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Vera insisted that we needed at least a week’s intensive French while Frank was somewhat reticent. After all, what would it be like living in someone’s house for a week and being unable to escape daily scrutiny of one’s grammatical deficiencies? Just awful! But Vera prevailed and we found ourselves chez Evelyne and Jean-Pierre in early October 2018.

First, the practical details.
Evelyne’s house in Anglet is ‘genial’, backing on to a lovely park. The area is lovely, close to beautiful Basque villages, the glamour of Biarritz, and a beautiful coastline with wonderful surf. There is a bus close by, running frequently between Biarritz and Bayonne. We enjoyed some beautiful, extended walks along the beaches. We stayed upstairs in a very spacious room with a good desk and excellent lighting, comfortable bed, our own shower and toilet, all nicely separated from our hosts. The Wifi was excellent – good enough for Frank to send out distress signals had the anxiety generated by his bad French became unbearable!

Next, our hosts.
Both Evelyne and Jean-Pierre were charming, generous, informative, and entertaining hosts. They provided wonderful meals, good coffee, excellent wines from the region, and good conversation (in French of course which hurt our heads by the end of the day!).

And lastly, the lessons.
The lessons were extremely useful. Evelyne is an excellent teacher and she soon found out exactly what we could do and couldn’t do. Our vocabulary wasn’t too bad, although Frank had to learn what expressions he should reserve for close friends! But our grammar was bad, especially our passé composé. We had ‘un-learned’ grammar after years of ‘getting by’ in France. So Evelyne set about the daunting task of re-establishing some structure for us, and getting us to think before diving in and murdering the French language. Evelyne did this with great patience, and with a mischievous and dry sense of humour. She even managed to put up with our jokes! So we learned our passé compose, and some specialist vocabulary (psychiatry for Vera and criminology for Frank) and, at the same time, found it fun.

So, in the end, we learned a lot of French. We enjoyed the company of Evelyne and Jean-Pierre and the beautiful meals that Evelyne had prepared.

And we visited some beautiful parts of Basque country. The latter was a challenge for Evelyne as we had visited this region several times before, and yet she still found new places we had not discovered before to delight us.

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