Category Archives: Béziers

Total Immersion!


Read what fellow blogger, travel journalist, and English teacher living in Barcelona had to say about her recent “Total French Immersion” experience with me in Béziers a few weeks ago. Immersion classes are so much fun, both for students and teacher!

Destino Infinito

So I decided it was time to try and learn French.  Having been presented with a Master’s research trip and project based on alternative tourism in France I knew I would be frustrated if I didn’t understand what was going on, if I wasn’t able to communicate and make myself understood.  I knew I had to try and learn, and quickly.  But as always, learning a language is a daunting process.  We are faced with hours of grammatical study, with the frustration of listening exercises, and with the shyness behind ‘getting it wrong’, ‘making a fool out of ourselves’.

But I knew there must be a more fun way of going about it, that learning French could be different.  I knew there had to be a way to learn a language in a more vibrant, confidence building way.  I just needed someone there to guide me, to help me…

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Our apartment in France, here’s what a typical South of France apartment looks like


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Thanks to one of my French teacher friends back in St. Louis, I’ve finally made a video showing our apartment in Béziers!  She is soon going to be beginning a chapter on different kinds of places to live in France, so she asked me to help out and make her class more interesting.  I decided to share this video on Skype, and also on my blog.

We’ve only been living here for two weeks at this point in time, so everything’s not quite perfect, but we don’t have to be perfect to be happy!!  I hope you enjoy this tour of “chez nous”, and don’t hesitate to ask any questions you may have!  I remember when we were getting ready to move to France, I loved looking at International House Hunters, so here’s my version 😉

 

An unexpected surprise at Les Halles


What a wonderful weekend in spite of the thunderstorms that took over Saturday afternoon.  I have to tell you about our trip to Les Halles on Saturday morning.  “Les Halles” is an indoor market that’s open every day, even on Sunday.  You can purchase practically anything you want there:  fruit, vegetables, olive oil, meat, poultry, HORSE meat, fresh eggs, pastries, and the list goes on and on.  We’ve been to Les Halles many times in the past, but on this particular Saturday, it was getting close to noon.  We were there with the kids, and all of our stomachs started to rumble at about the same time, so it’s no surprise that we all scoped out “La Gargote des Halles” at the same time.  We hadn’t planned to eat out, in fact we were shopping to have “de quoi manger” at home.  It was time for a compromise:  l’apéritif!!   And why not, it was the weekend after all!  

The plan was to just have a little snack of chorizo.  Needless to say, we wanted a glass of wine to go with that.  Then we ended up ordering an assiette de cochonailles (a plate of charcuteries),  a bit more chorizo, a plate of homemade fries, some fried pimentos like they eat in Spain, and another glass of wine for each of us and a Coke for the kids to split.  It was so much fun with the bustling atmosphere and friends meeting up left and right, and it was also very inexpensive.  By that I mean 40€ for the four of us.  Now here’s the most interesting part, and something we’re planning to do very soon.   You can go shopping at Les Halles and pick up whatever it is you’d like for lunch, whether that be meat, fish, seafood like mussels, etc.  You bring it to La Gargote des Halles, and for 2€50 they cook it for you!  If you want some of their to die for homemade fries to go with your meal, it’s just 3€50 extra.  Oh, and a tempting glass of really good local wine will cost you less than 2€ a glass.  Definitely worth a trip to Les Halles de Béziers.  This may become a weekend tradition chez les Crespin.  I don’t believe there’s one out of the four of us who would complain about that.

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On my way to pick up the kids from school in France


Every day, I have the great pleasure (and I mean it) of walking my kids back and forth to school a total of four times a day.  That’s 8 trips, at about 15 minutes each.  I absolutely love it.  I bring them to school and walk back home in the morning at 8:00, then I pick them up for lunch at 11:45, bring them back at 1:45, go back to get them at 4:45, and then walk back home.  When I pick them up for lunch, we stop at the nearby bakery for a baguette, and this is a really good bakery, by the way!  Then at 5:00, we pick up another baguette for dinner.  The kids know it’s a special treat when I let them get a snack in the form of some type of pastry at 5, just to tide them over until dinner time.  This is one of my greatest pleasures, being able to walk to and from school, bringing them home for a healthy lunch and family time at noon, and getting freshly baked bread for each meal.  It’s a much slower pace than what we’ve ever known, and much healthier as well.  I’m happy to get in two extra hours of walking each day, not even including walking round and about town while they’re in school.  I recorded the following video while walking to pick them up from school at the end of the day today.  I hope you enjoy the new video format… Just wanted to do something different for a change!

The Simple Life


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We have officially been living in our apartment in Béziers for three days now.  It’s like a dream come true.  We absolutely love our apartment, imperfections and all!  We love the neighborhood and it’s cafés and gardens, and can’t wait for school to start next week.  Last night I was on our balcony (I always wanted a balcony), taking in the view, and I took a few minutes to take into account that this is really happening.  We have moved to France.  It’s no longer something that we “want to do someday”.  We’ve done it, we live here now.

When I was growing up in Louisiana, it was always in the fall that my “new year” began.  Since then, the only profession I’ve ever known is that of a teacher.  In my mind, next Monday (la rentrée or first day back to school for the kids) will mark the first day of a new year, a new beginning. The difference this time is that the beginning of this new year will not take place in a classroom.  It’s a new life for us, a new business to get off the ground, new friends to make, a time for new life experiences.

The kids are ready to start CP (first grade for Charlotte) and CM1 (fourth grade for Tristan).  To my great surprise, they told me that they’re tired of vacation, and they’re ready to get back to school!  It’s true that they’ve had a bit of an extended summer vacation this year to the tune of about three and a half months total.  I think they’re ready to meet some kids their own age.  It’s funny how kids don’t get worked up about things the way we adults do sometimes.   French school, American school, it’s all the same to them.

We plan to take a “trial walk” to the kids’ school today to see exactly how long it takes to get there by foot.  I’m thinking 15 minutes or so, and since we’ll be doing it 8 times a day, it should be good exercise!  In case you’re wondering why we’ll make the trip 8 times a day, it’s a round-trip in the morning to drop them off, then a round-trip to pick them up for lunch.  Add a round-trip to bring them back to school at 2:00, then another round trip to pick them up at 5:00.

Before leaving St. Louis, one of the students at the school where I taught read in the school newspaper that I would be moving in Béziers with my family.  He came to my office to tell me that he has a cousin who recently moved to Béziers (small world!) and that she and her husband own a bike shop here.  I plan to go meet them today, and maybe see if they can help me put my bike back together.  For now, we don’t have a car, so having our bikes would be pretty handy, and fun too!  It’s so liberating to live a simpler life, without the things we considered to be necessities back in St. Louis.  I love the idea of being able to get (almost) everything we need for daily living just by walking down the street.

P.S. Yesterday we ordered the mega-electricity-transformer that one of you so graciously took the time last spring to tell me about, and we received it only 24 hours later!  We can now vacuum and play on the Wii.  Life is good!

French bureaucracy… Hate to say it, but you told me so!


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Our container finally made it to Point B!

Ha, ha, ha…. Sometimes you just have to laugh!  How did I think it would be any different for us?  I guess it’s just one of those things that you hear about, but never believe it can happen to you.  Everyone I know who has moved here, and especially those who have written or blogged about their experience, has wished us good luck with the “French red tape”.  It’s basically a seemingly endless Catch 22.  I’m choosing to remain positive, and believe that by the end of August it will all be worked out.

For the moment we are living at my sister and brother-in-law’s house while they’re away on vacation, so it’s really nice to have some extra time  to finish up paperwork and get our apartment cleaned up and fixed up the way we want it.  As you can see in the picture below, it’s not such a bad place to be spending the month of August.  The only thing is that it is out in the countryside, and it’s not really possible to get a good Internet connection.  I’m so looking forward to getting the Internet set up at the apartment so that we can easily go there to get some work done.

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Here’s some exciting news!  A young English woman who is living in Barcelona teaching English and studying French and travel journalism at the same time found my blog and Love Learning French Facebook page, and she’ll be in Béziers this weekend.  She’s asked me to give her a few hours of immersion classes around and about town on Friday and Saturday.  I’m really, really looking forward to doing that, so fun!

Pictures of our apartment in Béziers


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Destination Béziers!


I’ve arrived in France!  La Belle France!  I’ve been in Paris for a few days, but as we speak I’m getting ready to head over to the Gare de Lyon to take the TGV down to Béziers.  I’ll spend a few days there with my sister-in-law and her family (can’t wait to see them!!), then I’ll head over to Montpellier to start my summer job.  I’m not sure if it will be today or tomorrow, but I will soon get to visit our apartment and meet M. et Mme Pascal (the owners).  After seeing it for myself, I’ll write another post and tell you all about it.  I know it’s going to be just perfect for us, and I have no problem seeing beyond imperfections.  It will be nice to get down to the South where I hope the weather is better than here in Paris.  For the sake of it being the first day of summer and “La Fête de la Musique”, I hope it will warm up a bit and not rain.  I really hope I will get to visit the apartment today, it’s so exciting!!

Moving day has arrived, and the container is here, but will it all fit?


20 Foot Container…We Need A Miracle to Make it all Fit!!

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This may look like a lot of stuff, but let me tell you, this is only the beginning!  As we carefully packed, bubble wrapped, shrink wrapped, numbered and inventoried every single item in our house, the total number of items came out to 203.  The sofa counts as 1 item just like a trashcan does, so you have to consider that.  It’s been one heck of a week trying to get all of this done by today, Friday.  François and I ended up going to bed at about 3:00 in the morning, deciding to wake up early  to finish up the rest before the movers would arrive.

1010452_10151640711113374_1425742124_nWhen the team of three movers arrived, they took one look at all, and first told us that it’s “the best wrapping we’ve ever seen.”  I asked if I could quote them 🙂  But then they told us that in their opinion there’s “no way that’s gonna fit in a 20-foot container, so you should start to consider what you would like to leave behind.”  What???  That’s not what they told us when we reserved this thing!  After about fifteen minutes of real stress, mostly from my sweetie, I went out and had a look at the container.  The thing is huge.  As of right now, the movers are still here and trying to load it all up.  I’ve decided to remain optimistic (is this a trend?) and believe it will all work out.  I’ll keep you posted, but for now I’m sitting here on my living room floor blogging away while I watch them try to fit the sofa through the front door.  This is the first time we’ve ever had movers do the work for us, and I would highly recommend it.  I can’t help thinking about when our container arrives in France and we have to unload it without a crew.  Every time I packed a box, I imagined that the next time I would see our things would be in our new apartment in Béziers.  By the way, we decided on the first apartment!!!  We listened to what all of you said, and took the plunge.

I’ll stop writing now so that I can go and see the progress, but for now, everyone repeat after us:

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“We believe it’s all going to fit!!”

Departure in 7 Days


Since I’m leaving in exactly one week, I was very happy to get my passport back over the weekend…. with a year long visa inside!  It’s such a relief to finally have it in my hands and not have to worry about that small detail.  Now I need to see about getting an Illinois driver’s license, even though I’m not a resident, so that I can exchange it for a French one.  France and Missouri don’t have an exchange deal, so if I can’t procure an Illinois license I’ll have to go to auto-école over there.  I am going to be positive and believe that luck will be on my side at the DMV, what do you think?

It’s worth noting that I’m the only one leaving in 7 days, and that’s because I have a job that will begin on June 25 in Montpellier.  My husband and kids will follow on July 3, and the container won’t leave St. Louis until June 21.

We’re still not sure about the apartment in Béziers.  My sister-in-law has been so sweet, going around to lots of different apartments to check them out for us.  She says that the problem with the first one she saw (the one from my previous post) is that a few of the rooms are really ugly, meaning that they are in desperate need of repainting.  The other bad thing is that it’s huge and it will cost a fortune to heat it in the winter.  I did find out that it has 13 foot ceilings and it’s 167 square meters (1800 square feet)!  I really love the idea of having that much space.  I’d be so happy to have both an office and a guest bedroom.  I keep going back to the fact that it’s in a good neighborhood and there are no agency fees or deposits to pay.  Also, they just went down on the rent by 100 €.    Anyway, I’ll be able to go and visit it myself next week to see what I think.