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My son (13 years) and I spent a week of “immersion” with Virginie and Alex in her lovely home deep in the countryside outside of Eguiilles late last summer.

For me it was a chance to review the language and to experience the place and people after years away. For my son, who had taken two years of “school” French, it was an opportunity to try out his modest skills in an authentic environment and make leaps of progress beyond what was likely in America. It turned out that we accomplished both goals, and far more.

We nervously drove up to the house on day 1, but were quickly made to feel at home. Tucked between two vineyards with a mountain of pine trees running above and behind, the house was a true rural hideaway. The pool, trampoline, and nearby path up and into the forest made it an outdoor paradise; the accommodations and openness of the house to us gave us a whole world to enjoy and explore. Virginie and Alex were generous and attentive hosts throughout and welcomed my boy and me as friends and equals.

Each day was a new experience, with the “course” modulating to our needs, my own and my son’s so different, and our tolerance for “classroom” study varying by the day. We experimented in the kitchen as a group, trying local wines, making local recipes (quiche and french toast!), and wandering the local, and not so local urban attractions–one day visiting Arles, another doing a “ring road” around Mt. St. Victoire.

Throughout the feeling was casual and open, filled with the French language and gentle prompts to find le mot juste and to refine the accent.

We had a blast, and our experience with Virginie and her family is now without hiccup or hesitation a wonderful, lasting memory of the trip.

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