Why did I choose France?

I grew up in Kansas.

Kansas is affectionately known as “flyover country”. Translation: “There’s nothing there”. While this may not be entirely accurate, I can tell you that Kansas lacks in anything more than a couple of hundred years old.

Food. Can you name a food that Kansas is known for? Me neither. Except for barbeque - which is the best anywhere in the world, in my non-biased opinion. But that’s about it. Nothing else there compares to what you can find in France.

Medieval towns. Check. Roman ruins. Check. Baguettes. Check. Cheese. Check. Wine. Check.

Plus with high-speed trains and cheap flights it’s all so easy to see.

After 4 years of living in France, I don't care that I’m not in Kansas anymore.

Archives: I'm here! I finally made it to Paris. Part 2

Step 6 – A one-way ticket costs how much?

Since it’s still too early to apply for my French Visa, I decide that the next logical thing to do is to buy a plane ticket to Paris. Why not? Since I don’t have a visa yet I could play it safe and buy a round-trip ticket returning 90 days from my departure. But in reality I don’t know when, or if, I’m coming back. Instead of taking the easy way out I make it my mission to find the best deal on a one-way ticket.

I start by checking on Google flights. What I find is that most of the one-way flights cost twice as much as a round-trip. $2,500 vs. $1,200, for example. There’s no way that I’m paying that. And I know that there has to be a better option than buying a round-trip flight and throwing away the return portion of the ticket.

There are several low-cost carriers (LCC’s) who fly to Europe from the US and price their tickets separately – meaning they don’t charge a huge premium for one-way travel.  So I check Aer Lingus, Iceland Air and Norwegian. I find reasonable prices – but horrible connections from the Midwest.

I’m stuck. But determined that there has to be way. So I decide to post my question on the Trip Advisor Air Travel forum. I wait patiently for the responses, and finally I get my answer. “Use Frequent Flyer miles.” Interesting. I do have some miles on Delta so I check it out. 

It ends up that I have to buy about 18,000 frequent flyer miles for $670 and I can get a one-stop, one-way flight to Paris. Amazing and perfect. It’s January 1st and I now have a one-way ticket to Paris!

Step 7 – Apply for a French Long-stay Visa for Visitors.

The Visa application process is a great introduction to French bureaucracy. The instructions provided on the consulate’s website are kind of vague. And it appears that they vary depending on which consulate office you apply at.

It’s headache-inducing stuff. My friend Sharon even called the consulate in Chicago and received vague answers to her questions. Very frustrating.  We are just trying to find out what the requirements are for health insurance and housing – this shouldn’t be a difficult question. I like solving problems and as usual I’m determined to find the answers. I finally give in and send an e-mail to the consulate. This was on a Friday afternoon. I expected a response by the middle of the following week – at the soonest.

20 minutes? Really? I have a response from the consulate. Unbelievable. After one more follow up question, I have my answers –and in writing.

After doing my usual extensive research on my health insurance options to meet the consulate’s requirements of $50,000 in emergency coverage as well as repatriation coverage, I find exactly what I need – a travel insurance plan from Allianz for $79. Yep, that’s right a whole $79 for coverage for a year. I’m elated, and relieved. I found this after considering policies costing from $1,000 and up. Seems too good to be true.

With my health insurance in place and the required consulate letter from Allianz and proof of accommodation from my Paris landlord I’m ready to make my appointment at the French Consulate in Chicago. I make an appointment for the first Friday in February and fly up and back on the same day with Southwest – using my frequent flyer points too! Now the waiting begins…

Step 8 – Sell remaining stuff

My last day at work was at the end of January 2015. And my super-nice brother has agreed to drive over from Indiana and move my remaining stuff to my sister’s house in Kansas City. I now have 3 weeks to get rid of everything that won’t fit in a pickup truck or a Mini Cooper. And I still need to find a home for Fifi the cat.

It just so happens that my friends Sharon and David are also moving to Paris (small world). They’ve just sold their house and are getting ready to have a moving sale. So I spend the next 2 weeks pricing, organizing and hauling stuff to their house all while dealing with the pain of tendonitis in my left knee – ouch.

We have an amazing moving sale on a cold Valentine's Day in St. Louis. Buyers swarmed the house and bought almost everything in a few hours. I learned that the key to a successful sale is low prices. It was a good day. But I'm still waiting on my Visa. What if I just sold everything and the consulate says "No"?

Hard to imagine - but my Valentine's Day just got better. I come after the sale and I see an Express Mail envelope in my mail box. I open it immediately - and there it is, my passport with a one-year French Visa inside. Holy shit! I really am moving to Paris. 

Thank goodness for my sister who came from Kansas City to help. And to my neighbors John and Ann who were a huge help during both of my moves. They were also generous enough to provide a home for Fifi – with her sister Zoe. Life really is good.


Archives: I'm here! I finally made it to Paris. Part 1

I'm Here! I finally made it to Paris. Part 3