On habite ici maintenant. We live here now.

This has been the phrase on our lips every day since May 15, when we took possession of our small and very charming apartment in Collioure. We have uttered it to the candied peanut man at the farmer’s market and to our regular waiter at the Sola (one of two local watering holes in town) and a cheese monger from Bourg-en-Bresse, near Lyon, whom we met one night at our favorite tapas place. He wanted to practice his English. Parce qu’on habite ici maintenant, we wanted to practice our French. When we told him about our move he said, “But what about the taxes!” We said we had two words for him: Donald. Trump. He said, “I have nothing for that.”

It’s not about fleeing Trumpistan. (There’s no escaping him, anyway). Like all immigrants, we are seeking what we hope is a life that suits us better. We live on the corner of rue Pasteur and rue du Petit Puits (the street of the small well), over the nougat shop and across from the boulangerie. In the morning, we wake up to the street cleaner, and the burble of French. We eat croissants, yogurt, and raspberries for breakfast and hang our clothes to dry out the window. In the afternoons, I take my laptop to the Sola, where I order un grand crème, a coffee with milk, and work on my book. When I leave, the manager gives me a thumbs up and says in his heavily accented English, “Got it all under control?” In the late afternoons, we go for a swim then, with snarly hair and sandy feet, stop for a glass of Perle de Collioure at the St. Elme.

This is our new life. We don’t have a car. We share a closet. I have one shelf for books. Every day we embarrass ourselves speaking French. The administrative tasks – validating our visas, opening a bank account, registering our businesses – qualify as part time jobs. And we are yet to be hit with our first wave of “social contributions,” (taxes) – I’m sure that will test our resolve. I argued with the Bourg-en-Bresse cheese monger that at least in France you have a sense that your taxes go towards something other than golf fees for a lunatic. The garbage is collected twice a week. The street cleaner cleans every morning. And the health care is among the best in the world.

He just laughed and said in the world’s best American accent, “Okay, cowboy!”

Join the discussion 16 Comments

  • Deb Nies says:

    I love this so much. And, you. Always you.

  • Samantha says:

    I’m so envious!
    Beautifully written.

    • Karen Karbo says:

      It was terrific having you at the retreat, Samantha. I’m still impressed that every morning you ran to the Lidl! Hope your writing is going well, and our paths cross soon.

  • Tricia Snell says:

    I can almost taste the croissants and raspberries… so vivid… I love seeing your journey unfold!

    • Karen Karbo says:

      The food here is sublime — simple ingredients simply served. Possibly the best part of France, as everyone trying to wrestle the French paperwork into submission will tell you!

  • Leslie Johnsen says:

    I hit the road in 2015. The administrative path to being a legal resident in France is thick, but then so is immigration anywhere. I’m on my 3rd 1 year visa hoping for a pluriannal this time around. As I’m applying in the “trou du cul du monde” rather than Paris, it might be easier. Over the past 2 years, I’ve not only happily paid 46+% tax on my revenues, but 20% tax on home improvements. I bought a 17c stone chapel in and transformed it into my home and studio saving a bit of French patrimony while adding to the countryside community where most people are flocking from. I am a “micro-entrepreneur” teaching 1 day a week in Paris and being the artist 30 years working as an executive in NYC and Paris wouldn’t allow me the time to be. Semi-retirement in France is worth every Euro, and I’m sure full retirement will be too. I still listen to NPR and read the NYTimes daily. I am referred to as the “American from Paris” by my farmer neighbors, and I couldn’t be happier. “Merde!” on the red tape. Vive la France!

    • Karen Karbo says:

      You’re an inspiration, Leslie! A 17c stone chapel, oh la la! I may seek you out when we’re deep into the paperwork morass. Since we’ve just arrived, and are still waiting for our first interview for our TDS, we’re definitely in the honeymoon stage. I would love to connect sometime IRL.

      • Leslie Johnsen says:

        Thank you. Yes, inspiration and determination is what it takes! Whenever you’d like to speak, Karen. It might be a good idea that I share some insight before your 1st meeting with the Prefecture. Please send me an email with your email (you should have mine), and we can set up at time convenient to both of us.

  • Even though I miss you greatly, I love following this new act in your life!

  • Anne McCranie says:

    Love this! Now to figure out how to master this ease of living (I’m sure there is a beautiful French phrase for this) here in Portland.

  • Camille says:

    I loved your use of the word lunatic.

    BTW: You and hubby must be very much in love

  • Vikki says:

    Dearest Dear,

    Your new adventure is so inspiring and the warmth and joy of your grounded updates just leave me feeling yummy! Will make the writing workshop someday…someday! Love and best wishes!

  • Howard Aaron says:

    What a great surprise to learn you two are living in France. Can’t think of a better place that suits you. Love, Howard

  • Carina says:

    I’m enjoying reading about your experiences. Have your dogs joined you?

    My stepson is moving to Perpignan, and I’m looking forward to visiting the region.

  • I’m so excited about reading everything you give ! Oh are living my dream. I feel like I am right there with you , I can see it and smell it! Thank you from the bottom of my Trump hating heart .

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.