When you are learning French and you reach the point where you feel you can read and write much better than you can speak or understand spoken French, you often feel the need to push yourself beyond your comfort zone and try out an immersion experience. You’re planning a trip to the sunny South of France, and you want to speak French as much as possible, but who will you find to speak to for extended periods of time? You can certainly expose yourself to the language as much as possible by taking tours in French, speaking to servers in restaurants and receptionists, but I have another option for you.
I offer immersion experiences personalized just for you. You won’t be part of a class full of other people like you who may struggle with spoken French. On the contrary, you and I will spend time together one on one. We’ll get to know each other just like old friends. We’ll explore this lovely city and region just like you would with a travel buddy, and just as you would shoot the breeze with your friend in English, we’ll do the same in French. You won’t feel rushed and intimidated to form perfect sentences in French. If you don’t understand something I say, I’ll slow down, repeat myself, and explain what I mean to say in a way that makes sense to you. The goal of an immersion experience in France is to communicate effectively in French. At the end of our time together you’ll certainly feel exhausted after having spoken only in French all day, but you’ll also feel a sense of accomplishment as you break through the barrier of what you’ve learned on your own or in a classic grammar lessons and bring this language you love to life.
If you are interested in coming to visit me in the South of France for an immersion experience you can rest assured that everything we do will be catered to your personal interests. I talk a lot about beaches and wine tastings in my descriptions, but if that’s not your thing there’s a whole lot more to be discovered. Please do contact me before booking an immersion class as I’m just one person and when I book a day of immersion for you, I’m all yours. That said, my schedule does tend to fill up pretty quickly, and especially between May and October. This is definitely the best time to visit the region. I would welcome the opportunity to meet you and discuss the best immersion experience for you on Skype before you arrive. We can plan a rough schedule all the while knowing that you have the option to change it at any time. Meeting on Skype will also give me the opportunity to assess your current level in French. Though you should have at least a lower intermediate level in French before embarking on such an adventure, you should know that even if you feel that you can write it but you can’t speak it, that’s ok. That’s why I’m here. I’ll help you.
WHAT EXACTLY WILL WE DO WITH OUR TIME TOGETHER?
The purpose of an immersion class is to speak (and be spoken to) in French for an extended period of time. For some people two hours is enough, and that would be the half day option. Others like to sign up for a whole day, or a series of whole days, and maximize their time spent in France by not only being immersed in the French language, but also in French culture.
If you choose to do a half day lesson we will stay in or remain close to Béziers. If you want the whole day experience we can take a little more time and visit this beautiful region. I’m not a tour guide, I’m a French teacher. However, I do know the best places to visit around here, and I would love to show them to you. I have 20 years experience in traveling around France with my students, and nothing makes me happier than seeing what’s been taught in class come to life. When you choose to spend time in French immersion with me, you really get to kill two birds with one stone. You’ll fall in love with the Languedoc, and you’ll practice your spoken French at the same time.
What is there to do around here? Especially from May to October, there are lots of events and festivals to take part in. Also, if you look below you’ll see some suggestions based on immersion lessons I’ve done in the past. Would you like to do something you don’t see on the list? Let me know! Remember that my immersion classes are 100% customized just for you, and anything is possible. We will need to use your rental car for any excursions that take us outside of Béziers. Do you need help renting a car in Béziers? Check out Hertz, very close to the train station. Don’t hesitate to ask if you need me to help you make the reservation.
HALF DAY IDEAS (2 hours, morning or afternoon)
Did you know that the engineer Paul Riquet, responsible for the construction of the Canal du Midi, was from Béziers? In fact, you can have direct access to the Canal from Béziers. You don’t even need a car to get there. You can walk or even bike there in no time. We can stroll along the canal, speaking French the whole time, and after a 20 minute or so walk we’ll reach Les Neuf Écluses de Fonsérannes. Did you know it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
No trip to Béziers would be complete without a visit to the Saint Nazaire Cathedral. We’ll walk through the Centre Historique through narrow medieval streets to reach the highest point in the city. Don’t worry, it’s not a strenuous walk at all. There is a magnificent look out point of the countryside, and on a clear day you can see the snow-capped Pyrenées and Spain. If you’re up for it we can climb the 160 steps to reach the top of the bell tower. It’s totally worth the effort (even for me… I’m so afraid of heights)! From the top you can walk all the way around and see all of Béziers with a bird’s-eye view. You’ll love it, and I’ll tell you about what happened here in Béziers in 1209.
Les Allées Paul Riquet is the Champs-Élysées of Béziers!! Ok so it’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s truly a lovely place. Les Allées is a pedestrian only promenade which is named after the engineer responsible for the construction of the Canal du Midi. There’s a statue to commemorate him on one end of Les Allées, and as you walk along toward the beautiful municipal theater you’ll have the opportunity to stop for a coffee and some French conversation at one of the many café terraces.
If you’re here on a Friday, you’ll have the amazing opportunity to see the flower market on Les Allées. It’s a real must to stop at a café and have a drink while watching the market in full swing.
Le Marché du Vendredi
Did I mention seeing a market in full swing? Quite different to the flower market on Les Allées, every Friday morning and until about 1:00 pm there is a farmers’ market that takes place in Béziers. What an excellent opportunity to see all of the fruits and vegetables that are in season and taste local specialties. Experience the South like a local!
We are fortunate here in Béziers to have one of the nicest public gardens I’ve seen in this part of France. This English-style park is comprised of fifty thousand square meters of land. Le Plateau des Poètes joins Les Allées and the train station, and it’s a nice place to picnic or just take a stroll while admiring sculptures of poètes from Béziers and the Languedoc. We could go and do shopping for a French style picnic at Les Halles before heading over there. Did someone say wine and cheese?
Most cities have indoor covered markets that are open most days of the week during morning hours. The one in Béziers is closed on Mondays. Even if you don’t plan to make a purchase it’s very interesting to just go and try your hand at asking les marchands questions about their fresh products. If we were to go around noon we could purchase meat or fish from the different vendors, and then it’s fun to go to La Gargote des Halles to have them cook it for us. They only charge about €3 to prepare it, and you can order a side of homemade fries or something to go along with it. The oysters are also superb! This is a very local thing to do, and something that many visitors miss out on.
Just a short drive of about 20 minutes from Béziers will bring us to the charming small town of Pézenas. Though you’d love the narrow streets, artisanal shops, and hôtels particuliers any day of the week, Saturday is the best time to visit because there’s a large market in the morning and until about 2:00 pm. We could go late in the morning, explore the market and get something to eat there, and then discover the historic center. Be sure to bring your camera.
FULL DAY IDEAS (8 hours)
Fruits de Mer
Do you like seafood as much as I do? Well, even if you don’t you’ll love the beautiful Mediterranean coast near Sète. This is about a 30 minute drive from Béziers. It’s a fairly well accepted fact that the best oysters in France come from Bouzigues. If oysters are your thing there’s nothing nicer than enjoying them right where they’re raised with a nice glass of Picpoul de Pinet, a local white wine.
Marseillan is only about 20 minutes down the road in the direction of Béziers, and this little harbor town is chock full of cozy and very typically French seafood restaurants. Something very interesting to do in Marseillan is to take a guided tour (en français) of Noilly Prat. You can follow the link above to visit their site and discover this premium vermouth that is only produced right there in Marseillan.
Though the Domaine de l’Arjolle isn’t an appellation, it sure makes for a lovely day of wine tasting, and it’s only about 20-25 minutes away from Béziers. We’ll have lots to talk about between wine tastings and a visit of the caves.
Saint Chinian and Faugères (vignobles)
If you’re a wine enthusiast you’re sure to appreciate the world renown Faugères and Saint Chinian appellations. It only takes about half an hour to get here from Béziers. We could make a day of it, perhaps after having visited Pézenas in the morning. The Saint Chinian Market takes place on Sundays, and it’s one of the best in the region. I love to go to markets because you really get a taste of la France du Terroir.
Roquebrun is about a 45 minute drive from Béziers, but well worth it once you’ve arrived. It’s a large village perched on the edge of the River Orb. During warm months you can bring a picnic and swim in the river, and if you enjoy wine, some of the very best wines in the Languedoc are from here. The Roquebrun market is always a good idea, and it takes place on Tuesdays. What will we do during a 45 minute drive? That’s the perfect time for a quiet and focused conversation in French!
Many say that no visit to the Languedoc is complete without a trip to Carcassonne. I think we’ll have to be careful about going there during the day, and especially during tourist season. In my experience, practically all of the tourists are gone by about 6:00 pm. That’s the best time to discover this medieval city and walk along the ramparts before having dinner in one of many fantastic restaurants. Have you heard of cassoulet? This is the place to try it!
Arles & Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer
Arles is about an hour and a half drive from Béziers. Again, the car is a wonderfully quiet place to have conversations in French. A day trip to Arles could easily be teamed up with a stop in Aigues Mortes or Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Arles is situated very close to where the Languedoc ends and Provence begins. In Arles we can visit the Roman arena that is still used to this day for bullfighting and many other spectacles such as concerts and regional festivals. If you’re a fan of Van Gogh you’ll really appreciate seeing for yourself what inspired him to paint so many of his masterpieces during his time spent in this beautiful city, such as Café Terrace at Night.
If we do decide to stop in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer you’ll truly feel as if you’ve stepped into another exotic and exciting culture. This coastal city in the Camargue is an important pilgrimage point for the gitans. Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer is the church around which this city was built, and it houses the holy reliques of Saint Sarah, patron saint of the gypsies, also known as “The Black Sarah”. It doesn’t have the same feel as the medieval villages you’ll find everywhere in the Languedoc. While traveling through this area we’ll certainly see black Camargue bulls and white Camargue horses. Depending on the season we may have a chance to see wild pink flamingos!
Also located at about an hour and a half drive from Béziers is Nîmes. The city of Nîmes is often referred to as “French Rome” because of it’s numerous Roman ruins such as the Les Arènes, La Maison Carré, and the nearby Pont du Gard. In fact, Nîmes has more intact and wonderfully preserved Roman ruins than any other place in the former Roman Empire. What a treasure! You’ll love the big city feel after having visited smaller towns and villages. And you know those jeans you’re wearing? They’re made of denim, right? The fabric de Nîmes. This is where denim fabric was created!
Le Pont du Gard is only about a twenty minute drive from Nîmes, and it’s so worth taking the time to do it. This breathtaking Roman aqueduct is over 2,000 years old. Though it costs a whopping 18€ to park your car the rest of the visit is included. There’s a museum we can visit, and it’s totally fine to bring a picnic and stay for a swim. I even once did a wine and cheese tasting with a group of students on the banks of the river on a beautifully sunny afternoon. We’ll have a lot to talk about as there will be no lack of inspiration!
An hour and fifteen minutes drive from Béziers in the opposite direction will bring us very close to the Spanish border. That’s right, Spain is just that close, but we’ll still be in France. Collioure is an absolute must if you have a few days in the Languedoc and are willing to take a little drive. This little town on the coast has inspired many painters and for just cause. The rugged coast provides breathtaking views while the clear waters and beaches have an intoxicating allure. You may not be able to resist taking a dip, and that’s fine by me! Remember, this is your immersion experience, and we’ll do whatever you want. We’ll certainly want to have lunch here. Perhaps we’ll settle in a little tapas bar in a back alley far from the tourists where we can continue our French conversation in peace and sunshine. One more thing, do you like anchovies? If you think maybe you don’t (like I used to think I didn’t) you haven’t yet tasted the fresh ones fished right here in Collioure. They’re to die for. Being so close to the Spanish border we can also have a little sangria in the sun. Who needs St. Tropez?
This place is only about a 45 minute drive from Béziers. It’s considered to be one of the most beautiful villages in all of France, and you’ll see why. As we approach the village we’ll pass by Le Pont du Diable. This ancient bridge breaches a river that flows within the gorge. You’ll want to take a picture or two, and once again, you may want to take a little swim in the crisp waters that flow beneath the bridge. If you come during the summer months we certainly won’t be all alone, so we’ll want to make it there fairly early in the morning. Once we’re in the village you’ll really enjoy exploring the many artisanal boutiques that line the narrow cobblestone roads. As you explore the village you’ll see imprints of scallop shells practically everywhere. In French, these are called des coquilles Saint-Jacques. Why are they called that? Because these were the shells that were put into place to guide pilgrims along the Chemin de Saint Jacques de Compostelle. Saint Guilhem-le-Désert is right on that path. If you’re the adventurous kind and you’d like to try out hiking in the area, we can do that! There are several paths to take right outside of the village, and all levels of difficulty. Let’s not do anything too hard…
This is the capital of the region, and only a 45 minute drive from Béziers. You’re going to love the chic Mediterranean style of Montpellier. Want to do some shopping? You’ll find everything you want in this university town. We can also visit the Musée Fabre. You may be surprised at the vast collection to be discovered. So what can we talk about in a museum? It’s so much fun to look at the paintings and talk about what you see. We don’t have to talk about the paintings as art. We can just talk about what we see and imagine what in the world is going on in that scene! The true to daily life Flemish paintings can lead to some very interesting conversations.