Transcript for Episode 445: France Bootcamp 2023 Report

Category: Toulouse Area

[00:00:00] Annie: This is join us in France, episode 445, quatre-cent quarante-cinq.

[00:00:22] Annie: Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France, everyday life in France, great places to visit in France, French culture, history, gastronomy and news related to travel to France.

Today on the podcast

[00:00:37] Annie: If you are new to the podcast, first of all, welcome to you, but today is going to be a very different format than usual.

[00:00:44] Annie: I have been working on what I called the France Bootcamp for several months. And it finally happened and ended a few days ago.

[00:00:54] Annie: In this episode you’ll hear from several of the 38 bootcamp members. I had many more volunteers, but unfortunately there wasn’t time to talk to everyone. Perhaps I could record a trip report for the ones who feel frustrated, just reach out to me and I’m always looking for great trip reports.

[00:01:11] Annie: The sound quality is not as good as what I normally put out there. But Cristian Cotovan is on the job, he’s working hard to make it sound as good as possible.

[00:01:21] Annie: My only option, unfortunately, was to record on the bus because the bootcamp kept on moving.

[00:01:27] Annie: There will not be a magazine part of the podcast today because this episode is going to be very, very long.

Next week on the podcast

[00:01:33] Annie: But I’ll be back next week with a regular trip report about a trip that took my guest Mark Adams on a trip between Perpignan and Marseille, and we discuss the best attractions between those two beautiful cities.

Podcast supporters

[00:01:47] Annie: This podcast is made possible through the supportive listeners who purchase my tours and services. You can see them at and also from my Patreon supporters. And if you’d like to support either me or Elyse on Patreon, go and thank you very much.


Annie and Elyse

[00:02:17] Annie: Bonjour Elyse. Bonjour Annie.

[00:02:20] Annie: Yeah, she has recovered a little bit. I’m still so tired that I do stupid things. We want to tell you about the bootcamp. It was fantastic. We got to meet so many wonderful listeners. For instance, we had a diplomat,

[00:02:36] Annie: we had a dancer, we had a sculptor, we had a couple of engineers. We had some accountants.

[00:02:43] Elyse: We had some accountants. We had an opera singer.

[00:02:45] Annie: We had an opera singer. A couple of tour guides. Yes. For other places, obviously. We had a children’s book editor.

[00:02:54] Elyse: How do you like that? Amazing.

[00:02:56] Elyse: We had a brewery owner.

[00:02:58] Annie: Yes.

[00:02:58] Annie: We have several retirees that clearly did not want to talk about their past lives.

[00:03:04] Elyse: But were having a very good time in this one.

[00:03:06] Annie: Yes.

[00:03:06] Annie: We had an executive for a software company.

[00:03:11] Elyse: We had professional guitar player.

[00:03:13] Annie: Anyway, and I’m sure we missed a few, but we had wonderful people at this bootcamp. It has been lovely, lovely meeting you. And we are now discussing possibly doing another one. We made some phone calls this morning to see what other places we could visit. And decide on some dates perhaps and things like that.

[00:03:34] Annie: But overall, Elyse, what did you think?

[00:03:37] Elyse: Honestly, I think it was a remarkable and really wonderful experience. And I have to say that, you know, that from the beginning I kept thinking you were crazy to have a group of 40 people, and I was so worried about it.

[00:03:53] Elyse: And of course well, we had 38 or whatever, 37, but it was wonderful. Everybody was nice. Everybody was interesting. It was a very varied group. It was wonderful to have people from all over the United States, plus a few people from other places like Australia, and Canada, and England.

[00:04:12] Elyse: And it went very well.

[00:04:14] Elyse: And I was very happy. I was very exhausted, I have to say really. But I really, really was so happy by the end of the week. So there you are.

Morning school times

[00:04:25] Annie: Yeah, we called it a bootcamp because we knew it was going to be demanding. I mean, several hours of class in the morning at a very good school. Everybody was very happy with the school. But I let them tell you about it because next you’ll hear interviews with a lot of the attendees. You’ll hear it from the horse’s mouth.

[00:04:41] Annie: And the school was demanding and then they had to hurry through lunch and meet us at the bus and off we go to visit something. And then Elyse guided us through a lot of these places and did an amazing job. But it was a very, very full week.

A very full Bootcamp week

[00:04:59] Elyse: A very full, a very full week. I think one of the things that probably will make it a memorable experience for everybody is that it was such a rich week. It was rich, not only did they have their French classes at different levels and they were talking about them, they were clearly very interested in what they were doing.

[00:05:17] Elyse: But each day we did something a little bit different, and it was varied and I hope it was varied enough that everybody was really excited by everything we did. And it was, I think, a really rich, rich program. I have to say too, that the first two days were tiring, but afterwards, by the time it came to the end of the week, it was like, oh my gosh, it’s over.

[00:05:39] Elyse: It just went by like that.

[00:05:42] Annie: It did go very fast. Some days I wasn’t sure what day it was. Anyway, we had a grand time. I am so grateful that we had no major mishap or even minor mishap. I mean, a couple of people contracted Covid along the way, but thankfully, they were vaccinated and you know, I mean, massive headache and feeling unwell obviously, but nothing too concerning.

[00:06:10] Elyse: And we had no accidents. Touch wood.

[00:06:13] Annie: No accidents. Nobody got robbed.

[00:06:15] Elyse: Nobody got robbed. We had no problems of that kind. We actually did really well with the transportation, getting to and from places. Everybody was pretty much on time and very respectful of the whole thing. It was really very nice.

[00:06:29] Annie: I was very impressed with that, that nobody in the group kept us waiting forever, anywhere we went. Now it was definitely an excellent event. And now I’m going to let you listen to what several of the boot campers had to say.

[00:06:45] Annie: This is going to be an extra long episode, but I think you’ll learn about how it went and if you are interested in joining a future bootcamp, I’m not ready to announce yet, but I will do it again.

[00:06:58] Annie: With Elyse, obviously. We’re working on dates. I think next time I’m not going to announce quite so many details as early as I did last year, because people kept saying, oh, but you said we would do this. And I had to explain every time, yes, well, things happen. Remember, we were hoping to do trains, which turned out to be a very good thing that we didn’t try to do trains.

[00:07:23] Annie: You cannot do trains for a big group like that. You know, I learned a lot, I learned a lot.

[00:07:29] Annie: And we tried places. I was impressed with the service we got in some of the places. I thought the others weren’t trying very hard. There’s stuff that you learn. But overall, it went so well and I think people had a great time hanging with us at this bootcamp, even if we were also very tired.

[00:07:49] Elyse: Yeah. Everyone was so nice and it seemed as though everyone was really having a good time.

[00:07:55] Elyse: And I hope that’s the case. I really do. I think that people made friends and we discovered a lot of things about a lots of people. They were all interesting. Every single person that came in the group was really interesting to talk to. So all in all, I think it was a really rich experience.

[00:08:12] Annie: Right, because normally when you go on a bus vacation kind of thing, style, you know, tour group thing, well you don’t know any of the people. You may or may not get along with them. But in this instance, they are all fans of the podcast, they are all francophiles. They all want to learn French. They all want to get to know the Southwest of France.

[00:08:33] Annie: So they had a lot in common and it was really easy to get along.I’m sure some of these people have made lifelong friends and that is absolutely wonderful.

[00:08:43] Annie: So thank you again for coming on the bootcamp.

[00:08:45] Annie: Elyse, thank you for doing the bootcamp.

[00:08:48] Elyse: Thank you Annie, for having me collaborate with you on it because honestly, it was a really rich experience preparing it with you and sharing ideas and doing it.

[00:08:59] Elyse: It really was.

[00:09:00] Annie: So now I’ll let the boot campers themselves tell you how they were, how it went, and I will talk to you next week. And again, if you are interested in joining us on a bootcamp, upcoming boot camps, let’s put it this way. No dates to be announced yet. But I’ll announce soon. Send me an email. It’s either or

[00:09:25] Annie: Thank you very much.

[00:09:27] Elyse: You are quite welcome. And goodbye. And hello, everybody out there.

[00:09:31] Annie: Hello, bootcampers and future bootcampers. Future Bootcampers.

Beth Robinson

[00:09:44] Beth Robinson: Bonjour

[00:09:44] Annie: Bonjour

[00:09:45] Annie: Why don’t you introduce yourself a little bit so everybody gets to know you a little better?

[00:09:50] Beth Robinson: Yes. My name is Beth Robinson. My husband and I are from Denver, Colorado, and we love France. We love visiting France as often as we can.

[00:10:00] Annie: Have you enjoyed coming to France many times?

[00:10:03] Beth Robinson: Yes. I would say, I more than my husband, but at least a half a dozen times.

[00:10:09] Beth Robinson: And we try to explore all different parts of the country and learn about its history and its people and most importantly the food.

[00:10:16] Annie: Well, you don’t look like somebody who eats that much food. You’re both quite trim.

[00:10:20] Annie: Well you have to walk it off. You walk all day.That’s true. All right. We’ve only spent a few days together, but how’s it been so far for you?

[00:10:27] Beth Robinson: This has been a wonderful trip. We had never thought of coming to Toulouse on our own, individually, and so the opportunity to come to this part of France has been awesome. And I will say, you know, we will travel, we’ll go to a city and we’ll immediately feel if we like it or we don’t like it. And of course, we love Paris, it’s fancy, sparkles. Yeah.

[00:10:50] Beth Robinson: But Toulouse kind of has this very warm, comfortable feeling about it. We really have enjoyed it. We can navigate, the people have been extraordinarily friendly. Cool. We have had shop owners who are like, let me practice my English. Come, come speak with me. We’ve gotten free cheese out of it.

[00:11:11] Beth Robinson: It’s been fantastic. So we’ve really enjoyed Toulouse and still want to explore more.

[00:11:17] Annie: Yeah. So are you signed up for the language classes? Yes. How’s that going?

[00:11:21] Beth Robinson: It’s fun. I know school should not be fun, but I actually really enjoy it. My husband and I both took French in High School and College.

[00:11:29] Beth Robinson: And that’s been over 25 years. So when we travel to France, we always say we’re going to prepare, we’re going to study. We break out our French vocab books and we try to prepare to come. And it isn’t until we leave on our trip that we’ve remembered the words and the phrases.

[00:11:48] Beth Robinson: This language camp has, or bootcamp has been wonderful to just immerse yourself in the language. The professor is fantastic. She’s fun. She makes it very interactive, so we feel like we take the French we learn that day and then we go speak it. That’s good fun.

[00:12:04] Beth Robinson: That’s great. That’s how it’s supposed to be.

[00:12:06] Annie: Yes. That’s how it’s supposed to be. That’s fun. Fantastic.

[00:12:09] Annie: What have you enjoyed so far in the bootcamp as far as the visits are concerned? What would you say was your favorite so far?

[00:12:14] Beth Robinson: I would have to say probably the first trip, which was to Albi. Because I think the size of that church was pretty exquisite.

[00:12:24] Beth Robinson: And I have to tell you, when Elyse describes the history and the story, it’s very engaging and you’re like, oh, now I understand. And what I loved about, I think the church in Albi the most was, you know, we think about people of the Middle Ages. They work hard, they’re probably religious, their life is a day-to-day event. But then when you looked in some of the paintings and you saw their humor and you could find the cat, and the dog, and the horse and all the little faces. It was nice to see a different side of…. They just like us.

[00:12:54] Annie: They were just like us.

[00:12:55] Beth Robinson: They don’t talk about their humor in the history books.

[00:12:58] Annie: That’s true. I mean, we don’t have a record of their sense of humor other than in the art.

[00:13:03] Annie: And when you tour a place like that with Elyse, she’ll point out some details that are just exquisite.

[00:13:09] Beth Robinson: Right. And those are details you can’t get when you travel by yourself.

[00:13:12] Annie: She gives a fantastic tour, I think. Yes.

[00:13:15] Annie: Have you liked the food so far? You say you love it. Have you gone out to any fancy restaurant or just basic stuff?

[00:13:21] Beth Robinson: Well, I did my research and I knew cassoulet was the dish of the region, so that was the first dish I had to have.

[00:13:28] Beth Robinson: We went to La Maison du Cassoulet. Yes. And it was deliciously warm and heavy.

[00:13:36] Annie: Heavy. Yes.

[00:13:37] Annie: You don’t leave the table hungry.

[00:13:39] Beth Robinson: Yes, but I can’t just have one. I feel like I now have to compare to make sure that I know where the best cassoulet is. So we have reservations on Friday at another restaurant known for its cassoulet, so I can try it again.

[00:13:54] Annie: Very nice. Very nice.

[00:13:55] Annie: You do your homework.

[00:13:56] Beth Robinson: Yes. And when we come to France, pastry is probably the number one food choice. So we have probably tried six or seven patisseries already.

[00:14:06] Beth Robinson: Nice. Because it’s breakfast, snack…

[00:14:09] Annie: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

[00:14:11] Beth Robinson: Every day. And oh, they’re good!

[00:14:13] Annie: Do you have a favorite pastry that if you see it, you buy it?

[00:14:16] Beth Robinson: You know, I love the Chouquettes.

[00:14:19] Beth Robinson: Pâte à choux is simple, but it’s just so light and tasty. I love it.

[00:14:25] Annie: Yes, yes, yes, yes. It’s fantastic.

[00:14:27] Annie: Anything you haven’t enjoyed so much on this trip?

[00:14:30] Beth Robinson: It’s just not having enough time. I want to be able to make the trip to the smaller cities and villages around the area, but then I also want to shop and eat more pastry in town.

[00:14:45] Annie: So perhaps if I do this again, we should schedule in a free afternoon or something at least? Yeah.

[00:14:51] Beth Robinson: And then the only other suggestion I think one more group lunch, you know, before we go on the travels. You know, we’ve gotten to know a few of the individuals.

[00:15:02] Beth Robinson: But sometimes it’s nice to Yeah. sit next to somebody new and hear each other’s stories and…

[00:15:07] Annie: Yeah. So the first day we had a kind of apero get together. Mm-hmm.

[00:15:12] Annie: Where there was some singing and some just carrying on, you know, and drinking and eating. But it still might have been nice to do another one without the singing and just sit and talk. Yeah. Be able to sit and talk more.

[00:15:25] Annie: Okay. That’s an excellent, yeah, that’s an excellent suggestion.

[00:15:29] Annie: Where are you guys staying?

[00:15:31] Beth Robinson: We are in an Airbnb. I don’t know, maybe three blocks from the school, so close.

[00:15:36] Beth Robinson: Yeah. Very nice, very spacious, lots of stairs. So that’s how we also get to eat more pastry, walking up and down the stairs.

[00:15:45] Beth Robinson: But it was a good find. Excellent. Yeah.

[00:15:47] Annie: All right.

[00:15:47] Annie: Anything else you want to share with us?

[00:15:49] Beth Robinson: Just come to Toulouse. It is a fabulous part of France. We’re really enjoying it.

[00:15:54] Annie: There’s enough here to do day trips in every which direction.

[00:15:57] Annie: I mean, we did a few, but, you know, we can’t in a week fit it all in.

[00:16:01] Beth Robinson: And I think next time we come, we’re going to bring our bikes. Yes. And I think there’s going to be some great cycling around the villages here.

[00:16:09] Annie: Or you could rent bikes. I mean, it’s fairly easy to rent bikes around here as well, you know?

[00:16:15] Annie: Thank you very much.

[00:16:16] Beth Robinson: Thank you, Annie.

[00:16:16] Beth Robinson: Merci. Merci.

Tamar Mays

[00:16:19] Annie: Bonjour.

[00:16:20] Annie: Bonjour. Ca va?

[00:16:21] Annie: Ca va tres bien, et toi?

[00:16:22] Annie: Tres bien aussi.

[00:16:24] Annie: Parfait.

[00:16:25] Annie: Could you introduce yourself just a little bit, please?

[00:16:27] Tamar Mays: I’m Tamar Mays, I live in the Northwest, I live in Norwalk, Connecticut, and I work in Manhattan, I’m a children’s book editor.

[00:16:35] Annie: Oh, are you? I didn’t know that. Fantastic. Wow. I’m telling you, we have the best people here.

[00:16:41] Tamar Mays: Oh yeah.

[00:16:42] Annie: So if you’re a children’s book editor, do you remove words or do you add words? Because I know editors remove a lot of words.

[00:16:48] Tamar Mays: This is such an interesting question. I’m an acquiring editor, so I will find a project I’m passionate about, take it to an acquisitions meeting and try to get it signed up internally. And then I have to make the deal with the author and the illustrator. And then I have to kind of really shape the project so that you know, there’s an arc and it reads well. So I do both.

[00:17:07] Annie: Yes. So have you read some kids books in French or not really?

[00:17:11] Tamar Mays: No, not really.

[00:17:12] Annie: Okay. Okay.

[00:17:13] Annie: There is one.

[00:17:14] Annie: I think it’s a German book originally.

[00:17:17] Annie: It’s called De la petite taupe qui voulait savoir qui lui avait fait sur la tête…. So it’s about the little, oh, what’s the taupe in English? It’s little critter that lives underground.

[00:17:27] Tamar Mays: Oh, like a mole?

[00:17:29] Annie: That’s right.

[00:17:30] Annie: It’s about the mole, who wanted to know who pooped on his head. And it is the best book. It is funny. It is adorable.

[00:17:38] Tamar Mays: So, so who, who did poop on his head?

[00:17:41] Annie: You know, I don’t remember the end. I never remember the end of books. But it doesn’t matter because he just goes around to all these things and he asks questions. And it’s a very good book for people who want to teach French to their kids, which is what I wanted to do. Because my kid was just learning English from English books.

[00:17:58] Annie: And so we had, that was her favorite in French.

[00:18:00] Tamar Mays: All right.

[00:18:02] Annie: Anyway.

[00:18:03] Annie: Alright, so how did the bootcamp go for you? How did the classes go for you? I want to hear about that.

[00:18:08] Tamar Mays: All right. Well, I think it, this is, I’m going to get all ver cle to use the Yiddish expression. It was fantastic. I mean, I really, it was, it’s such a life experience, honestly. I’m right up there. I think that everybody, I mean, I didn’t come because I wanted to meet people. It wasn’t like a goal or anything, it’s been extraordinary. Yeah. I mean, like the range of people, we all have sort of this baseline of this interest, right?

[00:18:36] Tamar Mays: Yes. That’s in common. But yet everybody is so interesting and so different. That’s just been like a joy.

[00:18:44] Annie: It’s a happy surprise.

[00:18:45] Tamar Mays: Yeah. And I think because, you know, most of us didn’t know each other, almost everyone, unless you’re a married couple, whatever. There’s this openness and this sort of really quick coming together that maybe, you know, hasn’t happened to me since I’ve been in college or something, you know what I mean?

[00:19:00] Tamar Mays: Like liking in a dorm for the first day.

[00:19:02] Annie: So normally you don’t travel in groups like this. You don’t do tour groups.

[00:19:06] Tamar Mays: No, not at all. Not normally my thing.

[00:19:08] Tamar Mays: And the classes were really good.

[00:19:12] Tamar Mays: As you know, and thank you for helping me. On the first day I felt like the class was a little bit too easy when she outlined what she was going to be studying and the school wasn’t very flexible.

[00:19:21] Tamar Mays: They were a little bit rigid.

[00:19:23] Tamar Mays: Yeah. But we made it work. And I got into this other class and it was brilliant. And I have to say, so having experienced two different teachers, the teachers couldn’t be better. I mean, they were just so enthusiastic and positive and fun. And the coursework was really fun.

[00:19:41] Tamar Mays: It was engaging. We had exercises that were terrific. And I also, I think it varied, from class to class, whether you were with mostly people from the bootcamp or whether you, your class had a lot of other people. Our class was maybe 30% bootcamp and 70% other people. So, you know, I really cherished those connections too.

[00:20:02] Tamar Mays: You know, there was this very dry-witted doctor from the Orkney Islands way in the North of Scotland, and there was a really cool 20 year old called Birgitte from Austria.

[00:20:14] Tamar Mays: And loved the teacher as well. It was brilliant.

[00:20:16] Annie: Yeah. So the fall at the beginning was because they have this charter that they cannot have more than 14 students per group. They really need to stick to that because that’s what people are paying for.

[00:20:28] Annie: But they do give you an exam before you arrive, but perhaps that exam doesn’t quite reflect what your real level is.

[00:20:36] Annie: And so that’s, you know, some people test better than others. Some people are very good at writing and can’t talk.

[00:20:43] Tamar Mays: I think, you know, in my case, at the beginning, they had a certain written test and I took it right away. Because I thought somehow that I had to take it the minute I signed up for the bootcamp. And if, you know, if there’s an option, I would suggest everyone in the future wait till right before they… You know?

[00:20:58] Tamar Mays: Then later on they had an online test. And after I’d been doing a lot of study and when I spoke to the administrator, Yarina, she said she’d received it, but I don’t think she had. So I think that I, my placement was based on the one that I did when I was completely rusty back when I signed up before I had been studying for six months.

[00:21:19] Annie: Yes, yes, yes.

[00:21:21] Annie: You know, live and learn. That is one thing that I would have to tell people, is just don’t take the test so fast. I think people are just eager beaver, you know, they want to get going with this project and so they, okay, give me the test…

[00:21:32] Tamar Mays: I actually misunderstood. I didn’t really understand that the language school was completely separate from the rest of the bootcamp, and I thought that to get my slot, I had to turn in both at the same time.

[00:21:42] Annie: Oh, I see. Okay. Okay. That’s a good thing to know, to make that extremely clear that yes, the school is completely separate from the afternoon activities.

[00:21:50] Annie: As a matter of fact, we, I just met with them once and I said, yep, it looked like a nice school.

[00:21:55] Annie: I mean, it’s a basic classroom, the classrooms are not lavish or anything, but it’s okay.

[00:21:59] Annie: It works. And I was very pleased to hear and not very surprised because people who teach French are usually, you know, they’re excited to do what they’re doing and they are very well trained to do.

[00:22:10] Tamar Mays: They were fantastic. And they had, I thought that they had great technique.

[00:22:14] Tamar Mays: And they had us in small group work and they had just really interesting exercises.

[00:22:19] Annie: So what was your favorite activity that we did in the afternoon? Do you have a favorite?

[00:22:23] Tamar Mays: I think I liked, I really liked everything. I mean, yeah, everything. I really liked the Toulouse experience. Yeah.

[00:22:31] Annie: This was your first time around here, right?

[00:22:33] Tamar Mays: Yeah. And the Toulouse Lautrec Museum.

[00:22:36] Annie: Yes. That’s in Albi, yeah.

[00:22:37] Tamar Mays: Yeah, in Albi. But I liked everything. I thought it was all fantastic. I liked the Victor Hugo market very much. Yeah.

[00:22:43] Annie: The food market is fun.

[00:22:44] Annie: So do you have advice for people who are considering doing this in the future? What should they consider and think about, plan on, whatever?

[00:22:52] Tamar Mays: Well, I mean, I would say definitely go for it. I think that one of my takeaways was that all of the accommodation, you know, you had a list of suggested places. It all worked out really well. I think it was harder for people that were maybe a little further away, but the city center is so central and it was really close to the school, really close to The Place de la Capitole.

[00:23:15] Tamar Mays: And I really just loved the town. It was so easy to feel comfortable and so walkable. My hotel was next to, around the corner from Place St Georges. A lovely scene.

[00:23:25] Tamar Mays: The last night when we were coming back from wherever, there were people tango dancing in the middle of the square.

[00:23:30] Tamar Mays: It’s lovely, you know? So I just loved how walkable it was and how quickly I felt really at home, like I kind of knew my way around.

[00:23:37] Annie: Yeah, it’s not a very big city, and the city center is very walkable, very easy.

[00:23:42] Annie: You had a lot of meals on your own, you didn’t find any difficult to find, you know, your places to eat and whatever?

[00:23:49] Tamar Mays: No, and I mean, I guess that’s one thing I would say is like, if you have your heart set on Michelin Star, yeah, you should book. Or different places like that. But if you just want to take it easy and see what you feel like at the end of the day and walk around and find a place, you’re not going to go hungry.

[00:24:03] Tamar Mays: There’s no way you’re going to go hungry.

[00:24:05] Annie: Yeah, and I think also, if you want to go out with a big group, because you made friends, perhaps you want to go out for dinner. Okay, perhaps then it would be better to book. But maybe two, three days in advance is enough. You don’t need like a, you know, two months ahead of time.

[00:24:20] Tamar Mays: Right, right, right, Okay.

[00:24:21] Annie: Thank you very much, Tamar.

France Bootcamp 2023, Tamar
Tamar and a cheese vendor

Kim Loftus

[00:24:24] Annie: Bonjour Kim. Bonjour Annie. So to introduce yourself briefly so people know. You’ve been on the podcast before, but let’s introduce you briefly.

[00:24:33] Kim Loftus: Okay. Kim Loftus and I’m from Michigan. And I follow Join Us in France for at least five years, I think. Because we first planned a big trip to France in 2019, and I know I was listening in 2018, and so it’s been very helpful. And then a year ago you did a trip review for our 2022 trip. That was fabulous.

[00:24:57] Annie: Yep.

[00:24:57] Annie: And you’re into Joan of Arc. Did you find any Joan of Arc around Toulouse?

[00:25:02] Kim Loftus: Well there’s Place Jean d’Arc with a wonderful sculpture. And in a little boutique with vintage clothing, I was browsing in a little treasure box and there was a medal, Joan of Arc and the shopkeeper gave it to me.

[00:25:19] Kim Loftus: Very special experience.

[00:25:22] Annie: That’s great. That’s great.

[00:25:23] Annie: So how has the bootcamp been for you so far?

[00:25:26] Kim Loftus: It’s wonderful.

[00:25:27] Kim Loftus: I took French in high school and college. I’m sure I was very advanced. I don’t even remember because that’s such a long time ago. But with family and career, let it all go. And then when the Covid arrived, it became like a perfect online learning opportunity and so revived all that.

[00:25:46] Kim Loftus: And then when you offered this opportunity to go to class and experience travel in an area I’d never been to before with others who are probably like-minded, it was a perfect blend.

[00:26:00] Kim Loftus: And that’s exactly what we experienced.

[00:26:02] Kim Loftus: I was very nervous that the school would be more intense because it’s like, I just want to pick it up for fun. I don’t want to do a written test or anything. But they actually gave us a certificate this week, which I totally geeked about because I didn’t have to do anything too strenuous for it.

[00:26:17] Annie: No, that’s good that they give you at least something to certify that, yeah, you did this. It’s great!

[00:26:21] Kim Loftus: Yes. And I did learn a lot. It is amazing. The instructor, Charlotte, was great. And the class, we were all well matched up with our level and so morning was, it was a great use of morning. We had a little break and then could come on an excursion with you. But sometimes we just needed to slow down and lay low in town and do a few things, but not too much.

[00:26:46] Annie: Which excursions did you enjoy particularly?

[00:26:49] Kim Loftus: Well, the tours with Elyse in Toulouse were fabulous. And then I went on Foix.

[00:26:55] Annie: Yeah.

[00:26:56] Kim Loftus: That was great. And today, I’m really excited about Carcassonne.

[00:27:00] Annie: That’s great. That’s great.

[00:27:02] Annie: So anything that you can think we could do to improve the experience of the bootcamp?

[00:27:07] Kim Loftus: Well, there were five of us who were talking and we ended up all, one of the great thing was that you connected us all really early on WhatsApp, and people started talking about being in Paris before or after. And so some of us broke off and had a conversation about being in Paris before, and then we even arranged a meeting on Zoom with you and Elyse and Patricia and Jennifer to answer questions so we could plan that out.

[00:27:33] Kim Loftus: Well, and I think, I don’t know how you would do it, but I think connecting people early, if we had all connected even earlier, maybe we would’ve been able to rent a larger Airbnb and stayed together, college dorms or something because that we all had really, I think, have made new lifelong friends.

[00:27:51] Kim Loftus: This has just been a enriching opportunity in many levels, and that was one, and we were all like, oh, wouldn’t it have been so much more fun if we could have spent more time together instead of having to go our separate ways every night?

[00:28:05] Annie: Yeah. This is an interesting experience because, of course, since you all have the podcast in common, it’s self-selecting. You found here people who are kind of like you, they like the podcast, they like France. They probably have the same kind of level of education and we have fabulous professionals in lots of different fields.

[00:28:24] Annie: It’s really interesting. It’s a really interesting group, I think.

[00:28:26] Kim Loftus: Yes, I agree. And it’s just fun that we’ve all connected because of the podcast. So, like I said, very like-minded, but we are from all over the United States and some even in other countries.

[00:28:38] Annie: So these are people you wouldn’t have met otherwise.

[00:28:40] Annie: And this always happens, in travel. You always meet interesting people, but since you have more in common, you might stay in touch with them longer. I would guess.

[00:28:49] Kim Loftus: Well, Nancy’s all about us planning a future trip. Every day, has a new idea about how we could do it.

[00:28:56] Annie: Yeah. Today she’s not here, right? She’s not feeling good. Yeah.

[00:28:59] Annie: But she’s a

[00:29:00] Annie: person that brings people around her.

[00:29:02] Kim Loftus: And that’s I think that’s what’s great. I tend to be more quiet and observant. And Nancy’s the, like the center of everything.

[00:29:10] Annie: Yeah, yeah. She’s the glue.

[00:29:12] Annie: How have you liked Toulouse? Was this your first time around Toulouse?

[00:29:14] Kim Loftus: Yes. I’ve never been south of the Loire Valley. So Toulouse was very appealing to come to on a lot of levels. So I like Toulouse. It’s a bigger city, like my other favorite city would be Orleans, which I think is smaller. But Toulouse is bigger. But yet by being in the city center, it feels small. And being in the school, we met other people, like another American young woman and her husband are in Toulouse for a year and she’s attending the school.

[00:29:44] Kim Loftus: And hearing their experience and how much they love Toulouse and how accessible everything is from Toulouse. So they’ve been traveling a lot.

[00:29:52] Annie: Yeah.

[00:29:53] Annie: It’s a good city to explore a lot of different places. I think it’s a good choice for people. I mean, most people who listen to the podcast go to Paris a lot. I think several people have told me this is their first time not going to Paris on a trip.

[00:30:08] Annie: So they come to France and they sometimes venture out of Paris a little bit, but they always do a week in Paris.

[00:30:14] Annie: And this time they decided, no, we’re just going to Toulouse.

[00:30:18] Kim Loftus: Well, and for many of us, flying from the US to Paris is the most economical. I would say that the one thing I would’ve, early on I think you thought this would be more feasible, is that there would be more group travel by train. And I’ve never rode a train and I’m very intimidated by that.

[00:30:36] Kim Loftus: I’m kind of a, I like to know where I’m going kind of person, but I would say that would be a benefit in the future is, even like, hey, be in Paris on this day and we’ll all travel by train on this day. You can still buy your own ticket and everything, but someone who will be at the station to sort of get you going on the whole thing and even on regional trains, like how do you do that?

[00:30:58] Kim Loftus: I’m not, I have great fear of messing everything up.

[00:31:01] Annie: You didn’t mess anything up. So we have some people who are taking the train. Like last night, there’s a strike of course, because you know, we have strikes. And they had to change their train, but they were supposed to leave at like, I think it was very early, it was like 6:15. That train got canceled.

[00:31:20] Annie: They got notification from the app. I told them, go to the train station immediately, because the other times will fill up. And they were put on a later train. So they’re, they’re now leaving at 10:45 or something, instead. So, you know, they’re still leaving the same day, whatever. But that’s a really good suggestion to just come down together.

[00:31:40] Annie: This week there is also work being done on the tracks. And so normally you, when you come to Toulouse from Paris, you start from Montparnasse and you go down to Bordeaux and then over to Toulouse.

[00:31:54] Annie: But this week, most of those trains were canceled because of construction on the rails. Everybody had to go all the way around to Lyon and then Montpellier, and then Narbonne and Toulouse.

[00:32:07] Annie: And we couldn’t have predicted that, there’s no way. And the strikes, of course, it’s SNCF. There’s always strikes. But yes, I do take the suggestion to, to do the trip from Paris as a group. And perhaps we could do some of the excursions on the train.

[00:32:21] Annie: You know what I mean? Some of them are fairly easy to do on the train, so do some by bus, and one or two on the train. That way you get to experience the train station. That’s something to think about.

[00:32:31] Kim Loftus: Yeah, because I think France has a much better transportation system than the US and that’s, you know, I live in Michigan, home of the automobile, so everybody drives. I mean I’ve just found like walking the little more than 10 minutes from my hotel to the school so pleasant. And it always amazes me how many people are walking down the street because that is not what I see in my community or in the cities that I work in or shop in or whatever, everyone drives. Navigating a system you’re not familiar with, I mean, if you’re from New York, it’s familiar, but not from the Midwest.

[00:33:08] Annie: Right, right. And America’s a big place. Lots of listeners all over the country.

[00:33:13] Annie: So did you like the food?

[00:33:14] Kim Loftus: Well, you know, I have so many food allergies that I have to navigate that a little bit different. And what I did was I had a apartment hotel Citadines. And so I had a little kitchenette which I really appreciated because instead of every meal trying to figure out what I can eat or not eat, I bought a dozen eggs and I love ham here, so I could just make my own breakfast, snacks, even dinner sometimes that I appreciate the grocery stores here have like single serve, like a hamburger patty or salmon or something. And I was able to cook it myself. But when I did eat out, it was great.

[00:33:52] Kim Loftus: People were, I mean, I can sit down and talk with someone and they’ll just not be accommodating and I move on. But I think I only had that once.

[00:34:01] Annie: Very good.

[00:34:01] Annie: Thank you so much.

[00:34:02] Kim Loftus: Thank you.

[00:34:03] Annie: It’s been lovely getting to know you in person.

[00:34:05] Kim Loftus: Yes, thank you Annie.

Aric Dreesen

[00:34:06] Annie: Bonjour Aric.

[00:34:08] Aric: Bonjour.

[00:34:08] Aric: I would love for you to introduce yourself a little bit, please.

[00:34:11] Aric: We’ll see if we’ll try my French pronunciation since I took a week of French.

[00:34:16] Annie: Je m’appelle Aric.

[00:34:26] Annie: Oui.

[00:34:26] Aric: Yeah.

[00:34:27] Annie: And you are Emmitt’s dad.

[00:34:29] Aric: That’s correct.

[00:34:30] Annie: Yes. One of the younger couples in the group.

[00:34:33] Aric: Yes.

[00:34:33] Annie: So tell us how this week has gone for you.

[00:34:36] Annie: It’s been a fabulous week. I enjoyed seeing France for my first time, seeing all of the scenery and the different visits that we’ve had throughout the week, it’s been a great exposure for me to my first time to France.

[00:34:51] Annie: That’s great. Yes. When we met the first day, Eric and Wendy said, oh, it’s our first time in France. And so I sat with them. I was like, okay, I’ll better explain some, a little more help here might be needed. Because almost everybody, I think you’re the only ones who were here for the first time.

[00:35:06] Annie: I think that is true. Yes. Yeah. We were the only ones that were here, most other people here in the bootcamp have been here before.

[00:35:12] Annie: And you hadn’t taken French either.

[00:35:14] Aric: No. Just a little bit of Duolingo. And some words but no French at all. So it was very helpful to sit with you for our first meal because I just stared at the board and tried to look at the menu and figure out what I was going to order.

[00:35:28] Annie: And we were very privileged to see Emmitt eat his very first salad.

[00:35:32] Aric: Yes, that’s right. He’s tall, thin, so not a big lettuce eater.

[00:35:38] Annie: Yes, yes. But he must have been hungry. He was like, I’ll eat everything on this plate because I’m hungry.

[00:35:45] Aric: He enjoyed it. The sausage first, fresh sausage from Toulouse. And enjoyed his first French meal there.

[00:35:51] Annie: Yes. I’ve really enjoyed meeting your family. You guys are amazing.

[00:35:54] Aric: The market was very nice that was a really good first visit too.

[00:35:57] Annie: You liked that?

[00:35:58] Annie: Well, because you get to see the different varieties of foods.

[00:36:02] Annie: We don’t have markets like that exactly. There’s some in LA that have the open air market for Los Angeles, for instance. Yeah. But you don’t get to see the meats and the produce right there and then you go good to eat.

[00:36:15] Annie: Yeah. So we visited the covered market in Toulouse right above there are restaurants. So it was, there was a cheese tasting as well, so it was a pretty basic cheese tasting. Next time I’ll try for more elaborate cheese tasting. I thought this was a bit, uh, okay.

[00:36:30] Aric: Okay. I wouldn’t know the difference.

[00:36:31] Annie: I mean the guy was very friendly, but I would like him for a little more in-depth kind of …

[00:36:37] Annie: But that’s okay. I’ll discuss with him.

[00:36:40] Annie: So, anything that you wish you had known before you came, or any advice you have for other people who might want to take this tour?

[00:36:48] Annie: Yeah. I guess my advice is if they’re going to do the Langue Onze School, is to probably do a little bit of Duolingo. Or some sort of YouTube video or something just to hear the words.

[00:37:01] Annie: Because it’s definitely an immersion class, which I guess I didn’t know.

[00:37:06] Annie: And so I definitely felt like you’re going into a pool, drowning in water, and you’re trying to ask for questions, but you can’t speak.

[00:37:15] Annie: I have blank stares, but finding other people in the classroom that they had that same experience, that had a higher learning than me, it was helpful.

[00:37:23] Annie: Yeah. Because it’s fight or flight type of experience.

[00:37:27] Annie: Yeah. For the very beginners it is, I mean, you must have had headaches at the end of the day.

[00:37:31] Aric: I actually did. Yeah. Yeah. I tried to stay away from the coffee.

[00:37:34] Aric: I enjoy the coffee here, but I didn’t take the coffee in the morning because yeah, it was giving me the headache.

[00:37:39] Annie: it’s demanding and this is a language class.

[00:37:42] Annie: I mean, they train people to really learn the language. They’re not there to just amuse you. It’s not like a Duolingo game that you just want to get ding, ding, ding or whatever. This is real people, they want to teach you the language. And so it’s demanding.

[00:37:57] Annie: But the teacher?

[00:37:58] Aric: She’s full of energy. She tried to force us to ask questions in French, but I think so many of us were new, she gave up on that pretty quickly. And so she bent the rules a little bit to allow us to ask questions in English.

[00:38:13] Aric: What I really liked about it was that I didn’t feel afraid to try to speak in French. Yes. And felt confident even though I wasn’t even anywhere close, that she just let that, just go with it. Yeah. L and salt. I got those confused. And I am I b.

[00:38:30] Annie: Yeah. It’s okay. You have to go through that when you learn a language, that’s just how it is, you know?

[00:38:34] Annie: Do you speak any other language besides English?

[00:38:36] Annie: I picked up a little bit of Spanish. We live in Nuevo Mexico, so we’re very close to Mexico. A lot of Spanish speaking people there. Yeah. So a lot of Spanish language for that, we hear a lot.

[00:38:48] Annie: I took some German also in college.

[00:38:50] Annie: What did you think about the visits? The afternoon visits?

[00:38:53] Aric: Great visits. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:38:55] Aric: The visits have been unbelievable. The Foix Chateau and Castle, and then Carcassonne that we saw just now was fabulous and beautiful weather. I mean, you couldn’t have asked for better weather.

[00:39:06] Aric: So my advice is coming this time of year end of May, June, it’s getting a little warm.

[00:39:12] Annie: It’s going to get warmer, yeah.

[00:39:14] Annie: Yeah,

[00:39:14] Aric: It’s been great. We actually had a little bit of rain, but from New Mexico, I wouldn’t have considered that rain.

[00:39:19] Aric: Do you have a lot of rain in New Mexico?

[00:39:21] Aric: It comes in very short stints.

[00:39:23] Aric: So it was just like in Foix. It will rain for a little bit and then stop.

[00:39:27] Annie: Very good. So do you think you’ll come back to France?

[00:39:30] Aric: I’d like to, yeah. This was also a very good first time exposure, hearing everybody going to stay in Paris. Very friendly, even in the streets where you’re walking down, pardon, excusez-moi.

[00:39:43] Aric: And even when you try to order something from the menu in French, they give you a little leeway and go, okay.

[00:39:50] Aric: Do you speak English instead?

[00:39:51] Aric: That’s okay.

[00:39:52] Annie: Fair enough. You know, Yes I do speak English.

[00:39:55] Aric: Yes, yes. I’ll order it English please.

[00:39:57] Aric: Or order a t-shirt or whatever I’m ordering.

[00:39:59] Aric: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, you had to buy some clothes, right?

[00:40:01] Aric: I did, yeah. My flight out, I lost luggage and I think in Madrid, got inspected by customs somehow, and didn’t arrive for three days later.

[00:40:11] Aric: So I had to go buy some French clothes, which now I have some souvenirs to take home.

[00:40:15] Annie: That’s right. You have a lovely shirt, a flowery shirt.

[00:40:18] Aric: That’s right. It’s very French.

[00:40:19] Aric: I noticed everybody seems to wear this type of fleur de lys type of shirt.

[00:40:24] Annie: Yeah. We like the flowers. Even the men here wear flowers. You’ve noticed, huh?

[00:40:27] Annie: I did.

[00:40:28] Annie: Alright. Thank you so much, Aric. You’re welcome. Okay.

[00:40:30] Aric: Merci Beaucoup.

Emmitt Dreesen

[00:40:32] Annie: Bonjour Emmitt.

[00:40:34] Annie: Bonjour.

[00:40:35] Annie: Is that how you say your name, Emmitt?

[00:40:38] Annie: Yes. So tell us about you, tell us where you’re from, your age?

[00:40:42] Emmitt Dreesen: I’m from Los Alamos, New Mexico, which is about 45 minute drive north of Santa Fe. I am 14.

[00:40:50] Annie: Wow. You’re very, you look very youthful. You’re, he’s the youngest member of the bootcamp.

[00:40:56] Emmitt Dreesen: Yeah. So my parents wanted to do this and they want to take me along because they wanted to do it.

[00:41:02] Annie: And you’re family, so you do things together.

[00:41:05] Annie: You’ve been here for a few days, what has it been like for you?

[00:41:08] Emmitt Dreesen: It’s been alright.

[00:41:10] Emmitt Dreesen: All of us have been trying to talk French and then people that we’re trying to talk to, just switch to English, because we’re very new to French.

[00:41:17] Emmitt Dreesen: So it, it’s been great. The couple of days that we’ve been in France, it’s been pretty good.

[00:41:23] Annie: Yeah. You signed up for the classes with Langue Onze you are in the beginner level, right?

[00:41:29] Emmitt Dreesen: Right.

[00:41:30] Emmitt Dreesen: The A1 level. The classes are good.

[00:41:32] Emmitt Dreesen: The only thing I have to say is it’s a little long, because there’s two sessions. The first one is two hours and 15 minutes. Second one is 90 minutes and you only get a 15 minute break in between. So for me it’s a little long because it’s like three hours. Three hours and 15 minutes of class straight. But almost straight, you get a 15 minute break in between the two hours and 15. So yeah, it’s a bit long.

[00:42:00] Annie: And you are the only person in your age group, right?

[00:42:02] Annie: Right, right.

[00:42:03] Annie: Yeah. So this is a class designed for adults and I mean, you’re almost an adult, but not quite.

[00:42:09] Annie: All right. So what have you thought about this bootcamp? What have you enjoyed most since we got here? We’re not quite done, but what have you enjoyed the most so far?

[00:42:18] Emmitt Dreesen: So far the thing that I enjoyed the most was the Cathedral of Sainte-Cecile in Albi, which we went to on Tuesday.

[00:42:25] Annie: Yeah.

[00:42:26] Annie: Why was, why does it stand out in your mind?

[00:42:29] Emmitt Dreesen: It’s just such an amazing cathedral. It’s not like a normal cathedral.

[00:42:34] Emmitt Dreesen: Basically has like multiple world-first titles like, it has the world’s largest, completely painted church.

[00:42:41] Emmitt Dreesen: It’s 18000 meters of paint on it. No, 18000 square meters of paint. Yeah. So, it’s a really magnificent cathedral.

[00:42:51] Annie: It is really beautiful. It’s very stunning. And also the stark contrast between the exterior, which is very simple, very plain, and then this inside that’s so elaborate, so, you know, beautifully painted and all that.

[00:43:05] Emmitt Dreesen: Right. The most elaborate thing on the outside is the entrance to the cathedral has this like ornate archways with a force for the entrance. It’s a very cool entrance, and it’s the most ornate thing on the outside. And then when you go inside, it’s amazing. It’s like 160 meters long, which is like, I don’t know, like 300 feet or something. Yeah.

[00:43:25] Annie: Unfortunately you can’t take in the entire length because inside there’s a rude screen. Not rude as in impolite, but it’s like screen, so it’s like this wall that’s a little bit tall that divides the church exactly in half. Yeah. And it’s where the choir is, and they don’t want people to see them. So unfortunately, you can’t take in the magnificence of its length, full length. What have you thought of the food here?

[00:43:50] Emmitt Dreesen: Oh, the food is amazing here. Last night for dinner, we actually went to, what’s it called? The restaurant was called Prima Dova, I think, or something like that. It was in this very small square near our hotel. It’s called Place de la Bourse. Oh yes, Plaza,

[00:44:08] Emmitt Dreesen: Yes, it’s a very nice restaurant and the food there was amazing. All the other food that we’ve had is amazing, even like the to-go food is really good. Even stuff that you get from grocery stores is very good.

[00:44:20] Emmitt Dreesen: Unlike back in the US, if you get stuff from a grocery store, it’s usually not, not the greatest food in the world, so…

[00:44:27] Annie: Well you know what, it’s the same here, it’s not as good as other stuff, but it is… French people are very picky about their food. So, you know, it’s about, it’s a cut above overall, I guess.

[00:44:39] Emmitt Dreesen: It’s a very fresh where, I mean, if you get stuff from a grocery store back home where we live, it’s like you don’t know how old it is, how long it’s been since it’s been transported. I don’t know, it could be a month, could be a week, you never know. Some things there are already expired. Not good.

[00:44:56] Annie: So what is it like hanging with a group of adults, all adults around you is, have they been nice to you?

[00:45:02] Annie: Yeah.

[00:45:05] Annie: Are you used to being around adults anyway?

[00:45:07] Emmitt Dreesen: Yeah. I mean, that’s how school kind of is. You’re getting taught by an adult for seven hours a day, so I’m kind of used to it already.

[00:45:15] Annie: So is there anything you have not enjoyed very much about your time here so far?

[00:45:19] Emmitt Dreesen: Not here, but the plane was not great, getting here was not great. Agreed. Yeah.

[00:45:25] Emmitt Dreesen: When we got here, it was actually my first time throwing up after a plane ride. When we got to Madrid, I threw up, like almost as we were about to exit the gate, probably the food on the plane and the descent was also pretty worst part about my trip.

[00:45:40] Annie: You’ve traveled quite a bit with your parents, right?

[00:45:41] Emmitt Dreesen: So we’ve already done two international trips already. We went to England when I was in like fourth grade. Then we went to Italy last summer. But both of those times travel was long, it’s like a full day of flying, but I didn’t throw up after the flight, so…

[00:45:57] Annie: You told me when we got here that you still haven’t decided what language you’re going to learn. You were hesitant between perhaps French and German. What do you think now?

[00:46:06] Emmitt Dreesen: Okay, so for my language, if the school will accept the certificate I got as like proof that I took the class and I don’t know, put me in the next level, then I’ll take French. If not, then I’ll probably do German. Because like with the French, they give you certificates, so I’m hoping that might bump me up for a level when I sign up for language next year.

[00:46:26] Annie: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:46:27] Annie: So we’re recording in the bus on our way to Foix, so you might hear some bus sounds, so I apologize, but this is called the bootcamp because it keeps moving and there’s not a lot of time where we just sit and do nothing.

[00:46:40] Annie: Has it been too much activity for you, just right?

[00:46:43] Emmitt Dreesen: I think it’s just right. I wish I had a little bit more time to shop, like around Toulouse, because there’s a couple things I wanted to get here, but we just don’t have the time because for lunch we get 45 minutes and then by the time we get back all the shops are closed, while all the restaurants are opening.

[00:47:00] Annie: Yeah, I think tomorrow we’re going to Airbus and I think we will have to leave Airbus at six because that’s when they close. So you’ll might make it into the city. And Airbus is very close to Toulouse, so you might be into the city by 6:30 and most stores don’t close to till 7:30. So you might get an hour of shopping tomorrow night.

[00:47:19] Emmitt Dreesen: Maybe. We’ll see.

[00:47:20] Annie: All right. Anything else you want to tell us about this trip?

[00:47:23] Emmitt Dreesen: No. No.

[00:47:24] Emmitt Dreesen: Thank you very much, Emmitt. You’re welcome.

Maxine Schmitz

[00:47:27] Annie: Bonjour Maxine.

[00:47:29] Maxine Schmitz: Bonjour.

[00:47:30] Maxine Schmitz: Why don’t you introduce yourself a little bit?

[00:47:32] Maxine Schmitz: My name is Maxine Schmidtz. I live in Spokane, Washington on the Eastern side of the state of Washington, and I’m actually over on the Pacific side of the United States.

[00:47:43] Annie: Lovely. And you come to France often, don’t you?

[00:47:46] Maxine Schmitz: I’ve been here about five times.

[00:47:48] Annie: Mm-hmm. Well, it’s a lot. Right?

[00:47:51] Maxine Schmitz: Well, that’s over a course of about 50 years. I studied in Paris after I graduated from college, and then I brought my daughter over. She was an art major, so she got a tour of all the major museums in Continental Europe. And then another time we spent the time in the British Isles and then in Greece and Turkey.

[00:48:11] Maxine Schmitz: And then I’ve been here a couple of other times, for other reasons.

[00:48:15] Annie: Cool.

[00:48:15] Annie: Why did you choose to come on this tour?

[00:48:17] Maxine Schmitz: I wanted to treat myself to a retirement present, and I had been listening to your podcast for three or four years, and had listened to all of them and they certainly made my dog walking more enjoyable. And I was able to put a pre-trip on as a trip to Spain. I never wanted to really study up and plan my own trip to Spain, so this one ended me up in Barcelona just in time to make it to Toulouse to do the bootcamp.

[00:48:48] Annie: That’s wonderful.

[00:48:48] Annie: And you are taking the classes?

[00:48:50] Annie: Yes. How’s that going?

[00:48:52] Maxine Schmitz: Fine. I spent about five months pre-learning French. I bought a bunch of used textbooks and taught myself a lot.

[00:49:01] Maxine Schmitz: The classes are fun. We didn’t know what to expect. They’re a little challenging. We have a whole bunch of students from a whole bunch of different other countries, but we’re learning something. And we’re having fun. And we play some fun games.

[00:49:14] Annie: What level are you learning at?

[00:49:16] Maxine Schmitz: I’m at B1A.

[00:49:18] Annie: Oh, okay. So pretty good. Yeah, pretty good. You’re getting up there.

[00:49:23] Maxine Schmitz: Well, I’m not very fluent. I can read a lot and I’m getting better at writing, but you just don’t have any excuse to speak French in Spokane.

[00:49:31] Annie: Yeah. Yeah. That’s true.

[00:49:32] Annie: What have you liked about this bootcamp?

[00:49:35] Maxine Schmitz: Well, the city of Toulouse is gorgeous. It’s real easy to get around. The city center is real compact. I’m geographically and directionally challenged, and I haven’t gotten lost once.

[00:49:46] Annie: That’s good.

[00:49:47] Maxine Schmitz: I mean, I had a GPS on my phone and a good map, but the city has beautiful brown and white signs that points you into every major area that you want to go to. Yeah.

[00:49:57] Maxine Schmitz: And so, even though it’s a rabbit stone of streets that go two blocks one way and then an angle this way, you can’t get lost.

[00:50:05] Annie: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

[00:50:07] Annie: So you’ve liked the city of Toulouse.

[00:50:08] Maxine Schmitz: I love the city and there’s enough historical sites to see, so you can get some historical sites, some museums, few churches then just walk around and look at the people.

[00:50:18] Annie: That’s very cool.

[00:50:19] Annie: Is there something, one of the activities that we’ve done that you’ve liked especially much?

[00:50:24] Maxine Schmitz: I was really pleased to go to Albi. I’ve been there two or three times more.

[00:50:28] Maxine Schmitz: I have to go visit a couple of my friends at the Toulouse Lautrec Museum. But I have been to that cathedral three times and could not remember a darn thing about it. And now after Elyse’s presentation, I will be able to describe that cathedral and remember it forever because it’s a very unique cathedral, but if you don’t understand why it’s unique, then it’s not going to stick with you. I just remember the last time I was there, we spent about two hours in it, but I didn’t understand what I was really looking at.

[00:50:59] Annie: Yeah, elyse gives a great tour, there’s no question. Both of you have been fantastic. Well, thank you. Thank you.

[00:51:05] Annie: So is there something you didn’t particularly enjoy so far?

[00:51:09] Annie: Like something that didn’t suit you or whatever?

[00:51:11] Maxine Schmitz: No, because if you didn’t like something, you could opt out. If you wanted something extravagant, we ate at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Not something I knew was on my bucket list, but now it’s checked off. It was delicious, and the presentation was phenomenal.

[00:51:28] Maxine Schmitz: I love street markets. I taste carrots in every country I visit. We had fresh strawberries and asparagus was really interesting. And then to go to the meat and cheese and fish market is always fun to look and see how stuff is sold in some other country besides your own.

[00:51:46] Annie: Any advice you can give me about how to do this, if I ever do this again? What should I do differently?

[00:51:52] Maxine Schmitz: I would separate the days a little bit with the outside excursions of maybe doing a short one and then a long one, and not have two long ones in a row.

[00:52:02] Annie: Yeah. It is taxing. I mean, that’s why I called it a bootcamp because I knew it was going to be a lot. Right.

[00:52:08] Maxine Schmitz: But people can still opt in and out. Yes. There was still plenty of free time.

[00:52:12] Maxine Schmitz: And for the most part, the stores are open really late. If you really wanted to go shopping you could get it in maybe not every night when we get back at seven or eight o’clock.

[00:52:22] Annie: Yeah. I think tonight is going to be a late return because where we’re going is further away. So when we leave at six, or you know, shortly after six, we don’t get back to Toulouse till probably eight. So that’s kind of a late return.

[00:52:37] Maxine Schmitz: Well, and if you don’t leave the city until two, managing a bus around the city can sometimes be pretty hectic. But no, everything flowed nicely, and the flexibility to opt in or out has been really good. Flexibility to decide where you want to eat. There’s all sorts of options, and or you can just stumble on them yourself.

[00:52:58] Annie:

[00:52:58] Annie: So what’s your favorite French food?

[00:53:00] Annie: The cheese.

[00:53:01] Annie: The cheese. Did you? So we went to cheese tasting, have you gone back to several cheese shops?

[00:53:09] Maxine Schmitz: No, I just stick with the nice soft cheese with all the skin on the outside of it and smash it onto bread and it sort of melts into the bread and…

[00:53:18] Annie: Yum, yum, yum.

[00:53:19] Maxine Schmitz: Just tastes good.

[00:53:21] Annie: Wonderful. Well thank you so much Maxine.

[00:53:23] Annie: Do you have anything else you want to add?

[00:53:25] Maxine Schmitz: Oh, I would just say that Toulouse also has a wide variety of accommodations, and I chose a residence hotel not knowing exactly what it was, but it looked funky and interesting. And I’ve had a one bedroom apartment with a full bathroom, a kitchen that had a microwave, a tubular stove and nice fridge that keeps things cool. Dining room table, four chairs and the bed. And it’s been really neat. So I could, we could have potlucks at somebody’s residence hotel, and everyone would bring all of our stuff. Yeah, if we wanted to eat in for some reason, or you want to make your own breakfast. You were right there.

[00:54:02] Annie: Yeah. You met some cool people on this tour, right?

[00:54:04] Annie: Right. Yeah. Really cool people.

[00:54:07] Annie: Because you came by yourself, right? You didn’t know anybody else.

[00:54:09] Maxine Schmitz: Well,a bunch of us had gotten together when you posted the list of people who were coming, and we started contacting each other. And we had some Zoom meetings together and stuff, and we just discussed how are we going to get to Toulouse, how are we going to get back to Paris? What type of hotels were we looking for? So there was kind of a community of us that shared and then met them in person.

[00:54:31] Annie: I think you’ve made some good friends here. You might go on another trip with them or something. Merci beaucoup, Maxine.

[00:54:38] Maxine Schmitz: Oh, merci beaucoup, Annie.

France Bootcamp 2023, Maxine visiting Airbus
Maxine visiting Airbus

Maree Roberts

[00:54:39] Maree Roberts: Bonjour.

[00:54:41] Maree Roberts: Bonjour Annie.

[00:54:42] Maree Roberts: I’m Marie, I’m with my husband David. We’re here at the bootcamp. We’re Australians, living in France for 12 months.

[00:54:50] Annie: Yes. So they’ve been here for quite a while and you live just a little North of Toulouse, right?

[00:54:55] Maree Roberts: Yeah. We live in the lot, which is about an hour north of Toulouse.

[00:54:58] Annie: Yes, and you have been here for already eight months or something.

[00:55:02] Annie: So how has the language class been for you? Because you speak some French?

[00:55:07] Maree Roberts: Yeah.

[00:55:07] Maree Roberts: I joke that David has seven words of French, and now after his week at bootcamp, he probably has 10 and he’s so proud of himself. But it has been fantastic for me.

[00:55:17] Maree Roberts: I had schoolgirl French and my next significant birthday is 70, so it’s been a long time. In the village I’ve learned, and negotiating life in France, I’ve learned some conversational French, but I’d forgotten all the rules and why you spoke a certain way. And I think I’ve lived in present tense also for eight months, it’s been wonderful to learn. I can actually speak about the past.

[00:55:42] Annie: That’s very good.

[00:55:43] Annie: So what motivated you to come to the bootcamp? I mean, you just wanted to, or?

[00:55:47] Maree Roberts: In preparing to come and live in France, the podcasts were amazing. And I had, and there’s so many about Southwest, so I knew of the work that you’d done. I guess I wanted an opportunity to spend time with a whole bunch of francophiles and extend myself linguistically.

[00:56:04] Maree Roberts: But also, I think the expertise that Elyse brings, even though we’d been to Toulouse, we’d been to Albi, we’d been to Carcassonne, all the places that the bootcamp goes, but to see it through her eyes has been truly amazing.

[00:56:19] Annie: Yeah, she gives a wonderful tour.

[00:56:21] Maree Roberts: She does give a wonderful tour.

[00:56:23] Maree Roberts: So the language school mixed with her expertise, was just too hard to go past.

[00:56:29] Annie: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:56:29] Annie: So you knew Toulouse already, right?

[00:56:32] Annie: This was not new to you?

[00:56:33] Maree Roberts: Toulouse is where we come to do our major shopping, to IKEA and all those big places.

[00:56:37] Maree Roberts: Ah, IKEA, yes, yes, yes, yes, Wonderful place that it is, yes.

[00:56:43] Maree Roberts: But I’d never, the two or three days we spent walking with her were just such eye-openers to me, we hadn’t spent any time in the historical part of Toulouse.

[00:56:53] Annie: Oh, that’s wonderful.

[00:56:53] Annie: The food is good, you like it?

[00:56:55] Maree Roberts: Adored the food. We actually spoiled ourselves one night with some people from bootcamp and did a Michelin-starred restaurant.

[00:57:02] Annie: Which one?

[00:57:04] Maree Roberts: It was called Le Jardin de L’opera?

[00:57:07] Annie: Le Jardin de L’opera. Yes. Yes.

[00:57:10] Maree Roberts: But we also did cheap and cheerful. That was fabulous quality food. I think when they have such a food culture, even the cheap and cheerful are… they’re fantastic.

[00:57:20] Annie: Yeah. It’s not near as pretty, I mean, the starred restaurants really serve you beautiful food. Like, it’s beautiful as well as tasty. So that’s, that’s just a different level.

[00:57:30] Maree Roberts: But Elyse was, she gave us lots of recommendations of where to eat and you know, for whatever your budget was for that time. So a group of us got together and went, let’s spoil ourselves. Let’s treat ourselves, because we worked very hard this week. It’s called a bootcamp for a reason.

[00:57:47] Annie: That’s where I wanted to go next is what do you recommend people be aware of and perhaps things that if we do this again, should be things we should change, do differently?

[00:57:56] Maree Roberts: The days were really long and, but I don’t know how you would get around that except to make either the class, or the excursion shorter and you don’t want to do either of those things. So by the end of every, I think my advice to people considering it would be, make sure you’re in good health and that you’re energetic and you come at it not exhausted and ready to walk kilometers and kilometers, and you’ve got the energy to get through the day that you plan yourself to do that.

[00:58:26] Annie: I think the oldest person we have on this tour is late seventies, perhaps early eighties.

[00:58:33] Annie: So we, I mean, we’re not all spring chickens.

[00:58:35] Maree Roberts: No, that’s right.

[00:58:37] Maree Roberts: But the age group, I think that’s what’s great about the group. Emmitt’s fourteen.

[00:58:41] Annie: Yes.

[00:58:41] Maree Roberts: And everything in between, like people in their thirties, forties, fifties. I think

[00:58:46] Maree Roberts: every age group is…

[00:58:47] Annie: Represented. Yes, yes, yes. And it seems to me like everybody has had a good time. Like, you know, everybody seems to be happy-go-lucky.

[00:58:55] Maree Roberts: Well, I think the size of the group is important too. It’s a big group, and so people have been able to find their crowd.

[00:59:02] Maree Roberts: And so the foodies have got together, and the really expert French speakers have got together. I think that’s been exceptional.

[00:59:09] Maree Roberts: Smaller groups, sometimes you actually find yourself as a fish out of water. Yeah. But here, everybody’s found their little groups and that’s been fantastic.

[00:59:18] Annie: Yeah, the weather has helped as well, it’s not been too hot.

[00:59:21] Maree Roberts: No, it’s been great.

[00:59:22] Annie: All right. Well, thank you so much, Maree.

[00:59:24] Maree Roberts: It’s been a pleasure. Merci.

France Bootcamp 2023 Participants relaxing during the bootcamp
Left to right: Maree, Jonathan, Maxine, David

Louise Rudnicki

[00:59:26] Annie: Hello.

[00:59:28] Louise Rudnicki: Hello, Annie.

[00:59:29] Annie: Introduce yourself, please.

[00:59:31] Louise Rudnicki: My name is Louise Rudnicki and I am from England originally, and I’m currently living in the Seattle area with my husband, who’s also English and on the trip with me and our three boys.

[00:59:46] Annie: One of the tall guys.

[00:59:48] Louise Rudnicki: Yes, he is. Comes in handy sometimes.

[00:59:50] Annie: Yes.

[00:59:51] Annie: Yes.

[00:59:52] Annie: I often call for a tall person around my house. Tall person, come over here, need something.

[00:59:58] Annie: Anyway, so how has this bootcamp been for you?

[01:00:01] Louise Rudnicki: It’s been really quite fabulous. I have never been on a tour with even five people before. So coming on a tour with 40 people is… yeah,

[01:00:12] Louise Rudnicki: it was big step. We were open minded and it’s actually been really very good. I mean, I think the thing that has made it for us was the fact that everybody knows you through the podcast. Obviously, there’s a sort of a common interest. And so I think that was one thread.

[01:00:29] Louise Rudnicki: And then the second thread is, there’s a common interest in the French language and culture and so I think that’s really, you know, we didn’t have this icebreaker to get sort of through and connect with people.

[01:00:41] Louise Rudnicki: We just had to remember the names, which has been a challenge.

[01:00:44] Annie: Yes, it is a challenge. It’s a lot of people. Yeah.

[01:00:46] Louise Rudnicki: But outside of that, I felt we had a real connection early on, so that was great.

[01:00:50] Annie: Yeah. Yeah.

[01:00:51] Annie: And we’ve had good weather.

[01:00:53] Annie: And you are attending the school as well, how’s that going?

[01:00:57] Louise Rudnicki: The school has been really good. I sort of really just realized what an immersion means after a week in class when you walk into the school and the teacher will speak zero English from that point on until the end of class. It has been a real immersion, but really a challenge I think is what I was looking for. And it’s been a challenge, I think for many, but a challenge in a good way, not a bad way. And it’s given me some motivation to continue looking for some classes at home or close to home.

[01:01:30] Annie: That’s good.

[01:01:31] Annie: Which afternoon activity will have you enjoyed the most? Like, which one did you think was great?

[01:01:36] Louise Rudnicki: Well, I think I really enjoyed the sing along the first day. Annie had arranged a sort of a sing along and some drinks and appetizers with her and her family and her brother, who is an excellent pianist and her niece, who is a excellent singer.

[01:01:54] Louise Rudnicki: So we got to do a sing along on the first evening, which was a good, again, a good icebreaker with her. So that was fabulous. But I’m really looking forward to Carcassonne. I’ve been to Carcassonne one time before, and I’m looking forward to Elyse’s commentary. And she’s just been fabulous. There is nothing she doesn’t know about this area, at least, especially Toulouse.

[01:02:18] Annie: Yeah. And she has the kind of the broad view of the historical shenanigans over time.

[01:02:24] Annie: You know, because lots has happened around here, obviously.

[01:02:27] Annie: I mean, you’re from England, so this is not news to you that lots has happened before us. We think, oh, here we are. Yeah, it’s all new, but no, no, there’s been a lot before.

[01:02:36] Annie: Yeah.

[01:02:37] Annie: So how have you liked the food, the area, toulouse? Was this your first time in Toulouse?

[01:02:42] Louise Rudnicki: This was actually our second time. But the first time we came, we were, we had about a half a day we had driven down. We were staying in the Ariege with some friends. But we haven’t really explored the city, and I think what’s real, I would’ve been very surprised, frankly, how large it is. I guess it’s the fourth largest city in France. And just how much there is to offer in Toulouse. I’ve only learned that through Elyse and the walking tour. Very nice area if anybody wants to come and visit. And the weather, I guess it’s been unseasonably rainy up until now, but it’s starting to really pick up and it’s just very green.

[01:03:24] Louise Rudnicki: And very close to the Pyrénées, which is also a nice trip.

[01:03:28] Louise Rudnicki: And in terms of the restaurants, the food has been excellent. We’ve not actually, there’s only two of us traveling together, so we didn’t reserve any restaurants. We just showed up and said, do you have availability? And for the most part, they were able to accommodate.

[01:03:45] Annie: Yeah. Yeah. That’s wonderful.

[01:03:47] Louise Rudnicki: But if you’re in a larger group, I would suggest that you, especially post-Covid. Right?

[01:03:51] Annie: More than four, you probably ought to reserve in advance because most of the restaurants around here are very small.

[01:03:58] Annie: They can’t seat 300 people.

[01:04:00] Annie: So any kind of advice you could give to other people who are considering doing this? What should they be aware of?

[01:04:06] Louise Rudnicki: I think just be aware that, you know, this is Europe and things change on a dime. You can plan as much as you can plan, but there are going to be things that are going to happen where, yeah. And I think that’s normal.

[01:04:21] Louise Rudnicki: You know, like the bathroom might not work or, I don’t know, the door handle might be broken in your apartment or whatever it might be.

[01:04:28] Louise Rudnicki: The stuff that as a, you know, living in America, we expect it to sort of be, everything needs to be at a certain standard maybe. So stuff happens.

[01:04:37] Louise Rudnicki: I think just being prepared for that. And I think in a big group like this, just try to just get to know a few people. It’s been that’s part of it, it’s been really good just getting to know a few people on that you wouldn’t normally speak to from all, all walks of life and across the countries.

[01:04:51] Louise Rudnicki: The only one thing I would say was, I would’ve liked to have had a little time to reflect on the classwork after we’d done the lesson, come back, review my notes, and study a little bit so that I was ready and fresh for the next day.

[01:05:09] Annie: Yeah, so we did a lot. You haven’t had that much downtime.

[01:05:13] Annie: I mean, some people didn’t participate in all the activities, which is fine. You know, there’s no obligation to come to everything, but yes, a little bit more downtime would be ideal, I think.

[01:05:23] Louise Rudnicki: Yeah. Yeah. Just a little.

[01:05:25] Louise Rudnicki: But overall we’ve had a great experience. We’ll definitely do it again. And now the weather’s really picking up, so that’s even…

[01:05:32] Annie: It’s been cool, but in a way it’s easier when you’re touring, you know, to put a jacket on rather than be like dying of heat. So I think today we might get very warm.

[01:05:42] Louise Rudnicki: Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s 80 today. 80 plus.

[01:05:45] Annie: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It’s the first really hot day we’re going to have this spring.

[01:05:50] Annie: I look forward to it.

[01:05:51] Annie: Thank you very much.

[01:05:53] Louise Rudnicki: You are welcome. Thank you.

[01:05:54] Annie: And I’d loved getting to know you and your husband. You guys are lovely people.

[01:05:58] Louise Rudnicki: Thank you.

France Bootcamp 2023, Louise

Kelly Moore

[01:05:59] Annie: Bonjour.

[01:06:00] Annie: Bonjour Annie.

[01:06:02] Annie: How about you introduce yourself, please?

[01:06:04] Kelly Moore: My name is Kelly Moore and I’m from Los Angeles, California.

[01:06:07] Annie: Los Angeles. And she’s wearing the podcast t-shirt. I love it.

[01:06:12] Annie: What made you decide to come on this bootcamp?

[01:06:15] Kelly Moore: Well, when I heard about it, I immediately signed up because I’ve been waiting for something like this, and an excuse to practice my French for a week.

[01:06:23] Annie: So do you normally go in group tours in your normal vacations?

[01:06:28] Kelly Moore: No, I don’t. I normally go by myself. Or with my husband.

[01:06:31] Annie: Yes, Yeah, he was here as well.

[01:06:33] Annie: So has this been a difficult adjustment or has it worked out?

[01:06:37] Kelly Moore: No, it’s been wonderful and I loved studying at the Langue Onze. It was, I felt young again, like I was in twenties because when I was about 21 I studied for a couple of weeks in Paris.

[01:06:50] Kelly Moore: But I enjoyed this more and I appreciated the learning more.

[01:06:53] Annie: Wonderful. Yeah, I think the school did a good job.

[01:06:56] Kelly Moore: They did. Our teacher was wonderful.

[01:06:58] Annie: I think some people said, oh, the facilities were not ideal, which is probably true.

[01:07:02] Kelly Moore: Well, we never expect to have air conditioning in classrooms.

[01:07:05] Annie: Yeah. That’s, yeah…

[01:07:07] Kelly Moore: It was a little bit warm, but you just go with it.

[01:07:09] Annie: Yeah. Yeah.

[01:07:09] Annie: That’s how it goes. So is there something you particularly enjoyed about this bootcamp? The places we’ve visited, or anything that will be memorable for you?

[01:07:17] Kelly Moore: Well, as far as navigating the town of Toulouse, that City Mapper app is phenomenal. It’s just superb. You can get anywhere with confidence and so you don’t have the stress. So thank you for making us all download the City Mapper app.

[01:07:34] Annie: Yes, it works very well. It works very well in Paris as well, in other cities, but in Toulouse it’s very good. I mean, I don’t use it in Toulouse, because obviously I know Toulouse, but if you don’t know the city, it’s a very good way to go.

[01:07:45] Kelly Moore: So, as far to answer your question, we love the Airbus Tour. I had been on the Boeing tour in Washington. And this tour was much better than that. Oh yeah. It was, it was wonderful. And our tour guide was fabulous.

[01:07:59] Kelly Moore: Yes. He was he was good.

[01:08:00] Annie: I wish they had shown us more stuff, but of course you know, that’s just how it goes.

[01:08:05] Kelly Moore: Well, that’s what someone else said who was an engineer, but I would, my eyes would’ve been glazing over if he had gotten into the technical details.

[01:08:13] Kelly Moore: I thought it was great and I love just spending time in the city of Toulouse. You know, it is very much like a small Paris.

[01:08:19] Kelly Moore: Yes.

[01:08:19] Kelly Moore: Only everyone is much friendlier. The French is easier to understand because they speak slower. They will speak French, they will respond in French. Where you don’t find that in Paris. That part, I’d love to spend more time in Toulouse, but we didn’t get to go into the Capitol building, which I hear is beautiful.

[01:08:37] Annie: It’s very nice as well. Yeah. And if we do this again, I think we need to plan on a visit of the the Capitol building.

[01:08:45] Annie: It’s a beautiful place. And it’s a place where you do weddings, so that’s why you can’t go all the time.

[01:08:49] Kelly Moore: They have events there, so sometimes they’re closed, they don’t have a set schedule.

[01:08:53] Annie: Exactly.

[01:08:53] Annie: So sometimes you just go, ah, oh, well, closed. But I think I know how to do this next time to make sure that we get in.

[01:09:01] Annie: So what would you say to people who are considering doing this? What should they be aware of?

[01:09:06] Kelly Moore: Well, I was concerned that we’d have to be speaking French all the time, and I was very nervous, so I was brushing up on my Pimsler. It’s been very comfortable and we received a lot of help from you and Elyse. We feel very, very comfortable and supported, so I wouldn’t have any hesitation.

[01:09:26] Annie: And, you know, I think you met some nice people as well. We

[01:09:28] Annie: And that’s what I miss about not having the group tours. And also this bus. The buses are such a good idea. They’re very comfortable. I feel great.

[01:09:38] Annie: We were planning on doing train, but train is a lot more demanding.

[01:09:43] Kelly Moore: I’m so glad we have to have this wonderful bus. It’s very luxurious. Probably no bathroom, but…

[01:09:49] Annie: No, no, no, bathroom. The first bus we had had a bathroom on board, but not this one.

[01:09:54] Kelly Moore: Yes. I love the mode of transportation and the, so we’re headed today to Carcassonne, which I have never been to.

[01:10:01] Annie: It’s a treat. It’s a beautiful, beautiful city. Yeah. You’ll see. It’s probably going to be busy unfortunately, but you know, it’s a holiday weekend, so there’s always people in Carcassonne on the holiday weekends.

[01:10:11] Annie: Yes. Yeah, yeah.

[01:10:12] Annie: Have you liked the food?

[01:10:14] Kelly Moore: Oh, I love the food. Now I have to admit, I have not yet tried the cassoulet.

[01:10:18] Annie: Ah, perhaps today is your day.

[01:10:21] Annie: Or the sausage. Oh, the sausage is good.

[01:10:23] Kelly Moore: I know, I know.

[01:10:24] Kelly Moore: But I’m very much a carnivore, so I’m sure I’ll love them. But I love all, I love all the French food, all the things, as you said, that French people eat that I love.

[01:10:31] Kelly Moore: I get some strange looks at home when I eat this kind of food. But yesterday I had my snails, last evening I had snails and I had marinated herring and anchovies.

[01:10:40] Annie: Oh, wow.

[01:10:41] Annie: Yeah, marinated anchovies are not a thing in America.

[01:10:45] Annie: No, they’re delicious, however.

[01:10:47] Kelly Moore: But, I have. I did want to order the frog legs, but I stopped there.

[01:10:51] Annie: You have your limits.

[01:10:53] Kelly Moore: But other than that, I love the food.

[01:10:55] Annie: Wonderful.

[01:10:55] Kelly Moore: I’ll let you know how I like the sausage and the casoullet.

[01:10:58] Annie: Excellent.

[01:10:59] Annie: Thank you very much.

France Bootcamp 2023 Kelly and Annie
Kelly and Annie

Katherine Tipper

[01:11:00] Annie: Bonjour. Bonjour. Please introduce yourself.

[01:11:08] Katherine Tipper: So I am Katherine Tipper and I live in Chicago, Illinois. I have a spouse who’s a rabid follower of your podcast. Yes. He got super excited when you put together this bootcamp. He was going crazy. He is like, you better do this now!

[01:11:23] Annie: But he didn’t come because he’s coming later, right?

[01:11:26] Katherine Tipper: Right. We’re going to go to Le Mans, to see the 24 hour race in Le Mans. Right. So he’s meeting me in Paris the first weekend of June. We’re going to have a few days in Paris, and then we’re going to take, now a car to Le Mans because we’re worried about the strikes for the trains on Tuesday, the, I think Tuesday the 5th is supposed to be a big strike day.

[01:11:51] Katherine Tipper: So, you know, the day you chose to travel, so we just went, we’re going to rent a car. Yeah. We just want the guarantee we will get there.

[01:11:59] Annie: Yeah. No, that’s probably a smart thing to do because if you need to be there on a certain day, then yeah. Car is the way to go.

[01:12:07] Katherine Tipper: There was no flexibility in our dates.

[01:12:08] Annie: And, I have done an interview with him. So we recorded the first half about the preparation he’s done for this trip. And then I’ll record afterwards to see how it went. So it’ll be interesting.

[01:12:19] Annie: So what have you enjoyed particularly on this trip?

[01:12:23] Katherine Tipper: Oh, it’s just been a very easy city to walk around and see amazing things.

[01:12:27] Katherine Tipper: Mm-hmm. I like the size of city where it’s not too big, not too small. Yeah. So there’s been a lot of very good food and we’ve had a lot of amazing pastry. I’ve been hanging with a couple where the husband loves pastry.

[01:12:42] Katherine Tipper: There you go.

[01:12:42] Katherine Tipper: So we’ve looked for every place and we share it. So I’ve had a pastry tour as well as going to beautiful places tour.

[01:12:50] Annie: And this is an exceptional group I think, everybody’s so friendly and so easy to get along. You’ve made friends, I’m sure. Yeah.

[01:12:56] Katherine Tipper: I just actually didn’t realize that would’ve been one of the benefits, that I found a lot of people who are just interesting people. So you can ask them, well, what did you do yesterday?

[01:13:06] Katherine Tipper: And then you find out something amazing you can go do.

[01:13:08] Katherine Tipper: Yeah.

[01:13:09] Katherine Tipper: So it’s like, you know, almost group-sourcing good things to do.

[01:13:12] Annie: Did you particularly enjoy one of the visits, or one of the things we did?

[01:13:16] Katherine Tipper: Well, I really liked going to the vineyard. It was just such a beautiful location.

[01:13:21] Katherine Tipper: Yeah. And with the friendly dog that said hi. And the dove and the dovecote again. Do you say, how do you say the dove, the word they kept? No, not dove. Uh,

[01:13:31] Annie: Yeah, the Pigeon Tower.

[01:13:33] Katherine Tipper: The Pigeon Tower.

[01:13:33] Katherine Tipper: Just very interesting history and actually how open the people who worked there with what it is to run a business where it’s tied to agriculture.

[01:13:43] Katherine Tipper: Yeah. And just all the challenges they have with the weather and the seasons. You know, I felt like I didn’t get this polished marketing talk, I got a talk from a real person. Oh yeah. So I very much enjoyed that. Yeah.

[01:13:55] Annie: And her English was very good. And one of the things that I think I did right on this trip is that I got headphones, I mean, you know, kind of a sound system.

[01:14:04] Annie: Yep. So that everybody can listen in their ear instead of trying to,hear a person talking a few feet away. Because in a big group like that, it’s often very hard to understand what’s going on.

[01:14:15] Katherine Tipper: That’s been one of the challenges is, you know, 40 people means you have a lot of interesting people, but then it is hard to get them all in one place, yeah, to talk to them.

[01:14:24] Annie: No, that has worked out well, as far as I’m concerned. But I’m more thinking of the putting together the group.

[01:14:30] Katherine Tipper: Right.

[01:14:31] Annie: What I planned, it working out or not? And so far it’s worked out pretty well. We have some great people and I’m glad you enjoyed the wine visit, because that’s one where Elyse and I went to try a few places and that one seemed like the most real. And the wine isn’t bad either.

[01:14:46] Katherine Tipper: No. I bought a bottle and I’ve got to figure out when I’m going to open it, but anyway, I appreciated this setting because I didn’t feel like I was either being oversold or… You know, it was real people who were working really hard to make the business work.

[01:14:59] Annie: Are you taking the language classes as well?

[01:15:01] Katherine Tipper: Yes, I am.

[01:15:02] Annie: How’s that going?

[01:15:03] Katherine Tipper: Our instructor’s been amazing. I think I carry the scars of high school French on me, where you tried to learn, but you felt like you were learning two years of grammar. And that’s not my strong suit.

[01:15:15] Katherine Tipper: This person, it’s immersion, but she’s funny and comes up with lots of examples and you can actually follow her even though she’s speaking in French the whole time. So I feel like I have a significantly better foundation than I’ve ever had in French.

[01:15:30] Annie: What level are you on?

[01:15:31] Katherine Tipper: I’m on very beginning. Just very beginning. And it was perfectly appropriate to go to.

[01:15:37] Annie: Yeah. Have you been using your language? I mean the French?

[01:15:40] Katherine Tipper: I have been using it a bit, you know, to order, because one of my goals is to be able to order food well. Yeah. And when you go into shops, the people at least in Toulouse have been very friendly.

[01:15:51] Katherine Tipper: You learn a lot of greetings and goodbyes and they vary it, but it’s pleasant. So I think the people are very pleasant. And they’re okay, whatever you say, they smile and nod and help you out.

[01:16:01] Annie: And we’ve had good weather. I must admit the weather has been really conducive to having a good time because we had a tiny bit of rain, but really very little. It’s not either cold or hot.

[01:16:12] Katherine Tipper: This has been perfect. Yeah. This is the kind of weather I like.

[01:16:15] Annie: Anything that you found difficult with this whole thing?

[01:16:19] Katherine Tipper: Well, I mean, our Airbnb is on the fourth floor without an elevator. So after the end of a very busy day, because you have school in the morning and you’re traveling in the afternoon, there’s the flight of stairs you got to go up. So I’m getting my steps in. I’m working off the pastry. But we have a very nice Airbnb. Yeah. And it’s got private sleeping areas for two sets of people and that’s been very nice.

[01:16:44] Annie: Oh, so you shared an Airbnb with another group?

[01:16:46] Katherine Tipper: So we each have our, like a further upstairs place where we each have our own rooms. So we both have privacy and togetherness..

[01:16:54] Annie: So you decided on that before you arrived, obviously?

[01:16:56] Katherine Tipper: Yep. Yes. Yep.

[01:16:57] Annie: That’s good. Yeah, because to organize this whole thing, we created a WhatsApp group where everybody’s in contact and so you were able to talk to everybody and see if there was, you know, someone who wanted to share these.

[01:17:09] Katherine Tipper: This is a couple that I knew that I worked really hard to get into the groups.

[01:17:13] Annie: Ah, there you go. You already knew them, so that’s easy.

[01:17:17] Annie: Yes, that’s easy.

[01:17:18] Annie: So if you were to give me some advice about doing this again, what should I do differently?

[01:17:23] Katherine Tipper: I’m really, I mean, the really super positive things. I like the school in the morning and the activities in the afternoon. It’s a very nice break. I mean, I wouldn’t want to go to school all day. I think just the schedule of knowing where to be and what time we’ve been kind of working out where the best place the bus is going to be. I have to say that I come from a family with a lot of German in it, so they are, you know, they are timely. And I’ve been able to, I feel like I’m in good hands, so I’m not worried.

[01:17:48] Annie: Yeah, we make it work. But it’s true that there’s been a couple of like, oh, what’s happening now, you know, moments.

[01:17:54] Katherine Tipper: And I’m glad you showed us the market early, near us. Because we’ve been going every morning and having coffee and pastries…

[01:18:01] Annie: Cool.

[01:18:01] Katherine Tipper: …as the market opened.

[01:18:03] Annie: You must have seen some, you must see some characters there at the market in the morning.

[01:18:06] Katherine Tipper: We do. Well, what’s funny is the person who we buy the coffee from knows us already. And he knows what we want and has already told us, no paper cups, you should drink out of regular cups.

[01:18:17] Katherine Tipper: It’s just kind of funny that we’re already getting trained. You know, Toulouse is very, they do a very good job of keeping it clean even though, you know, there’s people to move around and the dogs, the dogs use the sidewalk for their business. Yeah. But they do, but they do clean it up. So that’s really good.

[01:18:34] Katherine Tipper: I think it’s really been a good balance of a bunch of things. And I feel like I haven’t had to like, research what we’re doing in the afternoon because I know I’m going to someplace good. I’ve actually relaxed more than I usually do traveling on my own, where I feel like I got to figure out what I’m doing.

[01:18:49] Annie: Yeah.

[01:18:49] Katherine Tipper: Oh. One thing that I really loved was going to the Toulouse Lautrec museum.

[01:18:55] Katherine Tipper: I had no idea that it would be that good and that he was so talented at such an early age.

[01:19:00] Katherine Tipper: Well, you could see his early paintings and stuff.

[01:19:02] Annie: And Elyse gives a wonderful tour. I mean, she’s just really good at this. Sometimes I listen to her, I’m like, oh, if I had to do this, wow.

[01:19:09] Annie: I mean, in Paris, I’m completely prepared to give a tour in Paris, to any level, you know, I’ve researched it thoroughly.

[01:19:18] Annie: But in Toulouse, it’s where I was born and raised, but I don’t know Toulouse as well as she does. Isn’t that crazy?

[01:19:24] Annie: I think it’s working for you to have a couple of people helping you out.

[01:19:27] Annie: Yes. Oh yes, yes, yes.

[01:19:29] Annie: Yes. And Patricia, over here has been the master of the audio equipment.

[01:19:33] Katherine Tipper: You always need someone like that.

[01:19:35] Annie: Fine job at this. But yeah, you’re right.

[01:19:37] Annie: It would, next time I will know exactly what to expect about the buses.

[01:19:42] Annie: And there’s some things I’m going to do differently. I know which company I do not want to hire next time. Okay.

[01:19:46] Annie: And that’s the one we had yesterday. Okay. He did some amazing things in terms of turning that bus. I didn’t think he was going to make it.

[01:19:52] Annie: He’s a good driver. There’s no question. But they all are good drivers. Driving is not the issue. Typically, it’s the, it’s the quality of the service and whatever. But anyway, that’s just… And also I need to not change the pickup time.

[01:20:05] Katherine Tipper: But you were learning where’s the right place and…

[01:20:08] Annie: Anyway, thank you so much.

[01:20:10] Katherine Tipper: Well, thank you for putting this together. It’s been lovely. Merci

[01:20:12] Annie: Merci.

John Peters

[01:20:13] Annie: Bonjour John.

[01:20:15] John Peters: Bonjour Annie.

[01:20:16] Annie: I would love for you to introduce yourself, please, and tell us where you’re from.

[01:20:20] John Peters: Sure. My name’s John Peters. I’m from Atlanta, Georgia, which is actually the sister city to Toulouse. So one of the reasons why I wanted to come on this trip was to be able to see our sister city from Atlanta, but I’m also a travel advisor.

[01:20:33] John Peters: And thought it was be a great opportunity, as a travel advisor really, just to be able to dig in and see a new region of France that I had never seen before.

[01:20:42] Annie: So you’ve been to France a few times, right?

[01:20:44] John Peters: I think it’s my 32nd visit.

[01:20:46] Annie: Oh goodness! And somehow, you had never made it to Toulouse.

[01:20:50] John Peters: Somehow never made it to Toulouse, exactly.

[01:20:52] Annie: Wow. I assume you heard about this on the podcast? You’re a podcast listener.

[01:20:55] John Peters: Exactly. Yeah. I’ve been listening to podcasts since the pandemic, and every week I’d listened to the podcast. Take my walks in my neighborhood and listen to you. And when you start talking about this, I’m like, that sounds interesting.

[01:21:06] Annie: So it’s been fun.

[01:21:08] Annie: So I would love to hear what you thought about this, because you were more in the kind of the luxurious travel space, this is not the luxurious travel space.

[01:21:15] John Peters: No, but really what I focus on, Annie, is experiences. It’s not just to travel for the sense of like seeing a sight and checking it off a list, but it’s really going to a region and digging in and seeing it from an experiential standpoint. I think that’s really what was great about this week was being able to spend time in Toulouse and just get to know it more than just a drive by type visit and see it, you know, for what it really is, which was a beautiful city.

[01:21:38] Annie: Yeah, it’s true that most people do not spend a whole week in the Toulouse area. They will often spend a whole week in the Paris area. But Toulouse, I think it’s not difficult to find things to do for even longer.

[01:21:48] John Peters: No. No. Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

[01:21:50] Annie: So did you have favorites in this week, things that you particularly enjoyed?

[01:21:54] John Peters: Today was awesome, going to Carcassonne. But then also going to Albi was great too. But everything really has been a great experience.

[01:22:01] Annie: And you hadn’t been to Carcassonne or Albi before, no?

[01:22:03] John Peters: Oldest, the central part of France, just never, I just never made it right. Not on your radar.

[01:22:08] John Peters: Well, I think it was, it was just one of those just never got around to it.

[01:22:11] Annie: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

[01:22:12] Annie: Is there anything in this, the way the week proceeded, you took the classes, right?

[01:22:17] John Peters: I did, I did. Yeah. They were great. The class was really good. Well, the teachers were, the teacher was phenomenal. She just kept everybody engaged. You know, it was a four hour class, which, you know, some people might think is kind of long, but it’s like it, it flew by.

[01:22:30] John Peters: So she was really, she kept everybody engaged, but I will say that it, you know, after a week, it kind of takes you a week, at least for me to kind of get into the groove. So, you know, if anyone wants to do it, it’s like do it for two or three weeks. I think you’ll really get even more out of it.

[01:22:43] Annie: Of course, yeah, of course.

[01:22:45] Annie: And are you doing that? Are you staying longer this time?

[01:22:47] John Peters: I’m going to Paris and then I’ll be in Paris for the month. And while I’m in Paris I’m going to do three weeks of language school. So this is kind of the primer for those three weeks.

[01:22:55] Annie: Yeah, that’s cool. That’s very cool.

[01:22:57] Annie: So as far as the organization of this trip, like is there something you wish we had done at a different time or is something you would’ve skipped altogether?

[01:23:05] John Peters: I don’t know if there’s that. I think maybe it’s just the one thing is there’s so much. And sometimes you just feel like, I need a breather. Yeah. You know, I don’t know if you’ve ever taken a cruise, but if you have, and it’s like sometimes you want, you like those days at sea where you don’t have to cook.

[01:23:19] Annie: I like those, yes.

[01:23:20] John Peters: It’s sometimes maybe just like a little bit more, like half a day at sea or something like that. But in the same time, like I, I would want to just sit around as I’m someplace new. I really, I want to see as much as I can. You know, if you’re come, people are making a long trip, I say make the most of it.

[01:23:34] Annie: What I’m thinking is next time we can probably do like a one afternoon withnothing planned, but just suggestions of things you might do on your own, that are fairly easy to do on your own. You know, I think that would be good, and then people don’t feel obligated to keep going because we kept going a lot.

[01:23:54] John Peters: I will say one thing about the program, having Elyse has been fantastic too. She’s like a walking-talking book of art history, like your own little personal art history person to talk to that you can, and she’s such just so approachable.

[01:24:06] John Peters: You can just ask her anything. Yeah. And she doesn’t make you feel stupid for asking a silly question. And she has great, interesting answers for everything.

[01:24:13] Annie: And she usually knows the answer. Yeah, she typically knows the answer. And she knows the area well enough that she doesn’t, you know, she knows how to summarize it without getting too far into the weeds, because sometimes the licensed guides, which she is, they go so far into details, that usually I just glaze over like, oh, I’m going to die.

[01:24:36] John Peters: Ask a simple question, you get a 20 minute answer.

[01:24:38] Annie: Yes, yes, yes.

[01:24:40] Annie: So did you enjoy the wine and the food around here?

[01:24:43] John Peters: Oh, definitely, definitely. Yep.

[01:24:44] Annie: Was it very different from what you’re used to getting in the rest of France or pretty much…

[01:24:49] John Peters: I wouldn’t say different. I just kind of had some cassoulet, some duck, you know, probably I’ll have some more of that.

[01:24:55] John Peters: I’ll have the foie gras tonight.

[01:24:56] Annie: Yes.

[01:24:57] John Peters: And going to the winery was nice, being able to taste the Gaillac wines from the producer, which was great.

[01:25:02] John Peters: Yeah. I don’t know what you thought about the wine tour, but it was kind of a very casual, yet informative.

[01:25:09] John Peters: Exactly. It wasn’t, it was some, because some of the ones you go to California, they’re just so formal and kind of orchestrated.

[01:25:15] John Peters: Yes, sales-pitchy. This was just, it was like you just stopped by somebody’s house and they’re like, oh yeah, come on in. We’ll, we’ll, we’ll tell you all about our family wine business.

[01:25:22] Annie: And they show you the places that don’t look so glamorous, but that’s where they make the wine, you know?

[01:25:28] John Peters: Exactly, exactly.

[01:25:29] Annie: I thought that was very well done. And the lady’s English was very good.

[01:25:33] Annie: So it was, yeah, I’ll probably do that again. I really thought that was pretty good.

[01:25:38] Annie: You had a minor, you needed to go see a doctor, briefly, and it was fine, right? You found a doctor, without…

[01:25:44] John Peters: That was fantastic and the school helped me with that too.Got that resolved in 15 minutes, so I did have a very positive experience with the French health care system. I was on my way in 15 minutes.

[01:25:53] Annie: Okay. Very, good.

[01:25:55] Annie: So what would you say to people who are considering doing this tour with us? What to expect, what should they keep in mind, perhaps?

[01:26:03] John Peters: I’d say just be prepared to keep on going, you know. If you’re expecting to just sitting around, you know, just have a lot of energy, you’re just going to have to keep on going and just be, but expect, you know, you get out what you put into it.

[01:26:15] Annie: And perhaps arrive a day or two earlier so you have time to get over the worst of the jet lag.

[01:26:21] John Peters: I flew, I came on Friday. So I got here Friday. Actually, I went to Germany first. And then I came here, and then we had the Saturday and the Sunday. But, so yeah, I think that’s definitely a good idea, just come a couple of days in advance. So when the program starts, you’re not contending with jet lag, but you’re kind of over that.

[01:26:38] Annie: All right. Thank you very much, John. It’s been lovely having you, and thank you for talking to me.

[01:26:43] John Peters: My pleasure, Annie. Thank you.

[01:26:44] Annie: Merci.

Jim Woolridge

[01:26:46] Annie: Bonjour Jim.

[01:26:48] Jim Woolridge: Bonjour Annie.

[01:26:49] Annie: So, would you like to introduce yourself a little bit? Tell us just a tiny bit.

[01:26:53] Jim Woolridge: Sure. My name’s Jim Wooldridge. I live in Basque Ridge, New Jersey. I had some French in high school and none in college and not since then. And I wanted to get a refresher on French, and there was this podcast I was listening to, Annie somebody who said, well, we’re going to import all these people to Toulouse and they’re going to do French in the morning and tours in the afternoon.

[01:27:16] Jim Woolridge: Well, I love France. I haven’t been here nearly often enough, and the tours sounded just great, and the language class sounded just great, so I jumped into it.

[01:27:25] Annie: You signed up. Yes.

[01:27:28] Annie: And has it lived up to your expectations?

[01:27:31] Jim Woolridge: All the way, yeah. The language class was absolutely great. I’m really glad I took that.

[01:27:36] Jim Woolridge: Yeah. The teacher was very good. I highly recommend the school. Kept all of us in the class interested, even those who were, you know, really struggling, it seemed to me anyway. It just went very quickly. But you go back, you think you’re not learning anything, and then you go back and look what you’ve done during the week and it’s clear. Yes.

[01:27:54] Jim Woolridge: And you really picked up a lot. Now a lot of it’ll disappear. It needs to be reinforced, but that’s okay.

[01:28:00] Annie: But hopefully you can recall it when you need it, you know? Hopefully.

[01:28:04] Jim Woolridge: And then the tours have been delightful and I like to walk, so I’m very glad they were relative, that they were all walking tours essentially.

[01:28:12] Jim Woolridge: Yeah. And that they were relatively long, six miles in one case and four in another, that kind of thing.

[01:28:17] Jim Woolridge: The weather actually cooperated pretty well, right? Given the weather the week before. Yes. It was really much better.

[01:28:24] Annie: Yeah. It was really very rainy the week before the tour, and then it called for rain, but mostly it was very light rain, very short time. So it was fine.

[01:28:33] Jim Woolridge: Except for, I guess we’ve had one thunderstorm that happened pretty hard.

[01:28:37] Annie: But we were gone, the day was over then.

[01:28:40] Jim Woolridge: So we didn’t get very wet, and the sun today at Carcassone was warm, but not deadly warm, you know.

[01:28:47] Annie: I think it, was 82 or 84 perhaps. Yeah.

[01:28:51] Jim Woolridge: And sunny, and there was a breeze most of the time. Carcassone is a fascinating place to go. It was a very good tour, and I think it’s going to be one of the, the highlights that I remember for a long time. Yeah.

[01:29:02] Jim Woolridge: I wanted to go to Carcassone years ago when we were in Provence, but there was just no way, it was too far.

[01:29:08] Jim Woolridge: All of it has been great fun.

[01:29:09] Jim Woolridge: The food is not what I get at home. And if I eat like this, I wouldn’t appreciate the food as much, you know? So it’s, it’s really very good. The people in the restaurants, the people everywhere, my hotel, the people in my hotel are just a delightful. Small hotel, right in the center of the town.

[01:29:27] Annie: And you were there for a whole week, so they got to know you.

[01:29:30] Annie: And you probably got to know some of the other tour members as well, you made some friends.

[01:29:34] Jim Woolridge: Yes. I’ve made some friends or is very nice and I don’t remember names very well.

[01:29:38] Annie: Yeah, I have the same problem.

[01:29:40] Jim Woolridge: There are lots of people. And we’ve had dinner together and lunch today together and various other times we’ve gotten together for…

[01:29:47] Jim Woolridge: it’s been very good.

[01:29:48] Annie: So yes, even though you came by yourself you never felt lonely or like, what am I doing here?

[01:29:53] Jim Woolridge: And this is actually the first trip I’ve taken by myself. My wife couldn’t come on this, so, I just went ahead and came anyway, and I was very worried about how that was going to work out. It was a good thing to be in a group because you have built-in associates.

[01:30:07] Annie: That’s right. That’s right.

[01:30:08] Annie: It’s always good to chat with people.

[01:30:10] Jim Woolridge: It is, yeah, and especially if you’re learning the language and kind of feeling silly about it.

[01:30:15] Annie: Yeah.

[01:30:16] Annie: So, you said that the whole experience exceeded your expectations, but perhaps, when we do this again, perhaps there’s some things we should do differently. Your advice.

[01:30:26] Jim Woolridge: The one thing that irritated me, but I don’t think there’s anything you could have done better, is the fact that we had to skip some of the language sessions to make the bus on time. Ah, yeah. Because we had to drive a long way and we had to get it done before the clock struck midnight.

[01:30:42] Jim Woolridge: Yeah. You know, and we had to get it done. But if there were any way to…

[01:30:45] Annie: Structure the day so you don’t have to…

[01:30:47] Jim Woolridge: Structure the day so that we get the whole lesson. Our teacher in the first case didn’t know until the day on. So she couldn’t like speed up the day before to compress it a little bit to get it in.

[01:30:58] Annie: Yeah. There were two days when they had to leave early to explain to the listeners.

[01:31:02] Jim Woolridge: Right. But the teacher adapted beautifully and got almost everything done. There were the last day we had a…

[01:31:09] Annie: You know, I think, when we do this again we’ll just leave at two. We’ll make it work. We have to make it work.

[01:31:15] Jim Woolridge: Just, you know, you can cut out something each time. Exactly.

[01:31:18] Jim Woolridge: Or not go quite as far, I guess. But that’s kind of too bad, because then you miss something within the radius.

[01:31:23] Annie: Next time we would leave every day at the same time, so there’s no confusion, you know?

[01:31:28] Jim Woolridge: Right. It’s easier that way for all of us. Yes.

[01:31:30] Jim Woolridge: And you won’t have construction in the downtown, whereas the bus can’t come near the school.

[01:31:35] Annie: Yes.

[01:31:36] Annie: We had this problem with the bus not being able to approach the school, the pickup, the original agreed upon pickup place. And so you know, there was a lot more walking. Well, not a lot more, but you had to walk a good 10 minutes to get to the bus pick up.

[01:31:50] Jim Woolridge: Right past my hotel. So every day I stopped and I dropped off the books and all that stuff from class.

[01:31:55] Annie: I see. That’s handy.

[01:31:56] Annie: So what would you tell people who are considering coming here on this program? Is there things they should know before they come? Let’s put it this way.

[01:32:03] Jim Woolridge: Well, they’re not going to have a lot of free time. It is not a bootcamp, exactly. You’re not a marine sergeant. But it is, it is intense, both in the language and in the tour. So know that, and know you’re going to do a lot of walking.

[01:32:17] Jim Woolridge: If you’re interested in French and getting a little better at what you have, they did a good job, I think, of splitting us up into levels, into the different levels of classes.

[01:32:27] Jim Woolridge: And they’ll do that and you’ll be in a class that is a little below or a little above, or sometimes below, sometimes above your level. But you can keep up. And the teacher will be very helpful. I haven’t heard anybody here who didn’t like their teacher.

[01:32:41] Annie: That’s right. Yeah.

[01:32:42] Jim Woolridge: So I just encourage them.

[01:32:44] Annie: Yeah. A couple of people said, yeah, the facilities were not ideal. You know, there’s not enough bathrooms. No, not air conditioned. These are basic classrooms. It’s the truth, you know?

[01:32:53] Jim Woolridge: Yeah. If Annie decides to do this in August, I’d say No.

[01:32:57] Annie: No, I would never do this in August. Yeah. No, no. no. I think late May is probably the latest I would dare to do it because then in June we could get a heatwave. It’s happened before and it could happen again.

[01:33:08] Annie: So it would have to be like late September, early October or May sometime. But in May we have so many of these long weekends, and so the school is closed. One of the days is off, like they’re not working on Monday.

[01:33:21] Annie: Alright, well thank you very much Jim. It’s been lovely having you. And thank you for talking to me.

[01:33:26] Jim Woolridge: Thank you Annie. I really appreciate that you got this done. It was really herding cats.

[01:33:32] Annie: No, you guys were good, you were easy. And no, not a single person has hurt themselves or gotten lost or missed the bus or anything.

[01:33:42] Jim Woolridge: That’s great.

[01:33:43] Annie: Wow, clockwork.

[01:33:44] Jim Woolridge: Yeah.

[01:33:46] Annie: Merci Jim. Au revoir Annie.

Carole Wolfe Neu

[01:33:50] Annie: Bonjour.

[01:33:51] Carole Wolfe Neu: Bonjour Annie.

[01:33:52] Annie: Would you please introduce yourself a little bit?

[01:33:55] Carole Wolfe Neu: Yep. I am Carol Wolf Neu from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

[01:33:59] Carole Wolfe Neu: And I came sort of late in the game to your wonderful podcast and website. I actually ran into some colleagues during the pandemic in Macy’s.

[01:34:09] Carole Wolfe Neu: Oh, wow.

[01:34:09] Carole Wolfe Neu: And we were discussing, you know, wishing we could travel again.

[01:34:12] Carole Wolfe Neu: And they said, well, you know about Join Us in France? I said no, I don’t. So I’ve been a devoted fan ever since.

[01:34:19] Annie: Fantastic. See, this is the power of telling your friends about the podcast for people. It’s important because I don’t advertise.

[01:34:26] Carole Wolfe Neu: Right, I mean, what’s not to like about francophiles? You know, they’re all generous, wonderful people.

[01:34:31] Carole Wolfe Neu: You curate the site, you know, you have to let people in.

[01:34:35] Carole Wolfe Neu: So I’ve benefited so much from the advice. I hadn’t been back to France in a very long time, so I was sort of nervous about coming back and that’s where, when this popped up, when the bootcamp popped up, it checked off a lot of boxes for me.

[01:34:51] Carole Wolfe Neu: So you had, there was a lot of support.

[01:34:53] Annie: I was trying to, you know, get my French language back, which I had pretty much mastered in college. You’re very good at it. You were in one of the higher classes, right?

[01:35:02] Carole Wolfe Neu: I was a high school French teacher for my first, that was my first career in the 70s.

[01:35:06] Carole Wolfe Neu: A long time ago. But, so this checked up a lot of boxes. A little, sort of amuse-bouche, a little five days of class. Not having the worry of renting a car to travel around. It was in a part of France I haven’t been to in ages.

[01:35:19] Carole Wolfe Neu: It was just the right menu for me. And very well done.

[01:35:23] Annie: Thank you.

[01:35:23] Annie: So do you have a favorite, something thatstands out in your mind as a favorite?

[01:35:28] Carole Wolfe Neu: For me it was being in a class with wonderful, wonderful 30-something immigrants, all professionals wanting to be doctors, you know, you name it, who had to pass the French language competency tests.

[01:35:44] Carole Wolfe Neu: Yes.

[01:35:45] Carole Wolfe Neu: So the class was very geared for them. So eager, so wonderful. The instruction was great.

[01:35:53] Carole Wolfe Neu: For me just hearing French again and they were just such delightful and wonderful people.

[01:35:58] Annie: Yeah. So you met nice people both in the class and in the tour.

[01:36:03] Carole Wolfe Neu: Oh yeah.

[01:36:03] Carole Wolfe Neu: And this group is just fantastic. And again, what’s not to like about francophiles?

[01:36:08] Annie: Yeah. It’s a self-selected kind of group because they all like France, they all want to learn the language, they all like the podcast.

[01:36:14] Annie: So you know, they have kind of similar outlook on life, I suppose. You know? We have some great professions. I mean, you were an opera singer. Wow.

[01:36:22] Carole Wolfe Neu: True. That was the next career.

[01:36:25] Annie: Yes, yes.

[01:36:25] Annie: You know? That’s great. That’s amazing.

[01:36:27] Carole Wolfe Neu: So just made some wonderful friends and had a great time. And I think your, your choices and places to go around Toulouse, Foix, Carcassonne, Albi was great. The winery, you know, getting to really meet the people, and it’s a smaller production, but that was perfect.

[01:36:43] Carole Wolfe Neu: There’s not much I would’ve changed. I mean, some of the days were challenging. You go to class in the morning and then you’re sort of running for the bus and eating a sandwich and getting back later. But there’s really no other way to do it if you want to benefit from those little field trips.

[01:36:56] Annie: I think perhaps we’ll try and leave, the bus will always leave at two or something. That way there’s a full hour between the end of class. You can finish the class to begin with, and also you have an hour to perhaps go back to your hotel, freshen up.

[01:37:10] Carole Wolfe Neu: Right, or let people take a breather.Because the classes are intense.

[01:37:13] Annie: Oh, yes. It’s a lot of work. Yes.

[01:37:16] Carole Wolfe Neu: Occasionally there would be homework and, you know, if you were going for a certificate, you would want to go home and work on that, but none of us were.

[01:37:22] Annie: Right.

[01:37:23] Annie: That’s what I told the school. I mean, of course we want you to learn things, but nobody’s trying to take an exam. You know, nobody’s trying to get into university or whatever.

[01:37:37] Annie: So do you have any advice for people who are considering this tour? What should they know ahead of time? What should they consider?

[01:37:44] Carole Wolfe Neu: I would highly recommend it if it’s checking off these boxes for you. I didn’t want to sign up for something that, I’m not a tour group person necessarily. So I didn’t want to have a whole locked in agenda necessarily or for a long period of time, or to come down here and stay in one place for a week was perfect. You’re not unpacking and repacking. So that was very good. And again, you’re guaranteed to have people with the same interests that you are.

[01:38:11] Carole Wolfe Neu: And you are a, you know, you’ve created this wonderful thing to support people who want to come here.

[01:38:17] Carole Wolfe Neu: I hope you’re in the payroll of the Ministry of Culture, but you’re probably not.

[01:38:20] Annie: No, I’m not. But Hey, if you’re listening…!

[01:38:23] Carole Wolfe Neu: Hire this woman!

[01:38:25] Annie: No. I do love doing this. I’m self-appointed and I love it. It’s great.

[01:38:30] Carole Wolfe Neu: And certainly, the first night, the welcome party to meet your family and just such lovely people, and we just had a great time.

[01:38:37] Annie: And she did not tear her ears off. She might have, but she did not.

[01:38:42] Annie: We sang, it’s the same. I sang, oh my, and she sang with me. You sang with me?

[01:38:46] Carole Wolfe Neu: I did. Everybody, a lot of people sang.

[01:38:48] Annie: Yes, that was the idea. And I think perhaps I’ll do that last, next time.

[01:38:52] Carole Wolfe Neu: People may have been a little shy.

[01:38:54] Annie: Yes. And also slide in some, because we just did French songs for the most part, and I think we’ll do more songs that Americans are familiar with. But yeah, I think perhaps a welcome dinner where people can sit and talk and get to know each other because also the WhatsApp group ahead of time was, I don’t know if you participated in that very much?

[01:39:14] Carole Wolfe Neu: I did, yeah. There was a subgroup that developed, people who were going to be in Paris before. Oh yeah, yeah.

[01:39:20] Carole Wolfe Neu: So that was very helpful. We sort of self-select. When are you arriving? We met, we actually ran into each other in the Musée de Cluny, which was pretty funny in one of the medieval rooms.

[01:39:30] Carole Wolfe Neu: But yeah, no, that was quite helpful. Again, if you just want some supports and handrails, but don’t want to necessarily do it all yourself

[01:39:39] Annie: And I don’t know, I mean, I met some wonderful people here. I was really surprised at the caliber of people that are here, I’m like wow!

[01:39:46] Carole Wolfe Neu: Yeah. Such a wonderful variety and from all over the United States and Britain and Australia. So it’s been a real treat.

[01:39:53] Annie: Various age range as well, you know, we have…

[01:39:56] Carole Wolfe Neu: A teenager.

[01:39:57] Annie: Very lovely teenager. I thought he was going to be shy at first, but he’s not. He talks to people. He’s great. He’s wonderful. All right. Thank you so much.

[01:40:05] Carole Wolfe Neu: And thank you.

[01:40:07] Annie: Au revoir

[01:40:08] Carole Wolfe Neu: Au revoir.


[01:40:15] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France Travel Podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2023 by Addicted to France. It is released under a Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives license.

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Category: Toulouse Area