After four years living in Oslo, we decided to leave Norway and move back to France, in the area of Valbonne Sophia Antipolis, north of Cannes, what the French call “La Cote d’Azur”. It will be our first time living in France, as a couple and family, as my husband left his home country in 2000 and I did in 2003.
You might have seen our House Hunting adventures on Instagram. Now is time to sit down and share why we are making this big move, which might be our last after changing country 3 times!
1. Nice is the 3rd busiest airport in France
The reason why we came to Oslo was my husband’s job, at KBN, the State Bank in Norway. In January 2018, he left and started a job at Fenixys based in La Defense, the business district near Paris. For one and a half year he’s been travelling 3 days a week, either to go to his office or on client site in London, Utrecht etc…
Flying from Oslo is OK, but you don’t have that much choice in departure and arrival times, so we thought about choosing a bigger more convenient airport for those destinations. Nice airport is ideal to fly back to Paris with their half hourly shuttles, it also offers lots of flights to London and Northern Europe in general. You also have direct flights to New York, Miami or Dubai if you wish to travel a bit further.
2. The weather is exceptional
Lots of sun, mild winter, it will be a big change from Oslo! You can even swim late October:
3. Close to the Mediterranean Sea
I love the sea: swimming, snorkeling, strolling on the beach. Our eldest son developed a passion for sailing! From our new house it will be 20 min to Villeneuve Loubet Yacht Club and 30 min to that of Antibes. He can sail from April to October.
4. Close to Ski fields
So what do you do from December to April? Skiing! The first slopes are 45 min away and for seasoned skiers you can drive 1,5 hour to Isola 200 and Aurons. We love skiing. When we came back to Europe, we’ve been flying every year to Kinderhotels in Austria. Going forward we can just drive for the week end!
5. Good International Schools
The reason why we chose the Valbonne area is because of its free public schools with International Sections. Kids from both International and French section are mixed in a class and the International ones spend 6-8 hours extra studying their section language including litterature, poetry, drama. That means that the population of those school is quite diverse, with kids coming from all parts of Europe but also the Americas and Australia!
That’s important to us. The kids were born in Sydney and have never lived in France. We didn’t want to end up in a place were no-one could relate to their situation and multi cultural upbringing.
After a lot of research on the Internet, talking to friends and friends of friends, we set eyes on two middle schools: College Niki de St Phalle in Valbonne and College Cesar in Roquefort-les-Pins.
As such, those schools catchment areas would determine where we live. If you are in the same situation, here is a precious document I found, detailing for the whole area (departement), which street goes to which school: Carte Scolaire des Alpes Maritimes
Of course it is a priority for me, and for us as a family. Provence is where lots of flowers but also fruits grow. Heard of lemons from Menton, melons from Cavaillon? Last April, we went down to find a house and bought a whole kilos of amazingly sweet and tasty strawberries from Carpentras for only €8,9 a kilo! In Oslo it’s what we pay for greenhouse Dutch strawberries.
We can’t wait to eat local in season melons, watermelons, peaches, apricots etc… We also found supermarkets with a whole fresh fish shop and butcher section. They also have two full aisles of organic produces. As an example, almond milk there is half price vs Oslo.
Restaurant wise, Nice is full of small gastro-pubs and bistros. Totally fell in love with this one, La Movida, with a terrasse on the first floor over looking the Promenade des Anglais, a massive cocktail selection and nice tapas like baked truffled camembert!
We found two bubble tea places in Antibes, but we are still yet to find a good Cantonese restaurant with Dim Sums. Recommendations anyone?
First when my husbands asked me last June: “Who don’t we move to Nice?”, I answered back: “I’m tired of moving. I’m happy here. Sell me the idea”. This is what he did. He grabbed the tablet, browsed seloger.com and showed me villas we could afford. 200 sqm with land and a swimming pool! How can you not resist?
It’s no wonder why Provence and Cote d’Azur are such a popular tourist destination. In addition to the beach and sea, there is the countryside and all its historical villages, art galleries and museums. Every week end we can drive and discover a new place.
9. Be part of the community
We loved living in Oslo for it’s safe, clean, not over crowded and easy. Upon arrival, I took two months intensive course and reached a A2 level, I can order at restaurants, get by in shops but I can’t follow the local news.
At home we end up watching the French news or listening to France info and are more interested in what’s happening in our home country, where our friends and family lives. So back to France we will be more in tune with what is happening around us and we could be more involved too as we have full voting rights etc…
10. I get to keep my job
The beauty of working for a tech company is the flexibility of working hours and location. At OneStepCheckout team is already distributed so it’s not adding much complexity that I perform my job remotely. We keep talking as a team via Skype or phone, deal with customers via email and fly to various Magento Events around the world.
What I will miss in Oslo
Oslo tap water is so good. I find it even better than bottled mineral water such as Evian. Tap water in Oslo is also everywhere. In coffees, bar and small restaurant you will always find a jar and glasses available.
Here we walk to school, to the city center, we catch the bus to the beach. We don’t even own a car. In Valbonne, people often have two cars as house are spread and there are no pavements along the road.
Because you can walk everywhere and the streets are clean and safe, you can let children go to their friends or to the supermarket by themselves. In the Valbonne area they will have to take the bus. It’s not even flat enough to ride a bike to go places.
As a friend cleverly pointed out, we invent the life that suits us and make the most of what we’ve got. We are so fortunate to have jobs that allow us to live almost anywhere we want. It won’t be holidays every day. Husband will be away 2 days a week, but things get so much easier than in Zurich now that the boys have grown!