In the first week of the Easter holidays, 16 Salopians accompanied by Miss Weatherstone and Mr Warburg set off for the Lower School French Study visit to Montpellier.
The aim of the visit is to combine intensive language learning from native speaker teachers at a well-respected language school each morning, with cultural and fun visits in the afternoons.
Pupils were accommodated in French host families to further encourage plenty of dialogue and discovery. The pupils won wide admiration from their host families, who commented on their excellent manners and thoughtfulness, and from their teachers for their behaviour and positive approach in their lessons.
Montpellier, an extremely beautiful and bustling city full of young people, is an ideal venue for the visit. We were blessed with good weather and the pupils seemed to thoroughly enjoy exploring the language, the culture and the history of the city and the surrounding area. Roll on the next trip!
Here are some diary entries from three of the participating pupils :
We started off the day with something we all needed: a lie in. We woke up to be greeted with a delicious French breakfast: croissants, pains au chocolat and coffee. This gave us a chance to get to know our host families. After breakfast, we helped our family clear up and then relaxed, enjoying taking in the sun, which was mildly warm. After lunch (which didn't disappoint), we walked to the train station, where we were reunited with our other friends. From there we set off by coach for Nîmes.
After a 40-minute drive, we arrived outside the ‘Arènes de Nîmes’, the Roman amphitheatre. This is a huge building and offered us an amazing insight into the ancient Roman world. There was enough time to explore every nook and cranny, including climbing right to the top, from where we were had great views of the city and the surrounding countryside.
From there it was just a brief walk to the ‘Maison Carrée'. This is a Roman temple which boasts one of the best preserved façades of any temple in the territory of the former Roman Empire. It is a remarkable sight, set as it is in the middle of a 21st century city. We headed inside where we watched a 20-minute film about how Nîmes was founded and the early history of the city.
At the end of the film, we were given 40 minutes free time to look around. This was the first chance we had to discover the joys of French shops and cafés. I introduced myself by having a classic crêpe with Nutella.
We left Nîmes, our confidence boosted, having listened to and spoken with real French people, and armed with a better knowledge of Roman history. We returned to our host families for dinner and more time to chat with our hosts.
Nick Argyle (SH III)
Day four of the Montpellier trip - a visit to ‘La Grotte des Demoiselles’. However, before that we had another morning of lessons. To improve our confidence, ability and fluency in speaking French we left the classrooms and headed for the food market beneath the beautiful Saint-Clément Aqueduct. Our task was to find the ingredients and preparation method for a famous regional dish.
After an enjoyable morning, we returned to the language school to have lunch, then shortly afterwards we departed on our trip to the caves. The journey took us up steep, narrow cliff roads and when we reached the top, where the caves were, the views of the surrounding landscape were incredible.
To actually enter the caves, we crammed ouselves into the two small carriages of a funicular train and ascended up a 160-metre long passage. After passing through many more tunnels and passages we reached the main attraction, 'the cathedral'. It was 120 metres long, 52 metres high and 48 metres wide.
It was a spectacle of some of the most famous stalagmite and stalactite formations in the south of France, many of which resembled different figures. These varied from carol singers to a large camel! One of the main features however was a stalagmite that represents the Virgin Mary. After admiring the amazing cave formations, taking lots of textural photos and walking up hundreds of steps, we returned to daylight where luckily the sun came out.
We couldn't possibly jump back on the coach whilst the French sun was gleaming outside, so everyone bought ice creams or a cold, refreshing drink and we sat out on the terrace to admire the views, but mostly to make the most of the sunshine knowing that we were likely to return to miserable, grey English weather.
The fourth day of the Montpellier trip was one to remember.
Theo Parsons (Rb III)
We took the tram from Lattes, the suburb of Montpellier in which Milton and I were staying and arrived at the Language School in time for lessons to start at 9:00. Once inside we prepared a small questionnaire for the local people with help from our teacher, Grant. Our aim, once we were out and about, was to ask passers-by different questions about their holidays. One of our questions was “Which is your favourite country?”, which obviously received the unanimous answer of “France”.
So off we set for the two-minute walk to the Place de la Comédie, (the huge central square in Montpellier named so after the theatre dominating one end of the square). We were greeted happily and temptingly by the delicious aroma of pastries. Once in La Place de la Comédie we asked people from all walks of life about their holiday preferences. The young students, who make up a large percentage of the population, talked of holiday in the US and Australia, while the elder generations preferred the closer Mediterranean climate.
After we had finished our questionnaires, we walked back to LSF (the Language School) for lunch, which was freshly baked for us at the local pizzeria. We ate our lunch sitting in the sun on the terrace above the bustling street below, after which we set off for the beach at Palavas, some six miles away.
When we stepped off the bus on the sea front, the sun shining, everyone set off across the sand, some to buy ice creams, some to play beach volleyball, others to sunbathe by the waves. We spent three idyllic hours in the sun before returning to our houses, tired but happy from what had been a brilliant conclusion to our final day.
Will Unsworth (S IV)