Category Archives: expat

Rugby – Vin – Féria


Some people complain about tourists.  I have a lot of Parisian friends and family, and they moan and groan about the tourists.  That’s kind of understandable, because Paris is a huge world capital, and there are always a lot of people out and about.  Down here in Béziers it’s a little different because when there are no tourists, you don’t tend to see many people.  For about a month we’ve been seeing more and more people in the streets, restaurants, and cafés.  That’s partially due to the amazing weather we’ve been having most of the time, and partially due to the mostly Northern European tourists who think that it’s delightful to take a dip in the Mediterranean when the water is only 19 ° (66° F).  If you’re from Northern Europe, tell me if it’s true  that you love the “plages naturistes“.

Tourists bring vitality this region, and it’s what the economy here thrives upon!  16 years ago, when we lived here for one year after getting married, someone told me that there are 3 passions in Béziers:  le rugby, le vin, et la féria!  I see now how true that is, and I think that this passion draws tourists to the region.  It’s what drew me here summer after summer, until we finally decided to move here last year.  Back in St. Louis, summer was definitely not my favorite season.  It was too hot to even get outside.  Here, even in the summer there’s often a slight sea breeze, and there’s no humidity to speak of.  I love to go and sit at the pub across the street and drink a cold beer while the kids ride their bikes and scooters on the big square.  I don’t even feel like we need to leave here to go on vacation this year….. but don’t worry, I won’t let that stop us!  Until then, I have to say that I LOVE MY JOB, and giving French immersion tours and French lessons in the region this summer is going to be so much fun.

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What’s it like for English speaking children to go to French school?


I’ve been inspired to write this post by a message I received a few days ago from a reader who is planning a move to France in about 18 months.  She has three small children, and is desperate for information from experienced families who have already made the transition.  In this particular family, nobody speaks French for the time being, though they’re very interested in starting to learn before making the move.

While searching school options in France, there are a few options…

For those who have the financial means, the desire to do so, and the possibility of living in or near a large city with lots of expats, there are exclusive international and bilingual schools.  I don’t have any experience with these kinds of establishments, so I can’t really comment as to whether I would send my children there.  I have known American families who have come to France for work, and their companies have paid for schooling for the children.  Everyone I know in this situation seems to have had a positive experience, but the kids didn’t necessarily go back to the States fully bilingual.  I’m assuming that’s because many of their classes were taught in English, most of their friends spoke English, and the parents didn’t learn French to the point where they were speaking it at home with the kids.

A much more economical solution, and the most “natural” in my opinion, is to send your children to French school.  Public or private, this particular option seems like the most frightening, especially for parents, but it is the most efficient way of immersing your family into French culture and learning the language.  Now, it’s true that before moving to France last summer, our children were already bilingual (we’d always made a special effort to speak only in French at home while living in the U.S., and their dad is French).  However, when we got married sixteen years ago, we did spend almost a year living in Béziers.  At that time, my eldest son (who is now almost 23!) was only 7, and he didn’t speak a lick of French when we put him in French school.  He was fully bilingual (using the subjunctive correctly and everything) by January 1.  Enrolling your children in French school is a way to help them integrate, find friends in the community, and it’s also an excellent means by which your family can befriend other families in the area.

Depending on where your’e coming from, French “private” schools (and by that, I mostly mean Catholic schools) are a lot less expensive than you may be expecting.  I’m saying that from an American point of view, but all I can say is that in St. Louis, we were paying almost $800 per MONTH for two children to attend a parochial school (yes, it’s a great school, but come on).  Here in France, the equivalent costs us 114€ per month for two children.

Here’s a question I have for anyone reading this post who may have a response, because I personally don’t know, and I haven’t heard any of my anglophone friends here in France mention it.  Are there FLE (français langue étrangère) resources for non-native speakers in public French schools, like the ESL resources provided in American public schools?  I’ll see if anyone has any knowledge on that topic, and I’ll also ask around here in town to see what kind of response I can find.

I’d be very curious to hear input on this topic.  Feel free to share your opinion:  public, private, bilingual?  Reasons why?

Baby it’s cold outside!


I feel like such a wimp saying this, but it’s freezing out there!  What I mean is that it’s 5 C / 41 F, so feel free to put me in my place if you come from some place where it’s colder .  My husband came back from the Friday Market this morning and told me people were saying it had snowed in Bédarieux, about half an hour away from here.  Come to find out, there was a light frost.

That said, I’ll stick to my guns and say that the nice weather was definitely one of the attractions to this small little corner in the South of France, with average temperatures still remaining quite moderate.

If you’re thinking of moving to the Languedoc region, or if you’ve already relocated and are living here, I’m curious to know what your main reasons are/were for making the move.  Since we came over all the way from the US, some of our reasons may not be the same as yours.  Weather really had nothing to do with it for us ;-).

Feeling right at home in Béziers


Girolles!

What a lovely way to start the day…..

Last Friday, as usual, François and I headed over to the “Marché du Vendredi” after dropping the kids off at school.  It’s a weekly pleasure, going to the market with a list of things we must have to create all of the wonderful little dishes we’ve dreamed up to prepare for our little family, and always coming home with twice as much as we planned.

This time, we came home with more than we expected!  As we stood in line at the butcher, trying to decide on a veal or pork roast, we were greeted in English by a beaming lady from Blog Land!  She asked us if we were American, then introduced herself and her husband.  They’re from New York, and have owned a place here for about ten years.  Just about two years ago, they moved here with their daughter (who happens to be Charlotte’s age!!).  She’s heard about my blog (!) from a friend who also lives here.  Since there’s a big picture of both of us on the main page, she recognized us at the market.  Talk about a small world!

I’m so looking forward to getting together with Ellen and Will for coffee sometime soon, and to meeting more people around and about Béziers. I’ve been toying with the idea of getting together a monthly meeting, at a café or something, for any other anglophones living around here to get to know each other.

Le Marché du Vendredi


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I love, love, love Fridays in Béziers.  Friday is market day!  There are many markets that take place every week, but the one on Friday is the largest, and it’s practically downstairs from where we live.  For the last few weeks, since the kids have been back in school, we have been enjoying going to the market to find something delicious to prepare for our family to eat together at lunch.  Today, we chose “loup de mer”, which is sea bass, or sea perch…I’m not really sure what the difference is!  To go with that, we steamed some little potatoes, then served them with butter and parsley.  We also made a little mixture of seasonal vegetables, eggplant, bell pepper, and zucchini.  Then we ate cheese.  Oui, la vie est belle!

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!