A family reunion in France

Published: Wednesday, June 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 31, 2005 at 2:37 p.m.

In 1986, Kaydie Vistelle was in the Peace Corps and learning French while serving in Africa, when a wayward motorcycle sent her careening on the path to the rest of her life, a life that leads her family back to France every summer.


Kaydie Vistelle and her children Christophe and Melanie.

After the motorcycle accident, Vistelle traveled by MediVac back to the United States, and to Gainesville, to recuperate. While here, she met Richard Vistelle, a French native completing his post-doc in pharmacology at UF. The attraction held fast, and the two married shortly after at Micanopy's Herlong Mansion in December 1987, then returned to Richard's native country, where the two began a family - daughter MelaniZ and son Christophe -and lived for seven years.

In 1995, the Vistelles believed that Richard, now 54, would be receiving a position back at UF. The family bought a home here, but the position "didn't work out," Kaydie, 42, says. Though Richard had to return to France for work (he is now a professor of pharmacology and toxicology and dean at University of Reims), Kaydie decided to stay in Gainesville with the kids. As Kaydie says, "There's no comparison in terms of the everyday lifestyle. [In France], we live in an apartment, with no garage, up five flights of stairs.

We can afford to have a house here with a yard and a garage. We have a neighborhoo and a pool." During the school year, Kaydie works parttime as a French instructor at Oak Hall School and also runs her own company, Fun Languages Gainesville (, with French and Spanish language programs geared toward school children and organized around playgroups.

She decided to start the immersive organization after seeing how important trips to

France were in developing and maintaining her children's fluency in French.

Through Fun Languages Gainesville, Kaydie also offers classes for adults, as well as summer tours to France.

The June plane flight to France is a happily anticipated event for the Vistelles. "We spend a few days going around the town of Reims visiting my sister-in-law and friends, then we head toward the French Alps," says Kaydie. "Then we discover another area of France for a week; we have friends join us. Then usually, we head back to Provence. . .

We always watch the Tour de France, usually, after we've been hiking, we take our bath and veg." Last summer, while in France, Christophe took it upon himself to begin paragliding, a pastime Kaydie attributes in part to genetics. (Richard's late father was a well-known Alpinist.)

One of the aspects of French life Kaydie most enjoys is "the culture of eating."

"You go to a dinner party, and it starts at 8 and you won't get home until 2. It's all based on good food and conversation," says Kaydie, who adds that the French are more reserved initially, but just as friendly as Americans "once you get to know them." The Vistelle children are proud of their French culture, according to their mother, who says that Christophe plans to live in France part-time when he is an adult. "MelaniZ wants to marry a Frenchman to maintain the culture," Kaydie says. "And the kids love the food. My son could go to the bakery and live off the bread and pastries. He especially appreciates the little fine petit fours and all the things we don't get in America."

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