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I have been studying French for a long time, but it’s been difficult to achieve a sense of confidence or proficiency in the language as I’m timid about speaking in front of others. When Chantal and Stephan picked me up at the train station (coming from Paris to Clermont- de- l’Oise,)
I was immediately at ease with them both. In the short ride from the station to her house, she assessed my level of speaking, my abilities and my weaknesses. By breakfast the next morning, she already had a plan of attack, and by the end of the week, I felt totally at ease speaking French!

Each morning, we had breakfast together and started talking as though we’d known each other for a long time already. Subjects included our work lives, our families or current events we’d seen on television the night before, among others. After breakfast, we moved right into a lesson designed for my personal needs on adverb placement or the subjunctive tense or an activity such as reading out loud, watching and discussing a video, improving vocabulary and learning current expressions – all discussed and explained in French (only rarely did I ask for an English translation).

Chantal cooks lunch for her mother every day, and we all ate together in her mother’s house, just next door to Chantal’s. Her mother, Lilliane, is a delight. I enjoyed talking to her and hearing her stories. Chantal and her mother like the same television shows that I like to watch when I’m in France, so it was easy to find common topics.

After lunch, around 2:00 or 2:30, I went back to my newly constructed, modern studio apartment (on the same property with Chantal and her mother’s houses). I was free for the afternoon to do whatever I wanted: walk to town, study my notes and do homework, watch French television or read. There’s a good Wi-Fi network, so that was also available for being able to keep in touch with home. (Unfortunately, during my stay family events called me back home sooner than planned, but I feel totally satisfied with my course.)

There are lots of great things to see and do in the area, but as it was a snowy winter, we opted for a chateau and a museum. We enjoyed an afternoon at the Château de Chantilly, looking at the furnishings and the art, plus Chantal filled me in on a lot of the history of the place, fascinating!! As it was winter, the horses were not racing. I suggest that would be worth going back to the chateau for.

One of the art galleries in the château. Chantilly boasts paintings by Ingres and by Raphael to name just a couple.

As one of my homework assignments, I read two short histories about Camille Claudel and Seraphine de Senlis. I was to compare and contrast these two famous women artists from the Picardie region whose lives were very similar and yet different. We were able to visit a museum in Senlis where several of Seraphine’s tableaux were on display.
Here is an example of her large-format naïve painting of flora. Very colorful!

I have to admit that I am taken with the program, with Chantal and her family and dogs. I can’t wait to go back. Next time for two weeks instead of one!!

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