Moving Again II

We are permanently moving out of our house in Gometz-Le-Chatel, a small town 30km south of Paris, to Grenoble, a city 500km away from the French capital, in the southeast of France surrounded by mountain ranges.

Actually, my other half is currently living in Grenoble. He has been there since last September at the start of 2023/2024 academic year. He is the reason why are relocating to Grenoble. He was promoted from an Associate Professor (Maître de Conférences)  to a Professor in 2023, and the new position has taken him to the state university in Grenoble.

My other half saw the job posting on a Friday morning in mid-February 2023 and asked me over breakfast what I thought about moving to Grenoble. He shared that a professor position in his field had been opened in Grenoble. For him, it would be a promotion if he got accepted for the position—moving from an Associate Professor to a full Professor.

View from La Bastille, a military fort that stands at 476m high, over looking the city.

Moving to a mountainous region is a topic that has been tossed around from time to time, especially after every vacation we spend in the mountains. Both of us enjoy spending time in the mountains. As it happened, that was how we met more than 10 years ago, running in the hills of Hong Kong.

Locally produced products: beaufort d'été, smoked sausages and 'tradition' bread. Food always tastes much better high up in the mountains.

Hence, we have always thought that, if we do relocate, it would have to be closer to the mountains. In the Parisian region where we have been based for the last eight years,  there are plently of woodlands but on a flat terrain with little undulation. The highest hill tops at 216m. The ideal region for us to move to will be the southeast of France where the grander mountains are located, specifically near the French Alpes. Besides, this region produces most of our favourite cheeses: abondance, comté, beaufort, and saint nectaire.

We have been driving to the mountains for our vacations since 2020. We usually rent a cottage in the mountains for a week and spend the time hiking and running. Each trip takes us around seven hours one way to get there. If we live in that region, we can just gallivant into the mountains at a drop of a hat.

So, when my husband asked me for my opinion on us moving to Grenoble if he was accepted, I promptly responded with a why not. First and foremost, the position would be a promotion for him. Knowing how dedicated my other half was in his job, how few and far between professor positions were in France, and how convoluted the French academic system could be, he had to grab the opportunity when it appeared.

Secondly, for me personally, I am getting weary of my job. Honestly, I don’t think it’s the act of teaching that is getting me down—of course, there are always ups and downs in every profession. It is the nonexisting career evolution in being a freelance English teacher (a vacataire, a micro-entrepreneur) in France; it’s not by choice that I have chosen this path and I will leave my grievance for another post. As such, I will not be sacrificing much professionally if we are to move to relocate.

Thirdly, since both of us love the mountains and I can already then imagine us having a little house nestled in the mountains. Besides, Grenoble left me a favourable impression the first time we visited the city 2016. I have been attracted by the lively college town (vastly different from the areas where we have lived since arriving in France) surrounded by the majestic mountain ranges. The proximity to the mountains means that we can escape to the mountains for a trail run anytime we like without having to wait for vacations. Another charming characteristic of this city is you can, as you wander from street to street, catch a glimpse of a part of the mountain ranges at the end of each street. 

View from a street in the Grenoble centre: a glimpse of a part of the mountain ranges at the end of each street. 
View from a street in the Grenoble centre: a glimpse of Bastille, the military fort, 474m high

Lastly, the move to the mountains will certainly be a new chapter in our lives even though it’s just a relocation from one corner to another corner of France. A change in landscape and daily routine (since we will be living in a bigger city of close to 160,000 inhabitants as compared to the mini-town of 2,500 residents in Gometz-Le-Chatel) will definitely bring vibrancy to our stable life in the Parisian region.

In restrospect, I think I didn’t seriously believe that we would really be moving out of our house, that soon. I mean, it’s just too soon to move! We bought the house only in the summer of 2021 of which 5 months were spent renovating it (we were relegated to staying in the basement while the main living space was being fixed up). Knowing how complicated and competitive the professorship application was in France, the thought of moving to Grenoble only floated in the deep recesses of my mind during the early stages of his application. Coupled with the hustle and bustle of daily life, I didn’t spend much time contemplating the possibility of actually moving.

Time passed. My other half was naturally stressed throughout the whole application process, from that winter Friday morning to the second week of May when he did his audition. His stress could have been prolonged hadn’t one of his acquaintances care to inform him unofficially of his success shortly after his audition. (I’ll put in my two cents’ worth about the application process in another post). 

Accepting the professor position meant that he would start the new 2023/2024 academic year in September 2023. That left us 3.5 months’ time to decide on and settle our living arrangements. We flirted with the idea that I would join him immediately. However, after considering my work situation, we decided that it didn’t make financial sense for me to join him in September.

I teach as freelancer in higher-education institutions and most of these schools. Most schools should, by May, be in the final stages of preparing the following year’s timetable and hiring extra resources. When it was confirmed that we were moving to Grenoble in mid-May, it was a tad late to send out my CV and get in touch with the recruiting honchos. Most of the better freelance teaching positions would have been snapped up. In addition, despite Grenoble being a college town, there are much fewer educational institutions, notably business schools where I derive most of my teaching load. This means my chances of getting teaching gigs in Grenoble would be slimmer than in Paris.

Even though my freelance English teaching in the Parisian region doesn’t provide long term financial stability, it does provide me with a good living in the short term. Moreover, the teaching gigs are generally renewed every year. Hence, I knew last year that my teaching load in the Parisian region was relatively secured for 2023/2024. It’s only relatively secured as the teaching hours might drop without much warning if the student enrolment drops for the new year; I have personal experience in this matter.

As such, it wouldn’t be wise for me to drop everything and move to Grenoble in 2023 unless a secured gig miraculously came up in the meantime. The financial aspect was especially pertinent since we would have to maintain two residences–apartment rental in Grenoble and mortgage payment in Gometz-le-Chatel. The plan was for me to join him permanently in Grenoble at the end of the 2023/2024 academic year. That would leave us a year to find a solution for our house —sell or rent—and for me to explore the job opportunities in Grenoble.

There was how we started the new academic year: he in Grenoble and I 500km away. We spent June and July looking for a flat to rent in Grenoble. Thankfully Grenoble was much cheaper in terms of cost of living as compared to Paris and we were able to afford a 50m2 apartment on the last floor of a building, 15 minutes away on foot to the city centre.

The famous "Bulles (Bubbles)" cable cars that transport visitors from the city centre to La Bastille, the military fort standing at 476m high.

The TGV has played an important role in our lives in the 2023/2024 academic year. Nearly every month, one of us—depending on our teaching timetable—will visit the other by taking the 3-hour Grenoble-Paris TGV.  Imagine the cost we have spent on train tickets!

Travelling to Grenoble is like going on a city break for me. Even though we (or I currently) live in the Parisian region, it’s NOT in Paris. It still takes one and a half hour to get to Paris by train. It is the main reason why we seldom go to Paris for meals or any other sort of entertainment.  In the past 8.5 years in France, we have stayed in two towns: Gometz-le-Chatel, a tiny place of 2,500 inhabitants and where our house is currently located, and Orsay, a bigger area of 15,500 inhabitants. Both towns have hardly any restaurants, not to mention pubs or bars. Even using food delivery services does not grant us a wider choice of food selection either. Hence, you can imagine my amazement when I am presented in Grenoble with the possibility to eat out whenever I feel like it, choose from a decent range of ethnic foods, go for one or even two cocktails after a dreary workday, and then able to walk home in 15 minutes.

It’s June 2024. The 2023/2024 academic year is coming to end and so is the deadline that we have given ourselves to move permanently to Grenoble. In the upcoming posts, I will share how my job search and moving situation are going.

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