Goodbye, Family Truckster…

Thanks to National Lampoon’s Vacation, a term was coined that would last for generations to come: the family truckster. A reliant, sturdy, spacious and family-oriented wagon.  In Season 2 of Modern Family, everybody’s favourite father, Phil Dunphy, was devastated by the potential sale of their own truckster. A car long since retired to the garage by the family but not before the memories faded from site.

At some point, when you have a family, you find yourselves owning your own version of the ‘truckster’.  For us, that moment arrived with I was pregnant with Little Miss and we realised our VW Golf wasn’t going to cut it for a family of 4 with a labrador we affectionately refer to as a dinosaur.  That’s when we got our wagon: a Volvo V50. It was black, shiny, sleek and awesome. That car brought my daughter home from the hospital and has since seen too many road trips to count, car sickness from the kids, house-hunting adventures for Mr H and I and has also provided transportation for many of my soccer girls during our so-far-from-Paris-the-trains-don’t-go-there matches. It was our truckster.

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This is fun! Eurostar to London!

So today, it should not have come as a surprise to me when we sold it that I would feel sad. You see, we cannot import our car as part of our upcoming move. So, along with our family car, we have started to slowly sell off bits of our Parisian life that cannot make the move with us. My little Buddy cried last night when we told him we were selling the car today. He said it made the move start to feel ‘real’ and I can only agree with him. It’s the first big thing we’ve done towards leaving Paris and I get it. It’s a lot for an adult to take in, never mind a 7 year old.

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Buddy trying to drive on the Eurostar to London!

The Volvo was obviously just a car, but it was also an intricate part of many memories. To our former truckster, I say thanks for taking us to and from everywhere we dreamed to go safely. It was a tank of a car, no two ways about that, but it was also a dream to drive. It’s now someone else’s turn to make some family memories with it!

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We became ‘that family’ with the roof box and the bicycle rack!
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Buddy and Little Miss on the way to Bretagne!

Photo credits: ABC’s Modern Family and Jennifer Hart

“If that’s what you want…”

By now, a lot of you get it. We are moving to Switzerland this July for, what we understand, is a very long time. I know many people were shocked by the news, especially after we had spent so long in Paris. I expected that reaction as we were pretty quiet about Mr H’s discussions with his new company until they became serious. What I didn’t expect was the reaction I’m going to call “noncommittal”. This is a generic version of this conversation and if any part of it resonates with you, don’t be upset. I am just trying to understand what is behind this:

Me: So, it’s official! We are moving to Switzerland this summer!
Other person: Oh what a shock! I’m happy for you…if that’s what you want?

There it is. Is it concern that I am upset to leave Paris? Is it worry that I am disappointed in Mr H’s newest work adventure? Is it snobbery that Switzerland isn’t “PARIS!”? Is it judgement? I am 99% sure that from most people, it is NOT the latter two.

So, what IS it then?

I had a long talk with a client-friend we will call Curly who told me I appear to ‘have it made’ in Paris and it seems strange I would want, like actually want, to leave here. That I would be excited by it and not devastated. Curly explained to me (hi Curly if you are reading this!) that I have made myself such an involved life here: a running club, a soccer club, a business, friends, clients, client-friends, etc., that it probably hasn’t occurred to people WHY I worked hard to make Paris fit me, versus me fitting into Paris.

You see, Paris and I have a weird history. I never wanted to live here. This wasn’t a dream of mine. I didn’t think about Paris. I didn’t dream about coming here on a romantic trip one day, especially not after I came here once and thought it was pretty but not for me. Then I did the thing I have learned a lot of girls dream about: I met a boy who lived in Paris. We got engaged here and then I moved and have stayed for a very, very long time. I approached my move here with some hesitation but was determined to figure out a life for myself that would work. As it happened, I did realise more and more that Paris wasn’t a perfect fit for me so I made it fit as best I could.  The truth of the matter is, I’m perpetually twitchy in Paris. Sure I love a good night out on the town with heels, a nice bag and a pretty hipster restaurant to park myself in with some champagne, but that isn’t all I need in life. Fashion is fun but I could care less when it is Fashion Week here. I am not an artist and don’t see the poetry in things here like others do. I despise pain au chocolat (sorry, I know!) and I have had to break up with baguettes more times than I can count as they just don’t seem to love my waistline as much as I love the taste! It has taken some time but I have learned that I’m OK with not fitting into the “Paris is everything” mould.

That said, I also know I have been extremely fortunate to have had this time here. I have given birth to two children for whom Paris is their home. I have made amazing friends. I did become as integrated as possible in my own way. In other words, Paris and I, we’ve grown to love each other in a very special way.  Yet, I am ready to say goodbye.

I am not delusional about moving to another country. I know there is xenophobia, cultural clashes, weird quirks and a host of other things you must encounter when relocating. What I also know is that there are places better suited to your interests than others and that is where moving to Switzerland is winning for me. My family are at home in the mountains. We love to hike.  Junior boy is interested in continuing his sailing lessons, like his father. Little Miss believes in her whole heart right now that her future is in competitive skiing. To live somewhere that combines all of this within short distances of each other, plus the benefit of city-life, makes this move compelling to us. We see this as a blend of our Franco-Canuck-Anglo-city-mountain-lake-personalities. Doesn’t roll off the tongue easily but that’s what it is.

Paris is wonderful, there is no doubt, but for us, there is a better place a bit further down the road. And yes, that is what I want.

© Onidji – Fotolia.com

It’s official: we are moving to Switzerland

Back in 2005, when Mr H asked me to marry him at the Paris Opéra, I was just a girl from Canada (Thunder Bay, to be exact) who felt dizzy with the lights and craziness of my new potential life. One that didn’t involve flying back and forth across the Atlantic to see the guy I was falling for anymore but rather, one that meant I was relocating here. Somewhere new, fresh and incredibly intimidating. It was French, it was Paris, it was all a lot to take in!! However, we married, I moved and life was pretty sweet. At the time, we were supposed to live here about 2 years. It’s 2015 and we are still here…until this coming summer.

It’s true, we are leaving Paris. We are leaving for a new life in the Lausanne-area of Switzerland and we couldn’t be happier!! Mr H has found and amazing job that he is very excited about and we all support his decision to relocate us for work. While leaving Paris will see many nights of tears and wine, I have no doubt we are making the right decision for our little family.

We have already told our families and some local friends we are leaving, but in doing so, I have come to realise a lot of folks are a bit in the dark about Switzerland. It kind of seems like the Canada of Europe – everyone has heard of it, everyone can name one or two things about it but after that, there is a lot of humming and hawing. Let me help:

1) Switzerland has 4 national languages (Italian, German, French, Romansh). We are moving to the French-speaking part which is excellent for my little bilingual family. I have been re-learning Italian since December and Mr H has been trying to switch his German to Swiss German. This isn’t necessary but we plan to travel around our new country and always find it useful to speak a local language as best we can.

2) Switzerland is a 6 hour drive from Paris. We will be back my beloved Parisian friends xo

3) Switzerland is not in the EU and we will now require visas to work there…Mr H gets one with his job and I have to sort that out for myself which might take time, hence the blog to keep me busy!

4) the junior Harts will attend French-speaking schools like they have in Paris

5) yes, I plan to ski a LOT with Heidi-style braids whilst wearing a Rolex and eating chocolate. Maybe I will yodel, too.  Then eat fondue. OK these are stereotypes but I’m not kidding on the skiing part (or chocolate)!

There will be shocking changes as there are with any international move but we’ve got this. We have already dreamed up our own traditions being a ‘family constantly away from other family’ and I have no doubt that whatever bumps, shocks and ‘omg I didn’t know that!’ moments gets in our way, we will sort it out the way we always have: with laughter and lots of hugs. Maybe some chocolate, too.