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I had left my run a little late in January to book an immersion week for the end of spring (last week of May) in France and there were not many options left. More by luck than planning I found myself signing up for a week’s immersion at the home of Marion Ferret and her mother, Nicole and brother, Lambert. Thankfully Marion still had space for the week I needed, in the small town of Lancié in the Beaujolais region.

I had no firm expectations of the location, the classes or the teacher, as this was only the second immersion week I had done. While I was the French student, my husband, Mark, was travelling with me, as part of a longer trip in Europe.

Right from the time we arrived, we both felt welcomed by Marion and her family and settled into the separate, self-contained apartment in a building adjoining the large old house, overlooking a rambling country garden, complete with fruit trees, veges and chooks.

My goal was to increase my fluency with listening and speaking in French, and Marion was a firm believer in the use of language in context as the best way to achieve this. I found her approach very engaging and felt at ease quite quickly when Marion advised we would not spend much time sitting at a desk.

Rather our daily lessons consisted of using the French language in context, as we took an extended walk around the area for several hours each morning after breakfast, addressing a subject of interest as well as what we saw around us. We also played some games (such as Tabou) which increased my skills in finding French synonyms to explain other words.

With Marion, we also visited the market in Belleville, a large centre in the region, buying food for our meals later in the day. Breakfast and lunch were provided in the main house for us both by Marion, who enjoyed preparing dishes using local produce. Nicole and any visiting friends also joined us. The conversations were lively and often addressed controversial but very interesting topics. These were also great opportunities to extend not only my, but my husband’s French, even though he was not the student.

In the evenings, we were able to cater for ourselves as there was a functional kitchen in our apartment. Any equipment we needed to cook with, Nicole was happy to provide us with if it wasn’t already in the apartment. Marion also took us for a Beaujolais wine discovery experience at Chateau Le Pizay in a nearby village. Here we were able to take a mini course in training our senses to notice different aspects of the local wines and test ourselves as we went. Surprisingly I qualified for a “Bronze Diplôme”, a bit of fun as part of the experience, along the way increasing our French wine vocab as well as knowledge about Beaujolais wine and the region.

On our afternoons off, Mark and I took some very exploratory drives around the region, including in the higher parts of Beaujolais beyond the wine growing areas. There were plenty of panoramic views over the valleys and hills, picturesque villages and interesting insights into local life, including the public holiday celebrations in Beaujeu, with men and boys taking part in a Petanque tournament.

Next time we visit, perhaps Marion will be in her new house in the small village of Ouroux up in the hills. We accompanied her one day to see the building work that she and her brother are doing, including the new apartment for French students, adjacent to the main house. It was a beautiful location with great views over the valley. I’d love to visit again and spend a week there in a different part of the region, on the pretext of improving my French.

I cannot thank Marion enough for the experience. She and her family were engaging, warm and very natural in the way they included us in their lives for a week. They generously shared their space and themselves with us. It is an experience we both appreciated greatly and will remember positively.

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