Time moves differently as we get older. Some days never seem like they will never end, but months pass with a blink of an eye. How is it possible time can move so fast but so slow at the same time? And while it almost feels like we just arrived, as of February 27, we have officially been living in France for two years.
The seemingly endless days when we could only leave our apartment one hour a day are now a distant memory. The original 6:00 pm curfews are now when we leave our apartment to start the weekend. We’ve traded our paper permission slip (attestation) for an electronic QR code showing our vaccination status.
If you told “2020 Laura” what the world would be like over the next two years, I wouldn’t have believed you. In the beginning, it was the fear of the unknown. Remember when we would use Lysol wipes (if you could find them) at the beginning of the pandemic to wipe down all groceries? We didn’t even have masks then. And now, I have verbally said out loud, “I prefer the FF2P masks to surgical masks as they fit my face better”.
After fear came frustration. We constantly questioned why France, and all of Europe, had strict restrictions in place for months on end, when life in South Carolina would have mostly been normal. And as we navigated through the frustration, we complained but complied as the French do.
After the frustration eased with the lifting of restrictions, we could move into the fun stage. Even in the middle of a pandemic, we have been so lucky to be in a position where we can safely travel. We are vaccinated, boosted, masked up, and have subjected ourselves to countless nose swabs. Over the previous two years, we have traveled to fourteen countries and over 80 cities. Give or take a couple; I’ve lost count! And that’s a good problem to have.
READ OUR SIX-MONTH EXPAT UPDATE AND ONE YEAR IN FRANCE UPDATE IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY!
Here are some highlights of our second year in France.
MARCH AND APRIL
March was probably the most challenging month we had in France. These are the days that felt like they would never end. The 6:00 pm curfews each evening were stifling. Hotels and restaurants were closed, and it was nearly impossible to travel. France threatened to go in a third lockdown, and we returned to the United States for a much-needed break.
France officially went into the third lockdown in April. I continued my break with France and stayed in Georgia all month with my parents. A taste of normalcy was healing for my soul, and I felt ready to get back “home” to Jordan.
May was the turning point of our time in France and when we could move from frustration to fun. We could finally allow ourselves to feel excited about living abroad. France lifted the third lockdown, and borders started to open. It was time to plan weekend trips!
Our first destination? A weekend with sun and sangria in Barcelona.
Things continued to stay on the up and up in June. To start, we celebrated my birthday in Lisbon, Portugal, and learned how to surf. We took advantage of the lifted restrictions, as we did not know when another lockdown would return. Our weekends were busy as we traveled south to Nice and two new countries, Brussels, Belgium, Athens, Greece.
We kicked off July by challenging ourselves on an intense ropes course in the Provence region of France. For a more relaxing weekend, we returned to the French Riviera and sipped on a James Bond martini, shaken, not stirred, in the Monte Carlo Casino. We attended the famed Bastille Day parade in Paris before taking a vacation in Normandy. We rounded out July by spending two weekends with friends in Stockholm, Sweden, and France’s Champagne region.
I finally convinced Jordan to stay in Lyon for a weekend as we had been “go-go-go” since May.
Needing a little more relaxation, we jet-setted off to Majorca for an all-inclusive vacation where we unwound with champagne, massages, and morning yoga. Ok, it was me doing the morning yoga and massages. At the end of the month, we took our annual visit back to the United States to see Jordan’s family and meet our new niece.
September’s adventures took us to Bruges, a perfect little city, and over to Switzerland to experience the cultural experience of La Désalpe, where the cows descended from the alpine mountains for the season.
October brought our first visitor! Jordan’s old roommate, Tanner, came to Europe for three weeks, and we explored Prague and Vienna together. Our most unique experience? Going into an Ice Bar for a drink, as everything, even the cups, was made from ice!
October also brought our second visitors, my parents! We spent a week celebrating my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary in Paris, Florence, and the Tuscany region.
Jordan had to return to Greenville for work for a couple of weeks in November, and I tagged along with him. The perks of working remotely. We even squeezed in a football game to see Clemson beat Wake Forest before spending 24 hours in Georgia to have Thanksgiving with my family.
Before heading to Greenville, we stopped in Iceland for a few days. It wasn’t our first trip to Iceland, as we previously visited in 2017 to celebrate Jordan’s grad school graduation. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it was also where he would propose (near the Skogafoss waterfall)!
Our highlight in Iceland was going on a glacier hike and visiting the cooled lava from the active volcano earlier in 2021. Truly the land of Fire and Ice!
After 2020 felt like COVID had canceled Christmas, we made up for it in 2021. Christmas was the theme of December. We spent a weekend in Strasbourg, the capital of Christmas, spent a week traveling to different Christmas markets within Germany, and brought in the new year by skiing in a winter wonderland, Saas-Fee, Switzerland.
The best part of December was visiting Celle, Germany, where Jordan’s grandmother was born.
The highlight of January was seeing Jordan excel at skiing. We made it to the French Alps most weekends so Jordan could practice, practice, practice. After a long day on the mountain, we would unwind with a warm pot of fondue.
While taking a break from skiing for the month, we set our sights outside of France. We took advantage of a direct flight to Venice and finished the month with a not-so-direct flight to the Lapland region of Finland.
Our highlight this month was taking the scenic gondola ride throughout the quiet canals of Venice.
And here we are, heading into March 2022! So how do we feel right now about living in France after two years?
While our time in France has had many bumps along the way, overall, we are happy to be living in Lyon. We prefer the lifestyle over here, as there is more focus on working to live instead of living to work. I am no longer the workaholic I used to be, and I now am confident in my worth and have passions and hobbies.
Being on an expat contract has given us many opportunities we could not have ever experienced on a quick vacation. We can explore cities, large and small, that never would have made our vacation list. We can attend events and learn about different cultures and gain perspective. Our mindset has shifted and expanded.
In the scope of the pandemic, things are continuing to move in the right direction. Next-door neighbor Switzerland dropped all rules and said the pandemic is now the individual’s responsibility. As of the beginning of March, France will no longer require masks indoors for anywhere controlled by the vaccine pass. This move is huge.
So after two years of living in France in crazy, unprecedented times, will we get to experience France in “precedented times”? Well, we officially have a return date to Greenville. Jordan has some projects at work he needs to finish up, which will keep us in Lyon a little longer than expected.
THE SHANES WILL RETURN HOME IN FEBRUARY 2023.
What does this mean for us? More time to make memories together, go on adventures and tick off more countries on our list. Hopefully. Let’s hope the pandemic and Russia chill out.