Moving? to France!?

My fellow students in Maryon’s very-beginning-French class, via the Alliance Française Silicon Valley in Santa Cruz — which I can recommend — insisted that I make some record of how I go about moving to France in my impending retirement.

So here goes.

I will say at the outset that I intend (knowing that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions) to avoid becoming Yet Another Expatriate who has harrowing yet amusing adventures dealing with those funny French. Enough already. I will tell here what I did and how it went. That’s it. Let’s see how long that lasts.

For starters: How I got to here.

I first visited Paris in July 2010 for a meeting of the ACM SIGCHI executive committee. We were there to set the stage, as it were, for CHI 2013, the organization’s big annual conference that we’d committed to hold in Paris three years hence. Getting an expense-paid trip to Paris while doing voluntary but professionally related work seemed like a good deal. It was.

I enjoyed that trip. I found that waiters were able to understand my minimal French: At least one complimented me on my pronunciation. I learned how to navigate the Metro. I saw some sights in company of the wonderful Elizabeth Churchill (now VP of ACM when she’s not a design exec at Google). I saw enough to know I wanted to come back and see more.

So, come 2013, I was back in Paris for CHI 2013. But I planned ahead and booked something near to a week of pre-conference time to my self, to explore the City of Light and its many museums. I visited the Louvre, saw “Winged Victory” and the “Mona Lisa,” like a good tourist. I visited the Musée d’Orsay and was stunned at my first experience of Van Gogh’s work in person, especially the “Starry Night Over the Rhône.” I visited the Musée Montmartre and strolled by the Lapin Agile. And Espace Dali. The Centre Pompidou. The Guimet. The Galeries Lafayette — no, that was in 2010. The Musée Rodin, “The Thinker,” “The Gates of Hell,” and discovered, like everyone before me, Camille Claudel.

I also made friends with two lovely young ladies who were generous enough to engage in conversation despite my minimal grasp of their native tongue. Carmen at the Pomme de Pain helped me select a lunch combo — sandwich, dessert, beverage — smiled and called out “Ça va?” when I showed up later with a CHI lunch crowd. And Judy (Jeudi? I never asked), the hostess at the hotel’s dining room, who smiled and conversed briefly each morning. Because of these two I learned that the French are not really rude at all, if you’ll just try speaking their language. It is their country, after all.

So, I came home from that trip thinking that I liked France, that maybe it would make a suitable location for my retirement, and that five years was a good timeframe for planning: Long enough to be practical, soon enough to make it real, if I started taking the steps.