Saturday 9th February
Following the 3 hour bus journey down to London Gatwick Airport from Shrewsbury with a break at the Oxford services, and then the hour and a half flight to Bordeaux, we were met by our famille d’accueil. In our pairs, with our families for the week, we arrived at our houses. The evening was then spent getting to know our hosts, and in our case, watching the Six Nations Rugby match between France and Wales. The match ended in a near loss for France, and it was then said that it would be a weekend vraiment triste pour le sport, especially if Bordeaux lost the football as well! Our family then, very kindly, laid on a magnificent dîner of crêpes au jambon, oeuf, fromage, then, chèvre, miel, and finally sucre. Fairly exhausted, we decided to call it a day after this, and looked forward to getting to know Bordeaux with our families the next day.
Sunday 10th February
After a long day’s travelling the day before, Sunday was essentially our rest day. We had a grasse-matinée followed by breakfast. With our family we went to a marché where many of the North Africans who have moved to France and in particular to Bordeaux can go and sell anything and everything. After looking around this for half an hour and then going down to the quay where you had a stunning view of Bordeaux, (despite the rain!) we were given a driven guided tour of some of the best things Bordeaux has to offer. It was then back to our house for lunch, a typical sud-ouest meal with a salade followed by canard avec des pommes de terre. The host, Patrick, introduced us to a game their family sometimes play where you have to introduce a family, whose surname is in fact a word, and then ask what their first name is, and putting the two together makes a famous person’s name. Don’t worry if you don’t get it, Sam and I were utterly confused! We watched the England v. Ireland rugby match in the afternoon. The game was won by England, and it was indeed a weekend vraiment triste pour le sport, (Bordeaux had lost as well). We looked forward to our first day of cours on Monday.
Monday 11th February
Quite an early start compared with yesterday as we had to be up, and to have had breakfast before making (in our case) the five to ten minute walk to the Alliance Française. We were then split into two groups, and began the three hour lesson. Today we were looking at the media, and so were discussing the liberty of the press etc. After a lunch in a buffet style café we had a small amount of free time to go around Bordeaux for a while, before we had a tour for a couple of hours from one of the members of the Alliance Française. We then went by tram to the bowling alley and did a bit of bowling. The “match” was won by Jack Hodges, who somehow managed to score a pretty unbelievable 127, way in front of anyone else. We had more free time in the afternoon, but as the weather had closed in with large amounts of rain falling, everyone decided to call it a day, get dry and warm and spend the rest of the evening en famille.
Tuesday 12th February
Tuesday had a similar start to yesterday, beginning with lessons all morning. Today we were talking about quite a recent topic, the legalisation of homosexual marriage. After a big discussion about this we did a few exercises and some grammar work, before having lunch at the Alliance Française. From there we went to the cinema to watch a film “amitiés sincères”, which was fairly complicated to understand in English let alone French! It was, nonetheless a good marker to see how much more work we would have to do to understand the language completely and fluently: quite a way, it seemed. We then had a bit of free time before going out towards the river on the tram for a cheese tasting. The cheeses were delicious, and we tasted a bit of everything ranging from ewes’ cheese from the Pyrenees, to goats’ cheese. We also learnt the best way to eat the cheese and the best order in which to eat them, which ends with the goats’ cheese. We then had an hour or so before spending the rest of the evening with our host families.
Wednesday 13th February
Today was another “rest day” with no lessons in the morning. Instead we met just outside the monument des Girondins where we went on a coach towards Arcachon. We arrived at an oyster farm where we had a guided tour of the museum, before going outside to try some oysters. Some enjoyed this more than others, although the latter were glad to have tried them so that they knew never to touch them again! We then drove another 15 minutes to the Dune de Pyla, the highest sand-dune in the whole of Europe, at well over 100m tall. It took little under 5 minutes to sprint up the dune, and once at the top we could relax and take in the spectacular views. A few of us attempted some acrobatics off the side of the dune, with George Bradshaw winning the most impressive front flip, for the sheer amount of effort in his take off and run up! The weather, I forgot to mention was stunning, and although not for the French, who must have thought us crazy, it was basically t-shirt wearing temperatures. From the Dune we spent an hour or so exploring the seaside resort of Arcachon, before driving on to a caviar farm, where again we were given a guided tour, and then tasted some caviar. Much like the oysters, it was very suited to some people’s tastes, and not at all to others! We then drove back to Bordeaux centre, and spent the rest of the evening with our family.
Thursday 14th February
We were back into the routine of lessons again, with more work being done on the subjunctive, and a bit more topical work, followed by lunch at the Alliance, where we ordered a great variety of pizzas. The Reverend Dobbie then graced us with his presence – he had been on holiday in France, and had come to visit us for the afternoon. We took a bus from the Alliance out to Château Pape Clément where we were given a tour, and the various processes used to make wine were explained to us. We then tasted some very expensive wine, and were given tips on how to taste it the proper way. There was just enough time to buy a few presents for both our French families and those at home, before we caught the bus back to Bordeaux and spent the early part of the evening in the centre. It was at this point that Jack Hodges realised he had left his and Charlie White’s bag at the château, and Monsieur Portier valiantly said that he would go back the next morning to get it. Then at 7pm we rendezvoused outside the Grand Théâtre and took a tram and a bus to a theatre just out of town to watch L’Avare or The Miser. Despite being long and (again) fairly difficult in English let alone French, there were some parts which we were able to understand, and on the whole it was a very professional performance. After waiting a while for the next bus, (it was getting on for midnight by this time), and contemplating how our host families would react if we told them it was impossible to get home and we were going to have to stay the night at the nearby Ibis Hotel or even the Ibis Budget Hotel, we did eventually arrive home in the small hours, having tried to work out the best plan to wake up in time for lessons the next day.
Friday 15th February
We did all manage to wake up and arrive in time for lessons, although the two teachers were quite understanding and lenient with the workload on our last day of lessons. We thanked our teachers at the end of the lessons and presented them with the customary Blue Chair Calendar! Then our group went to a cookery school, and learnt how to prepare a fish meal, which took only half an hour and was delicious. From there we went to an art gallery, and then the rest of the afternoon was dedicated to un peu de shopping, and a number of us also visited Quick (un resto fast-food) for the last time! We then all went home, and in our case spent a lot of time talking about our visit and comparing France with England with our host family, before packing, eating supper and collapsing into bed.
Saturday 16th February
We all arrived early at the airport, some more on time than others(!), and said a huge thank-you and good-bye to our host families, who had indeed been very kind and generous. The flight was on time, and we arrived in England just before midday. The coach journey was quiet, with many people settling down to sleep, and if not that, to begin the mountain of holiday work they had been set! We even managed to arrive at Shrewsbury earlier than scheduled, and sadly the trip had come to an end.
It had been a great experience and a wonderful boost for everyone’s French, especially spoken. I am sure I speak for everyone here when I say how grateful the pupils were to Mr Whitehead, M. Portier and Mlle. Delpi for organising the trip and making it possible, and also for sacrificing their half-term to look after us. We would also like to thank M. Fourcheraud who was effectively our tour-guide, showing us around the town and accompanying us on our various excursions. It was great to travel to a foreign city, experience some French culture and cuisine, and make truly relevant all the work that goes on in lessons, in the actual world.