2 Weeks in Provence Learning French

‘C’est La Vie’ – this is the life!

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Beautiful Viens

30 April – 13 May 2018

We arrived in Viens on a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon. Not great driving conditions in our rented car from Avignon, our first attempt in driving a manual car on the opposite side of the road. But I do remember being so excited to find our little gite, which is a studio set up on the property of our French teacher. We settled in and Paul made our first home cooked meal in a month, with lots of veggies, enjoyed with a glass of red wine (of course). This was followed by a cup of english breakfast tea. All the simple things we had missed*.
Our French teacher Marina popped in to welcome us and let us know the schedule for the next day. A late start for our first day, and all we had to do was pop across to her house and commence our private lessons. Viola!

Marina provides personalised French language programs in Viens in Provence. I highly recommend her if you are interested in a French immersion. Her language school is Franci Discendum.

Here are a few highlights of our 2 weeks in Viens

  • French is not easy to learn but is a beautiful and expressive language. We loved our lessons and the opportunity to chat with Marina. Thanks Marina for all your guidance and we can’t forget, all our homework (devoirs) which kept us on our toes.
  • We loved our daily routine of lessons which started with a coffee made by Marina (excellent), a 1.5hr lunch break (usually baguette, salad, cheese and ham), more lessons…then relax/walk or cycle, followed by aperitif (cheese, olives and wine) and lovely home cooked dinner, homework (devours) then early to bed. That routine was each day of our lessons and we loved it
  • On our days off we visited the many local perched medieval villages and markets which Provence is known for, enjoying this time eating pain au chocolat and drinking coffee*. Our favourite villages, were Simiane-la-Rotonde, Viens (of course), Saignon, Fontaine de Vauclause and Cereste (great ice team shop, Scaramouche). Our favourite markets were Banon (and the famous Banon cheese) and L’Isle sur la Sorge.
  • We cycled to Provençal Colorado and Gorges d’Oppedette, and hiked around the local area, enjoying the 1000 year old boirees which were scattered around Viens.
  • We also hiked to the top of Mont Ventoux which was awesome. It was cold and windy as you can tell, but really amazing.
  • Then we relaxed. We really enjoyed relaxing!
  • The poppies growing wild everywhere were spectacular. We now understand better the symbolism linked with ANZAC day as these poppies must have been the one beauty growing in the battlefields of France at that time of year.

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  • We loved getting home cooked lasagne and quiche from Valerie in her Mon and Wed morning food truck in Viens*. Thanks Valerie, you saved us a few times and we miss your amazing cooking. Thank you for also letting us struggle through all our conversations with you in French.
  • We had heard French people are not the friendliest. We were happy to learn otherwise. We found everyone to be so friendly. We heard ‘Bonjour’ wherever we went and found everyone to be so helpful. A few standouts include Valerie (already mentioned), Marina and Pascal (see below), the fromage (cheese) man from the Banon market, the old lady who showed us around Saignon-unprompted, the biscuitary owner in Cereste, the couple sitting next to us in our one dinner out in Provence (the fabulous La Pastoral) – the lady also happened to own the coiffure (hairdresser) in Cereste when we popped in there
  • We are intrigued by the mysterious time of day when bonjour becomes bonsoir. We are still not sure exactly when that is but we think it’s around 6pm. It’s always fun trying to make sure you get it right.
  • We enjoyed our French cooking class we attended in Marina’s home with her chef friend Alex. It was all in French and we didn’t really know what we were doing. But we managed and especially enjoyed walking around the village to collect wild herbs and leaves for the salad. We even made it into a local magazine article. You will see Paul looking serious as he sets the pastry in the tart pan as I look on ‘helpfully’.
  • And of course we loved meeting Marina and her family – Pascal, Gabin and Sascha, and their cat Yoda. You were so hospitable, persevered with our slow progress in French (we will keep trying we promise), you were also so warm and inviting. We loved our Thurs nights with you enjoying aperitif (apero) and dinner*. Your passive house and way of living was amazing and we really appreciated our time with you. Keep following Richmond and merci beaucoup!

We left Viens on Sun 13 May to drive to Nantes to start our cycling trip. We realised all our eating of the delicious French food was catching up on us. Something had to stop or start. The eating wasn’t going to stop so cycling had to start.
We had a one night stopover in Bordeaux on the way to Nantes and camped in a vineyard…it was awesome. It was good to get our tent out for the first time this trip in preparation for our next chapter.

* Finding Wilson

“The air in Provence is impregnated with the aroma of garlic, which makes it very healthful to breathe”

Alexandre Dumas

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