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Paris-Immersion School in the Dordogne-Languedoc-Aix & Lessons Learned

Paris-Immersion School in the Dordogne-Languedoc-Aix & Lessons Learned

Aug 15th, 2014, 03:34 PM
  #41  
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 6,138
sugarmaple---IMO, scrap that checked bag. Too much stuff. After many lost bags we now do carry on only, even for 2 week in France. On 1 trip to Paris & the Loire they lost our checked bag & we got it back 3 weeks after we got home! I found out I didn't need that stuff after all. thankfully I pack a good carry on.

Buy a fold up bag that opens up into a duffle--about 6x8, opening into a 12x20 or so duffle. On the return, check the duffle with dirty clothes and put purchases in your carry on.

We did Paris & Aix, another Paris & The Dordogne with just a carry on and it worked out fine.

Speaking of Aix and The Dordogne, I'm looking forward to the rest of this report.
TPAYT is offline  
Aug 16th, 2014, 10:41 AM
  #42  
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Merci for the nice comments-

sugarmaple-good decision,one I will stick to from now on, no matter what anyone else in my travel party is doing-carry on only and I'm with TPAYT you really need less than you think-so maybe you don't really need that other checked bag.
Just a 21 inch and a tote bag for me is plenty (& I love clothes, and love love shoes.

Last night I called Taxi G7, an English speaking taxi service to schedule our early morning pickup to take us to the train station (01 41 27 66 99). Even though we are 3 french language students there are certain things that you do not want to get lost in translation. I have used this service on each of my trips to Paris and have had no problems, they are always on time.

While waiting for our taxi time I once again go over to Starbucks. This time I sit in one of their sidewalk chairs, with my mocha and Ladurée macaron watching Paris slowly wake up.

True confessions-I love that Starbucks is right across the street. At home I really don’t frequent Starbucks too much, but on the go like this it is really convenient to have one right across the street.



The train ride to Bergerac is about 4 hours with one change at Libourne, a small station.

This next lesson is a really important one-when you have a chance to use les toilettes on the train-do it.

I waited till we got to the station and the slot to put your coins in to open the bathroom door was jammed.
I let the porter know, and the next thing is there are about 6 people trying to get it unstuck. I give up before they do and go back to wait for my train- as I definitely don’t want to miss it-the bathroom break will have to wait.

We get to the station at Bergerac where the owner of the school will be picking us up, but we are not sure what the owner of the school looks like.

We are standing around waiting when a little blue car- what we in Hawaii call a jugie- a broken down sort of car- pulls up and a women gets out and said –are you D. Yep it’s our ride.

She is late in picking us up as she has been to the market.

The little car is filled with groceries, so much so that we need to help her take the bags out of the trunk so that we can fit our luggage in. We juggle ourselves and the bags with produce falling out, at last squeezing all into the car. J turns to me and said, okay I am only going to say this once, and then I will let it go- I have been on a lot of horse riding tours in Europe and I have never been picked up like this.

I am in the front seat of the car and the owner of the school starts speaking to me in rapid fire French as she is driving very fast back to her house as she is anxious to get home as her dogs have been missing today.

WTF have I gotten myself into, is what I am rapidly thinking.

The more she drives the more beautiful the scenery becomes, until we turn left off the main highway onto a gravel driveway, lined on one side with horse stables and then…

WOW!

The driveway opens up and in front of us is a big ivy covered house with white shutters on the many large windows of the front façade.

We are shown our respective rooms upstairs, told to make ourselves at home and at anytime during our stay to help ourselves to drinks in the refrigerator.

This has turned from WTF, this might be bad, to WTF, this is really good.

This place is beautiful; the pictures we saw on the website don’t express the feel - the loveliness of it all, the peacefulness of the countryside. This is my kind of place.

I change into something more comfortable, grab a beer out of the refrigerator and set off to explore the grounds.

By the pool I meet two young girls from England who have been here for a week on a riding holiday. This is their last afternoon and they are sad to be leaving. I hear all about their wonderful time and how one of them is going back home, packing up her things and moving to France. Under the spell of this place, I encourage her and say what’s the worst that could happen-you have to move back home?(which is what I would tell myself when I moved from my home in Southern California and all that I had known to Hawaii-it has now been 17 years and the worst has not happened yet).

Around the back of the property is a small pond with a row boat. I can’t resist, I climb in and sit there listening to the frogs and watching the light changing as the sun is dropping.

Back up to my room to change for dinner. My room is really charming-furnished with twin sleigh beds covered with red French quilts. I put my stuff on one bed and claim the one near the window for my bed.

Dressed for dinner, I go down to the salon where some of the students are having an aperitif and making small talk.
One of the teachers comes in to sit with us. I am starving, and so is everyone else- I can tell as the peanuts are devoured as soon as they are set down.

We are waiting for another group to arrive before we start dinner, but it is getting later and later, and all small talk has been exhausted and that awkward silence begins-probably brought on by everyone being tired and hungry.

I feel like I am in a movie

…A somewhat bizarre English movie as out of 12 students 8 are from England

Finally we are told to move into the dining room we will start dinner without the other students.

Half way thru dinner the rest of the students arrive.

And WOW again, the food is wonderful.
FabulousFrance is offline  
Aug 16th, 2014, 04:00 PM
  #43  
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
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WOW - this is wonderful! I feel as though I am there with you - I just wish I was.
LCBoniti is offline  
Aug 17th, 2014, 02:34 AM
  #44  
 
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Stilloving it, thank you!
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Aug 17th, 2014, 05:32 AM
  #45  
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
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My goodness this sounds so wonderful! Can't wait for more. I so agree about Paris by we are leaving for trip #9 in March since 2006. Everyone keeps asking why we keep going back. We get it.
lrock5 is offline  
Aug 17th, 2014, 06:26 AM
  #46  
 
Join Date: May 2003
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I am really enjoying your trip report! Please continue!!
girlonthego is online now  
Aug 17th, 2014, 10:08 AM
  #47  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
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I feel like I am in a movie

…A somewhat bizarre English movie as out of 12 students 8 are from England >>

enjoying the report a lot but not sure why you thought that 2/3 of the students being english was bizarre - or have i misunderstood?
annhig is offline  
Aug 17th, 2014, 10:43 AM
  #48  
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I’m glad you’re enjoying my report, as I am enjoying reliving it.

Oh annhig-not meant to offend –as I know you are from England-and after this experience England has shot to the top of the list of places I want to visit, not only for its sites, but because of the wonderful woman I met - It was the accents and the setting of the grand house with everyone on their guarded best behavior the first night-not how my “normal” life in Hawaii is-so bizarre-in a good way- to me.

Big lesson-one that I continually remind myself of all week-When over your head keep a positive attitude and an open mind.

I quickly realize that all of the students are way more advanced in their French language studies than I am.
I have only been studying for about 2 years; all of the students (except J my classmate from Hawaii) have been studying for more years, some as many as 12 years.

All of the students from England have been to this immersion school multiple times.

I did have my doubts about attending-that it was too soon- but I really wanted to take advantage of the opportunity because there are no guarantees that it would come again.

As the one rule of the house is to speak French at all times I decide that the best thing I could do was just to accept this situation and soak in as much of the language as I can. Basically listen and then listen some more.

My speaking abilities really sucked-still do.
It is really frustrating to not be able to express myself.

Throughout the week there are times everyone reverted to English as it’s hard to get to know someone in another language in just one week. I definitely met some woman that I will remain in contact with, and may even travel with one in the future. I also know that if I ever travel to England at the very least I would have a dinner date and in some cases maybe even a place to stay.

The week was very structured and at times overwhelming for me as I am not used to so much social activity at the same time struggling to be smart with something relatively new.

Let me just say, the food was more than wonderful, every meal was a superb. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner at the school every day except for the last night when we went to a local restaurant for our farewell dinner with all the
teachers.

Our days started around 8 am, where we would meet in the dining room for petit dejeuner-coffee-French press bien sur, yogurt, croissants, fruit and cereal.

Then enough time to go fetch your classroom supplies, freshen up and the first lesson would begin around 9 am.

The morning sessions were a classroom setting for 3 hours or so.

The afternoon sessions were excursions.

For the classroom setting we were broken down into small groups based on our levels. The first session began with one teacher, then a coffee break which we would take outside sitting at the café tables in the morning sun, then switch teachers and rooms for the 2nd half of the morning session.

Lunch was served buffet style, usually a number of salads, some lunch meat, and fruit and sometimes if we were lucky there would be something left over from dinner the night before.

There were a number of places to eat. I always took my plate outside. I rotated between sitting at the café tables in the front of the house, the long teak picnic table on the lawn by the pool, or the back terrace overlooking the pond.

After lunch we would have a choice of going on an excursion or staying at the house. I went on every excursion (more on them later). Some of the students who had been here multiple times would stay at the house and either go on a walk, swim, watch a movie, study or just rest.

Before dinner we gathered in the salon for aperitifs, almost every night we would have a guest from the community join us for dinner. We also had not only the owner but at least 1 teacher join us for dinner, sometimes 3 teachers, including one who was not teaching us but visiting from Australia, where she owns a language school.

Dinner was something to look forward to. We did not know in advance what it would be but it was always delicious, followed by an equally delicious desert.

We all ate together in the dining room on two tables pushed together to make one long one. We also took it upon ourselves to switch up the seating, so that you sat next to someone different most nights.

After the typically French style dinner-long with lots of wine flowing- which helped loosen the tongue for speaking in French- it was back to the salon for a nightcap.

I would fall into bed around 11pm every night.

Every day was completely filled with fun, friendship and French.
FabulousFrance is offline  
Aug 17th, 2014, 10:59 AM
  #49  
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
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Wine has always improved language skills at dinner, just as it improves sociability.

I'm very surprised that you had French press coffee at breakfast, because that is really quite rare in France, especially in a group situation.
kerouac is online now  
Aug 17th, 2014, 02:16 PM
  #50  
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
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Sounds idyllic. Can't wait to hear about the excursions.
LCBoniti is offline  
Aug 17th, 2014, 02:25 PM
  #51  
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 224
I'm also enjoying your report. What's the name of the school - did I miss that somewhere?! More please!
powhatangal is offline  
Aug 18th, 2014, 12:22 PM
  #52  
 
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Oh annhig-not meant to offend –as I know you are from England-and after this experience England has shot to the top of the list of places I want to visit, not only for its sites, but because of the wonderful woman I met - It was the accents and the setting of the grand house with everyone on their guarded best behavior the first night-not how my “normal” life in Hawaii is-so bizarre-in a good way- to me. >>

I was not insulted, FF, just intrigued. thanks for the explanation.

I too would be interested in the name of the school - it's something that DH and I keep promising each other we will do before too long. I've been to 3 italian language schools but not a french one. The format seems pretty similar - classes in the morning, excursions in the afternoon, though the school you attended had communal meals as well which is not something I've experienced.

keep it coming!
annhig is offline  
Aug 18th, 2014, 02:10 PM
  #53  
 
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ttt
nukesafe is offline  
Aug 18th, 2014, 02:43 PM
  #54  
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Posts: 180
Here's the info on the school

www.frenchinthedordogne.com

I always plan my own adventures-some might even say I am maybe a little obsessive with planning- I don’t think so but some may say that- I think if any crowd understands the joy in planning it’s you guys-but I have to say it was really, really nice having everything taken care of for this week.

I did not think about anything more than what time it was so I knew where to be-
Either sitting down enjoying a fabulous meal, in the van with someone else driving & knowing how to get to wherever we were going, or in class-ok maybe not class-that was hard-I did have to think there.

Jane, her staff and the teachers took care of our every need and did it so well.

They have their system down and made our stay very special-which probably is the reason so many people return.

I was amazed at how comfortable everyone was with each other after just a few days. Sure there were some quirks in personalities but everyone was having such a good time and we were fed and watered so well that we were all happy.
Not sure if every group gets so lucky, but we all had a fabulous time.

Would I go again?

It would be hard to say no, and I think the only reason I would not go back would be to experience a new region in France.

Everything at the school was, in my opinion, wonderful.

I will be back soon to take you on some excursions.
FabulousFrance is offline  
Aug 19th, 2014, 05:20 AM
  #55  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
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thanks for posting the link to the language school, FF. Bearing in mind that it's "all in" i think that the cost is very reasonable.

I see that they refer to teaching being in small groups - did they divide you as to ability at all? how big were the groups?
annhig is offline  
Aug 21st, 2014, 11:21 AM
  #56  
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annhig-yes we were divided by ability. I think the groups were based on our first outing together and how well (or not) we could carry on in French. There were 2 groups. In my group there were 5 students. Later in the week we changed to 3 groups when they added one more teacher to accommodate the different needs of the groups. The first session we were also given a dictation which we handed in that I think they used to determine what they would cover in the class room sessions.

I went on every excursion. The excursions were usually after lunch and we would return home around 7pm. If there was an entrance fee for the excursion that was paid for by the school.
We now have a big comfortable passenger van, as well as a couple of other cars driven by either a teacher, or a friend of J, the owner.

Sunday was a day of no classes-a day for everyone to just get acquainted with each other and enjoy the region.

After breakfast we all head to the fairly large Sunday market in the small, nearby town of Issigeac. We were given a place and time to meet and set free to enjoy.

One of the wonderful things about France is their tourist offices-(TI). There is a lot of to see & do in France and a stop at the local TI office is a good idea. You can get directions and information on the sites for the region you are in.
This town has a very nice one, staffed like most with English speaking staff and also had a photo exhibit going on.

The outdoor markets in France are fabulous-one of my favorite things to do.
They have a lot of things that interest me, not necessarily to always buy, but just to look at-a sort of living, moving cultural museum.
There are usually farm fresh fruits & food products to clothes and linens and local arts & crafts. In general just a nice way to spend a morning in France.

This time of year the stands are filled with small red strawberries-I buy a bag and eat them unwashed as I am strolling the market-they are so sweet and fresh that I can’t resist and before I know it the I have almost eaten them all.

I stroll into a few of the stores and almost leave one with a beautiful sweater before I come to my senses and remember that I live in Hawaii where the temperature rarely drops below 75 degrees-instead I leave the market with a used paperback and some nice smelling handmade soaps.

I start off with J but soon we separate only to bump into each other again later.
J finds a patisserie with meringue and makes it her personal mission to try meringue in each town we are in.

Back to Bourdil Blanc for lunch then the afternoon is spent in Monpazier.

This was the first town I had visited on my first trip to France. I had the best cèpes omelet that I have ever had in my life at a randomly chosen restaurant- Gerard Prigent @ 52, rue Saint-Jacques. Since then I have ordered cèpes omelet whenever I see them on a menu, but so far none have even come close. This trip I do not get to find out if they are as good as I remember or was it just the memory of my first meal in France that made them so delicious.

Monpazier is a strikingly beautiful town. I don’t know if it is on one of those 100 most beautiful towns in France list but I think it should be.

It is very pleasing to the eye.

The streets leading up to the center of town have houses with roses in full bloom climbing up their stone walls, mostly deep blood red roses with a few pink ones thrown in to soften the look against the light stone.

Boutiques and cafés make up the shaded walk surrounding the large center with low, stone arches leading from one section to the next.
In the center of the square is a wooden structure where the market was originally held under the cover of the wooden beams.
Today there is a plant market set up under colorful umbrellas.

J, the owner, as she did whenever we went out, took the opportunity to pick up something for the house.
This time it was red geraniums which she planted in the bird bath that I could see from my bedroom window; other times it was groceries for our meals or umbrellas for the outdoor tables & once we even picked up a couple bicycles. J is constantly busy throughout the week and her efforts to keep the house and school running shows.

I stroll around the entire square with a couple other students, going in and out of shops, all of us trying our best to stay in French the whole time. I have become instant BFFs with a woman from San Diego and we are on the look-out for a fabulous looking French man for her-such great shopping in France!

We regroup with the rest of our party at an outdoor café- joining them in enjoying coffee, ice creams,
drinks and soaking up this incredible experience.

Back to Bourdil Blanc for a small rest before another Fabulous French dinner.
FabulousFrance is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2014, 08:00 AM
  #57  
 
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Wonderful!
LCBoniti is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2014, 11:52 AM
  #58  
 
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Your trip sounds so very wonderful! Monpazier is a gem!
kansas is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2014, 08:18 AM
  #59  
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LCBoniti & Kansas- yes it really was wonderful-

Merci for your comments and continuing to read...

Monday morning- first day of class.

We meet a new teacher, B, a very nice and pretty French woman who is wearing…..jeans and converse tennis shoes! Yes, things are changing in the world of fashion in France. They have caught on to the American attitude of wear whatever you want as long as you are comfortable. However, and a big however…the French seem to pull it off with style. When they wear jeans and tennis shoes it looks very chic, not -oh I’m just throwing this on cause I don’t have time to care how I look and I have to go to church and then run to the market. No, it’s more like- I am doing a fashion shoot for a casual weekend at the château in the countryside and I am ready for my close up.

Zut allors! My plan to fade into the background and just listen is not going to work. I actually need to participate, ready or not.

We each take turns reading aloud from a story. Then B gives a dictation from it. This is a very similar format as the class I take in Hawaii. B is very calm which relaxes me and instead of thinking how much I don’t know, how much I can’t respond back in fluent French, her calm allows me to try as she has lots of patience.

The morning session flies by, we have our coffee break, switch rooms and our next teacher is A.

A is….oh he is soooo much.
He is probably in his 70s, but with the energy of someone in his 20s and the excitement for life like that of a playful young child.

He stays at the house in the converted pigeonier, so that he is separate but always right there with us. He starts his day with us at petit dejeuner and ends his day with us with a nightcap in the salon.

His style of teaching is very dramatic. He over emphasizes the words and their sounds. His favorite thing to say, which I can still hear in my head, is- it sounds like "this” as he draws the word out long and loud- not like “that” as he says the word short and flat mimicking the way we said the word.

During the week he has us go over the sounds as if we are playing the scales on a piano. He tells us over and over that if you don’t make the correct sound then it changes the word and no one will understand what you are trying to say.

He loves languages-speaks multiple languages,
he loves history & architecture-he goes on every excursion as our tour guide and is so knowledgeable about what we are seeing,
he loves to tell stories-he has lived and traveled to nearby and faraway lands,
he loves people –he will ask you what you think which sparks interesting conversations,
he loves wine-he has a vineyard about an hour away from Bourdil Blanc where he lives.
In a nutshell he is a joy to be around (even at times when you don’t have the energy to keep up with him he senses that and moves on to the next person giving you a chance to refresh your energy for the next round).
He loves what he does and is a great asset to this school.

After lunch the first stop on our excursions is Château des Milandes-Josephine Baker’s home where you can take a self guided tour of her life.
I have been here before and enjoyed it this time as much as I did my first visit.
A few of the students who have been here before sat at the café outside enjoying the grounds. I did the tour again and was glad I did as there is a lot to see. There is also a bird show outdoors which I skipped but could see a bit of it from looking thru one of the leaded windows from inside the Château.

Josephine was an American born dancer, singer & actress who went to Paris in the 1920s and became a huge celebrity.
The French loved her.
She was deeply involved in many causes including the French Resistance & the Civil Rights Movement in America.
She was bestowed honors by Charles de Gaulle for her contributions during WWII; she was also asked to help lead the civil rights movement after the assignation of Martin Luther King by his widow.
She declined staying in France with her children; by then she had adopted 12 children from different countries and lived with them at Château des Milandes calling them her rainbow tribe.
Later in life, down on her luck she was evicted from the Château. With the help of friends, including Princess Grace Kelly, she was able to make a stage comeback in the 1970s at the end of her life.
She led a fascinating life which was made into a movie called the Josephine Baker Story.
The first time I was here a very old French gentleman was looking at the pictures on the wall very close up and intently. He was being guided by a younger man who told us he had been one of her boyfriends-you could see the emotion on his face as he was traveling back in time-a priceless travel moment for me.

Next we went to Beynac. It was late Monday afternoon and the village was very quiet compared to the last time I was here when there were more people roaming the streets.
We were dropped off at the top near the castle and walked the very steep road down where we were picked up next to the Dordogne River.
This village is one of the 100 most beautiful villages in France and is very picturesque with small stone houses with peaked roofs along the narrow curvy streets.
The views across the valley are spectacular from here.
There are a few cafes along the river which make for a nice stop to have a drink and a rest while watching the river flow.

Today we did not do that, we hoped back into the cars for the drive back to the house for a small rest there and another fabulous dinner.
FabulousFrance is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2014, 08:25 AM
  #60  
 
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Posts: 21,497
It is sounding more and more like the most perfect trip ever.
kerouac is online now  

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