Transcript for Episode 498: Toulouse Bootcamp 2024: Francophile Adventures and Insights

Categories: Active Vacations in France, Occitanie, Toulouse Area


[00:00:16] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 498, quatre cent quatre-vingt-dix-huit.

Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent, and Join Us in France is the podcast where we take a conversational journey through the beauty, culture, and flavors of France.

Today on the podcast

[00:00:31] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you ‘The Big Bootcamp 2024’ episode with lots of bootcampers sharing their experiences.

And this episode is going to run long because bootcampers have lots to say, and also, there are some news to be discussed.

Podcast supporters

[00:00:47] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my Itinerary Consult Service, my GPS self-guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app, or take a day trip with me around the Southwest in my electric car.

You can browse all of that at my boutique:

Patreon supporters get new episodes as soon as they are ready, and ads free. If that sounds good to you, be like them, follow the link in the show notes.

The Magazine segment

[00:01:19] Annie Sargent: For the magazine part of the podcast after my chats with bootcampers, I’ll discuss the snap election announced by Emmanuel Macron on Sunday night, when he learned that his party lost badly in the European elections to the Rassemblement National party which is led by Marine Le Pen.

Part 1

[00:01:49] Annie Sargent: Bonjour, Ashley and Brian, and welcome to the show.

[00:01:52] Ashley Holm: Thank you Annie, good to be here.

[00:01:54] Annie Sargent: All right, Ashley, why don’t you introduce yourself first?

[00:01:57] Ashley Holm: My name is Ashley Holm, and I am from Kansas, and I am a beginner in the French language.

[00:02:04] Annie Sargent: And this is not your first time in France though.

[00:02:06] Ashley Holm: This is not my first time.

[00:02:07] Annie Sargent: How many times would you say?

[00:02:08] Ashley Holm: I counted, and this is number eight.

[00:02:10] Annie Sargent: Wow. Wow. Okay, we have a definite francophile over here. How about you, Brian?

[00:02:15] Brian Tolleson: Another francophile. I am from Atlanta, Georgia. I’m Brian Tolleson, and I don’t know, I stopped counting, over 20, maybe over 30 times I think.

[00:02:26] Annie Sargent: So why did you decide to come to the bootcamp?

[00:02:28] Brian Tolleson: You know, I’ve adored the podcast, you and Elyse are like … to me, and I just really wanted to see what it was like to check out Toulouse, because I’ve also never been in Toulouse, and I adore the city, I mean, it’s sort of like a little Baby Paris,

I love this city.

[00:02:43] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it’s been very nice, so we’ve kind of lucked out on the weather. But it’s still cooler than normal, and wetter than normal this May, but it’s worked out, right?

[00:02:53] Ashley Holm: Yeah, to me it’s been perfect.

[00:02:54] Annie Sargent: Yeah. So, was this your first time in Toulouse as well?

[00:02:57] Ashley Holm: It was my first time, but I’ve been so curious about Toulouse for the past few years when I’ve listened to the podcast and I thought, well, if everybody’s like Elyse and Annie, I can’t go wrong.

[00:03:09] Annie Sargent: Did you meet anybody who was not friendly?

[00:03:12] Ashley Holm: No. No, not yet.

Perhaps you won’t.

It’s pretty unusual.

Most people here are not, you know, we’re laid back. We’re laid back.

Favorite activity

[00:03:20] Ashley Holm: Alright, so, so far, what has been your favorite activity that we did on the, on this tour?

We haven’t, we’re two days shy of the end, so who knows?

You might prefer the others, but what do you think?

I particularly loved our first big trip to Albi, and it had some beautiful gardens, it had a beautiful castle, some beautiful architecture around town, and a wonderful museum. It just had everything you could want in a small a village.

[00:03:51] Annie Sargent: Albi is surprising because it’s small but has so much. I think it’s a beautiful place. How about you, Brian?

[00:03:59] Brian Tolleson: I think it’s sort of the mix between Albi, which was just fantastic, and then Sainte Cécile, which was just a beautiful church.

But also yesterday, we were just in the countryside, and, you know, someone’s herding sheep.

Just, you know, right in front of you, I mean, it couldn’t have been more picturesque and a more beautiful day. I love being outside and just being able to walk along this sort of country road and into the village is just, kind of spectacular.

[00:04:26] Annie Sargent: Yeah, so it’s interesting because on this tour we’re going to do some very touristy things, like Carcassonne is very touristy.

But we’re also taking you to places where most visitors don’t come.

And that was Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges. We’ve done an episode about it, so people talk about it, obviously, but like you said, you know, there was sheep and cows and a sheepdog and people stopping in the middle of the street to chat and all of that stuff.

[00:04:53] Brian Tolleson: All of us with our little bird ID app on our phones.

Because we heard so many birds, I mean, you know, in the packed tourist places, you don’t hear the birds.

[00:05:01] Annie Sargent: Correct.

Yeah, we got out of the bus in Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges and birds. I saw you were using the Merlin app and I was doing the same thing. I’m like, oh, that’s funny, we’re both thinking the same thing.

And Elyse was talking, but I don’t think anybody heard what she had to say about Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges because everybody was paying attention to either the birds or the sheep. Ha ha ha ha ha. So, but that’s okay.

They also gave us a booklet and stuff.

Not so happy about…

[00:05:26] Annie Sargent: Alright, so is there anything that happened that you’re not so happy about?

Things that you wish had been different perhaps?

[00:05:34] Brian Tolleson: I mean, it was sort of a personal choice for me.

If I had a to do over again, I would not stay right in the city center where I’m staying.

I’m been staying right in Place Wilson. I was like, oh, I want to be a two minute walk to the bus. I want to be a two minute walk to the class. But that’s also a one minute walk from the bars you know, in the middle of the night. So it’s a little noisy right where I’m staying. Yeah. So I know a couple of other people stayed, you know, a few blocks off of the main squares, and I’m on the main square.

That would just be my recommendation, you know, if you find an AirBnB, just make sure it’s not on a big place, because that’s also where all of the bars are, people up till 3 in the morning drinking and, you know, carousing and keeping you awake.

[00:06:16] Annie Sargent: Yes, that would be a problem for me as well. Or if it’s an AirBnB where they tell you that the windows face in the inside courtyard, that’s completely different.

But if your windows face towards the big plaza, then, ugh, yeah.

How about you?

[00:06:33] Ashley Holm: Well, I wish I had come in earlier because a lot of the group had planned ahead of time to go on a bike ride down the Canal du Midi. And I think they had a really beautiful tour, and I wish I would have seen that.

[00:06:46] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah, so yes, this is another thing that you can do if you come to Toulouse, you probably won’t come back a million times, is stay a few days.

This is the sort of place where you can spend, I don’t know, on your own, probably three, four days and find things to do.

[00:07:03] Brian Tolleson: That’s what we, that’s exactly what I did and I’m so glad I did it, cause I really felt grounded when the bootcamp actually started, because I already sort of had my footing on what, you know, I think it would be difficult to walk in, you know, step into the tour without having some grounding. And we had managed to go see the Cathar exhibit before, and I think that gave us some background.

Because I didn’t even know the whole human rights sort of, you know, exploitation of the people of the region, you know, labeling them Cathar. Like, just having that whole background really gave me a lot going into the tour. That’s great.

That’s wonderful.

What other tours have they been on before?

[00:07:36] Annie Sargent: Yeah, had you done other tours before, or was this your first time with a group like this?

Let me ask Ashley first.

[00:07:42] Ashley Holm: I have only taken one other group tour, and it was because of OFAC regulations in Cuba. So this is not my preferred way to travel, but it was really wonderful.

I think you’re great tour guides. And I didn’t mind riding around in the big bus. It got us to where we needed to go. Yeah. And I would do it again.

[00:08:01] Annie Sargent: Yeah. A bus is a really efficient way to go. You know, it’s not ideal, but we don’t usually spend that much time in the bus.

Did you ever feel like, oh my God, I need to get out of this bus?

[00:08:12] Brian Tolleson: No, I never thought that.

Yeah. And I just, I think because we all have an affinity for the podcast, we all sort of have some commonalities that made us go well together.

I’ve never done a bootcamp before, ever, and I don’t think I ever will.

Because I don’t, you know, I think there was a selection factor that happened, by us all having the same affinity for the same things in the podcast.

[00:08:33] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it’s definitely a self-selecting kind of group.

If you don’t like the kind of cultural and historical and our style, I guess, then you’re not going to come.

You know, you’re not going to keep listening to the podcast, and so…

Made any friends on the tour?

[00:08:47] Annie Sargent: Have you made some friends on this tour?

[00:08:50] Ashley Holm: I have, yeah. I’ve met some people that I think I’ll stay in touch with.

Yeah. I’m really pleased about that.

[00:08:56] Annie Sargent: Are they mostly about your age?

About your…?

[00:08:59] Ashley Holm: No. No, they’re much, much older, but it’s, it’s fun. We have a lot of commonalities.

[00:09:05] Annie Sargent: How about you, Brian?

[00:09:07] Brian Tolleson: Oh, same, in fact, some people are meeting me here to go do something else. New friends.

[00:09:12] Annie Sargent: I think that’s one of the things that I like the best is, you know, some of the people from the bootcamp last year reach out to me, ask me questions, ask me for some advice, and it’s wonderful.

And sometimes they’re surprised that I remember them, so I’ll tell you what, I’m not very good with faces, with names.

Ashley actually, you told me off because I couldn’t remember your name at one point, which is fair.

Yeah, it worked. Yeah, but it worked. Now I’m not going to forget Ashley or Ryan.

But even years later, if you tell me I was in the bootcamp, of course I’m going to remember you, like, you know, that’s just… And I have people who’ve done tours with us years ago, back when we started, the very beginning with Elyse, where it was teeny tours with three people. And of course, when they reach out to me, I remember that, I’m like, of course. Yeah, that’s how it works.

[00:09:58] Brian Tolleson: The group of people is I think what has made it most enjoyable.

It is a bunch of people, like you said, who self-select in common interests and common perspectives, even though people have different things they’re really passionate about.

[00:10:11] Annie Sargent: Right. And professionally, we have a little bit of everything. Like, Ashley, you’re a lawyer, you’re

[00:10:16] Brian Tolleson: A consultant in public health and social justice.

[00:10:21] Annie Sargent: There you go. There you go. So, very different people.

We have some retired people. We don’t have any musicians this year, I don’t think. We’ll test it, tomorrow, we will do some sing along in the bus. I have prepared a few songs.

[00:10:37] Ashley Holm: Bus karaoke is happening.

[00:10:38] Brian Tolleson: Horticulturist. Who’s the horticulturist? Who? Wendy.

[00:10:43] Annie Sargent: Wendy, oh, very nice.

Very nice. Yeah, I haven’t had a chance to talk with everybody, and the reality is, at the end of the day, when we get home on the bus, my voice is usually shot, I’m like, oh, I’ve got to sit here and be quiet for a minute, because… it’s hard for me to talk all day. It really is. I’m not used to this. I’m usually by myself in my office.

[00:11:05] Brian Tolleson:

[00:11:05] Annie Sargent: So anything you want to tell everybody about the bootcamp, if people are considering doing it, what are some things, it’s not good for, what reason?

[00:11:17] Brian Tolleson: I think some of the things that I was, you know, I thought, for the wine tasting, I don’t drink, so I thought, oh, you know what, I’m going to feel pressure to go. But it’s very casual. I mean, it’s sort of like, I said, oh, you know what, I’m not going to go to the wine tasting, everybody’s like, okay, we’ll miss you and see you later.

You can sort of dip in and dip out.

It’s not sort of overly structured, it’s not, you know, you don’t feel pressure to like, get on the bus and, I mean obviously, we have to meet the bus at the right time, but you know, if you’re not going, you’re not going.

[00:11:40] Annie Sargent: Oh yeah, oh yeah. This is a very important point as a matter of fact. We’re all adults, so I’m not worried about, you know, I mean if I take 35 people in the bus leaving, I make sure I have 35 people coming back, you know. But besides that, I’m really not worried about it. I mean, it’s nice if you let me know so we don’t wait for people who are never going to show up, but not a huge deal. So I think there is a lot of flexibility and a lot of, you know, yeah, we’re all grown ups.

We do what works for us. And some people have gotten sick, some people have taken time off, which is great. It’s not a problem.

[00:12:18] Ashley Holm: And I think that we haven’t been overly scheduled. It’s been a very comfortable pace and a very comfortable amount of time together and apart. So I think it was planned very well that way.

[00:12:30] Annie Sargent: Wonderful. Yes, and this afternoon, we’re going to have the olympic flame coming through Toulouse.

[00:12:37] Brian Tolleson: There are men with shotguns out there.

[00:12:40] Annie Sargent: There’s a lot of security, yeah, a lot of security going on, obviously, I saw some police, right outside of the post office. Somebody had left a stack of cardboard boxes. And he was like, okay, somebody come and clear that, because we can’t have stacks of anything, which, you know, it makes sense.

All right, you guys, well, thank you so much for talking to me, I think we’re going to move with the next group. They’ve all arrived.

So, Merci beaucoup.

We’ll you soon tomorrow, or perhaps later today. Merci.

Part 2

[00:13:11] Annie Sargent: Bonjour Jay and Wendy, why don’t you introduce yourselves a little bit. Ladies first. Wendy.

[00:13:18] Wendy: Wendy Gebb. I come from USA, New York City, and I love to travel.

[00:13:24] Annie Sargent: Wonderful.

[00:13:25] Wendy: Yes, and I really enjoy coming to France often. I’ve had relatives living here who are now all gone, but I still have some old friends in Paris.

And we come often.

[00:13:38] Annie Sargent: So you’ve been to France what, 10 times? 20 times? Have you counted?

[00:13:44] Wendy: More.

[00:13:45] Annie Sargent: More than that, okay.

Yes. All All right.

[00:13:47] Wendy: Since I was 20, you know.

[00:13:50] Speaker 9: Wow.

[00:13:50] Wendy: A zillion times. Yes. Uncountable.

[00:13:52] Annie Sargent: Yes, that’s wonderful. And Jay, you’re the youngest person in this bootcamp.

[00:13:56] Jay: I think so, yeah.

[00:13:57] Annie Sargent: Go ahead, introduce yourself.

[00:13:59] Jay: My name’s Jay, and I come from California, from the Bay Area, south of San Francisco, and this is my second time in France. And I’m really enjoying it, and hopefully this is one of many more times I can come.

[00:14:10] Annie Sargent: That’s wonderful. So, both of you, you are not taking the language classes.


So, tell me about what that’s like.

[00:14:18] Wendy: Well, for me, you know, I’ve been around a long time, and I know what my limitations in the French language are. You’re just finding out, Jay.

But, you know, I’ve gone about as far as I can go. I can get along.

[00:14:34] Annie Sargent: Every day things you can do.

Yes, I can.


[00:14:38] Wendy: But I really enjoy walking, this is such a beautiful city. And so interesting, and so different than anything I’ve ever seen.

Is that right?

So it makes it very interesting. Like yesterday, I always get lost and I know that these cities actually were planned so that when invaders came they would get lost.

I’m an invader and I get lost every time.

Oh dear. So yesterday I ended up trying to go to the Japanese Garden and I finally ran into the ramparts, which were magnificent. I didn’t even take a picture because I was trying to get to the Japanese Garden, you know?

So, it was sad, but at any rate, they were beautiful to see.

[00:15:22] Annie Sargent: So this was your first time in Toulouse, of all these many times in France.

[00:15:25] Wendy: I’ve been to the Toulouse airport several times.

[00:15:28] Annie Sargent: Oh, right, well, but the airport doesn’t really count, does it?

That’s right, absolutely. And I had a mother in law who, at one point, we went to Vaison la Romaine. Yes, and stayed in a wonderful old, you know, sort of fallen down castle in the middle of town. And she always, she always was rebuilding a house somewhere in the countryside.

Yeah, so we didn’t stay with her because she must have been in the process of rebuilding.

Right, right.

And what about you, Jay? So this was your second time in Toulouse, right?

Alright, so what brings you to Toulouse? Like, why do you like this area so much?

[00:16:09] Jay: Uh, the first time I came was a few years back, I was in college, and my senior year of high school, there wasn’t enough students interested in coming to France. So, unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to come senior year. It would be two years later, in 2016, when my sister was in the high school French class, and through my sister, my old French teacher got in touch with me.

She said, Hey, you’re still considered by your age as a student, would you still be interested in coming to Toulouse and spending a week with a French family?

And I said yes, I jumped on board. I spent one week here in Toulouse with the family. I loved it. It was always a small group of us going to different places.

We ended up going to Carcassonne. So, I know we haven’t gone yet, but I’m looking forward to that as well. Yes, of course. I purposely have not purchased things, to buy those things in Carcassonne when we get there.

But I love Toulouse. It’s a really walkable city. I like the buildings.

For it to be a city, at least here, it doesn’t feel suffocating compared to other cities.

San Francisco and San Jose are the cities that are near me, and just driving by them, you see the tall buildings and you think, I’m going to get lost.

But here I think if you get lost, it’s a fun adventure, at least because everything might be more colorful, but I love how walkable everything is, the public transportation here is great. Yeah. Yeah, I love that. That’s great.

And I’m having a good time just walking around in the mornings taking pictures.

A couple of days ago I walked towards the river, and on the way there I bumped into three different pastry shops.

And I just told myself I have to come back and try from each of them at some point. And I just love how there’s so much variety everywhere.

How is this tour different from others?

[00:17:48] Annie Sargent: Right. Wendy, one of the things I wanted to ask you about is you’ve taken a lot of these organized tours, and I knew that you, Jay, you would like to work in tourism as well. So, I would like to get your feedback about how this organized tour is different from others you’ve taken.

Could you talk a little bit about that?

[00:18:09] Wendy: Very. Well, I guess I was unprepared to be so free. But then, of course, I had three days that I had to go and figure out what to wear since I didn’t get my bag.

[00:18:20] Annie Sargent: Oh, that’s true. Yeah, you started out, yeah, your bag got lost.

[00:18:24] Wendy: This was a problem. Yeah. I think that actually I would have really appreciated some ideas like where to go at night time, like just to hear music or singing. You know, like something casual where you can have a glass of wine and…

Yeah, ok…

And I haven’t run into anything like that.

[00:18:42] Annie Sargent: That is a good suggestion i haven’t thought of that. Yes.

[00:18:45] Wendy: And I have some other ideas here too.

[00:18:48] Annie Sargent: Yes, you came prepared. That’s good.

[00:18:50] Wendy: Okay. In a way, I think there are a few too many people.

[00:18:53] Annie Sargent: You think it’s too many people?

[00:18:54] Wendy: Yeah. Because I think that, also if you’re on a bus that’s, you know, our bus is gigantic, we could have a smaller bus, or we could have the same bus and we could stick our feet out.

[00:19:06] Annie Sargent: That’s true.

[00:19:07] Wendy: When we go for two hours. That’s another thing.

[00:19:11] Annie Sargent: Well, Elyse agrees with you. Elyse would prefer to make it a smaller group, but then we would have to raise the price.

And I guess that’s possibly possible, but that’s the reason why I tend to go 40 max, and there’s 37 of us on this tour this year. Yeah.

[00:19:31] Wendy: It’s busy.

And I think also it’s really hard in such a short time to get to know 40 people.

[00:19:38] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:19:38] Wendy: You kind of think about them as they join, right?

[00:19:42] Annie Sargent: Yes. But, one thing that we do that helps is that we have a WhatsApp group ahead of time, well ahead of time, which I’m pretty sure you haven’t had on any previous tours. And so people can get to know each other, the people who participate in the WhatsApp group.

[00:19:58] Wendy: That was good. And I had a friend coming to spend a weekend with me and that was the WhatsApp weekend.

[00:20:04] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah. So, really, that’s one thing to keep in mind is the way this works is people get to know each other ahead of time on the WhatsApp group. We also did two Zoom meetings.

I’m not sure if you were on one of those.

[00:20:17] Wendy: I made one, but I couldn’t hear it because I was in Florida, you know.

[00:20:21] Annie Sargent: Ah, well… but, so we do try to get people to, you know, get somewhat acquainted with one another before, but it’s not perfect. And like you said, it is a big group. I do understand that.

Yeah. What do you think, Jay?

[00:20:36] Jay: The group size does seem kind of large, that’s what I thought at first. But, I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m younger. I like the group size just because I get to know people from different places. We get to talk more. Some have really great French, some are just learning. Some have never been here, which is also great because I felt like I was one of the people with the least experience here. And then I’m like, okay, I’m not the only one that’s only been here a couple times or someone that’s here for their first time.

[00:21:05] Annie Sargent: Did you make new friends?

[00:21:06] Jay: Yes, yes. I work in tourism back on the weekends, and then I was talking to a couple of the people in the bootcamp yesterday on our little excursion, and they have plans to be in the San Francisco area, and now that they found out I work in tourism on the weekends, they’re like, oh, we should come check you out sometime, and I told them let me know so I could be your tour guide, because I don’t actually do tours like this city. I work at his at a historical landmark, so I’m always stuck there. The Winchester Mystery House.

[00:21:36] Annie Sargent: Yes. Yes.

[00:21:37] Jay: It’s just a building that I tell the history, but this is nice because it’s city wide, it’s little villages.

I like it.

[00:21:45] Annie Sargent: Yeah, we do a little bit of everything. Yeah.

[00:21:47] Jay: And I also enjoy the little breaks we have in between to go shop around, try the food. Yesterday, we ended up going to a little pastry shop. We got some cookies, some coffee, and some bread. It was just really nice. And just sitting down and seeing all the bread being made, it gives you a different feel. You know it’s freshly made, and you can taste the difference.

[00:22:07] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah. Wendy, we’ve done tours where you go, like you spend two nights in one city, and then, like you’d spend perhaps two nights in Toulouse and then get on a bus, and go all the way across France to some other part of France.

[00:22:19] Wendy: It’s only a taste. I mean, there are yes and no’s to it. Yes.

You know? I mean, here there are so many nice little places to visit. It kind of gives you a stream.

But you’re always packing your bag and going on to the next place.

[00:22:33] Annie Sargent: Right, so that’s the big disadvantage is pack your bag and go.

[00:22:36] Wendy: And I’m definitely interested in staying in one spot and kind of be a little more sedentary and going out and discovering for myself.

[00:22:45] Annie Sargent: Yeah. I think some of the people who’ve come to the bootcamp before have said, you know, it’s nice because I have a few hours to myself each day, but I know I’m going to meet with people…

[00:22:56] Wendy: Later on.

[00:22:56] Annie Sargent: For part of the day. So it’s not lonely. Because sometimes when you travel by yourself, I mean, I enjoy going to Paris by myself because I am writing a tour.

[00:23:07] Wendy: Of course, you’re busy.

[00:23:09] Annie Sargent: I’m busy. I am checking things out. My husband is big into, what are we going to do today?

Like he wants one, two, three, four, five, you know. When I’m writing a tour, I can’t do that. I’m going to change my mind in the middle and go into something I hadn’t seen before.

And so I love that spontaneity of traveling by myself. But if you do that long enough, you get like lonely, you know, you don’t talk to anybody. We have kind of the best of both worlds here.

Toulouse as a city

[00:23:36] Annie Sargent: Has Toulouse been surprising as a city? I want you to convince other people to come to Toulouse.

[00:23:41] Wendy: Oh yes, I think it is surprising, because I never realized, in Paris you think you have it all, but here this is really medieval. So it’s something that Paris is not. It’s much more advanced in that, I guess you’d say.

[00:23:55] Jay: It’s very welcoming, and going back to what we talked about a few days ago, the best way to make a friend is to ask for help. That unfortunately ended up happening to me, because the Airbnb that I was staying at flooded two nights ago. So, I had to reach out, the neighbor helped out as well because his place underneath mine was also getting flooded.

[00:24:15] Annie Sargent: It flooded because of the rain?

[00:24:16] Jay: No, it wasn’t even raining that night. It was one in the morning, I heard water and I thought it was raining and I thought I left the window open. I stepped out of the room into the living room, and then I just see the living room coming down with water. So, I ended up reaching out to the person for the Airbnb, their assistant, and then the neighbor came and helped me because his place underneath mine was also getting flooded. Turns out that the neighbor upstairs, we don’t know where they were, they were gone, but their door was unlocked, so we went in there, there was a dog in there, and their shower had just gone crazy. So the shower head was on the floor throwing water everywhere, and it eventually started leaking.

Yeah. So the power was out. It just needed to be turned off, but the owner wasn’t, the neighbor upstairs wasn’t there.

[00:25:01] Wendy: In the meantime, it’s a disaster.

[00:25:03] Jay: Yes, so there’s just water coming down everywhere from the light sockets, like the light bulbs, everything, it’s just dripping down them.

The power went out. The owner showed up within 10 minutes, which was great. She was very helpful. She was very apologetic, even though it wasn’t her fault. I spent the night there and then the next morning she told me, what time do I wake up? I told her nine. She showed up at nine and we ended up, she ended up moving everything out into the patio to help it dry out.

She dried everything off. And then I booked a hotel for last night, and she didn’t have to, but she helped me carry some of my luggage to the hotel.

[00:25:39] Annie Sargent: And of course, those two nights are going to get refunded, however many nights. Yeah.

[00:25:43] Jay: But even that, she didn’t have to show up in the morning at nine o’clock to help with

that. She didn’t have to help me move my stuff to the hotel.

But she did.

And she was very apologetic. I was also very apologetic, even though it wasn’t either one of our faults. Yes, but, like you said, if you want to talk to someone, asking for help is the best way.

[00:26:01] Annie Sargent: That works every time in France, just, if you need help, ask for help.

[00:26:07] Jay: And I haven’t had any negative experiences with French people here in Toulouse. It’s all been very positive. I was in the park earlier and people were walking around with pamphlets and I told them, I was like, oh, I speak a little bit of French. And they’re like, oh, English?

And I was like, yes. And then we had a lovely conversation. People here are a lot more willing to talk if you start the conversation.

[00:26:26] Annie Sargent: Yeah, the feeling of the city is pretty busy and, you know, there’s people outside all the time, willing to talk.

[00:26:33] Wendy: This is a busy city. I mean, it’s amazing. And it’s a happy city. And they’re just, people coming and going at every time of day and night.

[00:26:42] Jay: And it’s really easy to get comfortable in the city. At this point, I kind of just like to wake up and wander around the city, see where I’ll end up, but take a different street. But it’s nice.

[00:26:52] Annie Sargent: That’s wonderful. Thank you so much, you guys. I’m so glad you talked to me, and we have two new people joining me, so thank you, and we will talk to you soon.

[00:27:02] Jay: Au revoir.

Part 3

[00:27:04] Annie Sargent: (Mid-roll ad spot) Bonjour ladies.

[00:27:05] Speaker 20: Bonjour, Annie.

[00:27:07] Kathleen: Bonjour, Annie.

[00:27:08] Annie Sargent: Introduce yourselves, would you?

Go ahead.

[00:27:10] Kathleen: Je m’appelle Kathleen Capriati. Je suis de Pennsylvania.


Et c’est tout.

[00:27:15] Speaker 16: C’est tout.

[00:27:16] Annie Sargent: And she is a French teacher, which is why she likes to do things in French. Now, the podcast is in English, so you’ll have to continue in English, my friend.

Okay. How about you?

[00:27:24] Helena: Okay, so I’m Helena and I’ve got an Australian accent because I lived in Australia for 40 years, but three years ago I moved back to England, but I’ve been listening to Join us in France podcast since, oh for many years, probably six or seven years, I think. I first heard it in Australia.

Wow. Yeah.

I’m a great fan.

[00:27:44] Annie Sargent: So this is something that’s different with you because you haven’t been listening to the podcast, have you?

[00:27:48] Kathleen: That’s correct, Annie. I have listened to one or two, but I haven’t listened to them regularly and now I have every intention to start.

How did they join the bootcamp?

[00:27:58] Annie Sargent: So how did you make it to the bootcamp?

[00:28:00] Kathleen: I made it to the bootcamp through another person who had recommended the podcast. That’s why I listened to one or two. And then she brought up the fact that there was the bootcamp and did I want to do it? And I gave it like one night of thought, and that was right around the end of the last year, and I’m like, this sounds like a great idea for the new year.

[00:28:18] Annie Sargent: Oh, good! I’m glad you came.

[00:28:20] Kathleen: Thank you very much.

Their Toulouse experiences

[00:28:22] Annie Sargent: So, how have you liked your experience? How is Toulouse? How are the language classes? You’re both taking language classes?

[00:28:29] Helena: It surpassed my expectations. I mean, I’ve been to France a few times, but actually not down to Toulouse, mostly the Northwest and to Paris.

As soon as I heard about the bootcamp last year, I listened to the podcast on the bootcamp, I thought, I really want to be part of that. So I signed up almost immediately, that you released places, and it has surpassed my expectations. I think because of the flexibility, because of the range of activities, and then having the classes as an adjunct has just worked out really well.

Right. Toulouse itself, is wonderful.

The language classes

[00:28:58] Annie Sargent: So, you feel the language class has been a good experience for you?

[00:29:02] Helena: Yes, and those I was quite apprehensive about because I’ve been part of language classes where they’re either pitched too low or they’re pitched too high. And we had a particularly good teacher, Carole. And there’s quite a diversity in the class, diversity in the backgrounds of the people, and also probably, to a certain extent, in the levels of comfort with French, particularly spoken French.

And she was very good at meeting the needs of each person, engaging everyone, and ensuring that no one was either left out, or put in a situation where it was beyond them.

Right. I thoroughly recommend those classes.

[00:29:36] Annie Sargent: That’s good. And how about you, because as a French teacher, I mean, you know, you’re used to this.

[00:29:41] Kathleen: I had no idea what to expect. I figured I’d be put into the advanced classes, and originally I wasn’t. And so all I did on the first day was that it was mentioned in French, though, that I wasn’t sure if I was in the correct niveau, the right level.

And they immediately took me by the arm, brought me to a woman, and then they put me in C1, which is C1, and it’s one of the advanced classes.

I couldn’t be happier, practically giddy every day when I get there, and if you’re thinking of doing this and you already speak French, I think it’s good to know what the classes are like.

So the teacher was younger than me, all the other students were younger too, but not super young, they were mature, they were from all different countries. It was so interesting.

So the common language was French. And I’d say, it was very open, so I almost wonder if I brought that feel to the class because it seemed a little quiet before I came. And then when the teacher would say something, I would ask a question or I would comment, and then everybody sort of just started to, really it was a lot of fun.

Our theme this week was literature, which was great, and we read a couple excerpts about the authors, and then a little, just a page of their writing, and then we contrasted two. And today, I actually went on a field trip to a bookstore. So, that was part of our level class, and it was great. And I did, even though I would say I’m advanced and I’m really glad they had something for my level, I learned stuff. I learned a lot.

Of course, yeah. Yeah. I did. And I was, I knew that, I was humble enough to know that.

[00:31:20] Annie Sargent: And you got to practice the French you already know, because if you don’t speak it, it gets rusty. Right, right.

[00:31:28] Kathleen: Because I’m a retired teacher.

[00:31:29] Annie Sargent: You’re a retired teacher, alright. I didn’t realize that.

I haven’t taught in several years.

Yeah. and it’s good to learn new stuff and talk about new topics and all of that.

It was really fun.

About the bootcamp activities

[00:31:39] Annie Sargent: How have you liked the activities with the bootcamp?

[00:31:41] Helena: Absolutely superb. And again, that range of activities. One thing I love about the bootcamp is that there’s a choice. No one’s forced into going on an activity. And there is such a variety of them. If you’re going to ask the question, what was your favorite or what was your least favorite, I honestly couldn’t distinguish.

Each time I’ve said, AH!, this is the best thing we’ve done so far. And then there’s another one. And I know we’ve got a visit to Carcassonne and then the ancient paintings tomorrow, which I’m looking forward to, as an Australian, to look at in relation to the indigenous paintings in Australia, because they go back 40-50000 years.

Yeah, so it will be. I think the fact that we’ve had these places which have been moments of just connection with the ancient culture around here, in the churches, the importance of the Cathar, of so many pilgrims, I had no idea. And this is awful because I’ve walked the Camino, I had no idea Toulouse was so significant as a step of one of the ways on the Camino.

Well there’s so many routes. You can’t walk them all, you know, you pick one.

This is actually a very significant one. Yeah. And then for me too, again as an Australian, I really encourage Europeans and Australians to come on the bootcamp.

I was living in a wine area in South Australia, and the visit to the vineyard, the organic vineyard the other day was absolutely wonderful.

[00:33:03] Annie Sargent: Yeah, so this is Canto Perlic. Yes. A Gaillac wine. Lovely person. I mean honestly,

Passion that they have and the vision that they have for their product, the fact that they, and they recognize this is a difficult process, but step by step.

And, you know, it gets better every year. Very, very hardworking and the absolutely beautiful generosity and welcome that was given to us.

Several people said, Oh, I just want to stay here longer because it was pleasant, you know.

[00:33:31] Helena: I think one of our members has signed up for picking grapes later on in the year. There you go!

[00:33:36] Annie Sargent: Did you like the wine? The winery?

[00:33:39] Kathleen: I loved it.

Especially because the owner, I guess you used the term expat. So she was American and she moved here young and she’s lived here all those years. So, yeah, the winery was so peaceful, and it was the window into the private lives of people that live in the country here near Toulouse, which you wouldn’t get on any other kind of tour. I mean, we were literally invited into their home. And not only to taste the wines and the delicious cheeses, but to see their children and to see their dog running around and to go into their barns or, and look at all the cask and, you know, the barrels, et cetera. So, yeah, that was an opportunity that is very hard to find.

[00:34:21] Annie Sargent: Well, you know, a lot of wine tours, the situation is like this. Look at me, I’m very cool because I’ve inherited this gorgeous property.

And let me, you know, let me show you around for an hour.

This is very different.

This is a family affair. You get to see the couple that runs the winery.

Their one daughter was there the whole time, the second one came back from school.

We got to meet their dog. They had a couple of helpers.

You know, it’s not a show off kind of winery. It’s real. And most wineries in France are very small, and they’re that sort of winery.

And so that’s, I was delighted when I met her, because I thought, you know, this woman, she got it. And her husband is just as nice.

[00:35:03] Helena: And the fact they spoke about, they had both come out of the health services, I think he was a doctor, she was working in the health services, and then had made that decision 20 years ago. This is what we have a passion for, let’s do it. And I think there’s probably a lot of your listeners who would have gone through similar patterns in their life, thinking, do I, don’t I, and look at the result here, with a lot of hard work.

[00:35:26] Annie Sargent: Yes, it is a lot of work. It is a lot of work. And they have a lot of energy and, but they are outstanding.

And that’s the one thing that I enjoy about organizing the bootcamp is that I try to do a mix of activities.

So we’re going to Carcassonne, very touristy, but we also went to Saint Bertrand de Comminges, not nearly as touristy.

We also do the winery with a, you know, small, organic, family-owned winery.

Because it’s the variety of experiences that makes it special.

Made any new friends?

[00:35:58] Annie Sargent: Have you met some interesting people in the bus or on the tours that you, have you made new friends?

[00:36:03] Helena: Enormously. So there’s a small bunch of us Europeans and so we, you know, started joking and spending time together. But actually, we just formed really close friendships and the discussions we’ve had have been wonderful. Really wonderful group of people. And I kept asking myself, Why is everyone so good? And I think it’s because they’re all francophiles, yeah, and just that certain openness to different cultures, to a different way of being.

[00:36:30] Annie Sargent: Well, and there’s a certain self-selection, because most of the people who came to the bootcamp have been listening to the podcast for a long time. If they don’t like our style, and they don’t like, you know, they wouldn’t come. They just wouldn’t come. And so it eliminates a lot of people who just wouldn’t fit in, in the group. And, I mean, we do have a wide variety of personalities and ages. Have you met some new people as well?

[00:36:56] Kathleen: Yes, absolutely. And what I would say is that even if you’re someone who’s been to France many, many, many times, because this focuses on the Southwest and Toulouse, and you know, we’ve gone in the area all around, it’s very unique to visit this region of France. And that’s what’s been good for me. And there are some places on this agenda that I’ve been to before. But there were also many that I haven’t been to.

[00:37:20] Annie Sargent: Do you think we’re doing too much, too little? Do you have too much time to yourself?

No, no, no. Because it’s flexible, I mean, anyone can turn around at any time and say, Look, I’m tired, I’m not going on this particular event or whatever. No, no, definitely. And the fact that this time around we actually got a free afternoon. Yeah. But people are choosing to go and do things anyway. That’s right.

And I just want to add to something you were saying, going to the places, something that’s really enhanced it is the fact that Elyse is with us. And so often she can open stuff out as you do, and open stuff out in a way that you don’t get in books.

You don’t get listening to the audio guides, whatever. It’s been terrific.

She’s wonderful.

[00:38:00] Kathleen: I mean, you learn so much. You don’t feel like this is just fun. It’s so fun, and it fills your heart, and it fills your eyes, and it’s just so satisfying. But you learn so much, and you just make these little notes in your heart and in your mind of, what do I want to follow up on when I get home? Because, I now want to research so much more.

[00:38:20] Annie Sargent: It fills you up with a desire to learn more, I guess. Because Elyse has a wonderful way of explaining things. I really couldn’t do what she does, not in the Southwest.

[00:38:32] Helena: You both both bring different gifts (to the podcast) and that’s why it’s so successful.

[00:38:36] Annie Sargent: Right, for me, I need to write a tour, I need to be in Paris, write a tour, select everything, be calm and collected, and write my VoiceMap tours. She is more of a performer, and someone who knows vast amounts as well. It’s not just a performance, but she really puts on a wonderful tour.

[00:38:57] Kathleen: Yeah, she’s great.

[00:38:59] Helena: And you’re both very good at actually spotting if someone’s feeling a little bit, you know, out or something like that, I think that’s another thing that works well on the tour that no one’s being smothered, but there’s a sense of everyone’s cared about.

Your well being is cared about.

[00:39:15] Annie Sargent: I do care that everybody has a good time. I mean, honestly, that’s always my biggest fear, is somebody going to get hurt?

We haven’t had anybody get hurt.

We haven’t had anybody get lost. Really, it’s so far so good. Knock on wood. (ha ha ha )

We hope that it continues.

Carefull when renting an electric car!

[00:39:30] Annie Sargent: But I want to bring up something that happened to you before the bootcamp started. You guys rented a car to go somewhere, and they talked you into an electric car, and it didn’t go great, and I have been saying on the podcast, please don’t rent an electric car if you are not used to this.

But I would like you to talk about it.

[00:39:49] Kathleen: Well, that’s a good thing to tell people, because when we arrived at the Toulouse airport, and of course at that point you’re really tired because you’ve had an overnight flight.

And we worked with Enterprise. The only car they had there at that time was an electric car. So they kind of pushed it. Easy, easy, easy.

The battery has enough charge for you to ride to Lourdes, which is where we went, and to get back, and no worries, no problems, just turn it on and go.

So we did.

I was not the driver, I was the navigator. First of all, it’s a whole new car, different buttons, different everything. So, it was an adjustment for sure, but then the roads were great. You had told my driver, who was another bootcamper, so we were just two Americans driving around in France, that the roads, the route was easy and it was.

But then on the way back, we kept looking at the amount of charge that was in the battery and determined that we better get some electric, whatever it’s called. That was a bit of a problem because we didn’t know how to do it, basically.

It can be faster, or it can be slower, and it took a while.

Again, you’re usually kind of tired, especially at the very beginning of the trip. We eventually succeeded, it got done, but I would, we would have been much happier with it filling up with a tank of gas.

[00:41:12] Annie Sargent: Yes, yes. So this is really important. If you drive electric at home and you’re used to all the different level, level one, level two, level three charging, you understand this, you understand that sometimes you need a card to start the charge, blah, blah, blah.

All of this is stuff you get to know when you drive an electric car, but when you don’t, it throws too much new stuff at you. So please don’t rent an electric car.

I would’ve walked off.

And I recommend that you just say, Enterprise, I’m sorry I’m not taking this car, I’m looking somewhere else.

Because it is just throwing too much newness at you.

For the time being, perhaps in another five years, more people will have been, you know, will be familiar, but in 2024, please don’t.

[00:41:53] Kathleen: Yeah, good advice.

Advice for future bootcampers

[00:41:55] Annie Sargent: Any advice you have for future bootcampers that didn’t come up?

[00:41:59] Helena: For future bootcampers? Yes, yes. One thing I did think, I’m not sure if that’s the same question that you’re asking is, we actually still have free time on the bootcamp, which is fantastic. So between classes or if people aren’t doing classes.

I think, I did a fair amount of looking at what else was in Toulouse that we weren’t going to see. Yeah. So I made a point of going to the art museum, to Fondation Bomberg, certain walks, and then this afternoon, Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation. And it might be an idea just to produce a list of other things you could be doing in Toulouse but that we won’t be doing.

[00:42:35] Annie Sargent: You know, Wendy also mentioned something like that, like she would have liked to know about live music, concerts going on that week. It didn’t even occur to me.

[00:42:43] Helena: I think the live music and the concerts is probably quite difficult because you’ve got to know the program and hand that over. But more in terms of the places, like the art gallery, like a number of the churches, for example, like by accident I discovered Église Saint-Jérôme this morning.

[00:42:59] Annie Sargent: It doesn’t look like a church from the outside.

[00:43:01] Helena: Yeah, there’s loads everywhere, but it’s quite nice just to wander in and yeah, just the atmosphere.

[00:43:05] Annie Sargent: It’s a great church for concerts, that one.

[00:43:07] Helena: And the Museum of the Resistance and the déportation is absolutely amazing. Yeah. So, but that’s just an idea because we’re all capable of doing our own thing. Yeah, Yeah, yeah.

[00:43:16] Annie Sargent: Wonderful. Thank you so much ladies, for talking to me, and lovely meeting you at the bootcamp.

[00:43:21] Helena: Thank you, and I really encourage anyone to come on the bootcamp, yeah, yeah.

[00:43:26] Annie Sargent: Merci. Au revoir.

[00:43:28] Kathleen: De rien, merci.


Part 4

[00:43:30] Annie Sargent: Bienvenue, ladies. Thank you for talking to me. We have three people now in this group. Why don’t you introduce yourselves? Let’s start with you.

[00:43:38] Susan: So my name is Susan Temple. I’m from Alabama and I’m a nurse.

[00:43:42] Annie Sargent: You are a nurse. Okay, let me turn you up. Susan Temple, you speak softly.

[00:43:47] Julie Weiss: She does.

[00:43:48] Annie Sargent: How about you?

[00:43:49] Julie Weiss: I’m Julie Weiss. I’m from Massachusetts.

[00:43:51] Annie Sargent: You’re from Massachusetts. And what sort of work did you do?

[00:43:54] Julie Weiss: I work in agriculture.

[00:43:57] Annie Sargent: Oh, great. Fantastic. You grow things. We like that. How about you?

[00:44:00] Cheryl Stewart: My name is Cheryl Stewart and I am retired now. I was a technology project manager and I’m also from Massachusetts.

Favorite bootcamp thing

[00:44:08] Annie Sargent: So, what was your favorite thing to do with the bootcamp? Is there, do you have a favorite or was it all like, oh, I don’t know it’s, what do you think?

[00:44:18] Susan: For me, it was visiting all of the older buildings, the older churches, and learning about them. Learning about the history of Toulouse was fascinating. I’ve never been here before. Yeah, so being able to see this and experience it, live it. Fantastic.

[00:44:34] Annie Sargent: So you hadn’t been to Toulouse, but have you visited France a bunch?

[00:44:37] Susan: Yes, I’ve been to Paris multiple times. I’ve been to Alsace, I’ve been to Normandy, I’ve been to Brittany, I’ve been to Aix-en-Provence, I’ve been down to Nice. This is my first time in the southwest of France.

[00:44:48] Annie Sargent: So you are definitely a francophile.

[00:44:50] Susan: Definitely a francophile. But I’m not fluent in French. So that was an added benefit, was being able to come to the school.

[00:44:56] Annie Sargent: All right, so you are taking the classes. How do you like that? Is that working out well?

[00:45:01] Susan: I loved it. I loved it. I did, I hate to admit it, I did Duolingo for many years. Yeah. And so I can read a lot of French. Yeah. I understood a lot of things when I read it or when people talk, but I wanted to make sure it was coming out of my mouth right. Yeah.

And so this was a great segway.

[00:45:22] Annie Sargent: Yes, doing Duolingo is great at teaching you to pick A, B, or C. Beyond that you need more. How about you?

[00:45:31] Julie Weiss: I think my favorite thing had to be the wine and cheese tasting and visiting the winery for me with my agriculture, learning about how they’re doing it and you know, the organic and what they’ve done, and speaking with the vintner herself was really cool.

[00:45:46] Annie Sargent: Yes.

[00:45:46] Julie Weiss: And the cheeses she picked were incredible and the wine was awesome and it was fascinating to learn, you know, they have 20 varietals, and they, you know, age them uniquely, and then they put them together. So, that was really, really interesting. And just such a beautiful spot. I’m glad you picked something like that instead of some big, huge, you know, very commercial.

[00:46:09] Annie Sargent: Right, right. Most wineries in France are very much like Canto Perlic, but that one has a lot of heart. Because it’s a family run operation, and you get to talk to the people, and they didn’t just inherit this, they are making it, building it, and that’s a very different feeling.

[00:46:27] Julie Weiss: Absolutely.

[00:46:28] Annie Sargent: Oh, I’m glad that you like that. That’s great.

What was unique about the bootcamp?

[00:46:31] Cheryl Stewart: Well, since this is my first time in Toulouse, and in the southwest of France, it’s really hard for me to tell you which thing I like the most, because I liked all of it probably equally.

I’ve been to France many times. I was a French major, and I lived in Nice, and I’ve traveled elsewhere, but never to the southwest, ever. So this was just such a delight to be able to explore the area, and all the excursions we did, I loved all of them. And I loved going back to school as well.

I really, I liked the whole package. Yeah, I really enjoyed going back to school. It made me feel young again. It made me feel happy. It was a good confidence booster in being able to go into all the shops and go around and speak French and not be, you know, self-conscious.

[00:47:20] Annie Sargent: So, did you feel like there’s, it was a good balance, enough to do but not overwhelming, perhaps?

[00:47:27] Susan: Yes, absolutely. I thought it was very well put together, having class in the morning, and off and running in the afternoon to see things.

[00:47:35] Annie Sargent: Yeah, did you skip anything because you were unwell, or too tired?

[00:47:40] Susan: No, I was going to hit every bit of it.

[00:47:43] Annie Sargent: Some people skipped stuff because they weren’t feeling right, you know, which is fair as well, but I think, yeah, you three were at most things.

Yeah, everything.

[00:47:52] Julie Weiss: We got here a couple days early. We got here on Thursday morning, which was really nice because we got a little bit of lay of the land. We did Elyse’s Toulouse walking tour, which was awesome. Yeah. We took two afternoons, or an afternoon and a morning to do that, so we kind of got a little lay of the land.

I think it would have been hard to get here Friday and start right in on Saturday, and I wish I had a couple days at the end because now I know all the cool stuff and I want to go back, but I’m not going to have time. But the pace of what you set up and all the different things, I wouldn’t have skipped anything.

I’m happy to do it all.

[00:48:30] Cheryl Stewart: Yeah, I agree. Totally agree. I thought that the variety of things that we did was fabulous, and I liked having a little bit of time to myself, but I think that, as Julie just said, the fact that we got here two days early gave us that opportunity to get the lay of the land, to walk around a little bit, and then I was like, okay, I want to see as much as we can see, and you gave us that opportunity to do that.


[00:48:55] Annie Sargent: So most people who go on a tour, they’re going to go, you know, two nights in Toulouse, two nights in Bordeaux, three nights in Loire Valley. Here it’s more of a, you stick around the area, you sleep in the same bed every night, and you get to branch out, but without going too far, you know. It’s a style of a tour that’s pretty hard to sell. If I didn’t have the podcast, I couldn’t sell this. Because most people are used to, you know, and they go on a Rick Steves tour, but it’s going to be a tour of, you know, I don’t know…

[00:49:29] Julie Weiss: Six different towns.

[00:49:30] Annie Sargent: Six towns. You go all over the place. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But I think I would love to hear if you, have you done other tours? What was it like?

[00:49:41] Susan: So I’ve done four different Viking river cruises. Yes. Many of them in Europe. I’ve done different activities, like I did the Camino a couple of weeks ago. I’ve done Cotswolds Walk in England, years ago. I mean, I’ve done a lot of different things.

Those kind of experiences are great if you just want an introduction to an area. Your kind of experience gets more than that. To me, it introduces, when I do the, you know, the earlier kind, the Viking river cruises and that, I’ve always said, it’s to give you a taste of an area. Yeah. Then you go back. And spend more time. You figure out what it is you like and then you go back. So, this is not my last time in Toulouse, I’ll be back. And I’ll bring my family.

Toulouse, a great base for exploration

[00:50:27] Julie Weiss: It is amazing though that with short bus rides, you know, two hours max, we got to see so many things using Toulouse as a base. There really is a lot to see in this area. And to have Elyse say, how many times did she say, this is the biggest church, the widest, the tallest, the longest, you know, and all of those are within a stone’s throw of Toulouse. Is pretty amazing. It’s a great home base because you’ve got such variety of things to see from here, which is pretty cool.

[00:51:04] Annie Sargent: Yes, that’s why, you know, I’m tempted to do this year after year in Toulouse because, well, first of all, we know the area, it’s easy for me to pick up a phone and say, you know, I am a local, I live here, I was born here, but also there is a lot here, like every time, you know, cause when we meet and discuss what we’re going to include, believe it or not, we have to rule out a lot of things, you know, because we just don’t have, we only have so many days.

[00:51:32] Cheryl Stewart: Yeah, and I think Toulouse itself has such rich history and I thought that was so fascinating to hear about, you know, the city being founded by the Romans and the history of the kings and just right here in this capitol plaza, you don’t even have to go very far to be enthralled in history. I mean, that was fabulous, the day that we spent there.

Accommodation choices

[00:51:54] Annie Sargent: Did you find good accommodations? Did you like your choices?

[00:51:59] Julie Weiss: Yeah. We did. We ended up rooming together. We’re in a two bedroom, two of us, are in a two bedroom apartment at Clément Adler. And that just worked out fabulous for us. And we didn’t even know each other before this trip, and it worked out really great, and now I have a really good friend, and it’s just been, it’s been wonderful.

And I feel like we’ve met enough other people that are wonderful that I would want to continue to be in touch with over time.

[00:52:29] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And did you participate in the Zooms? I know you did. You two did. Were you in the zooms as well?

[00:52:34] Susan: Was in one of the Zoom, so I was on the, I was on the Camino the last zoom, sorry.

[00:52:39] Annie Sargent: Ah, yes, well, yes, you were busy. You were doing something great as well. I have cousins who today, they completed their, I think it’s their second stretch of the Camino.

So these are locals, they live in Nîmes but they do, every fall they make a section of the Camino. And they just finished. She was pretty happy because I think she was getting tired. It’s hard.

[00:53:06] Julie Weiss: Friday afternoon we did a nice, a really long bike ride four and a half hours out into the foothills, or not foothills, but out into the countryside.

Yeah. So that took up an afternoon, but like, I’m not going to make it to the how the machine. the machines. And Halle de la Machine. And, there’s like a couple other churches in Toulouse, I might have wanted to go into but didn’t have time. We had a list going and we’re trying to knock it off this afternoon as much as we can.

[00:53:32] Annie Sargent: I think what I need to do is, for the next bootcamp, write up a booklet about Toulouse that lists activities, favorite bars…

[00:53:41] Julie Weiss: Favorite restaurants. And then you can have a list for people. Not that we’ve had a bad meal, I can’t say. Right. Right.

[00:53:50] Cheryl Stewart: But there were some that stood out more than others.

Exactly, exactly. It always does. That’s how it works. And it’s also a personal choice, I mean, you know.

Who is the bootcamp best for?

[00:53:59] Cheryl Stewart: So, would you recommend the bootcamp to specific types of people? People who like to travel alone. People travel in groups. Who is this good for?

[00:54:09] Julie Weiss: I think everybody. I think there were some people who were alone, who you know, made friends, and have kind of now traveled in a pack.

Or there are some other people who came alone who have kind of been a little, you know, stuck more to themselves, you know, don’t necessarily go out to eat with everyone, or whatever. But there’s also been some families and they’ve seemed like they’ve done, you know, and be really having fun together, so I think if you came with a partner it would be fun too, but it’s been a great opportunity to meet a bunch of new people.

[00:54:41] Annie Sargent: Right, right. Yeah, and we had a few, we had five or six return bootcampers who did this last year, they did it again this year because they had a good time, they wanted to do it again. They brought family members, all of them, because they wanted the rest of the family to see this. Which is really, I mean, to me it means a lot, because it means it was successful.

[00:55:02] Julie Weiss: That was indicative of how good it was going to be to us, to me signing up, because if somebody wants to go again just a year later, it must have been really awesome. You know? Because there’s so many trips you can do and so many places you can go. But I could see Toulouse being in my future.

[00:55:21] Annie Sargent: Did you like the feel of the city?

[00:55:23] Julie Weiss: Oh, totally. It’s a nice, small, manageable city. Other than taking the bus from the airport, we haven’t done anything but walk. And we’ve seen, you know, we walked down to the Resistance Museum this afternoon. It’s totally manageable on foot, which is really nice.

[00:55:41] Annie Sargent: There’s a good vibe to the city.

[00:55:44] Speaker 35: Yeah, good energy.

[00:55:45] Annie Sargent: I mean, if it’s rainy and cold, fewer people are out in the streets, and we’ve had some rain, but it’s been okay.

[00:55:51] Julie Weiss: Yeah, it’s certainly better than what the forecast looked like. It was going to be last week when we were packing. Yes. It looked like it was going to kind of rain every single day. But it hasn’t.

[00:56:00] Annie Sargent: So it rains a little bit in the night or first thing in the morning, and then we’re okay most of the day, so, it’s been fine. But it’s cooler than normal. I never thought I’d be wearing this shirt, you know…

[00:56:10] Julie Weiss: But that’s okay when you’re walking around the city.


Yeah, you just dress for it.

[00:56:16] Cheryl Stewart: We listened to what you said and we brought layers so we could peel them off as we needed to. But, no, I think the city is just a fun city and it’s really walkable and lots of things to look at, tons of shops, tons of boulangerie, and then little restaurant-café type places. It’s just, whatever you feel like doing, I feel like there’s something here for you. If you feel like going to a museum or hanging out at the garden, there’s gardens and museums for you. If you feel like just walking around and window shopping, there’s that.

[00:56:50] Annie Sargent: Yes, yes. Did you do some shopping as well?

[00:56:53] Cheryl Stewart: A little bit, but not a lot.

[00:56:56] Julie Weiss: I could stay another month and that would really get me in trouble with shopping. I didn’t do any clothes shopping, you know, but a lot of souvenirs for gifts for friends and family.

[00:57:06] Annie Sargent: Well, we have a couple of wonderful days coming up, so stay tuned, we’ll have more.

[00:57:09] Cheryl Stewart: Looking forward to it.

[00:57:10] Annie Sargent: Tomorrow’s going to be a long day, though, because, you know, we leave earlier than normal. We’ll probably come back a little later than usual, but then Saturday we’ll take it easy. All right. Well, thank you so much ladies for talking to me, and thank you for coming to the bootcamp, it was lovely meeting you.

[00:57:28] Cheryl Stewart: Thanks, same here. Au revoir.

And thank you for everything.

Au revoir.


Thank you Patrons

[00:57:38] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for giving back and supporting the show. Patreon supporters get new episodes as soon as they are ready and ads free for as little as $2 a month. If that sounds good to you, be like them, follow the link in the show notes. And patrons get other exclusive rewards for doing that, you can see them at

And a shout out this week to new patrons, Andrea Publow and Carol Crawford. And to all my current patrons, it’s wonderful to have you on board in the community of travel enthusiasts and francophiles who keep this podcast going.

And to support Elyse, go to

If you’ve been a patron for a year or more and you’re going to Paris, message me within Patreon and I’ll give you a free code of one of my VoiceMap tours. This is also good for people who just joined, but select yearly support. So hey, if you join as a yearly patron at the $5 level, you get two months off, plus free tour code. It’s a good deal.

A tour review

[00:58:53] Annie Sargent: Somebody left this review of my tour this week, this was about my food tour around Les Halles. ‘Great tour today. Thank you. Yum‘. Yes, on the food tour, I take you to some delicious places. And unlike a regular food tour where you pay quite a lot just to be with a group, in this food tour, you listen to me, I take you to all these places where you can buy your own and have a little bit more substance, let’s put it this way.

And don’t forget, podcast listeners get a big discount for buying these tours from my website.

News from French Politics

[00:59:28] Annie Sargent: Alright, what’s happening in French politics this week? We had a bit of a bombshell, didn’t we? Here’s my take on that. This week has demonstrated that French people are totally capable of falling for the siren song of populism, and politicians who tout easy answers to complex questions. That is not new.

The Rassemblement National, or RN, has been gaining ground steadily for the last 20 years. France is not the only country where this is happening, in Europe, or in the US, perhaps in other places where I don’t follow the politics. Will it have a big impact on your trip if you are visiting France on election day?

No. Elections in France are a quiet affair. Elections take place on Sundays, usually at the elementary school, or some other public building. Most polling places open at 8 AM and close at 8 PM. Nothing unusual will happen because there’s an election, other than lots of people will go to the school building to vote that day.

I don’t anticipate any commotion or disturbances of any sort. Do not change your plans because of this political problem, which I hope will get solved. Will this have a negative impact on the Olympics? Well, hopefully not. Emmanuel Macron has said that, no, it won’t. So I trust him. The Minister of the Interior is in charge of security during the Olympics.

They’ve done a ton of work to get to the point where they are today. He’s likely to stay in place until after the Olympics. I mean, there are no guarantees, but I don’t think it’s going to change anything. The Minister of Sports, at this point, you know, I mean, they’re cutting ribbons at this point, it’s all ready, ready, to go.

So, safety is the biggie, and I don’t think anybody will take that lightly, no matter who gets elected. I think. I hope. For the parliamentarian elections coming up, we’ll vote on Sunday, June 30th, and Sunday, July 7th. This is a two-round election, as per usual in France. Normally, it takes place every five years. And typically, it takes place a month after we vote for president because with a new presidential term comes a new parliament, and then the new parliament elects our new Senate.

This is totally different from what you have in the US of course.

Why are we having elections now?

[01:02:07] Annie Sargent: Why are we having these elections now in the middle of Macron’s term? He’s in place until 2027. There was no need to do any of this until 2027. Per the French Constitution, French presidents can call for a new election of the parliament.

Typically, they do it if they feel that they cannot work with the parliament that is in place. That is something that Chirac did, for example. Served him well. He lost. But this is not what is happening this time, because after making alliances in 2022, Macron’s party has a slim majority in the parliament. He could have left this parliament run its course until 2027, but he decided not to. Why? Well, there was a European election last Sunday, in which Macron’s party lost badly, and where the Rassemblement National, the RN, won by a bigger margin than anyone anticipated. These were elections for the European Parliament, where extreme right parties always do well, because French people don’t think that the European Parliament matters very much, so this is their time to “scare” national politicians by voting for the extreme right candidates. This time, Macron called their bluff. ‘ You want the fascists in power? Let’s see how you vote in the national elections in three weeks.’

It sounds like an insane gamble, but he’s counting on something that’s happened in all elections where the extreme right got to the second round in France. Enough of the people who vote for the RN on the first round vote for the other candidate on the second round. It’s a way to express frustration without actually electing a nut job.

The danger with this is that it’s become normal to have an extreme right candidate wingnut, make it to the second round. It normalizes their presence. And that’s what Marine Le Pen is counting on. After these European elections, the next time we were supposed to vote would have been the presidential elections in 2027.

And if you extrapolate how much she’s improved her standing in subsequent elections, she would be the clear winner in 2027.

Macron did not see a way to stop that progression other than by shocking the system. And that’s why he called for early elections.

In France, whoever has the majority in parliament gets to decide who the prime minister is, and then the prime minister forms a government. Marine Le Pen has already chosen her right hand man, Jordan Bardella, to get the job, should her party win the election. He’s a popular guy despite the fact that he only has a high school diploma, and dropped out of college. He started a geography degree but decided that was too hard. He worked for his father’s business for a short time, but that was too hard. And as luck would have it, he courted Marine Le Pen’s niece, which is when he climbed up in the ranks of her party, and he’s been getting paid by the party ever since.

Macron is betting on a few things. Number one, that people will rally to him because they don’t want to see the RN take the prime minister job. I don’t think that’s going to happen, because he’s really, really unpopular for reasons I’ll go into in a minute. Number two, that the French left will not unite, just like they haven’t been able to unite in the last ten years.

It appears, and if that had happened, then you’d be left with a choice between Marine Le Pen’s party and Macron. But it appears that the left is uniting indeed, and they will present one candidate per district. That’s all you need to do. Just, if you can agree on one candidate per district on the first round, then you have a way better chance to make it to the second round.

Number three, he was betting that if Bardella becomes prime minister, he will do such a terrible job that people will realize it and will not elect Marine Le Pen for president in 2027. I am certain that Bardella would be a horrible prime minister, but I would not bet on his voters changing their minds rather than sticking to their guns.

That’s probably because I see how American elections are going. Personally, I have voted for Macron’s party since 2017, every election. I would like his party to make it to the second round of the coming election, but I doubt they will.

My guess is candidates from the left wing coalition, they are calling themselves Front Populaire, Popular Front, which is a historical callback to right after the second World War. I think so, I think that Front Populaire will make it to the second round because there are a lot of people who are left wing at heart, but there were so many left wing parties that they just couldn’t pick one, you know, they never won anything, they fractured their vote too much.

And also, of course, Marine Le Pen’s party will definitely have a candidate on the second round, in almost every district in France. Perhaps a few big cities won’t, but I mean, yeah, most places. There is no chance in hell I would vote for the RN, not ever. So I will vote for whoever is left standing against them in my own district on July 7th. Even if I don’t like that person, or their party, or what they are campaigning on, I don’t care at this point, just want to stop those fascists.

So, perhaps it’ll work, perhaps it won’t. It’s really, really hard to tell.

Why is Macron so Unpopular?

[01:08:25] Annie Sargent: Now, let me tell you why Macron is so unpopular. He raised retirement age by two years, unemployment benefits are getting reduced as we speak, speed limits, and higher taxes on diesel fuel, that was the gilets jaunes a few years back.

There was such an intense dislike of that, that they had to dial it back for the most part. Farmers do not want to change their practices and they do not accept that the way they grow things has more negative impact on the environment than it needs to. And also taxes on farmers’ diesel were about to go up, nobody wants the price of diesel to change very much, you know. Inflation is very real in France and it’s hitting people, especially people on low salaries, very, very badly. Higher interest rates for business, startups, for buying a house, for buying a car, for anything is, you know, interest rates are terrible. Perhaps they’ll start coming down now, but we’re not there yet. There are major difficulties for housing, especially for low income people and students. There is the feeling that rich people evade taxes and are not paying their fair share.

It’s a fact that healthcare providers are not paid well in France, and we don’t have enough of them, with an aging population, that’s a problem.

Teachers are not well paid in France, and it’s getting harder and harder to recruit them. That is a job I would never do, so blessings on teachers everywhere.

Parents feel that their kids are not safe in school. We’ve had several specific instances of kids getting beaten to death by peers over the last few months, over really silly issues, and they haven’t found a way to make that stop so far, and of course that hits people in the heart.

The Justice Department keeps fumbling cases that they should be winning. There’s a guy who escaped from jail just a month ago. He killed two prison guards in the process. He is still on the loose. They found nine cell phones in his cell, because somehow, they haven’t found a way to scramble cell signals in prisons, or prevent drones from flying over prisons and dropping whatever the inmates want.

This is so maddening, I don’t even know what to say, you know? Then there’s also the fact that there are a lot of EU regulations, as well as French judges that protect migrants. Perhaps migrants should be protected, you know, I don’t really have an opinion, one way or the other on that, it’s certainly very sad to see what’s happening. But Macron’s government, they’re not doing a good job convincing people that these people need help, and they probably should.

There are a lot of single issue voters in France, just like there are in the US. There are people who say, I don’t want to be forced to drive an electric car. I don’t want to pay more for medications. Anytime they raise the price of, you know, we have great, great coverage of medications in France. We hardly pay anything for them, but you increase the price by a euro and oh, it’s the end of the world.

People say I’m against EU regulations on cheese, on milk, on tomatoes, whatever. They all have their button thing. The global economy creates too much competition for regular people who don’t really have the ability to go into higher education, because let’s face it, these days, if you don’t have a lot of knowledge and a very good degree, you’re going to be stuck in jobs that don’t pay very much, okay? That’s just how it is.

There are a lot of people also who say, we need to try something new. Traditional parties, they just bicker between themselves, they get nothing done.

And I don’t think the RN will do any better, but okay. There’s not enough investigation on, because we have a lot of towns and whole areas that have had RN mayors for a long time. Do these cities have the perfect life that they were promised? No, they don’t. No, they don’t. But you don’t hear about that very much in the French press, and we need to hear more of that.

People don’t want to be told that they don’t understand history or are stupid. Yeah, I don’t want to hear that either.

And climate change is making a lot of people really, really nervous, and we see that because many of them get fixated on one thing that they think is the magic bullet. So they say, Oh, if we’d all just stop flying, if we’d all stop eating meat, or if we’d all go around on a bicycle, that would fix the world.

Well, it’s not. We need to do a little bit of everything. But this year the temperatures are a little cooler, it’s been rainier, so perhaps… we know it’ll spike again, obviously.

And it’s also a fact that things are going in the right direction when it comes to reducing our emissions in France, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to the news.

So these are some of the reasons why Macron is extremely unpopular, people have a visceral reaction to him, the same way. You know, it’s like the love-hate relationship, they loved him when they first saw him, and now they hate him for the same reasons. And it’s really, really hard to get people who get a nasty reaction to him, to consider the things that he’s done that are going in the right direction. Anyway.

So I’m going to end this the same way I started it. French people are not immune to stupid political siren songs from populists, and the one country that seems to be getting away from this is Spain. Spain, they had Franco for 40 years, of course, so they know exactly what this means, but, uh, yeah.

Normally, I try to stay away from politics, but this week I really couldn’t.

My thanks to podcast editors Anne and Cristian Cotovan who produced the transcripts.

Next week on the podcast

[01:14:10] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast, an episode about adventures and misadventures in the City of Light, with Paula Barnes. That was interesting. That was a really, really fun conversation. I think you will like it.

And remember, patrons get an ad-free version of this episode for as little as $2 a month. Click on the link in the show notes of this episode to be like them. Thank you so much for listening and I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together.

Au revoir.


[01:14:42] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France travel podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2024 by AddictedToFrance. It is released under a Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives license.

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Categories: Active Vacations in France, Occitanie, Toulouse Area