First Impressions

After 5 hours of scrubbing and cleaning, I left ‘home’ (our home of 2 years to the very day) and drove past vast open spaces, sunflower fields, towns, and vineyards to arrive 6 hours later at our new pad. The next day our affairs also arrived by truck. Apparently, the 47m3 of ‘stuff’ (mostly toys) was under the average French load of 60m3, but it was still way too much and it took days to take it all out of the boxes.

348Just before leaving home, we had the chance to catch-up with some friends that we met in Shanghai (who now live in Paris but who were holidaying on the west coast). 382And then shortly after our arrival, we caught-up with some more ex-ex-pats.

That would surely have to be the biggest benefit of our expatriation experiences…the opportunity to meet (and re-meet) so many people from all over the globe.

Speaking of people, those that I’ve met so far here in Toulouse and the surrounding towns are pretty friendly folk.  363It’s been easy to strike up conversations at the markets and our neighbor has spoilt us with her homegrown produce. Martine even gave me a cooking lesson to show me how to prepare zucchini/courgette flowers the Italian way (she originates from Calabria).

As with many parts of France, the locals here are extremely proud of their village/town/city to the point that they can be caught down-talking the adjoining village/town/city. Generally they appear to have strong personalities, speak frankly, and have less concern about customer service than I’m used to: on numerous occasions shops have been closing well before their posted finishing time.

We are in the Haute Garonne department which is in the Occitanie Region (formally known as the Midi Pyrénées).

The capital of the Haute Garonne is Toulouse, which is also called the Ville Rose (Pink City) due to the color of the bricks from which it has been constructed….although my kids thought that ‘Orange City’ would be a more accurate name.

Even when buildings look like that might not be built with the famous bricks…it turns out that they are!

It makes for a very striking city with impressive squares and lovely little streets and passages.

447The city has the Garonne River running through it and the Canal du Midi runs around it. At the moment the Marie (mayor) has created ‘Toulouse Plage’ along the river which offers a multitude of free activities to the general public. In this photo, people are playing with board games that were on offer with volunteers mulling around to help with the rules. We played ‘Niagara’ which was a good mix of strategy and luck. Compared with Australia, board games seem to be more popular in Europe.

Closer to our new home there is a vast forest (la forêt de Bouconne) and quite a few lovely walking/cycling paths. However, apart from the few quaint traditional brick houses, the architecture is very uninspiring.

I’d say that the first impressions of our new surroundings are mixed but overall positive.

As for forging ahead with new habits?….well I decided to change the side of the bed on which I sleep… just for a change. So besides sleep deprivation, I’ve not made great progress on that front.

However, I have forced myself to go to different places every day and to take different routes whenever possible (my kids would call it ‘getting lost’) just to keep mindful of my actions.


On the move again

In my second ever post (June 4th 2013) I managed to come up with a list of some of the benefits of moving (a little shorter than the list of negatives). I have just read it again to remind myself that there ARE potential benefits of moving …..yes, yes, yes….even though it is typically a highly stressful experience. Benefits such as de-cluttering, discovery, the anticipation of meeting new people and the opportunity for self-reflection.

Having since read the book ‘Better Than Before’ by Gretchen Rubin (which I summarized in a post – Oct 2014), I’d also add to my list that moving also offers the opportunity to start new habits and she writes: ‘Pay close attention to the first few times you do anything because those decisions will shape your baseline habits‘. That’s pretty powerful – I’ll have to be sure to move around very mindfully in my new surrounds.shareasimage

Mental Note: It will also help to have the willingness to actually give up old patterns, and to enjoy the freedom that ensues (but to not be bogged down by the panoply of choices – see earlier post ‘analysis paralysis’ – June 2013). Start With Intention!

In the meantime, I’m still in Challans (in the Vendée département). I just bid farewell to my big sister and my nephew who were visiting for 10 days. My kids were ecstatic to play with their cousin (and he was very patient with them) and my sister was very happy to eat lots of seafood and visit the local area. Thank you Anne and Luc.

Now I’m surrounded by boxes – many of them empty! In the process of procrastination, I came across this clever poem by a famous French writer called Georges Perec, about moving (déménagement). It’s a long list of the verbs/actions that accompany the process of moving. However, George finishes the poem as he closes the door of the apartment that he is leaving. Therefore he omits the equally long list of actions that need to take place at the other end upon opening the door at one’s new home.

Here is the poem for the francophones.


Quitter un appartement. Vider les lieux.
Décamper. Faire place nette. Débarrasser le
Inventorier ranger classer trier
Eliminer jeter fourguer
Descendre desceller déclouer décoller dévisser
Débrancher détacher couper tirer démonter
plier couper
Empaqueter emballer sangler nouer empiler
rassembler entasser ficeler envelopper protéger
recouvrir entourer serrer
Enlever porter soulever

Georges PEREC
” Espèces d’espaces ”

I’ll be back,  posting from Pibrac (a village just outside Toulouse) once I’ve completed all of these actions (above) and more.