S1 – Ep. 10: On Our Bucket List: Living in France (Debbie and Sam)

Jun 14, 2019


Debbie and Sam reflect on two weeks of ex-pat life in the south of France. They studied intensively with a French teacher the first week; then explored on their own. Learning to speak French more fluently is on both of their bucket lists.


In this episode Debbie talks with Sam, her husband and gap year co-conspirator, about a longstanding bucket list item: to live in France for an extended period in order to practice and improve their French. Coincidentally, both have childhood ties to France. Debbie speaks semi fluently and Sam almost as well.

After two weeks in Avignon, they’re back in the U.S. where they sit down to make sense of the experience. Their first week they studied in an immersion program with an excellent young teacher, Julie Gaudin. Listen to the sounds of Avignon during their second week as they wander the pedestrian-only streets of this marvelous small city, sit in cafés, and shop at the famous covered market. They also took several excursions outside the city, which meant renting a car and figuring out where to park it.

They both agree you can’t become a true ex-pat in only two weeks but it’s enough time to adopt a daily routine and to make a friend or two at the local boulangerie and at a favorite bar serving artisanal beer. Despite their many trips to Paris and other parts of France, they continue to find French culture slightly mysterious. The solution? Go back and live in France for a year. That may or may not happen…


Photo: Debbie and Sam in the poppy fields outside Uzès.


Mentioned in this episode and/or useful links for visiting Avignon and Provence

  • Séjour linguistique means staying with a teacher (or prof) in their home for language immersion.
  • Pithiviers is a town south of France where Sam lived on a farm when he was 18. It was also the site of the infamous Pithiviers internment camp during the Second World War.
  • A list of French immersion programs via FrenchToday.com Note: in the episode Debbie mistakenly refers to the site as FranceToday.
  • Cheer Me Up, one of the cafés we frequented with Julie for our morning French lessons and where I interviewed Sam. Serving coffee and tiramisu, which means cheer me up in Italian.

  • L’Atelier de Belinda (wonderful! where we ate our last night)
  • Les Halles, the famed covered market in Avignon filled with magnificent displays of fish, meat, vegetables, fruit, cheese, olives, bread, lavendar honey, wine and more. Sam discovered “les bulots”: whelks or large snails best eaten alongside raw oysters and with a glass of white wine.
  • Quirky Cinéma Utopia in Avignon where we saw two French films on two rainy afternoons. Debbie insisted she got the gist of both films. At the end of the second one, Sam said, “Well, I know I understood the last sentence.”
  • Parking des Italiens just outside the ancient walls of Avignon (1,150 free parking spaces… AND the free navette shuttle bus we talk about.)

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