Living Abroad

The summer is here …

In case you are wondering where I have been, the family has traveled back to Maine and New York to visit with family this summer and will return for the new school year in September; Kale will start 4eme (8th grade) & Madison will start CM1 (4th grade).

The kids finished school in July and did well. Look at their faces the first day, very nervous and see the change, very happy and confident.

The beginning of their school year

and the end

Have a nice summer and the journey will continue in September…


Living Abroad

Photos from the past and VE Day.

A look back at the past…

In the local “Bar du Centre” or the “Tabac” as we like to call it, Pierre, a local retired music teacher befriended us. The local bar is the place where the whole town goes to socialize and you can procure a quick coffee, smoke, gamble or a beer.  Pierre knew that we were American and one day he mentioned, “Disembarkment Day” or “D-Day

(Journee du DD95desimbarkment).  When he was a child, he lived through WWII.  He helped organize, in Percy 1994, a 50th Anniversary reunion of allied forces.  He had photos he wanted to share with us from that reunion.  He asked us to schedule a rendezvous, to meet up again, at the local Tabac and drop off the photos to  us.

Bill was completely thrilled to be able to peruse these photos or little slices of history.  One of the reasons why we have ended up in Europe is due to my husband’s time spent in the United States Army.  He was stationed in Pirmasens,

Germany in 1980. Besides helping him pay for University, this experience gave him a love for travel and also history.  I call Bill a hobby historian.  From my angle, it was great way to expose Kale and Madison to a valuable history lesson.  Also, to see photos, from one of the last Pilgrimages back to Europe for these veterans, many who came from the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada and France, was a tremendous gift. When I had worked for the U.S. Embassy in Luxembourg, I had helped plan USO-type event for veterans commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, which was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during WWII.  It took place in the Ardennes region eastern Belgium, northeast France, and Luxembourg and hence at the U.S. Embassy in Luxembourg, we planned an event.  I remember how much it meant to the Veteran’s coming back.  I remember the comradery and strong bond these former soldiers had with each other.  They told the most amazing stories!  Those Veterans/ Soldiers have been called the “Greatest Generation” for their selflessness, bravery and honor shown.

The photos Pierre showed us were touching!  We thanked him for his desire to show us and his friendship.  He told us that the allied forces, especially the Americans, would be forever in his heart and now he was also forever in ours for the kindness shown.


May 8th is called VE Day or Victory Europe Day in France.  It’s a public holiday commemorating 8 May 1945, to mark the formal acceptance by the Allies of World War  II, of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces. VE3 Today, we stumbled upon the celebration, mostly because the Ville was completely shut down.  It started at the Mairie (Mayor’s Office) and ended at the Cathedral in Percy.  In the Cathedral, there are photos inside that showed the war damage to the church that happened June/July 1944.   Today we saw the Mayor, who arguably could pass as President Emmanuel Macron’s brother or twin because he looks just like him, and a whole parade of people, including a small delegation of French Veterans (small because a lot of them are no longer alive).  We spoke to one in particular.  VE1He was attending with his daughter and he had a medal on his lapel; he was 90 years of age.  He had recently fallen but he joked with the kids (in French) that he liked to pretend that his canes were his  guns blazing (like those from the war). He had such a quick wit and an infectious smile.  I thought to myself that the key to longevity is a sense of humor and purpose. It truly was my favorite part of today, to have spent a small slice of time with this Veteran, who must have fought so bravely at approximately 16 years of age.  He sang a French song to the children.  He mentioned it was a song he and other soldiers sang to each other while marching.  These are the priceless memories made, in such a region so rich with history. As we walked with the children back home, on “Route de la Voie de la Liberte”, or The Route of the Voice of Liberty, VE9I thought of the meaning of today, for the people of Percy, and the people of France.  A pang of sadness also resonated with me, as I wondered, when these great men are no longer around, will these ceremonies still happen?  Will they be remembered?


Living Abroad, Uncategorized

WWII History in Avranches


What a beautiful small seaside town!  Avranches is a town of contradictions, old neo-gothic church, built in the 19th Century, and exquisite old architecture, a wealth of history, which has been turbulent at times.  I could not help but to notice that there are a plethora of young people walking about and sitting in cafes.  The town has a young vibe, a young heart and an old soul, about it because of a prominent Lycee (High School) and University and the old buildings.  It has an approximate population size of 8,000 and it is one of Normandy’s oldest towns.  It is a hop, skip and jump from the famous Mont St. Michel Abbey over the bay.

Walking through Avranches, we stumbled upon a Patton Memorial located on Place du General Patton.  It’s in the middle of a roundabout of all places.  We battled traffic to get to the monument with a massive tank with tank tracks, a bronze bust of General George S. Patton and abelisk-type monument and a time capsule.  I could picture in my minds eye, the bombing, the tanks rumbling into Avranche and soldiers marching. As I read the monument with the history the children’s faces lighted up as they listened closely. As I looked at my own children, I thought about the children that lived in that time and how scary it must have been.  I started telling Kale and Madison about the history of the liberation of Avranches during WWII, led by General Patton that began on 31 July 1944.


The text on the obelisk:

DU 31 JULIET AU 16 AOUT 1944


Between July 31st and August 16th, 1944
the glorious American Army of General Patton
passed this crossroad
accomplishing the break-through at Avranches
with the thunder of his armour
on his way to the victory
and liberation of France


What powerful words inscribed on the Monument!

After a reverent pause, the children starting playing around the monuments and I could not help but to think, these are the moments that are teaching moments and you can’t replicate this in a classroom.  The World is our Classroom!

I am looking forward to bringing the children to the D-Day Beaches, Omaha Beach, Normandy Beach, Utah Beach and reading more history.

“Peace and Love”  – “Paix et Amour” 

by: Tara Magaw

Living Abroad, Uncategorized

Festival du Lait in Percy

Festival du Lait, Percy-en-Normandie:


A pleasant surprise, while walking into our local bank “Credit Agricole“, we had won a free cooking class from the very prominent Chef Helie, of Restaurant de la Gare.  We were very excited and then we though of the most perfect idea! Madison, our 9 year old,  has told us that she would like to go to culinary school in Paris and own a restaurant and a farm, so that she could create delicious food with her fresh produce.  We decided to give Madison the cooking lesson.  It was to be held at the “Festival du Lait” or the “Festival of Milk”. Since Percy is very agricultural, there are so many farms and beautiful fields just ripe for growing, it is a festival that showcases all of the cheeses, milk, yogurt, ice cream, chocolate, wine (its not a milk product but I was pleasantly surprised to see it!), cider (Normandy is known for its cider) and beer carts too.  The producers all considered themselves artisans in their craft and their products truly were unbelievably delicious.  Outside the tents were the biggest tractors and cows, goats, sheep, donkeys and ducks.  I think they took some liberties with the animals, not all were milk producing.


The culinary class took place under a very high tech and large white tent.  It was equipped with a stove, freezer, refrigerator and all the sound and lighting equipment needed.  At first, Madison was a little intimidated, but the kindness of the Chef and his staff soon made her warm up to the idea of working some culinary magic.

They ended up preparing a two-course meal, where the main course was fileted Dover Sole resting a bed of green beans and tomatoes with a buttery sauce infused with citrus flavors.  Dessert consisted of a crème based pudding with local fresh berries and citrus fruit as topping. The Chef’s reward, at the end, was to eat what they created.  Bill, Kale and I snuck into the Chef’s work space to eat some of the delicious food.  It’s only fair, since we sat and watched for three hours.

Bon appetite! 

by- Tara Magaw


Living Abroad

Poisson Avril – Happy April Fools- Happy Easter 2018

Kale ran through the Gite, with a paper fish surreptitiously taped on his back, as Madison giggled under her breath…


The taping of a fish, on a person’s back, is the joke for April 1st in France and it’s a very enjoyable tradition. “Poisson d’Avril” (or April Fish), Madison yelled and Kale realized the joke was on him.  “Happy April Fools Day”. In downtown Percy, there were a plethora of bakeries and chocolatiers that made the most art-like and “delicieux” fish shaped pastries and chocolate.  It was an added bonus to see the Easter chocolates of eggs, bunnies, crosses, that were almost too beautiful to eat!


What was in store for us on Easter Sunday afternoon?  A giant Easter Egg hunt with friends.  The clues were planned and treats were placed by each clue.  I think it was the best East Egg hunt I have ever attended!  There were 6 children, all ranging from 6 to 13 years of age, but they all stayed in a pack, like wolves,  and followed each clue together to their delicious prize. Each clue had 6 sweet treats on them (one for each child) and then on to the next clue.  We had beautiful weather in Normandy on Sunday, which is very lucky, because the weather here can change instantaneously, hence we travel with rain poncho’s everywhere.


Traveling to Paris to meet up with Madison’s Friend Acadia was a welcome trip.  I think there is always one child that might be a little more homesick than the others.  I always thought that Kale would be the one to be most affected but it was my daughter Madison.  One of her best friends from Maine was making the trip to Paris with her mother, Joy, so we decided to make the trek to Paris.  It’s only approximately a 3-hour drive, from Percy-en-Normandie,  so it was no big deal.  It was a quick trip to see a friend from L’Ecole Francaise du Maine and a trip to the Eiffel Tower or “Tour Eiffel” as the French call it.  I have taken the tour before to the top of the Tour.  In our estimation, the best location to take photos near the Eiffel Tower is the Trocadero metro stop.  This time we brought our Yorkies, which slightly cramped our style, because we could not bring them up the Tower.  There was a big sign that showed, “No Dogs Allowed”.  Not to worry, the kids went up the Tower with Joy and Acadia, while Bill and I found a Café right on the Sein River and had a couple glasses of “vin rouge”.  Most restaurants in Paris allow dogs however if you want to do some serious touring like the Musee du Louvre, Sainte-Chapelle de Paris, Cathedrale Notre-Dame, I recommend leaving the pooches at home.

Oh, excellent news!  I found an American Dentist in Paris.  Since I am a  little shy about my French, I am going to give Dr. Jane Matkoski, 12 Rue Saint-Denis Julien, Le Pauvre, 75005 Paris, a call. Fingers crossed.

by: Tara Magaw



Living Abroad, Uncategorized

Happy New Year and Bonne Année from 35,000 Feet in the Sky!

Blog-3a (1)3,2,1, Happy New Year and Bonne Année the flight attendant cheered over the public address system of our United Airline flight. Just 15 minutes before the announcement, they started passing out the small complimentary champagne plastic cups and the kids toasted with ginger ale. I could not help to think this is “very cool”.  I have never celebrated a New Years count down from 35,000 feet above however I also had the quick thought, “I wonder if First Class travelers have crystal champagne flutes instead of this clear plastic cup and a better producer of champagne like Dom Pérignon”.  The next thought was, “Bill always travels First Class with work but Economy with us.”  Yes, it is different when the company pays but alas, we are about to embark on our grand adventure so I pushed those thoughts aside.  The kids would start school on January 8th, so we wanted to arrive a week before, so that they could overcome their jetlag.  We were jumping ahead  6 hours.  It takes approximately a day, for every hour you jump ahead, to recover!

Before I continue, I have to back up a bit…

To tell you the truth, I was not very excited for the BIG move. I was entering this journey with massive trepidation.  Bill was excited and I knew that this experience would be a “gift” for my children but I was sad to leave the USA.  I had been in the hospital, for a week in September and my Mother and Father had driven from New York to Maine Medical Center, to be with me in the hospital; this way, Bill could stay home with Kale and Madison.  My Father had mentioned something that resonated with me.  Dad said, “What would happen if you or someone in your family became ill abroad?  There is not the safety net of family.” He also said, “What if Mom or I became ill? It would be a hardship for your family to travel back to the States and might take some time to travel home.” I was feeling a tremendous amount of guilt from this conversation because he was right.  When we moved abroad, it would become more complex in some ways. I knew that the medical system was a “good one” but family would not be near. My children were sad to leave their friends behind too.  Also, we have two small Yorkies.  “How on Earth will we get them abroad?”

A month before our departure, we had made the trek from Maine to Boston, to the French Consulate.  We obtained long term stay Visas. This was a hurdle to check off the list. This ensured that we could stay beyond the 90-days allowed in France.  We had to bring our US passports, each person had to have 2 passport-type photos, for the French consulate, so they could place the photo on the French Visa that were inserted into our US Passport.  We also had to go through an interview from the French Government.

Bill undertook the packing up of the Yorkies.  We figured out that we could travel, with the dogs under our seats, on the airplane. Each dog needed a plane ticket, which was a $125 per pet, plus it is important to note that there are other charges.  In total, we spent approximately $500 to travel with the dogs.  Each country has its own set of rules in which you have to comply when traveling with a pet. The USDA rules are rather convoluted. We had to interpret different rules and regulations for the USDA and the EU.  We found a USDA certified Veterinarian in Maine.  We had to ensure that Ozzie and Cinnamon, the Yorkies, were ISO (International Standard Organization) Chipped.  This is a 15-digit microchip, that is the world standard for chipping pets.  If your pet is lost, the micro chip would identify them. After being ISO chipped, the next day the had to go back to the Vet to get all their vaccinations.  10 days before travel, we had to bring the dogs back to a USDA certified Vet again to inspect all EU documentation and certify that the dogs were healthy and that all the vaccinations were complete. We then had to overnight the forms to the Northeast Regional USDA office, which is located in Albany, New York.

The night before was the BIG pack-up!  I did not prepare very well. I figured that I could buy whatever I needed once we arrived. I packed the children much more diligently. In hindsight, I wish I had packed myself a little better. At times, I really wanted some of my products, just to have a little taste of home.  In fairness, there are very comparable and sometimes better products in France however when you are homesick, a little piece of home helps.

So now back to our adventure!  It all commenced on December 31, 2017, at 4 am.  I was thinking, as we groggily awoke in the dark of night and made our way into the car, that I was a little perturbed that Bill booked a flight so early.  We had to leave at 4 am to make our way down to Boston Logan International Airport.  It was too early to grab my last latte from Starbucks on Forest Ave., Portland.  I know that in Paris, there is Starbucks, at Gare du Nord but the lattes are different, not as sweet, which is probably better for your health. We jumped in the rental car (we were leaving our car at home) and drove to Logan for the 8 am flight with a layover at BWI.  I was not anticipating, during our 5-hour layover, that the dogs would be such “divas” and not use the Pet Relief Area. I have to admit, the smell was rather pungent in that room dedicated to dogs.  I almost lost my cookies, a few times, from the odor.  The poor little doggies wet their pet carriers.  We gave them water, during the layover, however we did not feed them until we arrived at Charles de Gaulle (CDG).  I would recommend getting one of those “pee pads”, from a pet supply store, for travels with your dogs.  I was pleasantly surprised that the hum of the plane, kept the dogs quiet the whole 7-hours.  I had packed Benadryl for the dogs, just in case they were barking, but I never needed to use it.  The kids on the other hand, were alive with excitement and did not sleep the whole transatlantic flight.  No, I did not use the Benadryl on kids!

We arrived at CDG International Airport, in Paris, at around 7 am.   We luckily found our bags quickly, realizing it was New Years Day and nothing would be open, hopped in our rental and drove to the Novotel Chateau de Maffliers, which was 10 min. outside of Paris and would accommodate dogs, had lovely trails for running and hiking, horse stables, a pool in the Chateau and restaurant. When we arrived, because it was New Years Day, we were told that our room would not be ready until 2 pm.  Everyone had requested a late check out.  I am speculating however my assumption was the lingering guests had hangovers from New Years Eve festivities!  Ugh…so we found an ESSO Rest Area that was open, where at least we could pick up some baguettes, cheese and some S. Pellegrino.  We were so jet lagged, we all took a nap in the car until we could check in at 2 pm.  When we entered, we took showers and took another little power nap but not a long one or we never would have slept through the night, in our new time zone (CET), which was now 6 hours ahead of the Eastern Standard Time.

To be continued…

By – Tara Magaw

Blog-3a (2)


Living Abroad, Uncategorized

The preparation for our adventure…

Let me start from the beginning…coast-normandie

A year ago, when Bill and I realized that our children’s time at L’Ecole Francaise du Maine (a French Immersion Program), was coming to an end, we knew we had to start planning for next steps.  Our son, Kale, had completed the elementary school program and the cost of local private schools in Maine seemed so cost prohibitive.  Our family started looking for a new option for schooling.  Bill feverishly Googled Catholic private schools and French public schools in France for Kale (age 12) and Madison (age 8).  He stumbled upon a lot of information but was drawn to the region of Normandy.

Normandy has gorgeous beaches and a beautiful coastal region.  We are living in Portland, Maine (a beautiful coastal region in the Northeast USA) and decided that we wanted to be someplace coastal again.  Normandy also has a very fertile agricultural area, with some of the most amazing wines and cheeses (especially Camembert), fresh non-GMO produce, grass feed beef and free range chickens. The idea of having a naturally clean food supply, instead of always shopping at Whole Foods for safer food, appealed to us.  Finally, the history of the region, the D-Day Beaches of Normandy, where during WWII, western allies launched the largest amphibious invasion in history against Germany, seemed like a great way to expose our children to history first hand.

Why France? Why the French education system?  We love the culture!  Also, the French Public School System is renowned for its strong Math and Science programs.  We heard great endorsements of the French Private Catholic School System too (and it’s a fraction of the cost of private schools in the United States).  We found out that Kale, in 7th grade, would be taking Physics, Chemistry, Geometry, Technology, History, French, English and he decided on a 3rd language (German), Gym, Music, Art and homemade lunches (with 3 courses); all very impressive in our estimation.

As luck should have it, we found the Powell Family online.  They had moved from Wales to Percy-en-Normandie.  The Powell’s had started a Gite business and had made the transition the year before.  Their children spoke zero French (ages 5 and 10 when they arrived in Normandy) and now are conversing in French and attending the local school system.  Children are amazing and also resilient! We decided to rent a Gite from them, for a few years, and then look into buying something of our own.  This set-up also gives me, the uncertain one, the ability to “back out”, and say, “let’s move home”. So now we are going to be living in the Amelia Gite at, “The Gites de Jonquille” meaning the Guest Houses of the Daffodils. Percy-en-Normandie, will be our home. Stay tuned…


By Tara Magaw