An Ephemeral French Enclave
Every two weeks, café welcomes Francophiles
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“We keep it close, and I’m lucky to have it. (There are) a lot of things in America I never understood, so thank goodness for Alliance Française. With them I could joke about culture shock and learn things,” Wildrick says. “The Alliance Française has a lot of positives for the American and French side.”
Having been a member of the AFT for seven years, Wildrick has many cherished memories. Most are from the group’s Fête de Noël annual Christmas parties, which she says are “so typically French” that they bring back memories of her earlier life in France.
Abigail Cleveland and Francoise Ouazzani
For Wildrick, however, the French way of life does not end when she heads for the café door. At home, she speaks her mother tongue to her young children, in an effort to bring France and the best of its culture into their lives.
“I want them to be connected to their French side, to embrace who they are,” Wildrick says. “I still buy cheese from my hometown and teach them this is how I eat, this is why I drink, this is how we cook in Normandy. Each town is different in France and I want them to feel special about this culture.”
A Growing Footprint at Home
Since the AFT’s founding in 2006 and official recognition by the Alliance Française as a chapter five years later, the group has been steadily growing in size and ambition.
More classes are being offered year-round to accommodate different levels of French proficiency. As an all-volunteer group, the group is funded only by membership dues and profits from their popular language classes.
They are expanding their footprint around town, as well. During the summer, the AFT set up a one-day French marketplace in downtown Tallahassee, where people strolled around and bought baked goods and T-shirts — the atmosphere enhanced by live music whirling through the farmer’s market.
The AFT held a Monet 5K Run/Walk at the FSU campus in November with proceeds going toward funding the group’s continued cultural activities. According to Bradford, a long-term goal for the AFT is to eventually raise enough money to lease a location they can call home.
“We need to do a big fundraising campaign since it’d be great to have enough of an endowment to have a permanent location, a building of our own. That’d be a real dream,” Bradford says. “We’re grateful to have our office, but it’s a teeny-tiny space.”
For now, they make do with movie screenings at Westminster Oaks retirement home and conversation hours at Black Dog Café or Au Péché Mignon, a local boulangerie. However, a commitment and shared bond over a love of France promises to ensure the group’s continued growth in the years ahead.
“You seriously do get attached to the people in Alliance Française. I get attached to my students, I get attached to the teachers and the group,” Wildrick says. “The Alliance Française, it is a big, powerful, little something.”
About the Alliance Française de Tallahassee
- Annual membership fees range from $5 for high school students to $200 for a business sponsorship. Individual membership costs $40, while college students pay $15.
- The AFT organizes annual events to celebrate uniquely French holidays like Bastille Day as well as cultural celebrations like Mardi Gras.
- Classes are offered for French-speakers at all levels, from beginning to intermediate.