New Year, New Start in France

new start

I make no secret that I’m a Francophile, a die-hard lover of France and all things French. (I’m sorry, bella Italia, for cheating on you!) So when the opportunity arose late last year for me to move to the scenic French village of Samois-sur-Seine for a “sabbatical” of sorts, I decided to jump. I’ve traveled to France countless times (in fact, it was one of the first European countries I visited), but getting the chance to actually LIVE there is something else. A village of 2,000 residents, Samois is just 40 minutes south of Paris via train. To some folks, this would be merely convenient…but to me, for whom Paris is the city I’d choose if Iwere told I could only live in one place for the rest of my life, it’s a dream come true.

Talk about new beginnings! And what a way to kick off 2012, by taking a fabulous Iberia flight from Chicago to Paris on New Year’s Day. You couldn’t ask for a better start.

Thanks to my dear friend Katherine, who I call my “fairy godmother” and who herself has a good friend named Hannah living near Samois-sur-Seine, I discovered this most magical place last fall. Here, I hope to escape the stress of super-long American work hours and the assortment of minor maladies that always seem to accompany them. I’m hardly the first writer to discover Samois-sur-Seine, as French authors, artists, poets and musicians found inspiration here during the 19th century and many, many decades later. I’m convinced that Samois’ serenity and charming architecture—all complemented by the gently flowing Seine River—will offer the perfect setting for the freelance travel and food articles I’ll write, as well as a book on African-American women and their ongoing love affair with France. Entertainer Josephine Baker was one of the first to settle here back in the 1920s,but many other black women (many of whom neither sing nor dance for a living) have followed suit over the years.

As much as I love the land of croissants, cafes and chilled rosé, I originally planned to move to Panama City, Panama, making it my second overseas living destination. (I’d spent nearly one year living and working as a freelance writer in Florence, Italy, in 2004-2005.) Thinking Central America much more affordable than Europe, I figured I’d give it a try and began preparing for my departure from Chicago by placing my South Loop condo up for rent and mentally adjusting to the idea of expat life. But when the opportunity arose to move to Samois, I said “OUI!” and didn’t look back. (But goodness knows the stress of sorting, packing, storing and then shipping all my worldly possessions before leaving Chicago nearly did me in!)

Here in Samois, my living quarters look out on the Seine River (which also runs through the heart of Paris) in the front and a lovely, temporarily dormant garden in the back. After living in a downtown Chicago high-rise for years (albeit one I loved), I’m looking forward to majorly slowing down the pace of life. Walking 15 minutes up a steep cobblestoned street each day to reach a boulangerie for fresh bread—and cooking with ingredients I pick up at a nearby three-times-a-weekoutdoor market—will do wonders for my mental and physical health, I’m sure.

While I’m in France, I’ll be maintaining this blog and sharing observations from my travels with you. I’ll (hopefully) become a fluent speaker of French, as living in an authentic village like Samois will force me to speak it daily in encounters at La Poste (the post office) and the epicerie (small grocery store). Thanks to low-cost airlines such as EasyJet and Ryanair, I’ll be able to occasionally jet off to surrounding European countries on the weekends without spending a fortune. And I expect to find inspiration literally around every corner of this magical village and across this country, continent, and fascinating world.

What are we waiting for? As the French say, “Allons-y (Let’s go)!

Maureen_Jenkins

About Maureen Jenkins

Maureen Jenkins is a food/travel writer and communications professional who's visited nearly 35 countries and territories, lived in Florence, Italy, and recently spent a year living in a charming village near Paris, France. The self-proclaimed 'urban travel girl' talks travel, food and wine – abroad and in Chicago – in "TCW Travel Connection.” Read more of her thoughts on living globally at UrbanTravelGirl.com.