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Trip report about Crea-langues school near Moustiers-ste-marie, Provence

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I thought I would give some feedback now that I have just returned from my 50th birthday treat to a French language school. I did lots of research here on Fodors and other places. I eventually chose Crea Langues for various reasons, mainly, through recommendation and the concept of their course and that is wasn't a real "student" type course.

The course I chose was for two weeks, they do offer one week courses but I think that would be too short. They offered A la Carte which was formal french lessons in the morning for 4 hours and then activities in the afternoon. You could also choose to do Professional french which was pretty much all day. I was very happy with my choice as I was doing the course mainly for enjoyment.

The school is located in a Monastery near Moustiers Ste. Marie in Provence. The owners have been gradually renovating the monastery and it is truly beautiful. I found the teachers to be excellent, every type of teaching method was used and the teachers rotated around the groups, each day you had a different teacher, (on rotation basis - actually four groups, so every five days you got the same teacher) you also changed classrooms so nothing was stagnant. The teachers had the patience of a saint and were happy and friendly all day every day. They were on call from 8.00am until after dinner 9.30pm each day.

At the beginning of the course the people doing the A la Carte concept were given several choices of activities to choose from and each afternoon a small group would head off to whatever you had chosen. The activities lasted from 2hrs - to 5hrs depending. They included mountain bike riding, canoeing on the Gorge Verdon, a trip around the Lac St. Croix, visiting a trufficulture, water colour painting, visiting an old town, visiting the L'Occitane factory etc. Very varied and interesting. I found driving in the mini bus or bike riding etc was very benefical to practice my French, less stressful than the classroom situation you could join in if you wanted to or not as the case may be.

The concept of the course was to be immersed totally from dawn till night speaking French. The teachers joined the students at dinner and lunch where French was to be spoken at all times. This worked very well, even though I felt frustrated at times not being able to speak the same way I do in english, ie fast.

At the Monastery they grow all their own fruit and vegetables. The food was probably the highlight for me!!! The breakfast was pretty plain, the usual bread and jam but we had a three course lunch and a three course dinner everyday! Not one course was ever repeated, straight from the greenhouse or the orchard to the table. Unbelievable standard of food. We all sat at one huge long table together, changing places every meal time which was great. Wine and water was also supplied. We also received a morning coffee everyday, no snacks and if you wanted soft drinks they were extra.

The accommodation was varied, most of the rooms were provencal style and very pleasant. My room was a little plain and I was a tad disappointed as I was the first to book in and had asked specifically for a quiet room (which it was) which was pretty etc. It was too plain for me and I was a bit miffed. They did add a rug and some cushions but compared to most of the other rooms it was very plain. They didn't seem to understand and genuinely thought this was a lovely room. They said they thought long and hard about where to put everyone, I think they probably did, but they got me wrong. This threw me a bit as my surroundings are very important and the ambiance of a room critical. However, after a couple of days I realised we really didn't spend much time in the room as the pace was so hectic. If I had needed to spend more time there I probably would have asked to change rooms (if they had).

The first morning we arrived we had to take a short test on grammar and have a little chat with one of the teachers. Fairly standard practice I think, to ascertain your level. They had a maximum of 6 people in any group. We were all pretty equally placed, a couple being better and a few being less experienced. Their course material was excellent.

After dinner each night there were activities as well, you could attend if you liked. Things like pictionary, mime, dance etc. All good fun, it was a long day with not much time for brooding!!

The weather was sensational, hot days with clear blue skies every day.

The owners of the school were absolutely delightful. They offer transfers from Aix TGV or Marseilles airport, for arrival and departure.

I would highly recommend Crea Langue for an all round experience. I am nearly 50 and felt very much average age. There were some others in their 30's and some in their 70's, most being around 50 -60yrs. It was not a cheap exercise and not for the budget conscious. I would return.

Hope this has helped some folk out there to make a decision. Any detailed questions don't hesitate to ask. Schnauzer.

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    Hi schnauzer
    Thanks for a great report. I am considering this school as it was recommended by a colleague and seems to be a bit cheaper than some of the others so it's good to read such a positive report. May I ask, did you do the intensive or mixed course?(sorry, can't remember the name!) Also, how far in advance did you book to get your single room? And what was your level of French before you started? I am thinking of having a telephone test as I use French nearly every day, but it is still at a pretty low level.
    Thanks for any input.

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    Hi Lilaclady,

    Glad to hear you are considering Crea Langues. I did the A la Carte course. A few did the full day with the afternoon of business french. If you need business french for your work then maybe this is something to consider. I am not sure exactly what they covered but I got the feeling that if you had a specific requirement they would cater to it. Personally I really enjoyed all the excursions in the afternoon and felt I got more out of those than the structured classes, a much more relaxed atmosphere, not to say the classes were stressful.

    I was the first person to book in and from memory it was about 8 months beforehand. As mentioned (I think) in my report I was disappointed with my room, as felt doubly cheesed off as I was the first to ask for a single room. They are actually just the ordinary double rooms - and you pay the supplement!!! They said they had really tried to match the person to the room based on the info we had sent, well they got me very wrong!!! If you want a true Provencal style room then make sure request it. ie ask for a bed with the bed head and foot. ask for a room with decorations around the walls. They dont' have names so it is very hard to later ask for a specific room or to recommend a specific room. I asked for quiet which I got, but boring brown bed spead, no colour, no paintings, I felt like I was in a cell. They seemed genuinly (sp?) surprised I didn't like the "latest room to be renovated". One of the ladies got the room on their web page photos, with a fireplace (non working) it was off the cloister, but the down side was that everyone thought it was the exit door to another area of the Monestry and kept trying to get it!!!! So there are pros and cons for all of them. I wouldn't recommend sharing a room, some were good, but one in particular was awful as one lady had to walk through the other lady's bedroom everytime she needed the bathroom!!!
    You can see by my extended response this is a subject very close to my heart. If pretty (well none of the rooms are overly decorated) is important to you I can try and describe which room I would request if I went again!

    I had been learning French for about three and a half years. My international standard is only intermediate B1 from memory. I started and left at the same level!!! Hey, it is worth going for the food alone!!!!

    Let me know if you need any more info.
    Schnauzer

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    That's great - thanks for your response. I have a single room on hold and am going to have a telephone assessment next week. If it goes OK, then I'll probably book. I like the look of the a la carte one - the one with excursions? - too as it looks more enjoyable and I'd like to get out a bit if possible as it is in summer time! I should be fine with the room I think as I have the continental experience on a daily basis so as long as it's a single, I'll be happy (I hope!) but I'll keep your comments in mind. My colleague had to share and hated sharing with a stranger so a single is very important to me. Did you feel it helped your oral French or your written? Or both? Once again, thanks for your help.

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    Definitely my oral French, in particular the confidence. I don't know that the actual French improved so much, (hopefully at least a bit) but the confidence in talking and not worrying whether it was "right" all the time. Just talk, talk, talk. Some days I felt like I was on fire and then the next morning I could hardly string three words together!!! Really strange. My teacher back home thought I had improved, so that was a good indication.

    We didn't do much written work, if any really. Just in exercises and a little presentation that we had to do in the last week.

    I took some photos of home, child, dogs, house, garden etc and used these as a prompt for my talk which helped a lot. You can talk about anything, but the best is to talk about a familar subject. So that could be a tip for you to take some photos. (about 6, not a whole album!!)

    You will enjoy the excursions. You get to choose which ones you like and then depending on interest and numbers they make up a schedule. If you are interested and it is offered try the L'Occitane factory tour. It was very interesting and you can buy some products with a 10% discount in the shop. I noticed on another web site they were offering this tour at $199 ouch!!!

    I really enjoyed the canoeing and the mountain bike riding. The visit to Manosque was a bit ordinary to be honest. You spent one afternoon doing a talk about Manosque and surrounds and then the next afternoon you did the visit. If I went again I would do something different to this.

    I tried to do something nearly afternoon and again my suggestion would be try and have an afternoon off in the first week, you are absolutely shattered that first week and I could have done with a break to just gather my thoughts and have a rest. Try and request this if you can (want to. There are also activities every night and again I practically did all of those until I was at the point of exhaustion!! Didn't want to miss out on anything! The dancing was really good fun apart from a certain person with terrible BO.

    I think they try and change the activities around as they get lots of repeat visitors. So some of the above may not even be offered.

    I hope you go, they are all very kind and patient.

    Schnauzer

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    Hi schnauzer, glad to know you have enjoyed this school. I had a very similar - experience at Centre International des Langues in Manosque, not far from Moustier, 9 years ago. http://www.cilang.com/us2/content.php?idc=43

    This immersion was the best thing that could happen to my French, so I can completely relate to your report.


    The Centre now has new ownership, (which I now see somehow claims to have founded the school (??)). It looks like they have expanded the offerings. My experience with the previous owners of CIL, Renee and Claude Mathieu, was as wonderful as yours seems to have been.

    Lilaclady, I am also glad that more people are doing this immersion training. It was a fantastic experience that I think you will enjoy. Are you booking during the lavander season?

    -enroute

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    Hello
    Thanks for your messages! I booked for the beginning of August (will that still be lavender season?) and so am waiting for confirmation. They have been very patient with me already as I kept changing my mind on dates and now am not sure how I am going to get there so another decision to make. Anyway, the director called me personally and I found her French very easy to understand so that was reassuring. Hopefully it will be great!

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    I am very upset to read the above post. I feel 'something' is not quite right. He has joined fodors just to post unfair comments about Crea Langues. I returned to Crea-Langues last year and took 44 other people with me!!! yes, that is true, we booked the whole place out for two weeks, and everyone, repeat, everyone, was very happy with all the arrangements. In fact I have organised for another 24 people to go this year. No, I have absolutely no affiliation with the school. It is just the most incredible place to visit. Annemarie and Dhruv are the most generous and genuine people and can not do enough to make sure that everything runs smoothly.

    I wouldn't give Marcus' comments much weight, I am sure there is more than meets the eye with his post.

    Schnauzer

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    Completely incompetent management at Crea-Langues - do yourself a favor and spend your money elsewhere.

    The following post is based on my personal experience at Crea-Langues and the comparison to several other language schools in France with similar full immersion programs I have stayed at over the past few years. I would like to point out that the concept of Crea-Langues is great. However, just like with any other business, incompetent management can truly ruin your experience. I understand that problems occur when running a business but it is up to the management to listen to their clients and to rectify any issues when they arise to ensure customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, the management of Crea-Langues was not even willing to discuss the items I had brought to their attention. Other schools I stayed at had a much better understanding of keeping paying customers happy. Only a happy customer is a returning customer. Thanks for reading.

    I stayed at the Crea-Langues school for one week in May of 2012. I enjoyed the classes and activities that were offered. However, there were a few things that soured my experience. This is the fourth language school with a similar full immersion program that I have tried and it turned out to be the worst so far.

    1. Catastrophic Transfer from the Aix-en-Provence TGV station to the school

    The Sunday before the school I was scheduled to take a train from Geneva to Lyon where I would make my connection for Aix-en-Provence. Unfortunately, my train from Geneva to Lyon was delayed by more than one hour which meant that I missed my connecting train in Lyon and was rebooked on a later one. This meant that I would miss the shuttle service organized by the school at a one-way price of EUR 40 that I had already paid for in advance. I called the principle of the school from the station in Lyon once I knew when I would arrive in Aix-en-Provence. The way she responded at first was re-assuring. She said that there was another student that was also affected by the delayed train between Geneva and Lyon. She then went on proposing a “solution” to our transportation problem (the school is about 1.5 hours away from the Aix-en-Provence TGV station). She told us to wait 1.5 hours at the station in order to take a bus for about one hour which would drop us off in a town where her husband would then pick us up for the rest of journey (another 45 minutes). Given that both of us weren’t very keen on waiting 1.5 hours at the station, I asked her for an alternative. Her “alternative” was even more outrageous. She said that could take a taxi instead of the bus for the first leg of our journey to the monastery for a whopping EUR 150. Needless to say that we didn’t want to spend another EUR 150 just for transportation to the school which meant that we opted for the bus. At around 8 pm when we had finally figured out how to get to the school, we wanted to grab some food at the station. The problem: The only restaurant at the station which is located outside of the city closed at 8 pm which meant that the only “food” available was candy you could buy from vending machines. We eventually took the bus and made it to the school at around 11 pm. Needless to say that we were frustrated and starving when we got there. A delayed train is neither the school’s nor my fault. However, if you have two of your clients stuck at the station with no food options whatsoever, you better come up with a more accommodating solution than making them wait there for 1.5 hours before continuing their odyssey to the school.

    2. Speedy Meals that were missing one crucial component

    I like to enjoy my meals even when I am not on vacation but especially when I am on vacation. Unfortunately, this was not possible at the school. The courses during lunch and dinner were served very quickly. There was never really enough time to enjoy the delicious meals and to have conversations with the other students and teachers around the table at the same. It always felt like they wanted to get the lunch or dinner service over with as quickly as possible which is very unfortunate, especially when you are on vacation in France.

    The second major drawback in regards to meals was the fact that a cheese platter was served only one time during all of meals at the monastery. This really bothered me given that France is the country when it comes to cheese. All other schools I have been to offered a traditional French cheese platter during all lunches and dinners. Obviously this was done to bring down costs and to maximize the school’s profits. Very disappointing given the school’s rather expensive prices.

    It is unfortunate that I cannot recommend Crea-Langues. The concept itself is great, the teachers do a good job but the management, namely Annemarie and Dhruv Bhandari-Desmet, are incapable of satisfying their clients. A few days into our one week stay, they asked us for our opinion in writing. I submitted my points of criticism but never heard back. When you ask your customers for their opinion and you receive negative feedback you better do something about it. Unfortunately, Annemarie and Dhruv did not even try to rectify the points of criticism I had brought to their attention. Very unfortunate. When paying for lodging at departure, it was me who brought up the issue with the transfer to the school for which I had paid EUR 40 for. I ended up paying EUR 5 instead of the full EUR 40 for this service that was never really rendered but let me tell you that Annemarie’s husband Dhruv was not at all apologetic. It was rather the contrary, he was trying to make me feel bad about having brought up this complaint again. In my opinion a truly unacceptable behavior.

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    Marcus' above comment had been deleted by Fodor's moderators, he has now reposted the exact comment again. I have no idea why. Crea Langues of course have a completely different take on what happened.

    Not sure what Marcus's agenda is..... but I can't say enough good things about Crea Langues and am going back again in 2013.

    Schnauzer

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    I can't disagree more with Marcus K. I believe that this is a grossly inaccurate description of the school, and should be considered as suspect. I have been to this school for three different courses: 2004, 2008 and 2010. I have sent 4 different friends and family members there and they have all had similarly incredible experiences. The instruction is superb, the food absolutely delicious and the accommodation out of this world. Annemarie and Dhruv are extremely kind and give individual attention to every student, doing their utmost to accommodate personal requests. Having been to several immersion programs (in French and Spanish), I can assure you this is leagues above the rest. I am planning to return in 2013.

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