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NewsletterJanuary 2015

Très Bonne Année À Tous!

Tournus by Night

Photo of the Mairie - town hall in Tournus, Southern Burgundy. Like most Mairies during the holidays, the building was lit and much of the town. See more photos.

Alps - À Faire

Looking for something to do in the northern French Alps? Here are two suggestions: Mike Beaudet, aka Megeve Mike, is ready to help with your skiing needs. Should you be beginner or advanced, Mike will make skiing even more enjoyable. More info see - Ski Pros Megeve.
Another good friend, Teresa Kaufman offers photographic walks in the Chamonix Valley. Don't let the word 'photographic' scare you. Teresa's walks are for all levels of photographers and even those who just want to capture memories in their mind's eye. December 2014/January 2015 schedule.

Alps - Chassé-Croisé

After a lack of snow and cold that delayed the opening of some ski resorts in the Alps, nature hit with a vengeance. It happened on the last Chassé-Croisé - crisscrossing of the year. That's when the mix of those coming back and those going on vacation crisscross on French roads. As most all vacation rentals in France go Saturday to Saturday, it means there are a few Samedis noir - Black Saturdays like Saturday December 27th where traffic can be very heavy.
What made this Saturday so bad was the snow. Météo France - national weather had rated the day as orange (second hightest level) in most of the Alps. As the day progressed traffic ground to a halt in some areas, like around Albertville and up to 15,000 cars were stuck. Making matters worse, with all the cars, snowplows couldn't clean the roads. An emergency housing plan was launched; still some motorists had to sleep in their cars.
Drives that take a few hours in normal trafic, ended up taking over ten hours. For some they weren't able to make it all the way. For safety reasons most mountain resorts were only accessible to vehicles with chains. It was a 'perfect storm' with enough snow and ill equipped vehicles that it was almost impossible to keep the traffic flow moving. Generally speaking France does a good job of keeping roads as snow free as possible. But the tipping point, reached December 27th, made it difficult to impossible for snowplows to keep up.
So how can you not get stuck in a perfect storm? Know what the traffic will be when you are going to travel. Bison Futé - French government website publishes a yearly traffic estimation (opens a pdf). The calender is in French but I publish a translation. I'm still working on translating 2015. If the day and area you are traveling in is rated as any other color than green (for normal traffic) by Bison Futé, be mentally prepared for traffic and/or then think about driving on another day or leaving early or late. When you do travel listen to 107.7 FM (in French but there are some updates in English) or follow real time updates on Autoroutes.fr. Lastly make sure your car has the right equipment, like snow tires and chains if need be. Know how to use chains. I speak from experience: putting on chains isn't easy, so some practice is necessary!

Sales in France

The 2015 winter sales in France (Soldes d'Hiver 2015) start on Wednesday, January 7th and end Tuesday, February 17th. A few departments start earlier. They are Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, Moselle and Vosges (Lorraine region) who start on Friday, January 2nd and end Thursday, February 12th.

Expat Taxes 101

The Association of Americans Resident Overseas (AARO) is organizing a seminar titled An Introduction to Basic Tax Reporting Requirements for US Citizens Residing Abroad. It takes place in Paris on January 21st, €10 - AARO members and €15 - non members. Rumor is an advanced seminar is in the works. Keep tuned to the AARO web site for more details. In the day and age of FACTA plus FBARs and citizenship based taxation, we expats have no choice: like it or not we must be well informed regarding our tax responsibilities!

Normandy 2015

Anyone care to join me at the 2015 Band of Brothers Actors Reunion in Normandy? The actors from the popular HBO television series Band of Brothers will mark the 70th anniversary of the war's end in Europe. Several events are scheduled at Normandy in June 2015. This is the second and final reunion of the actors in France. Major events are planned for both Utah and Omaha Beachs. The public is invited to attend and meet the actors, get autographs and take photos. All proceeds raised benefit the mission of the non-profit World War II Foundation. Tickets are going fast, get yours today!

Website

The Exposition Universelle of 1889 is probably the most famous world's fair to be held in Paris. The Exposition gave birth to France's most iconic monument - the Eiffel Tower. But Paris was home to five world's fairs from 1855 to 1900. The Exposition Universelle of 1855 took place on the Jardins des Champs-Élysées, now about the location of the Petit Palais and Grand Palais. The Exposition Universelle of 1867 was the first to take place on the Champs de Mars (now home to the Eiffel Tower). The Eiffel Tower was not the first tower to be built on the Champs de Mars. In 1867 there were two towers built for the fair. They look to be much smaller than the Eiffel Tower, but were impressive for the time. The World's Fair of 1900 saw the building of the Petit Palais and Grand Palais. The fair was 'look where I've been'. Many visitors mailed postcards, (popular and accessible to the masses) to family and friends.
Last but not least, don't forget Galette des Rois - Kings' Cake, French specialty normally eaten in January. Here's how to make one!

Winter Reading

Lafayette is Here! [Kindle Edition]: Visiting many of the sites associated with Lafayettes adventures, John Baxter recounts the little-known story of how a 19-year-old Frenchman, with not a word of English sailed to the aid of Washington and his embattled Continental Army.
Culture Shock A Practical Guide [Kindle Edition]: This how-to guide will help expats, international students and travelers deal with the challenges of living in a new place. It offers practical advice, that is easy to implement and can be applied in any situation. Adapting to another culture is challenging. This ebook will ease that transition.
My Paris Kitchen: It's been ten years since David Lebovitz packed up his most treasured cookbooks, a well-worn cast-iron skillet, and his laptop and moved to Paris.
A Kitchen in France: When Mimi Thorisson and her family moved from Paris to a small town in out-of-the-way Medoc, she did not quite know what was in store for them. She found wonderful ingredients from local farmers and the neighboring woods and, most important, time to cook.

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Global Insurance Net: If you are thinking about moving to France you will need health insurance to get your visa. A great company that will help you with this is Global Insurance Net. I found out about Global Insurance Net in 2003 through another expat and have been recommending them ever since with no regrets. Carlos Perez the President, CEO of Global Insurance Net has always been very easy to work with.

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