Our students in Bordeaux

To enhance the learning experience of Alliance Française de Bristol students, a grant, “Prix de la ville de Bordeaux”, is offered to a limited number every year to live and learn French with Alliance Française de Bordeaux Aquitaine by the Mairie de Bordeaux: The lucky winners of Le prix de la ville de Bordeaux :
My visit to Bordeaux July 14th-July 27th 2019 My visit to Bordeaux, and the course at L’Alliance Française de Bordeaux far exceeded my expectations. I must admit that I was a little apprehensive before I arrived, worrying that I would not be ‘good enough’. In the event, my fears were groundless. The class levels run from complete beginners to advanced. The students’ class level is based on a pre-course questionnaire. Should one not be happy in a particular class, it is very easy to change. In fact, I changed class two days in. I enjoyed the mix of formal tuition, practising listening skills and comprehension, conversation and written exercises. The teachers were professional and approachable. The other students were different ages and many different nationalities. Everybody was friendly, and I felt no shame in expressing myself in my imperfect French. Classes were in the mornings. A good range of voluntary activities were on offer in the afternoons, and on Saturdays. These included a guided tour of Bordeaux; cheese tasting; a cookery class; a day in the Médoc; and visits to museums or other attractions. A vital part of the experience was being able to stay in a French home. My hostess spoke no English. She was very welcoming and included me in her social life. It was fascinating experiencing a different culture. Bordeaux itself is a beautiful city. Almost totally rebuilt in the late 18th through to the 19th century in golden local limestone, the city is a mixture of grand boulevards and a maze of smaller streets and alleyways. It was fun just to wander, discovering interesting buildings, monuments, small squares and cafés along the way. And, of course, there is the river Gironne. In summary, I am very grateful to have been given this fantastic experience by Bristol and Bordeaux. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I am seriously considering taking a self-funded course again next year. Christine Churchard Bordeaux  July 2018
I did not know quite what to expect from my fortnight with the Alliance Française in Bordeaux. But all in all, it was a terrific experience, and I am so glad I took the plunge. First, the course. The AF Bordeaux Aquitaine has sizeable premises near the city centre, and during the summer a procession of students of all ages from around the world come to follow courses in French at different levels. I was sponsored for an ‘intensive general course’ involving four hours of study for ten mornings, and yes, it was hard work, but stimulating and enjoyable. The idea is that you stay with the same group and teacher for the whole fortnight, though new students start each Monday. On the basis of a pre-course assessment, I had been placed in a particular class, which did not in fact suit me for various reasons, but like some others I switched classes without fuss. Thereafter, I actually looked forward to work(!) thanks to a gifted young teacher, who managed a small, but heterogeneous, group with great skill, not to mention humour. We had to buy some textbooks, but these were very good, and, together with other material provided in class, they will be the source of useful study for years to come. There was plenty of ‘homework’, which I found fun to do, though it was basically up to you how much you put into this. The mixture of ages, nationalities and outlook among the group – and other students encountered – was a delightful surprise. I had thought that I would take the non-course time fairly gently. But in fact the range of excursions, social stuff and the attractions of the city meant that leisure time was no less ‘intensive’ than the course. I didn’t do everything on offer, but even so, I went on a coach trip to Arcachon, a local seaside ‘honeypot’; I went to sessions on cheese and wine; I had guided tours of the spectacular Grand Théâtre and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs; I enjoyed a free film and a concert in the cathedral. I explored Bordeaux, often by bike, but there was simply not enough time to see everything that the city offers. For future use, I still have my discounted ticket for the ‘Cité du Vin’ (a huge hi-tech museum devoted to…..guess what!) Other things missed included several museums, a visit to a chateau/vinyard, and the ‘Café des Langues’ – a social session with a cross-section of locals interested in chatting to visitors (I gathered this sometimes involved some chatting-up). As for accommodation, I was lucky enough to be staying with a charming couple, of my own age, in their fine old house, not far from the city centre. They were very friendly and spared no effort in making me, and another student, feel at home. Every evening, a delicious dinner appeared, and we spent two hours or more in relaxed conversation, sometimes joined by friends or family. For the middle Sunday, when our hosts might have been taking some time off, they took us off on bikes to the lake to try out an open-air Asian buffet. Perhaps these particular hosts were exceptional, though other students too seemed pleased with the attention they received from those they were staying with. To sum up, it was an excellent course from which I gained a lot, but the fortnight was much more than that: it was a delightful ‘immersive’ experience, a heady dose of up-to-date French language and culture, and a chance to make new friends across boundaries.
Merci Steve!
La Prix de la Ville de Bordeaux ??  Go for it !  I applied 2 years in a row and was very lucky to receive it the second year. And I had a wonderful time!  And what’s more, I am pretty sure it has given a real boost to my spoken French, due to the 2 weeks in Bordeaux being “l’immersion en vrai!” I arrived in the rain, and although it took quite a few days for the sun to come out – very unusual I was repeatedly told – when it did it was  hot.  L’immersion totale started at the airport in finding where the bus went from and continued with a conversation with the friendly woman bus driver.  It was then french all the time, even with the other students who had come from many different countries.  I found the Bordelais generally very friendly and willing to accommodate someone trying to learn la belle langue, and I had many conversations with a wide range of people, from those in shops and cafes and museums and churches  to those waiting in bus queues. The morning classes from 9 to 1 at the Alliance Building ( 3 floors, proper reception, lots of people doing lots of classes) were full on and busy and we often had quite a bit of homework to do in the evening.  I say in the evening, because every afternoon there were very interesting culturel visits and outings that you could sign up for – some paying, mostly free – and I took full opportunity of these.  The city tour is a must – I did it twice with different guides;  I paid for the visit to St Emilion and a chateau for une degustation, well well worth it; and I also visited a fromagerie, a chocolaterie, Le Corbusier’s worker’s village, to name just a few.  In fact, for me, these culturel afternoons were perhaps the best part of the whole 2 weeks;  visits to interesting places ( including being obliged to taste wine, cheese and chocolate – pas mal!) with local guides, intereacting with these and the people at the places, all in 100% proper french ( that’s theirs, not mine!) was really enjoyable and really affirmative. I also managed to fit in visits on my own to Le Musée du vin ( the old one), La Cité du vin ( the new one), Le Bar à Vin ( great place for a simple plate of cheese or meats and a huge selection of wine mostly at  very reasonable prices – it’s a place of tutelage also); not to mention churches, beautiful squares and parks etcetera., etcetera.., and also on the Sunday to Arcachon on the coast ( oysters and white wine – yum!) and Le Dune du Pilat ( the highest sand dune in Europe). So, in my view an unmissable experience  – apply for it , apply for it, and apply for it again – and then grab the opportunity with both hands ( and both feet!).  I only wish I could go again!! Steve Alexander

Bordeaux 2016 What an amazing opportunity this was! Bordeaux is a very special city – a Unesco World Heritage Centre with more protected buildings than any other French city except Paris. It was fascinating to explore the historical centre, the lovely ambiance is helped by wonderful weather and the enlightened integrated transport policy which means a calm, ‘traffic-light’ centre. (The trams were the first in the world to run on solar power without overhead cables.) I used the city bikes to get around as they were easy and free, after a small registration fee. Apart from the well-known tourist attractions, I enjoyed the enormous public swimming pool in the centre which has the added benefit of a roof which opens on sunny days with sunloungers along one side! The Alliance Francaise building is located centrally and is well-organised and friendly. I loved being a student again for 2 weeks. The lessons were of good quality and the teachers were interesting. After a morning’s study, we headed off in groups for a local lunch where we put the world to rights, sharing views from so many different nationalities. There were some great discussions about Brexit! During the afternoon, we could opt into workshops, talks, trips or films – some were free, and all were really interesting and great for additional language practice. With the other 2 Laureates, I was invited to the Mairie for a meeting and tour with one of the Conseillers and his team which was an interesting insight into the views of some of the people running the city of Bordeaux. I was particularly impressed by how ‘outward-looking’ and international they were in their approach. My host for the fortnight was a lady with a love of cooking which was rather lucky as I have a love of eating! Her 4 children have grown up and left home so there were plenty of spare bedrooms. There were a total of 5 students staying with her from different countries so another opportunity to chat in French, sharing different perspectives on all sorts of things. The whole experience was a fantastic ‘bain linguistique’ which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone who can spare the 2 weeks. A big thank you to AF and the Bordeaux Mairie for such a wonderful experience.
Claire Greener

My stay in Bordeaux started with one of those lucky coincidences that is a sign that things are going to go really well. I had arranged that I would get to my host family on the Sunday evening as prior to that I was holidaying with my family close to Bordeaux. On the Friday I got an email from my host saying that on the Sunday she was visiting the area where I was holidaying, so perhaps we could meet up there and return to Bordeaux together. This thoughtfulness was typical of my host, a lovely lady, with whom I will certainly stay in touch.

On the Monday morning I started my French lessons with the Alliance Française in the centre of Bordeaux. My class was a small group of 8 students, very mixed nationality-wise. The teacher was very nice but wanted us to get the most out of her lessons, so we had a wide range of activities and lots to do. Still the four hour class never drags for a moment. After the class it was straight off to a new students meeting and then off to the office to sign up for additional activities. My plan for this week was on Monday, a walking tour of Bordeaux, on Tuesday, the French Film called Welcome, on Wednesday, a trip to St Emilion and a vineyard and on Friday, sailing at Bordeaux Lac. At the weekend I decided to spend time exploring Bordeaux. Bordeaux is a really lovely city and I found it was also an easy city to navigate. Having a travel pass meant I could go wherever I wanted so I made the most of it. On Sunday my host suggested going to Andernos les Bains (on the Arcachon Bassin) where we explored the oyster fishing village, ate oysters (crevettes were also available for those who preferred) then walked further round the coast of the Bassin. Moving on to the second week of this marvellous experience, just to say that time flew by would be a real understatement. The second week just disappeared. We continued our language studies every morning and this week we were also invited to the Bordeaux Town Hall to meet Monsieur de Corail, the person responsible for International Relations. He spoke to us at length and seemed genuinely interested in how our visits were going. Also this week I signed up to go to a truffle tasting evening. Here we tried a whole range of dishes, each one including the local summer truffles. (Apparently these are completely different to the truffles gathered in winter!!) The dishes varied from stuffed tomatoes, to scrambled egg to risotto to dessert!!! As ever this visit was led by a member of the Alliance Française team who escorted us and made sure everything went well. All too soon it was my last day but even on this day I had a cheese tasting to fit in after my classes before I returned to my host family to pack my bags and bid my host a sad farewell. This has really been an unforgettable experience. Being totally immersed in French life, language and culture for two weeks has taught me so much. Merci beaucoup to everyone involved in organising this.
Chris Sanders

I arrived in Bordeaux to find temperatures of close to 80 degrees and was told that summer had arrived late this year after a disappointing June, July & August. I was met at the airport by my hosts, Patrick & Maylis and then taken on a whistle stop tour of Bordeaux by car accompanied by Patrick talking in fairly rapid but understandable French. For the two weeks of my stay both Patrick, Maylis and their family were unfailingly friendly, helpful and very patient with my attempts at communication and as part of the deal was that no-one spoke in English, that is what happened and I survived! Going back to school was a bit of a shock to the system; Alliance was about 15 minutes walk away so each morning I would pack my school bag, walk to the school and commence lessons at 9 a.m. to finish at 1 pm, with a 15 minute pause during the morning. I am in my sixties and initially it felt a bit strange to be back in the classroom (I am a retired secondary school teacher) as a student alongside other students mostly in their twenties but they were very friendly and accepting of me. Therefore, after a cautious start, I found myself enjoying the structure of the classroom and my initiation into ‘grammaire, grammaire & gramaire’, helpful. Just to reassure anyone who thinks that this might be daunting, I would assure them that it is absolutely fine. I think that I was one of the few English as a first language students there but once again, when I got used to this, I found it stimulating and interesting and I also made friends with a woman of about my vintage from the south of Ireland. Bordeaux is a lovely city with lots of interesting things to do and see and a fantastic tramway which makes travelling in the city a joy. I am left with lots of vivid memories of my stay and my hosts have told me that I would be welcome to return any time.

I left Bristol in a grey cold June of 15C, to arrive in Bordeaux in a heat wave of over 34C just over an hour later. I was met by Mireille at the airport who was glowing from a day spent at the beach. Despite taking off some layers, I still felt very hot and overdressed, however I was quickly made to feel at ease, and was driven at speed to the apartment. The next morning Mireille, my host, walked me to the tram stop and showed me which ticket to buy from the machine. I was impressed by how inexpensive the travel was in comparison to Bristol, and how regular and frequent the trams were. This welcome regularity during daylight hours however soon proved to be unwelcome during the night as the trams continued until after midnight and started again at 5am waking me several times during the night and I started to feel very tired and my concentration in class dipped. The school were very proactive and took the decision to move me. I moved to a different family for my second week – an ‘Avocat’ with four children who lived within walking distance of the school in a very quiet area. I arrived to find a vibrant and happy family with the sound of children’s voices emanating from different areas of the house. I was shown to an ensuite room in the attic, and found myself living alongside two other French students and Grandma, who took me under her wing. There was a small kitchen in the attic, and Grandma and I would breakfast together every morning. In the evenings I ate downstairs with the family. My two cultural experiences were very different and I have benefited from both in different ways. My first host although unused to having students was very interested to hear about my classes and cultural trips. We developed a humour between us and laughed over many things at meal times. My second family were more formal as both parents worked full time, and family life was centred round the four children and their activities. It was clear that Grandma was the core of the family and integral to its daily function. I was made welcome however and developed a friendship with Grandma, and found myself sewing on children’s name labels in preparation for the camps that the children were due to go on. I have come away with very happy memories and a recipe from Grandma, which I have since cooked successfully at home. I thoroughly enjoyed my French lessons every day at the school, and by the second week I began to feel that I was improving and could hardly remember any words in English which was a big surprise to me. The total immersion in French language, culture, food and way of life became the norm for me for a short two weeks and although nervous about giving a five minute presentation to the Minister at the Marie when we met on the last day I believe that I found the words to give justice to my experience and express my thanks for the opportunity. My wish would be that I could have extended my stay and become more proficient in the French language, as I met students from all parts of the world and made friends on the afternoon trips and excursions available through the school. The 150 euros ‘pocket money’ was appreciated and went some way to funding visits to St Emillion, Chateaux and wine tasting, the Corbusier village, a meal with Truffles in a specialist restaurant, and visits to the Chocolatières and Fromagère to name a few. I had a fabulous time in Bordeaux and thank the Alliance Francaise for selecting me to go as it rates as one of the best experiences of my life. Janet Roxburgh

I was lucky enough to be chosen to attend the intensive french course in Bordaux with Alliance Française. Spending time in France really is the best way to pick up the language. I arrived Sunday night ready for my course the following morning. My host was lovely and made me feel very welcome, the house was a beautiful French house close to one of the largest parks in Bordeaux, Parc Bordelais. Lessons were daily from 9am-1pm and focused on a number of grammar points changing each day together with various discussions on topical subjects. Alliance Française also organised numerous trips and events of which I took advantage of. For example we visited a wonderful Château where our group was exclusively given access to the Ch´teau grounds and explanation in French on the history of the Château and obviously finishing off with a bit of wine tasting. We then went onto the medieval village of St Emilion. Another of my favourite trips was a visit to the largest sand dune in Europe Dune du Pyla. By the end of the 2 weeks I found that I was actually starting to think in French!
Wendy Stone

My French experience in Bordeaux, “La Perle d’Aquitaine”, has been rewarding, exciting, wonderful, satisfying and worthwhile. The Alliance Française de Bordeaux, in conjunction with the Mairie de Bordeaux, has given me the opportunity to join a two-week intensive course to improve my French. Half board accommodation, a wonderful host family and 150 euros were also part of this magnificent grant. A second or a third language, particularly French, is considered an asset for career development in my profession. However, beyond professional reasons, I have been learning French for pleasure and personal satisfaction and I must confess this trip was all I needed to make my experience of learning French even more enjoyable! My host family gave me a warm welcome at the airport; from that moment, all I received was support, guidance, kindness and sympathy. What I loved the most about my stay with my host family was dinner time, as it was the perfect time for cultural exchange. I learnt so much more about French culture while interacting with my family than I ever did throughout so many years of study in the class room. A big thank you to Madame Pascale! My days at the Alliance Française de Bordeaux were not any different as teachers were also very nice and supportive. I have to say I was very satisfied with my teacher, my group and all the cultural activities the Alliance organised for their students (wine tasting, cooking, cruises, hikes, guided tours and many more activities!) I have to say I consider myself a Bordeaux ambassador now! I have nothing but positive thoughts and love for this city. This is a place full of good taste and tradition and the city centre of La Belle Bordeaux is unique! I am certain that this immersion in French culture will have a positive influence on my career and I am confident that French will always be a passion in my personal life! It’s been a privilege to have met so many charming people in such a magical place. Merci Alliance Française ! Merci Mairie de Bordeaux!
Carlos Linares