My French Immersion stay in Provence, by Sara
In addition to being very educational, my two weeks of the S.L. Immersion program in Provence was like visiting family. With Béatrice and her husband Wilfried near Aix-en-Provence, I felt like I was visiting my younger sister and her husband. With Celtina, who lives near Avignon, I felt like I was staying with one of my daughters (and her 8-year-old son). They both made me feel so warmly welcome, like a member of the family. And my accommodations were private and very comfortable. I felt truly at home and at ease – except for not knowing enough French… but that’s why I was there!
The French immersion program
The French immersion program was just what I needed to revitalize my grade school, high school, college and recent studies of French. It gave me the confidence to converse and understand a good percentage of the French that was being spoken all around me. And when my husband joined me to travel after my program, I was able to interpret for him and get us from city to city.
Highlights of my classes were discussions of the regions I was visiting, French film, French literature and the Academie Française, as well as what was happening in France during historic periods I had lived through. We reviewed famous French songs and fables too, which helped me learn and practice using a variety of adjectives and idioms. And woven through all of the class discussions were gentle grammar lessons and corrections that helped me review the areas where I often make mistakes.
I loved the mealtimes and lingering over conversations on all sorts of subjects, which meant lots more learning opportunities, broadening my vocabulary and increasing my comprehension. And the meals were all so delicious. It’s a good thing there were also a lot of activities and walks to keep me from putting on weight!
There were so many activities that it’s hard to choose favorites. I enjoyed each outing. Activities included visits to the biggest market-days in Aix-en-Provence and in Isle-sur-la-Sorge. Those were immense markets selling everything imaginable, and each was a feast for the senses. I also loved the visits to local smaller food and crafts markets in nearby towns, including a “vide grenier” (what we call a garage sale at home). And one market visit included making a picnic dinner with market purchases, including “frites” (french fries) and glasses of wine from the market’s outdoor bar.
I enjoyed learning how olive oil is processed at a local olivier, and sampling different flavors of olive oil. And life was good the day we went for a walk around a vineyard and then sampled the wines at a local winery. I laughed heartily at the French comedy we went to see at the local movie theater, and then enjoyed analyzing the movie’s personalities in class the next day.
We toured nearby villages, seeing the antiquities, and also how old and new architecture had been blended as a means of preserving and incorporating the old, while moving into the modern world. And we saw artists’ cooperative shops where they could display and sell their arts and crafts.
In the medieval village of Cucuron, it was very moving to see the plaque listing the names of those who had died during the plague of 1720-21 that decimated the town. Our modern plague of Covid had cancelled my trip that I originally planned for 2020, so I was grateful for the vaccines that made my séjour possible in 2022 after the worst of it was past us and the world opened up again.
While in Provence, I also got to experience the power of the Mistral winds. They are very strong, and I’m hoping that they carry me back for another S.L. Immersion adventure in the near future. I loved every moment!