Bonjour!

I just passed my one week mark in Annecy on Monday, January 20. A lot has happened so let me bring you up to speed. Sorry, no photos yet as it’s easier to access, scale, and place them using my iMac.
8 days in I still have jetlag from the 6 hour difference from Toronto. I get really sleepy around 3-5pm and pep up around 9pm. In the AM I find it really hard to wake up. Right now I’m at a table in the reception area writing this, it’s the only place I can get free wifi.
I flew Air Canada from Toronto to Montreal to Geneva. This was great for three reasons: Geneva is the closest large airport to Annecy (about 35 min drive), I wouldn’t have to connect through Paris where I could hit longer, tougher lines at customs and immigration with a cat, and Air Canada has the largest pet-on-board allowance. Other airlines’ limit was 13.5 lbs including the carrier. That’s how much Cleo weighs alone! AC’s limit is a bountiful 22lbs. The flight to Montreal is 50 min but what a world of difference in the airport. Right away I got a taste of being in a predominantly French environment. At a pizza counter I thought I overheard a couple speaking English so I asked about the system of ordering. The woman asked if I spoke French and when I answered, “yes, a little” she replied in French. Thankfully I understood what she said.
The Montreal to Geneva flight was smooth as well. On demand movies kept me entertained for the 7.5 hour flight. I rarely sleep on flights, wish I could!! Here’s some of the films they had: Taxi Driver, Psycho, Deliverance, and Midnight Cowboy. Uh, wow! Then one called Baggage Claim–gee, no thanks!! I watched Rush, G.I. Joe 2 until I couldn’t stand it any more, and The Prisoner. I think that’s what it was called, with Hugh Jackman. We landed before I saw the ending! It was pretty good. Swept through the Geneva airport no problem, wasn’t asked for work papers or to have Cleo inspected. I spent so much money and time worrying about her not having her proper papers! She made the trip with little fuss except to cry a little.
I was picked up and dropped off at my temporary lodging, Appart’City. I prearranged for a litterbox to be available for Cleo, the poor thing!  I’m glad she didn’t pee on the plane though.  Ok now let me tell you about my “apartment”. Photos won’t do justice to how tiny this place is. There’s a sofa bed that takes up almost the entire room and the mattress is maybe 5″ thick, if I’m being generous.  The metal frame is very creaky, uncomfortable, and noisy.  The place is located off a highway. I’ve figured out how to walk into town, this takes 25 min at a brisk pace and there is a Carrefour Market 8 min away.
Fast forward throughout the week I’ve made several apartment tours but no winners yet. My criteria is quite specific: walking distance to town, parking, storage, modern amenities, and a balcony would be nice. Availability is very slim and amenities come at a dear price. Most kitchens and bathrooms are not updated and often there are no appliances at all. I’d have to buy them. The toilet is in it’s own little closet, sometimes with a miniature, practically pointless sink unless you have baby hands. I’d rather have the toilet with the shower and have that little closet as storage space. Wish me luck.
On Sat & Sun I ran to the lake and got some miles in. I’ll need to with all the cheese and yogurt I’m eating!! I’ve gone grocery shopping almost every day. It’s a great way to boost my vocabulary and it’s fun to see what’s on the shelves. This will have to be a post on it’s own.
One more but important thing, I’ve made a few friends already. One Australian gentleman who is moving here with his wife to retire, an American couple and 8 month old baby, and one of the designers at Salomon and his family. It’s important to have a support network so far from home. I’m also thankful for Facebook and FaceTime to make friends and family not seem so far away.
*PS I know that FRA is the airport code for Frankfurt but too late, for this blog it means France.

*Photos and update below added on March 16, 2014

Here’s photos of my “apartment”.  The kitchen comprises of a 2-burner electric cooktop, a small fridge and sink, no counter space, a microwave, and the world’s smallest dishwasher.  Seriously, it’s not much bigger than the microwave.  I’ve become creative at preparing meals because there is no oven and food that requires little prep work is best.  I’ve eaten a lot of spaghetti, bread, cheese, and tea.  Couscous is easy because there’s no cooking involved, just add hot water and let it sit in a covered bowl.  I didn’t want to buy ingredients that I’d have to move later so for a long time I had no oil.  I used grease from lardons to cook onions, chicken, mushrooms, etc.  I also didn’t have any salt or pepper.

I feel bad for Cleo here.  She gets no exercise so I let her roam the halls at night. She seems to like it until someone comes along and she hustles back to me.  There’s no wifi in the rooms, it’s wired only.  I have my iPad so if I want to get on the internet or check emails, I have to go to the common area.  The wifi may or may not work on any given day.  It’s amazing how shut off I felt without my email.

I’m adding these photos and update now that I’ve moved out of Appart’City (or Appart’Shitty as others have called it, haha).  I lived there for one month!!  When I first opened the door, I couldn’t believe how small and hostel-like it was.  I thought for sure Salomon did that on purpose to movitate me to find an apartment and I was sure I’d find one within the week.  Strange thing was, since it was the only thing that was constant in my life at the time, I came to feel comfortable there.  I adjusted to the small space.  Mind you, it was just me, Cleo, and two suitcases in there.  All my stuff from Oregon was still in a shipping container at a storage facility.  There were no English channels on TV.  Actually there were hardly any channels at all.  I got hooked on a French reality show called Les Princes D’Amour and discovered that infomercials (Télé Achats) are a good way to learn French.  They’re repetitive, flash the words on the screen, and are dubbed over in well enunciated French.   They sell the same crap they sell in the US.  I was thankful when the Olympics started!!  Unfortunately I moved out before the Men’s final hockey game was aired.  Go Team Canada!!

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The Final Countdown

Here I am, the night before my flight to Geneva. I’ve been meaning to update this blog with entries for weeks but I kept finding myself busy doing nothing. That’s not entirely true. I spent a lot of time chasing down paperwork, getting official stamps and endorsements, taking Cleo to the vet twice, and going to the French Consulate in downtown Toronto, also twice. The second trip I had to pick up my passport with work visa in it and the window of time they gave me was 9:00-9:30 am. Come to think of it, I kept my days quite busy. There’s a lot to catch you up on and to be honest, it’s not all that interesting so I’ll touch upon highlights and add photos later.

-Thanksgiving, Christmas and a New Year happened. I love this time of year and we celebrated American Thanksgiving since I was missing it in Portland. I love this time of year. It’s festive, lots of food, holiday parties, Christmas decorations…. Well this year there was none of that (except the food) and given my move, I never felt so “un-Christmas-y” in my life. Not in a bah humbug way, I think it’s because I felt displaced. I’m in a transition zone between my old life and my new life.
-I joined a gym and went almost every day. This felt great. It was a good reason to get out of the house and get some much needed exercise. Fuel points!!
-I’m not used to these sub-zero temperatures. It was cold and snowy, then there was an ice storm and we lost power for 31 hours. Some poor folks lost power for 3-4+ days, spending Christmas in warming shelters.
-Canadian vs USA culture. More to come on this!!