You might know of Bristol’s twinning with Bordeaux, you’re probably painfully aware of France bossing the World Cup, but did you know there’s a burgeoning Gallic community from across the Channel contributing to city life here?
Bristol is home to a hotch-potch of nationalities, faiths and walks of life and that’s a big part of what makes it so great, so interesting and so receptive to new ideas or ways of doing things. Recently we visited Anna Cake Couture in Clifton for a jewellery making class with CAST and happened to meet a few lovely members of the local French community while we were at it – here we chat to them about life in Bristol.We met local French folk at one of CAST’s jewellery sessions
TBM: So, why this city?
Cécile: My husband and I wanted to have a family living experience outside our native country. He had a work opportunity, so we followed.
Frédéric & Isabelle: We chose Bristol especially for Clifton High School which combines both the English and the French curriculum.
Janetta: I landed last August, with my family. Our goal was to settle in a new place fit for family life and new discoveries – Bristol came top!
Helene: My partner was needed for business so we all came as a family.
Capucine: After living in London, Birmingham and Cheltenham, we came to Bristol 26 years ago, following my Jordanian husband who had been offered his first job with Unilever.
Franck: We decided to move to Bristol two years ago as my wife was offered a great job opportunity.Cosmetics manager Cécile
Which area do you live in and why did you choose it?
Cécile: Clifton Village because it is close to our kids’ school; we fell in love with the area, its cafés, little shops and magnificient Brunel bridge!
Frédéric & Isabelle: Frenchay Village. It’s perfect for getting to the M4 and commuting to work and there are some nice areas to walk our dog.
Janetta: Harbourside. We were impressed with the variety of nice restaurants, excellent views and the proximity of the shopping zone…
Helene: Clifton Village because it’s within walking distance of the school where our older son Raphaël goes – the only one, we were aware of, that was offering French classes in addition to the UK curriculum.
Capucine: Also Clifton. We’ve moved five times, discovering each corner of it and each time feeling welcomed and building friendly ties.
Franck: We settled in Redland. Gloucester Road and Cheltenham Road are so distinctive, I love it.
Congratulations on France’s World Cup win; where did you watch it?
Janetta: Many of us went to the stadium where there were songs and French tricolore flags! An excellent moment spent together, watching the match on the big screen, singing Allez Les Bleus and finishing with champagne. It was awesome to watch it in the UK; we discussed the victory with the locals, who so sincerely congratulated us.
Isabelle: We watched the semi-final at our British friends’ houses and shared their sadness when the English team was eliminated. Frédéric watched the final in Frenchay; the kids and I were in France.
Cécile: My husband saw it in the fan zone near Ashton and I watched it with girfriends from home. I’m glad it was against Croatia rather than England; I didn’t want any tension with friends or colleagues! We’re proud of the team. They stayed focused and adapted their game throughout the tournament.
What do you like best about this city?
Cécile: Its energy. Lots of students, kids; people are always out, even in bad weather. I love St Nicholas Market and its world food and that Bristol is a big city but so close to the beautiful English countryside.
Franck: Live music and festivals, cuisine from around the world and excellent bread – essential! Bristolians are proud of their city and eager to share experiences which is appreciated when you’ve just arrived.
Frédéric & Isabelle: It’s dynamic and eco-friendly; our children don’t want to leave. We appreciate its artistic side and always attend Upfest.
Janetta: It’s convenient and there’s always something going on.
Helene: The huge parks, the number of restaurants, the buildings, the street art, the canal and lively harbour, the music scene.
Capucine: It is big enough to have amazing cultural events such as the Grayson Perry exhibitions but small enough that local creativity has still a place and when you are a newcomer you quickly have a feeling of belonging. The ethos is very welcoming to foreigners. I feel the city embraces differences.
What is Bristol’s French community like?
Franck: There are strong links via social media where we share tips, experiences and places to visit. We also enjoy inviting people for a good homemade dinner and a nice bottle of French wine: it’s important for us to stick to these kinds of traditions.
Janetta: It’s growing fast, people with different profiles and interests find their place and integrate easily here.
Cécile: It’s associated with the local schools. It’s a bit like a family…
Frédéric: We only know the French community connected to Clifton High School as we aim to meet English people first and do our best to be integrated within the Bristolian community. Over the last three years we have organised picnics with French and English people. It’s also an opportunity for us to help people discover amazing organic and natural wines; those my wife and I sell through our company NFizz Wines.
Capucine: I have long-term English friends but also try to welcome French people arriving; I want the expatriates to settle quickly and appreciate the amazing city Bristol is. For five years I worked at Clifton High and helped to set up the double curriculum for expatriate pupils. Integration is the key to a worthwhile experience.Frederic and Isabelle started NFizz to offer Bristolians natural, delicious wines
What do you do for a living?
Cécile: I work for a local company as a cosmetics manager. As a hobby, I organise jewellery making sessions with British start-up CAST. Frédéric: I’m a French engineer. Currently an outage specialist and synergy manager for EDF energy.
Isabelle: I use to be a podiatrist, practising in my own surgery in the south of France. Frédéric and I started NFizz (‘natural fizz’) out of sheer passion for good wine. As we feel concerned for sustainability and ecology, we are ardent defenders of organic, natural, biodynamic wines.
Franck: I spent my first months here as a ‘house-husband’ coping with all the novelties you can imagine for a father of three non English-speaking children… I spent a lot of time cooking and started my business Sucrés Secrets; baking and selling biscuits and cakes. Everything is homemade in a traditional way originating from the distinctive eastern part of France where I was born. I sell at the Country Market in Westbury-on-Trym.
Janetta: My husband and I work in the centre of Bristol on a multi-cultural project which is an excellent opportunity for discovering other ways of thinking, other people’s experiences.
Helene: I’m director of a medical device company developing deep brain and spinal cord stimulation devices, based on Hotwell Road.
Capucine: I was originally an intellectual property lawyer. When I came to Bristol, I focused on my children. Clifton High later offered me the post of international student coordinator; after the programme became more established, I left to support the business that we had set up with my husband, in student accommodation.
Where do you like to go in your leisure time?
Franck: I like to stroll along the wharfs; you can feel how this city has been and is still connected to the seas. And at this time of year you have all these people paddling and kayaking which is amazing.
Frédéric & Isabelle: The Downs, Bedminster and basketball venues; our three teens play basketball for Bristol Storm.
Capucine: I still love the feel of places like Primrose Cafe or Anna Cake Couture but I also like the Cargo development and the docks. I am particularly interested in the theatre; everywhere from Bristol Old Vic to the Tobacco Factory, the Wardrobe, Circomedia and the Everyman.
CHS has a strong Gallic community and curriculum
What do you think of the French restaurants here?
Cécile: I know a few but I must say I enjoy English cuisine and follow local habits: I can’t miss a Sunday roast in a pub like The Lansdown.
Janetta: We’ve been happy to discover the local cuisine! But there are a couple of French bistros we’ve visited and they’re very good, indeed. Helene: We prefer testing other foods and love Indian restaurants here so we don’t really look for French restaurants! Wilks was very good.
Do you mix with any other expat communities?
Helene: I play volleyball with a Bristol team which is multi-national (Polish, Greek, Russian, Mexican); I work closely with a Greek and a German and we have another German friend. So quite a lot actually!
Frédéric & Isabelle: Yes. Especially through the basketball; we have met Hungarian, Romanian and Spanish people.
How have your children settled into the local youth scene?
Cécile: The first year was challenging in a good way. The academic programme is very different from what we know in France; demanding and result-focused while fun/creative. It is really a chance for them to learn a new language properly and understand another culture.
Helene: Really easily. I’m sincerely impressed by how much the museums and restaurants are kid friendly, way more so than in France.
Frédéric & Isabelle: They struggled a bit when we arrived but almost all their friends are English teenagers and now they have better English accents than us!
Janetta: It was a nice surprise, how fast our two kids adapted. There’s no doubt their British friends and teachers helped a lot with this adaptation process, we’re very thankful for that.