I realized that I never talk much about life in France and I really should. It's something that my "readers" (okay, three people have commented so far- I don't have a big head yet) might be interested in hearing more about.
Life in France is amazingly different, but it's become such a part of my reality that I forget how hard it is until I go back to the States for a visit. Life is so simple when you can just pull out of your driveway, drive to Meij.er, Tar.get, or Wal.mart and park, buy whatever you might need inside, and then just go home. The prices are good and it's easy to transport everything to and from your home.
Shopping for groceries in France is a major production. Some people just go to local markets, but they are so time consuming (first the butcher, then the bakery, then the convenience store, etc) and expensive to boot. So many people go to big grocery stores, but they are so crowded that it's hard to get out of there in less than two or three hours either. Our regular shopping takes around five hours total, with driving time. And if you need anything bigger... like a desk chair, or a new wall print... you can forget five hours- try eight! By the time you leave, check multiple stores and finally find something you like (having found parking at each store too), you catch your credit card on fire buying it (since everything here is twice as expensive), and then, once you're home, you have to get a huge cart from the back of your apartment building to take everything up the elevator to your place in one trip or have someone help you take the over-sized items up the stairs (because French elevators are- no joke- the size of a phone booth). Otherwise, you'll go up and down for a half hour taking everything you have bought up the stairs. We really just need a pulley on our balcony.
I know, I know... I shouldn't complain, shopping in France is wonderful and charming, but boy does it take a long time and I miss the quick, CHEAP options in the US.