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To spend a week with Virginie was an adventure. I loved learning more about the intricacies of the French language whilst living a typical week in the life of a French family in a rural setting in southern France, about 15 minutes from the nearest town.

In one week, my French benefited from daily formal, structured lessons as well as the incidental support from Virginie whenever she corrected my grammar and verb tenses. The lessons were specific to my level of French, and Virginie was skilled at discerning where to target her teaching skills.

Informally, Virginie and I discussed many topics. For example, French and Australian politics, and anything French compared with anything Australian. It was through these more informal discussions and visual interpretations of points of grammar where I felt my language skills and memorisation developed and expanded, where I was forced to dig deep for vocabulary, appropriate French phrases and to think quickly about correct verb tense.

It’s possible to walk into Eguilles, or take a taxi ride for about ten euros. I explored the town on foot, bought un café et un pain au chocolat at the local boulangerie, and discovered the old stone laveries which were sought after by laundresses in the past due to the quality of the water in Eguilles. One of my more quirky souvenirs is a sample from Max Sauze’s eclectic gallery called Le Jardin d’Eguilles – well-worth a visit and, if you’re lucky, you may get to chat to the artist himself. He was dressed in red trousers and a mustard yellow jumper and eating his lunch on the day I visited his Dali-esque gallery and garden.

Another highlight in Eguilles is the Catholic cathedral with a superb view over the surrounding countryside. I noted a plaque high on one exterior wall commemorating the death of a citizen of Eguilles killed for his involvement in the French Resistance movement.

The excursions were fantastic! The time spent driving, walking and exploring allowed so many fruitful opportunities to work on my vocabulary, and expand my knowledge of French history, landscapes and local food. All in French, of course! Virginie and I spent time discovering Les Calanques. These are unique limestone cliff, beach and rock formations at the edge of the Mediterranean near the pretty port town of Cassis. Later in the week, we drove across the vast Valensole plateau, planted with acres and acres of neatly-pruned, grey-green lavender bushes. Our destination was Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, classified as un beau village de France nestled between canyon walls and built around a natural spring. We climbed the pilgrimage trail, crossing over the stone bridge between the walls of the canyon to the 12th century chapel dedicated to Notre-Dame de Beauvoir. The day ended at a local restaurant with gambas steeped in pastis, the well-known liqueur of southern France – delicious!

The week passed all too quickly with Virginie, whose teaching style was well-organised, thorough and dedicated to my needs. The challenge of everyday conversation was difficult but rewarding, and mellowed by a shared sense of humour.

A week of immersion with Virginie is to be thoroughly recommended.

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