Wednesday, January 17, 2018

French Island Paradise

There are four small islands- the Iles de Lérins- that are just off the coast of Cannes. Two are tiny and uninhabited. The others are accessible by a short 15 minute ferry ride from the port of Cannes.

Ile Sainte-Marguerite has a fortress where the Man in the Iron Mask was held captive for a time. That sounded interesting, but we chose to visit the Ile Saint-Honorat instead for the medieval monastery and castle.

We are moving away from Cannes in 2 weeks, so this was a fitting way to start saying goodbye. I've been wanting to do this all year, so I'm very happy I was finally able to! We even got lucky with a sunny, 60 degree day. According to the app on my phone, that means it was 60 degrees warmer than Wisconsin.  :)

Cruising towards the island.

Ile Sainte-Marguerite and the Man in the Iron Mask prison.

The island was very peaceful. Most of the time we didn't even come into contact with anyone else. After walking along a trail lined with trees, we came across the monk's vineyards. We cut through the vineyards in the direction of the abbey.

I loved the combination of beautiful architecture framed by palm trees.

I hope the monks weren't offended that I decided this was a runway.

Our next stop was heading to the coast and castle. 

To our surprise, the castle was open and could be explored. Even better, we were the only ones inside! There were four floors up a narrow and steep spiral staircase (with no railing, might I add). On each floor, the views got better. The view from the roof was the best part!

The water was so clear you could see to the bottom!

That was a nice moment, being alone together on a castle roof on a Mediterranean island. No big deal.

After the castle, we continued along the coast to walk the circumference of the island. We paused for a moment to play on the rocks. The water looked inviting, but when David touched it and felt how chilly it was, we were reminded it was January.

It was about 2.5 miles to completely walk around Saint-Honorat. We saw everything there was to see in about two hours. If we ever come back to visit, we plan on bringing a picnic lunch and hanging out in the park all day.

This time, after our boat ride back, we had some Steak n' Shake on the Croisette instead. I am going to miss colorful Cannes.

To finish a great and relaxing day, this dog (who looks like my nephew Ollie) joined us while we ate. I 100% love that dogs are welcome in public places in France. It was hard not to share our fries with him, but I'm not sure his owner would have approved.

Monday, January 15, 2018

So you want a green card...

This past week we have been celebrating that we finally reached the end of this road- David has his visa! That means we can move back to the U.S.!

Why yes, I did waste some time photoshopping this.
I wanted to elaborate a bit for those who are curious about what type of visa he has and what the process was like. I knew absolutely nothing about American immigration before going through this, so it was all a learning curve for me.

David has a CR1 immigrant visa. The CR stands for "conditional resident," and applies to couples like us who have been married for less than 2 years. When he enters the U.S., David will become a permanent resident. This means he is allowed to live and work in the U.S. for the rest of his life. He will be able to start working right away, and should receive his green card in the mail a few weeks after our arrival.

Two years from now, we will have to apply to remove the temporary/conditional status from his green card. After that, he will be a permanent permanent resident. This extra step for those who haven't been married for a long time is an attempt to weed out fake green card marriages. That means we'll need to send in more paperwork (yay!) and provide evidence that we have a real marriage (joint bank accounts, house ownership, family photos, etc.)

A year after that (so after 3 years of living in the U.S.), David is eligible to become an American citizen! This will mark the true end of the road immigration-wise. Of course, that process involves more paperwork and a lot more money. Technically, he could just remain a permanent resident and not become a citizen... but we all know David's already made his choice. He's already started studying for the civics test.

Here is a rough timeline of what the CR1 process was like for us. We were told to expect it to take 10 months, max 12. It ended up taking 14.

September 2016: We got married. Good times.

October 2016: We moved to France. It took a few weeks to get official copies of our marriage license. After that, we were able to start gathering other documents and filling out forms with the help of an immigration lawyer.

November 2016: We submitted the first big batch of paperwork (form I-130) to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), along with a fee of about $500. The information in the paperwork mostly included every address we've each lived at in the last 5 years, every job we've each had in the last 5 years, other general biographical information and information about our marriage. USCIS knows more about me now than most of my friends ;)

August 2017: Our case was finally transferred to the NVC (National Visa Center). This was the longest wait during the whole process (9 months). We were very happy when we advanced to this step.

September 2017: We submitted another big batch of paperwork (form DS-260) and another $500 payment to the NVC. The major new chunk of information we had to provide this time was an Affidavit of Support. If the American spouse (i.e. me) isn't currently working in America, you need another sponsor to agree to be financially responsible for the immigrant until they become a citizen. I find it silly that they seem to expect spouses to live apart (spoiler alert: we got married because we want to live together) during this long process, but I digress. Thankfully, my dad agreed to be the sponsor.

December 2017: David had his medical visit and interview at the Paris embassy. Everything was fast and easy besides the fact that he didn't have the correct form of birth certificate they wanted. That delayed things a bit because it took a few weeks to get it and mail it in. 

January 2018: The visa was issued!!!!! David may have played the Hallelujah chorus when he received it. It was a long wait. Yes, we got to do a lot of great traveling in the mean time, but it's not fun to be waiting for something and not have control over when it happens. For example, it's made it pretty much impossible for me to look for a job in France or America without having any idea when we're moving.

As I said in my previous post, David's last day of work is January 31st. We will move out of Cannes the next day and then spend about a month tying up loose ends, spending time with his family, and traveling before we make the big move home.

I'm happy we were able to be together throughout this process. I'm happy it went smoothly besides a delay of a few months, and I'm thankful for my family's support. I'm so happy for David that he is about to live his dream of moving to America permanently!

Congratulations to future American citizen David Rubino- I'm excited to start our life together in Wisconsin :)

My previous post about immigration- So you want to live with your husband -about the frustrations of starting my French immigration and his American immigration simultaneously.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2017: A Year in Review

I rang in the New Year without my husband of 3 months. My visa was up on December 30th, so home I went in order to get my long-term visa from the French consulate in Chicago. There was a slight delay with the paperwork (of course), so I ended up staying for the whole month.

I mostly occupied myself by playing with Buttercup. 

We spent a weekend in the medieval town of Uzès and visited the nearby Pont du Gard and Roman ruins in Nîmes.

I met my cousin Brittany a few weeks later in Paris. After getting our fill of my favorite city, we met up with David to drive to Milan. The incredible Duomo di Milano is now checked off my bucket list.

After dropping Brittany off at the airport, I stopped by the adorable town of Bruges, Belgium.

We didn't wait long before going back to la bella Italia. Early in March we drove a few hours south to Genoa. We toured a pretty palace and a cathedral (or two) and ate as much pasta and pizza as possible. On the way home, we stopped in beautiful Portofino.

The biggest event in March was moving into our own apartment! We moved from Mandelieu to Cannes (only about 10 minutes away). It was bittersweet to say goodbye to our sea view balcony and living rent-free, but it was such a relief to have our own place and more privacy.

Top 4 pics are from our old balcony; bottom 2 are from our new apartment. 

The first week of April was one of our most memorable this year. We made it back to a city we both love- London! We visited Cambridge and the Tower of London, and cruised down the Thames. David loved the Bach concert we went to, and I died of happiness to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

We spent a relaxing Easter weekend with David's family and had the chance to explore the Château de Vizille in some lovely spring weather.

This was our craziest month! There are a lot of national holidays/days off in May, so we were able to travel more. 

Our first trip was to Carcassonne (a medieval fortress) and Albi (a unique and beautiful town).

The next week we flew to Paris. We stayed in Versailles and spent 2 days visiting the palace. On our last day, we went to the Paris temple open house and had a few hours to walk around the city before flying home.

One week later, we were in Geneva and had a big family reunion! David's aunt and uncle (who live near Switzerland) hosted a wedding open house for us. My whole family came over, and it was great to be reunited. We all did some sightseeing around Switzerland, and I turned 28! 

After showing my family around where we live for a few days, we road tripped to Italy. First on the agenda were Florence and Siena. Going to Venice was another bucket list goal of mine. I was blown away and it might be my favorite place I've ever been. One last important event- David turned 25 in Venice.

Florence (and Siena in the middle)
June was much more relaxed! It was warm enough to really start enjoying the beach.

The only sightseeing we did was stopping in a few cute villages around Cannes and Gap.

July was also all about the beach. The water felt great but I really started to suffer in our apartment with no air-conditioning. My fan followed me from room to room.

I went to Marseille this month to complete my French immigration process.

I was happy to visit Gap again where it wasn't so hot up in the mountains. On our way home we made a detour through Valensole to see lavender fields (we were too late), but were pleasantly surprised by sunflower fields instead.

In early August, we spent a weekend in Provence to see a concert at the Roman theater in Orange. Despite the 105 degree weather, we managed to visit Les Baux-de-Provence and Châteauneuf-du-Pape along the way. 

The next day, I was happy to finally see my lavender in Sault and at the Abbaye de Sénaque. 

In the middle of the month, David's parents invited us to join them for a long weekend in Narbonne. It didn't end up being ideal swimming weather, but we still enjoyed the beach and the cathedral downtown. 

My friend Elvera came to visit near the end of the month. We walked over 75 miles (yep, I added it up) across 5 countries. 

Menton and Nice, France; Ventimiglia, Italy

We saw beautiful and interesting things in southern Italy (Naples, Pompeii, and Sorrento), but honestly the cheap delicious food alone was worth the trip. 

After Italy, I ventured to Scandinavia for the first time. I fell in love with Denmark and its beautiful castles, and was also able to spend an afternoon in Sweden.

In September, David's American immigration finally started to progress. We started to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

We spent a rainy Saturday at the Sisteron fortress with David's mom.

On September 28th, we celebrated our first anniversary! To commemorate the occasion we spent the weekend prior in Cinque Terre and Tuscany, Italy. Is there anywhere in that country that isn't amazing?

We stuck close to home this month. I was happy to see some fall colors and nice views in Eze and near Gap.

In November we toured some beautiful mansions near Beaulieu-sur-Mer and drove around in search of cute small towns in Provence.

I went home for Thanksgiving for the first time since 2011! I hadn't been home for close to a year, so it was great to be back. It was a short trip, but I tried my best to get my fill of family, Buttercup, and Culver's. 

We started out December with a trip to Paris for David's interview at the American embassy. I got to sightsee and say "goodbye for a while" to my beloved Paris while he took care of immigration things.

Everything went well at the embassy besides missing one document. We got that submitted last week, so hopefully we'll hear from them soon and everything will be official.

We ended the month by spending the holidays with David's family.

It's funny, because I don't feel like this past year was very busy. I had a lot (too much) down-time when I was home alone with nothing to do. I had moments of boredom and homesickness. David had moments of frustration about his job and France in general. We both felt stress due to the uncertainty of immigration.

But when I put it all together like this, this year looks crazy in an amazing way. It was the most I've ever traveled. We were able to spend a lot of time together and with David's family- not to mention check so many things off of my travel bucket list. I'm thankful for all we've gotten to do considering next year we will be settling down like real adults (at least that's the plan).

So what will 2018 hold for the Rubinos? David is officially leaving his job on January 31st. We will move our stuff from Cannes to Gap and do some more traveling before we come home. We're planning on going to Sicily to visit the Italian Rubinos, and probably doing one more trip with just the two of us.

We should be home in early March, but at this point I've realized I can't actually predict when we'll be home until David has his visa in hand, everything is packed, and we have plane tickets. Initially we thought we'd be home in September... but now the end is actually near.

Happy New Year everyone! 

Previous New Year recaps: