After living in France for over a decade, Catherine and Dan moved to a rural part of Connecticut—and their housing was free at the boarding school where they taught. They liked being close to nature but missed the cultural amenities of city life so badly that they were willing to give up their free rent. They landed in Yorkville, which ticked all the boxes for them. Here’s Catherine’s story.
I was raised in Rhode Island and in western France. I grew up in Providence and in the Pays Basque. My husband Dan grew up outside of Boston. After living together in France for a long time, we moved to Simsbury in Connecticut.
We had a small farmhouse on the campus of the boarding school where we both worked. All of our neighbors were schoolteachers and other school personnel, and our street was a quiet, country road. Across the way and behind our house were many acres of wooded trails. We loved walking there in every season with our dog Lucky. And it was a good place to get through 18 months of lockdown!
However we became a bit bored with the area, even though it was beautiful. In France, we were spoiled by the restaurants, museums, cafés, markets, galleries, theater and other cultural life. Our family has grown to include people from other parts of the world and our little Connecticut town started to feel small, particularly in the political maelstrom of last year. We also got very tired of big box stores—and flavorless food.
Our commute to the school where we both worked was a three-minute walk, and we used our car every day for groceries and other errands. There were no sidewalks or bike lanes or public transportation at all in the area.
Our social life was restricted because of the pandemic, of course, but prior to that, many of our neighbors spent a lot of time going to athletic events for area youth. Our children are grown, so that held no appeal to us. We sought out entertainment in Hartford, the nearest city.
We decided to move because we really missed living in a large city, with people of all backgrounds, and with access to a cultural life. I have a new job in a wonderful day school for bilingual students, and my husband will resume his illustration work.
At the start of summer we started looking for places online and found Danielle Parraud, an agent at BOND New York, who was wonderful from the very start. On our first day visiting apartments, the temperature soared to over 100 degrees. On the second day, the skies opened up. Undaunted and upbeat, Danielle answered all of our questions and responded to all of our concerns.
We were searching for a bright and pretty place very close to my new job on the Upper East Side and wanted a place where we could work and entertain. We saw a bunch of places online, and about 11 places in person over three weeks. Additional room for when our kids visit was also something we wanted. Our new apartment would also have to be pet friendly. Our price range was $2,000-$3,000 and ultimately, we found a two bedroom for $2,095.
Even though we're paying rent now, our higher salaries in NYC make up for the difference.
Our charming building was built in 1910 and has good light in the kitchen and in the large front room. The ceilings are high. Judging from the barking we hear, this is a very dog-friendly building.
The actual move was not much fun. It happened during a heat wave and the humidity was unrelenting. We needed to leave our house two months before we were able to move to New York, so that meant moving most of our stuff into storage. Since our old place in CT was twice the size of our new place in NYC, we have left much of our stuff there. Also, the pandemic made things a bit trickier in terms of asking people to help out.
Our new neighborhood in Yorkville is very lively and interesting. We are five minutes from the Carl Schurz Park and just a 15-minute walk from Central Park. There are loads of terrific restaurants in the neighborhood. Historically, this neighborhood was settled by German immigrants and there are little shops and eateries that still reflect those roots. Lycée Français de New York is nearby and so there are loads of French kids of all ages heading to and from school. There is a wonderful branch of the New York Public Library just up the street. I am a 10-minute walk from work, and my husband can work at home, so that makes it possible for us to really live right in our own neighborhood.
Best of all, we are walking distance to world-class museums like the Met and the others on Museum Mile. The flower shop, fruit and vegetable shop, specialty food stores (Italian, German, French) and laundry places are within two minutes. My goal is not to use any chain stores for anything. This seems quite possible here. I am eager to shop as locally as possible, and to find the whole world in this little neighborhood. So far, so good.
We will leave our car in Rhode Island with family for their use—and ours, when we return for vacations.
With many of our old friends now living in New York, and lots of others coming through the city on their way to or from France; we are excited to renew our ties. My cousin, who has been here for two decades, used to live with us in Rhode Island; it has been so great to reconnect with her after so many years. And our French friends are all planning to visit us here. New York holds a special place in the minds of many French people; my oldest friend (from Bordeaux) is heading here for a real American Thanksgiving with us.
We are very excited to be in NYC and every day are reminded of what a good decision we made. We foresee staying here for a long time.
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