older?  Don't know.  But, I thought it would be good to show T his new school so he'd feel like he's already a part of it when he starts in September.  And he was only at ABC for 2 months then 2 more months.  

It was quite full.  But then I realized that the classes are twice as big in public school so in reality there should be twice as many people attending.  Anyway, the kids were cute and they had a big fair after the show where T played some games.

T and I sat eating some cakes and we talked about him going to school there.  How they would only be talking in French to him and there wouldn't be any English classes to fall back on.  We talked about how he'd have to do some French lessons over the summer.  He said he was fine with it.  We'll see.....

All seemed good until.....on the way out I decided to stop at a table the Director was manning, some sort of "guess who the baby pictures were".  I spoke in English, obviously, and said, "Hi, remember me?  This is Taylor you're new student."  He looked at me, gave the slightest of a smile of acknowledgement, maybe a tiny nod of his head and looked away.  Not to be turned in my direction again for what seemed like a year or so.  I checked to see if I had interrupted anything, or if his attention was pulled away to something more important, anything.  No.  A man was filling out his sheet and they had a little giggle about the game.  

Finally I just said, "Well, Taylor just wanted to say hi."  He then gave T a moment and said, "Hi, (and then some words in French that T seemed to understand, coz T answered him and the Director smiled)." And that was it, he again turned away, again no chatting with me.  I said, "Well, ok, au revoir."  And not a peep or look my way.  So off we went.

I went home and cried.  Yes, I did.  Not just from him, but from a number of frustrations lately.  This was just the breaking point.  Language is at the core of all of them, and I know that's my fault.  But he made it feel like we were unimportant.  Did he not remember me?  Was he just rude?  I mean really, he could have at least engaged a little more, said it was nice to see us (again), maybe even goodbye.  SOMETHING!

Hmmmm, now I'm not so sure about my decision to move T anymore.  Maybe I'm just being overly sensitive-it has been a hard week, but I don't know if I want a school where the Director made me feel like we were so unimportant.  T is going to struggle, maybe I'm assuming too much, but if he's struggling I want to know the school will know who he is and help him.  Make sure that he feels important and that they care about him.  

This decision may need some more investigation and thought...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Apartment Search....

OK, with the car bought we now have to find a suitable apartment for 4.5 people, gotta include Charlie, and a space for J to work.  Which means a three bedroom, and in France that means a 4 piece if they aren't counting the dining room.  Then, we really want a nice balcony, two bathrooms, and hopefully a kitchen with appliances already in it.  Yes, around here the appliances are owned by the renters, the cabinets too sometimes.  And they take them with them when they move out.  Can you believe it??

To add to the difficulty, in Nice anything over a 3p is very hard to come by. Especially in the summer as we're told-why? I don't know, but everyone says in Sept we should have more luck.  Well, we don't really want to stay up here in the shoebox on the hill for that long.  And on top of it most everything is sales.  People don't really seem to do a lot of renting here.

So, I sat on the Internet scouring websites for rentals and making a list.  A short list at that.  Then as J worked at grandpa's house I attempted to make some calls.  Hahahaha.  I found this awesome tool, Google Translate, and made myself a script to follow.  The trouble was, I kind of sounded like I knew what I was doing so then they'd ramble off in French and I was lost.  So, J had to make some calls once he got home.

Note: It seems here that you don't have one central MSL to search, you actually have to visit Agencies in the area(s) you like and several at that since they all have different listings.

Well, none of my search results were still available anyway.  So all my work and frustration was for nothing and I was now in the dumps.  I wanted to be able to show that I could actually get something done.  Helping my mood was a totally failed attempt at calling for a Pizza delivery while J was working which ended up with me waiting 2.5 hours for a fresh pizza-I won't bore you with the entire story.  In the end I had to have J call when he returned to rectify the ordeal.  Obviously they blamed it on the language difficulty.  Frustrating day!!

So tomorrow is scheduled as a pool day with my California friend and her daughter to relieve some of the tension. :)  

Thursday we'll continue the search with renewed energy and hopefully a better frame of mind.....

Monday, June 20, 2011

Taylor as Tarzan...

Today I went with Taylor's class on their field trip to the Pitchoun Forest in Villeneuve Loubet, just outside of Nice.  This place is so fun!  They have three different parks, all having to do with the outdoors like climbing walkways between the trees, gliding down wires, going through mazes and other cool stuff that makes you remember your small town upbringing.  Ah, life before computers, when kids spent the summer climbing trees and making tree houses.

(We went to one of the other parks here, Le Bois des Lutins, in May with my friend and her daughter. You can read about it and see pics in this post.)

The kids wear harnesses and go through the course from tree to tree hooked to a wire, so if they lose their footing they don't fall to the ground. Smart! Too bad this one is only for 3-10 year olds.  Those wire glides look really fun.

So here are some pics of T doing his best Tarzan impression. :)

A quick lesson on how to hook on. 

Mastering the course.
Looks like he likes the glides too! Wheeeeeee
See you soon......

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Week in Review...

Well, another busy week full of fun to share...

Monday was a holiday so as you saw by the last post, we spent the day at the beach.  Super fun!!

Tuesday we finally picked up the car.  YEAH!  You'd think these days with computers running everything and moving to a somewhat modern country that a money transfer from our US bank to our French bank would be painless and take milliseconds.  Nooooo, for some unexplainable reason it has to take days.  Lesson learned...have the money already transfered before going shopping!

Anyway, we got a lesson on how to opperate our car, packed the tiniest tot into her new carseat and drove our little orange car out of there. The dealership was so sweet, they gave it to us with a completely empty tank of gas.  So, a quick lesson on European fuel prices....for everyone in America who complains about high gas prices, we filled the tank of a small car for...brace yourselves...75 Euros.  That equals $105 dollars at the 1.4 exchange rate!!!  But, as I thought about it, it kind of equals out.  Everything here is 1/4th the distance to get anywhere.  If I went half way across the state of New York, I'd have gone to a whole other country here, maybe two!

And to think...I can get a tasty bottle of champagne, okay, sparkling wine, for 4 Euros ($5.60)!!  I guess it all equals out. :)

We also went to the town Marie (Town Hall) and got info on all that we needed to inscribe Taylor into our local public school.  We like the ABC School, but are thinking he needs to be immersed in French before he hits the equivalent of 1st grade when the real lessons start.

Wednesday we packed up our little car and moved back up the hill.  We were sad to leave the beautiful Port apartment, but Grandpa was coming home the next day.  Our new view...

Not bad, but the balcony isn't big enough for my lounger and the hill is not fun to walk up with groceries or two tired kids. Plus you can't run next door to the market or across the street to the bakery.  (Maybe these are pluses actually, it IS swimsuit season.)

Of course since nothing can be done in one day here, I took all the paperwork back to the town Marie and in my broken French got the paperwork filled in to then take to the school.

Thursday J worked hard to find a good work space in the tiny apartment and I hung out with Emm downtown for her Gym class, picked up my first paycheck (yeah) in France, and did a bit of window shopping.

Then, together we spent a third day on this chore, and went to the Terra Amata public school down our hill to meet with the Director.  Lucky for us there was room in Taylor's age group.  The classes in France go by birth year.  He'll be with all the 2006 births, so he won't necessarily be the youngest in his class anymore.  The bad thing, his class will now be twice the size so he won't get as much personal attention.  We really have to work this summer on teaching him more basic French.  Ok, Daddy will have to work on that with him and me.

Friday after T came home from school we piled into the car and drove along the coast visiting a few of the towns next door.  Villefranche is still one of my favorites!  We drove around St Jean Cap Ferrat, ate in Beaulieu's port, played at a park in Villefranche Sur Mer and came home all in a matter of a few hours.  It's sooo beautiful here.  I feel like I'm on a permanent vacation living here.  Shouldn't life always feel this way?

Villefranche sur Mer
Cap St Jean Ferrat...


Saturday Taylor had a "Spectacle" at his school where all the classes performed skits/musical numbers.  I added a video but didn't cut it down.  So don't feel obliged to sit through the whole 6 minutes, although it is awful cute (biased, I know).

Sunday we got back in the car and went all the way to Italy and ate in Ventimiglia.  There was a "little" parade, The Battaglia di Fiori, that had just ended so we hopped in and walked along.  Too bad we didn't set out a wee bit earlier...

Charlie was King of the world. He had quite a grip on that window!

My next car...
Following the band.
These floats were decorated completely with carnations...the town folk compete with the decoration and construction of intricate displays depicting baroque figures for this yearly celebration.

A street in the center of Ventimiglia.
Thanks for hangin' with us.....

Whew, I gotta start making shorter posts. :)

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