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A guide for how to survive fall in France for homesick Americans

Looking to recreate American autumn festivities while living in France? Here are some of The Local's tips for how to avoid the seasonal homesickness this year.

A guide for how to survive fall in France for homesick Americans
A person holds a hollowed-out pumpkin in front of the Trocadero gardens in Paris in the 1990s (Photo by PASCAL GUYOT / AFP)

For many, fall or autumn is a sacred time in the United States, marked by spooky cobwebs, weekends filled with visits to pumpkin patches, jugs of apple cider, and searching for the perfect Halloween costume. 

It is an easy time of year to feel homesick for Americans living in France, especially when it feels like you are missing out on holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving with friends and family at home.

READ MORE: Readers’ tips: How to create an authentic Thanksgiving in France

While it might never be the same as a New England fall, here are some tips on how to make autumn in France feel a bit more like home:

For when you miss pumpkin patches:

Yes this is possible in France! Pumpkins grow in fields across central France, and they are available in most supermarkets once the fall season has begun. However, if you are looking for a traditional pumpkin patch experience, that might be a bit trickier to find. If you devote yourself to a bit of research, then you will likely be able to find a ‘Fête de la Citrouille‘ or ‘Foire à la citrouille‘ (Pumpkin festivals) near you. These are more like fall fairs, complete with ‘heaviest pumpkin’ competitions and food stands.

While these might be a bit different from what you are used to, they are a great way to enjoy pumpkins (in a French way).

Many of these events will be announced on Facebook, so you can start by searching there. 

If you live in the Paris region there are a few pumpkin patches not too far outside of the city. The ‘Fermes de Gally‘ host a yearly pumpkin picking and carving festival. You could also visit “Ferme du Logis” or the “Vergers de Champlain.”

For when you want to celebrate Halloween:

You have a few options for trick-or-treating, if that’s your thing. You can always organise a private event with some other Halloween enthusiasts. Though, keep in mind that in France people say “des bonbons ou un sort” instead of ‘trick-or-treat’ in English. The other option is to see whether your local mairie is hosting an event. While Halloween is definitely not as popular in France as it is in the United States, it is becoming more common. 

If you are looking for a more official, organised event, you might consider going to the “Disney Halloween Festival.” During the festivities, the ‘villains’ take over the park, which is fully decorated for Halloween. When you enter the park, you’ll be greeted by smiling scarecrows with pumpkins on their heads, lanterns lighting up the park, and characters in ‘scary’ (kid-friendly) costumes.

During the actual Halloween weekend, the park hosts dedicated soirées. Tickets usually go for 79€ to 89€ per person.

Another option, particularly if you have older kids looking for a scarier Halloween, might be Parc Asterix. Each year, usually for the entirety of the month of October, the park is decked out in autumn colours with pumpkins, corn, and even straw bales. If you want to take younger children, you can go to the ‘Petit frisson’ (small scare) section. 

For when you miss pumpkin flavoured everything:

You do not have to give up pumpkin spice if you stay in France this fall! Starbucks (with locations across the country) sells pumpkin spice lattes.

If you want to make your own PSL, you can find ‘pumpkin spice’ in France (with a bit of effort). Carrefour reportedly sells the seasoning (see HERE). For the truly determined, you can find pumpkin spice on French Amazon too. 

The best bet for finding pumpkin spice – for all your baking and coffee needs – is to see if there is a local American épicerie or store near you. You might try the “Brooklyn Fizz” store in Lyon; “The Great McCoy” market in Paris; or the “Épicerie Americaine” in Bordeaux.

If there are not any, you can always try the online store “My American Market.”

For pumpkin scented candles, you can either replace with another fall scent (search: “bougie parfumées automne“) or you can order a Bath and Body Works candle online – see HERE

Finally, if you are looking to make a homemade pumpkin pie, consider doing so with an actual pumpkin. Pumpkin purée is hard to come by in France, but chopping up the pumpkin yourself is certainly one way to satisfy the craving.

For when you miss apple picking and cider:

In France, Normandy and Brittany are known for apple production, with their own apple cider traditions. Take a trip to Normandy and enjoy apple and cider festivals – learn more HERE.  

READ MORE: French figures: The drink that sparked a regional crockery battle

While the festivals might be lacking in apple cider donuts, you can always try your hand in making some homemade. Most of the ingredients should be accessible, though you might struggle a bit early in the season with locating nutmeg (muscade en français). As the fall season goes on, most large grocery store chains ought to stock up.

For apple pie cravings, consider trying the French equivalent: tarte aux pommes. Though it might be exactly the same as American apple pie with vanilla ice cream on top, it is still delicious and available in most boulangeries. 

If you live in the Paris area, or you are visiting, you can check out Boneshaker Donuts. The owners combine French and American traditions, and always have a full fall assortment. 

For when you miss American football:

Another source of homesickness for many Americans is the lack of American football on television in France. 

If you have a VPN on your computer, you might not run into this issue as much, but for those looking to simply watch football on cable TV, you have some options as well.

Comparitech recommends France’s two official NFL broadcasters: L’Equipe and beIN Sports. L’Equipe reportedly airs every Sunday game and playoff live, including the Super Bowl. It is free to use, so you do not need to purchase a premium subscription to view NFL games. 

Another tip might be to visit Irish, British or Scottish pubs in your area. Oftentimes, they will have access to sports channels that air NFL games too. 

For college football, Hulu’s live TV option should allow you to stream most games. 

Unfortunately, the ESPN + subscription will locate your IP address, so this is not possible without a VPN. However, you can purchase the NFL Game Pass and use it from France. You can choose between watching the Redzone or simply a single, specific game. This also allows you to split your screen, so you can watch multiple games at once.

For when you are just generally homesick:

While this might not be the perfect antidote, it might be an opportunity to make the most out of France’s fall traditions. You can start creating new hobbies and pastimes that might just become your craving this time next year. Visit a spooky French cemetery, go to your local market and buy fresh squash and Brussels sprouts, sip mulled wine, or even go out foraging for mushrooms.

The Local put together a full guide to autumn in France HERE.

READ MORE: 11 ways to make the most of autumn in France

If you are missing the foliage, consider going for a hike or weekend trip to any of these French locations that are known for stunning fall views. 

At the end of the day, if you really cannot handle being far from home during autumn, consider simply visiting the US. While flights to the US are always going to be pricey, the trip is usually cheaper in autumn than during peak times, such as summer vacation or Christmas. This off-season trip might be what you (and your wallet) needs.

Member comments

  1. I have found that the spice combination named “quatre épices” is a combination of the spices used for pumpkin pies. It also was great in a home-made pumpkin spice latté.

    One can purchase the wedges of pumpkin in most grocery stores in the fall…bake with the skin on for about half an hour and then put in blender for the “pumpkin” in the pumpkin spice latté….a little stringy, keep blending!

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FRANCE EXPLAINED

Oldest allies: The best and worst moments of the French-American relationship

From military support to submarine disputes, statute-giving to French fry boycotts, the relationship between France and the USA has had its ups and downs over the last 250 years. As Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden meet in Washington, we take a look at some of the highs and lows.

Oldest allies: The best and worst moments of the French-American relationship

Franco-American relations go back a long way, with US diplomats and politicians often referring to the French as “our oldest allies” – a callback to when French king Louis XVI decided to support the American Revolution led by George Washington.

However, it’s not always been smooth sailing.

You can hear The Local team discuss the Franco-American relationship with special guest Jim Bittermann, the veteran CNN correspondent, of the latest edition of the Talking France podcast. Download it here or listen on the link below. 

As Emmanuel Macron enjoys a state visit in the US – the first state visit of the Biden presidency – here’s a look at the best of times and the worst of times. 

Best moments

The Revolutionary War – Without the help of the French, the Americans would have struggled to win their War of Independence. In February 1778, General Washington made an unusually optimistic announcement, saying that France’s decision to join the war effort had introduced “a most happy tone to all our affairs”.

In 1781, the French fleet played a significant role in the American victory in Yorktown, Virginia, which put an end to the Revolutionary War. 

When the time came for Great Britain to recognise the sovereignty of its former colonies and sign a peace treaty with them, the signing took place in Paris, on September 3rd, 1783.

France’s military assistance for the United States during the war did come at a significant economic cost – the country found itself over a billion livres (the French currency at the time) in debt. Not long after, France embarked upon its own revolution.

During and after the Revolutionary War, the US was home to several francophiles, such as Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. As for France, French architect and urban designer, Pierre Charles L’Enfant, who left his home country in 1776, went on to design the new capital of Washington D.C. There was also Marquis de Lafayette who went on the be a national hero in both countries, having served as a General in the American Revolution and helping to draft the Declaration of the Rights of Man during the French one.

The Statue of Liberty – Otherwise known as La Liberté éclairant le monde (Liberty lighting up the world) the statue is a monument to Franco-American friendship. 

The 93-metre-tall Lady Liberty – who has welcomed scores of immigrants “yearning to breathe free” – is actually French. Dedicated in 1886, the statue was a gift from the French people, intended to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.

The idea originally came from French historian Édouard de Laboulaye, an anti-slavery activist and avid supporter of the Union during the Civil War. He hoped that the statue would represent liberty and symbolise the freedom of thought repressed under Napoleon III’s regime. 

Eventually, it was sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi who brought the statue to life (and reputedly modelled her face on his mother) helped by a famous engineer known for another and tall structure – Gustave Eiffel.

READ MORE: French history myths: France only sent one Statue of Liberty to the US

First and Second World Wars – After almost three years of neutrality, the United States joined World War I, sending about 10,000 men a day during the summer of 1918 to the Western Front. The introduction of the American troops helped to strengthen the Allies and aided them in winning the war. In 1918, Woodrow Wilson sailed to France, becoming the first American President to visit a European country while in office. 

And about two decades later the US also joined the Allied side in World War II – thousands of American soldiers died on the beaches in Normandy during the D-Day landings of 1944 and are commemorated each year in June by French and American representatives.

However, in both cases, the post-war period proved more fractious.

After World War I, when President Wilson sought to negotiate his ‘Fourteen Point’ peace plan, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau is reported to have said: “Mr Wilson bores me with his Fourteen Points; why, God Almighty has only 10!” 

A home for America’s ‘Lost Generation’ – Many years after winning over the heart of Benjamin Franklin, other great American thinkers – artists and writers – found a home in Paris.

During the period following World War I, figures from Paul Bowles and Ernest Hemingway to Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein, used their time in France to inform their art. Paris offered what many saw as a freer, more expressive and open environment (not to mention the fact that the exchange rate at the time meant that they could live well in Paris on just a few dollars a month). 

The worst moments

But of course, it’s not all sunshine and wine – here are some of the more strained moments in the long relationship.

The Quasi-War – American and French friendship lasted for the first few years after the US gained its independence, but relations turned sour soon after the start of the French Revolution, and the beheading of King Louis XVI.

France had lent vast sums to the US to aid in their struggle for independence, but the Americans suspended repayments of these loans, claiming that the new French Revolution made previous agreements null.

Things became even worse when the new French republic found itself at war with Great Britain, as the United States declared itself neutral in the conflict, claiming that their Treaty of Alliance with France had been with the now-deceased King Louis XVI, so was no longer valid. 

The US needed to continue trading with British colonies in the Caribbean and so negotiated the Jay Treaty. For the revolutionary government of France, this treaty was proof that America had decided to trade with France’s enemies, and therefore France ought to treat the Americans like enemies. French privateers went on to seize US merchant ships.

While war was never officially declared, American naval ships did have engagements with French naval ships.

Napoleon’s support for the Confederacy – Technically, during the American Civil War, France remained neutral. However, Napoleon III was known to have favoured the Confederacy, in part due to his desire to protect the cotton trade.

France also wanted to expand its influence in Mexico, and sent troops to help Mexican monarchists with their plan to restore the monarchy.

This led to the union building up American military presence on the border with Mexico, and eventually – between the troops and diplomatic measures taken – Napoleon was persuaded to withdraw his troops.

De Gaulle v America – After World War II the Allies instituted AMGOT – the Allied Military Government of Occupied Territories – in the defeated countries of Italy and Germany.

However US President Franklin D. Roosevelt believed AMGOT should have been implemented in newly-liberated France too – primarily because he found it impossible to work with General Charles de Gaulle, who he believed had the potential to act as an authoritarian leader.

He was eventually persuaded by the American General Eisenhower to drop the plan, but unsurprisingly, the post-war period for Franco-American relations was at times tense.

For his part, De Gaulle strongly opposed what he saw as American hegemony, expelling American military units from French soil and partially withdrawing France from NATO.

The Iraq war – One of the most unhappy chapters in the book of Franco-American relations is that of the Iraq War.

While the French did express solidarity with the United States after 9/11, they did not support the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq with then-President Jacques Chirac refusing to join the US-led coalition in 2003.

In a tit-for-tat response, the Americans renamed French fries as “freedom fries” while US cartoon The Simpsons got on board, coining the phrase “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” to describe the French. 

READ MORE: Myth-busting: Are these 12 clichés about France actually true?

According to polling, French public opinion of the United States plummeted in an unprecedented drop as soon as the United States invaded Iraq. Those low opinions remained in place until the election of Barack Obama in 2008.

Submarines – And finally, the relationship between France and the United States deteriorated greatly after what became known as a AUKUS affair in 2021.

Essentially Australia backed out of an agreement to buy submarines from the French and instead, the US ended up selling its own submarines, leaving the French out of the trilateral defence pact. In response, France threatened to recall its ambassador to the United States.

US president Joe Biden has since somewhat-apologised – calling the deal “clumsy” and saying that it “was not done with a lot of grace” – and when it came to the first state visit of his presidency, he chose Emmanuel Macron in what many see as a a way of smoothing ruffled French feathers. 

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