Flying Trapeze (Happy Birthday Sasha!)

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I’m starting to associate Sasha’s birthday with an adrenaline rush! Last year, we went paragliding in Annecy. This year, we all took a flying trapeze lesson!

The Trapeze School of New York is on the banks of the Hudson River at Pier 40. While waiting to jump off your platform, you can take in an amazing 360 degree view: the New York City skyline, the Hudson River and even the Statue of Liberty off in the distance. It’s worth the climb for the view alone! But of course, once you’re up there, you might as well jump. ;)

TSNY’s logo is: Forget fear. Worry about the addiction. And I couldn’t agree more! It was more of a workout than I anticipated. It inspires me to get stronger and leaner — and do this more often.  (In London, maybe?)

Plus, flying trapeze goes on my list of sports that I would do for the outfits alone.

A few favorite restaurants in NYC

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 11.20.14 So happy to have Dan here with me this week! We got to pal around New York acting like tourists. The 911 Memorial is incredible. Here are a few other fun places we found and loved:

ABC Home: 5 floors of gorgeous, plus one spectacular café

Rosemary’s, 18 Greenwich Ave.  (Amazing brunch - order the Eggs in Purgatory)

Blue Ribbon Suishi, 119 Sullivan Street

Dining al fresco on Stone Street / Restaurant Row

Otto pizzeriea, 5th Avenue and 8th Street

Shake Shack, Madison Square Park

Eatily, 200 5th Avenue

Little Prince french bistro, 199 Prince Street

A summer camp in Paris: Energy Academy

Energy Academy is a sports camp for kids ages 3-16.  The camp is located in Bièvres - about a 20 minute drive from La Tour Eiffel. They provide door to door transportation for families in western paris and neighbouring suburbs. Kids can specialise in soccer, tennis or golf — but they will also have the opportunity to swim, jump on trampolines, etc. This is a very active camp - it definitely lives up to its name!

Languages spoken: French and (in theory) English. The website is in both languages and certainly all languages are welcome. But Sasha said they were all French kids, except one girl (who only there one day).

What I loved: Door-to-door transportation is awesome, and in our case, made the whole experience do-able. The driver is also a camp counselor, so he knew the kids (and the kids knew him). He always called when he arrived and never let her out of the van until he saw me on the sidewalk. I also loved that they provided lunch, snacks and water for the kids.

What Sasha loved: She was never bored. They had endless games, sports and activities. She especially loved the trampolines and swimming.

Room for improvement: The website says you can specialize in 2-3 sports: soccer (football), tennis or golf. In actuality, I think it depends on how the numbers play out. Sasha really wanted to play a lot of soccer. But most of the other kids wanted to play tennis. So she played more tennis than she would’ve liked and less soccer than she’d hoped. But she still had a great time!

How to register: Online (in English or French) via their website. It's worth noting that my written communications with the school were in English, but the driver spoke only French.

Overall, thumbs up! We'd do it again!

London Rentals: 4 Websites

On The Market - Sort by Map

Looking for rental properties in London? Here are the four websites I use. The first two seem to duplicate each other, but occasionally one will offer a unique listing. Knight Frank has as many short lets as long lets (but the listings are clearly labeled).

Tip: sign up for email alerts to be notified when new properties come on the market in your price range and location.

On the Market

Prime Location

Zoopla

Knight Frank

p.s. Thanks to my friends F and J for telling me about these websites! I'd been stuck on Foxtons for way too long.

p.p.s. Am I missing any other great sites? Leave them below!

Q&A Tuesday: Sufficient Funds for a French Visa?

Sufficient funds: how much is enough?

This post is part of a series called Q&A Tuesday: French Visas. Our resident expert is Laurence Raybois from Americans Moving to France and Rural France Resources. We want to hear from you! Send me your questions or put them in the comments below. We'll try to get your question answered in an upcoming post.

This month's question:

I read that we can obtain a long-term visa if we have “sufficient funds to live off during your stay.” My question is - what does that actually mean? How much money do we need to have in the bank? We are a family of four and would like to stay for one year.

Answer:

When applying for a French visa, the notion of “sufficient funds” has some flexibility built into it.  In the case of a visitor’s visa, which does not allow its recipient to work in France, the official amount of resources required is currently at 1, 138.17 Euros per person per month for the duration of the visa.  Meeting this criterion can be done in a number of ways, including by showing money in the bank, investment or retirement income, or employment in the case of a person who will continue to work from a distance with a US employer.

However, other criteria will come into play.  A person who owns a home in France or will be benefitting from another source of free or inexpensive housing will be given more flexibility, and so will a person moving to an inexpensive part of France.  Financially speaking, as in many other ways, living in a rural area of Auvergne will be vastly different from living in Paris and will be taken into account.  Also, steadiness of income over a long period of time is highly valued, and a history of peaks and valleys in your income will work against you.

On a related note, I occasionally run into people with considerable income or assets who, upon being asked to document their ability to support themselves, are tempted to show it all.  I always discourage them from doing so, since wealth is still taboo in French society.  Show what you need to show for the purpose of your visa but no more, unless of course you are being specifically asked for it.

Laurence Raybois Consulting © 2015

Q&A Tuesday: French Visas

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Hello travelers! I’m so excited to introduce a new monthly series called Q&A Tuesday: French Visas.

As you know, I specialize in helping families plan long stays in France. And although Americans can stay in France for up to 90 days without a visa, some families want to stay even longer.

So for those families who are planning a year-long sabbatical - I’ve got great news! I found an expert to answer your Visa questions.

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Laurence Raybois is a consultant who specializes in assisting Americans who want to live in France.  She can help you make sense of the many visa options and find the one best suited to your personal and professional circumstances. Laurence contacts French administration on behalf of her clients and provides highly personalized service - even handling the most unusual of tasks! Once, she assisted a client who wanted to bring his two parrots to France!

Laurence has special interest in helping people move to rural France and is also highly skilled in assisting individuals whose profession is regulated in France. 

Laurence is a frequent speaker on the themes of Working and Living in France, Teaching English in France and Buying a Home in France, mostly through various chapters of the Alliance Française and the French American Chamber of Commerce.  She is the author of Chez Moi: The Foreigner’s Guide to Buying a Home in France.  

Laurence can be reached at poliana@yourfrenchhome.com or (425) 246-9649. Or you can visit her at Rural French Resources.

Welcome to Séjour Travels, Laurence! 

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Readers - we want to hear from YOU! Not sure which type of Visa to apply for? Trying to make sense of the highly specific, yet completely confusing requirements? Send me your Visa questions or leave them in the comments below. Each month we’ll choose one question to answer here on this blog.

Here’s next week’s question:

I read that we can obtain a long-term visa if we have “sufficient funds to live off during your stay.” My question is - what does that actually mean? How much money do we need to have in the bank? We are a family of four and would like to stay for one year.

Come back next week for the answer!

P.S. Here are a few of my go-to links for French Visa Resources:

The Long-Stay Visa Application

Types of Long-Stay Visas

Requirements for Long-Stay Visa for visitors

Requirements for Long-Stay Visa for students

how to live simply

travel light, live simply

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Every summer, I pack all my favorite clothes into a suitcase and fly to Europe. I only bring the pieces that I love - no raggedy t-shirts, no ill-fitting jeans, no unflattering sundresses. The same goes for my toiletries, my makeup and all the crap that’s accumulated in my purse. I only bring what is truly useful or beautiful.

That’s one of the unexpected side effects of travel - you weed out the clutter in your life and focus on what’s most important.

I’m long overdue to bring this philosophy into our home. Our closets and cabinets are filled with things we never wear and don’t use. And now that our bathroom projects are finished(!!!!!), I’ve begun the process of editing/purging all the “stuff” cluttering our house. Yesterday I took 9 bags of clothes to Goodwill - and I’m here to tell you - it was so liberating!

So that’s the theme for this Friday’s Links: How to edit your belongings and live more simply... happy purging!

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30 day declutter challenge

Fewer, Better. I love this company's philosophy so much, I made it my 2015 goal.

Ready to purge your closet? Ask yourself: Does this spark joy?

How to build a minimalist wardrobe.

How to decide which books to keep.

I do this: Admin Mondays

Cut down on unnecessary purchases with this just one question.

72 Zen Habits. But 72? really? 72 is not zen. Let me paraphrase:

1. Identify what's most important to you.

2. Eliminate everything else.

Celebrating the New Year in Kauai

joy Sophia with Boogie Board

Sasha with her Boogie Board

a tiny lizard


Our Favorite Places and Activities:

Outfitters Kauai Zipline Safari

Waimai Canyon (hiking trails)

La Pizzetta in Koloa

La Spezia in Koloa for breakfast (mascarpone french toast)

Koloa Mill Ice Cream (The ice cream is good - but the shaved ice is even better! Favorite flavor: Tiger’s Blood)

Josselin's for tapas and sangria (Don’t miss the short ribs and the white wine sangria.)

Merriman’s Fish House

Read this book!

Sarah Vowell’s Unfamiliar Fishes, a collection of essays on the history and culture of Hawaii. She's smart, funny and a regular contributor to This American Life. You can hear her voice as you read the book...

"Anyone who has been to any of the islands for more than fifteen minutes and hasn't heard Iz's cover of "Over the Rainbow" at least five times is not paying attention."

Cervinia, Italy

Saint Hubertus Resort -Cervinia, Italy I'm what some (my husband) might call a fair-weather skier. At best.

In my own defense, I'm from Indiana. Until recently, when someone asked "Do you ski?" I assumed they meant water ski. Sliding uncontrollably down an icy hill seems wholly unnatural to me. And not in a hey isn't this a thrilling challenge? sort of way.

Nonetheless, if the sun is shining, the snow is good (and I'm not in the middle of a good book, or the sunday times or have a spa appointment), I might ski a few runs. Mostly to justify a nice lunch with a glass of wine at the lodge.

My husband and kids are the real skiers in the family. Each one of them is on a downhill racing team. Not only that - Dan is wrapping up a full year of Ski the 12, wherein he finds a glacier/mountain/hill/patch of snow to ski down - every single month of the year. Even in August.

Which is what brought us to Cervinia, Italy. A glacier to ski on - and a spa for mama... :)

The backyard of the Saint Hubertus Resort with first class views of the Klein Matterhorn

The Matterhorn (Italian side)

The Saint Hubertus Spa. Hotel guests receive a free welcome message or facial. Lovely!

My girls skiing the glacier: Plateau Rosa, Cervinia, Italy

horseback riding in the mountains

Gorgeous day horseback riding in the mountains.

Links and Contacts:

The Saint Hubertus Resort and Spa

Skiing in Cervinia, Italy

Horseback Riding: Maneggio estivo a Breuil-Cervinia (Lucia 3497767002 or Barbara 3396474958)

My Favorites Places on Vashon Island

You gotta love an island who’s unofficial slogan is “Keep Vashon Weird.” Locals are an eclectic group of artists, writers, organic farmers and ex-hippies. The island has a decidedly rural feel, but still manages to support a few upscale restaurants and loads of artists collectives. Here are a few of my favorite places and spaces…

Taking the Ferry

Ferry from Fauntleroy/West Seattle to Vashon.

WSDOT Ferry Schedule: Crossing time ~ 20 minutes.

One of my favorite things about living in Seattle is the ability to hop on a ferry and get away for the day. And bonus! Ferries don’t make me seasick, like nearly every other boat on the planet. In fact, it's quite the opposite - I love standing on the deck and smelling the salty air. The views of Seattle and the surrounding mountains are gorgeous - particularly on a sunny day. 

Coffee

coffee shop vashon island

Vashon Island Coffiee Roasterie: 19529 Vashon Hwy., S.W.

Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie is something of an island institution. Just for fun, see how many “Keep Vashon Weird” bumper stickers you can spot in the parking lot. Order a coffee and a Rosemary Croissant with Sea Salt and ask them to lightly toast it for you. Take your coffee outside, sit on the long red bench and watch the world go by.

Point Robinson Park

a path to the beach, Vashon Island

Point Robinson Beach

The Lighthouse at Point Robinson Park

Once you’re properly caffeinated, it’s time to head to Point Robinson Park for a stroll along the beach. The lighthouse is the big draw here, but I think the drift wood is much more interesting. Visitors have built little driftwood forts along the beach that my girls would LOVE. (more pictures below)

Shopping

Giraffe Boutique on Vashon Island

There are few cute shops in town, but my favorite is Giraffe, which has carefully chosen kitchen linens and household treasures from around the world. The Vashon Bookshop is also worth a visit, as is Country Store and Farm (if you're into that sorta thing).

Eat

The Hardware Store - Vashon Island

I’m told that the best Thai food in the Pacific Northwest is Vashon’s own May Kitchen. The store front is so low-key that I walked past it twice before realizing they were closed for lunch. I ended up at The Hardware Store and could not have been happier. Bustling lunch crowd and yummy healthy food.

So hop the ferry and head on over to Vashon for the day! But don't be in a rush: take your time, slow down and wander. Because, as another popular bumper sticker says, "This ain't the mainland."

a beach hideout

driftwood fort

Keeping Vashon Weird

Christmas in The Alps

Mont Blanc lies in a range called the Graian Alps, between the regions of Aosta Valley, Italy, and Haute-Savoie, France. Most families plan séjours in the spring or summer -- but why not take advantage of the school break and plan a month-long séjour during the Christmas holidays? Your kids might need to miss a few weeks of school, but I bet you could get a "hall pass" from your children's teachers....

Legendary Chamonix

Mountaineers from all over the world make their way to Chamonix to experience the largest mountain in Europe. Mont Blanc is 4,810 meters of rock, snow and ice. The enormity and beauty is breathtaking - whether you are skiing down one of the pistes or shopping in the village. Chamonix is one of the most beautiful ski resorts in the world. Stay in the village for easy access to shops and restaurants.

Chamonix - photo by Monica Gumm

 

Family Friendly Les Houches

Located about 10 minutes drive from Chamonix, Les Houches is decidedly more traditional and family friendly. A string of hamlets offers a variety of ski-in, ski-out chalets. Imagine waking up on Christmas morning and heading out for a quick ski!

Les Houches - family friendly chateaus in the heart of Mont Blanc massif

A few properties... and activities for the whole family!

3 Bedroom Luxury Apartment -- 5 minutes walk to Chamonix Center

4 Bedroom Chalet on the Piste at Les Houches

Dazzling Chalet - 5 Minutes Walk to Chamonix Center

ski-in ski-out Les Houches Chalet

Chamonix for Non Skiers

Ski Schools in Chamonix

Ski Schools in les Houches

Happy and silly: Chamonix on YouTube

Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge, Brazil

Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge, an eco lodge in the Amazon jungle.

Better late than never, right?

I'm finally getting around to posting some photos from our June trip to the Amazon jungle in Brazil. I'll admit - I was ateensy bit nervous/excited about this part of the trip! Flying in a float plane has been on my bucket list forever - but I generally prefer to sleep in tarantulas-free environments....

Float Plane Arrival, Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge

Float Plane at Anavilhanas Lodge

We made it! Our group had to take two separate planes to the lodge, so Dan was there to great me when we landed.  No big adventures on the first night -- we mostly explored the grounds surrounding the Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge...

The Pool at Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge

View from the Observation Deck.  Amazon Jungle

Our rooms... Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge

Sunset over the Amazon

Watching the sunset over the Amazon gave me one of those "how did I get here?" moments. So beautiful, so remote.

A few hours later, my friends decided to go on a midnight boat ride in search of tarantulas and other nocturnal creatures. There are times in life when you act brave and do things that scare you.

And then there are times when you decide to have a glass of wine and call it a night.

the lodge of Anavilhanas jungle lodge