French Homestay Loire Valley 2005
For a selection of pictures please click here
Fourth Year French Homestay Visit to the Loire Valley, Mar 20th- 24th 2005

The thirty-eight Fourth Year French Homestay visit participants set off for the Loire Valley two days before the end of Spring Term. They were all armed with their booklet of useful phrases and vocabulary entitled “Au Secours” and a case full of warm clothes, as advised by the visit organiser, Mrs Spencer Ellis, after a month of freezing cold weather. The former was in constant use, but the latter not at all!

Our visit base was “Le Collège Jacques de Tristan “ in the small town of Cléry-Saint-André to the south-west of Orleans, and our hosts were the pupils and families of “la troisième”, the equivalent year group. Without exception everyone was warmly welcomed and well looked after. Here are a few answers to the question, “How did you get on with your family?” (taken from responses on the final questionnaire)

- they were great, really friendly and kind
- couldn’t have asked for nicer people, we got on well
- time with the family was the best part of the whole visit

Activities with the host families included playing ping-pong and table-football, watching basketball and various films, going out to different types of restaurants, playing on Gameboys and X box . There were, of course, a few awkward moments too, such as:

- waking up the whole family when I stepped on a musical toy
- when I broke the bath plug and got it stuck
- Becky breaking the bed – twice
- when we gave them shortbread and they gave us champagne!

The first day was “plutôt culturel” starting with a guided tour of the Loire Valley’s biggest chateau, Chambord. Here we saw the first of the day’s two impressive staircases and did an amazing roof-walk amongst ornate chimneys and turrets. Our second chateau tour was in Blois, where the second spiral staircase and the interior were the major source of interest. The sun was shining all day, and, under a blue sky, the town was indescribably picturesque. Everyone appreciated a couple of hours wandering around the centre of Blois and exploring the shops before returning to families, where they recounted the day’s events in French.

Futuroscope is well south of the Loire, but quite easily accessible by motorway from Orleans. This was our destination on Wednesday. The exceptional features of this theme park devoted to film, simulation and animation were particularly appreciated by the boys. There was also an impromptu football game, much enjoyed by the girls too, with a group of Belgians – the score was not revealed, but most reports were of a British victory.

There was a variety of visits planned for Wednesday. We started with “La Chocolaterie Bigot” in Amboise. One or two were disappointed not to see the actual fabrication of chocolates, but the majority were interested in the information given and delighted with the diverse samples offered. It was good to wander round the pretty little town before going on to the busy city of Tours where we were led through the crowded streets to the cathedral and the ancient squares. Some of the group were feeling the heat of the sun and tourist fatigue by this time, but our young guide did her best to hold our interest.

The last visit of the programme was to “Les Caves de Vouvray” where we walked into the cliff-side galleries in which the bottles are stored and systematically turned. And finally - “une dégustation”. A little tasting of a Vouvray “demi sec” and a “moelleux” ensured a happy coach journey back for the last evening with our hosts.

“In what way has your French improved in the last five days? What have you learned?”

- I feel more inspired and my understanding has improved
- for the simple vocabulary I do not have to think before saying the words
- survival tactics for France
- I can now understand French people speaking instead of dodgy language tapes

In every aspect this was an excellent visit –receptive and appreciative participants, varied and well-timed excursions, good weather, welcoming hosts and good organisation – no-one could ask for more.

Mrs Jane Manfield