Being able to speak another language is an enviable skill and one that many of us aspire to acquire at some point, particularly after a holiday abroad! A subscription to Babbel that never gets used and the well-meaning resolution to learn 50 words a day are often the first casualties for the many of us who have a go at learning a language.
The problem faced by aspiring bi-linguists seems to be context and lack of immersion in a language – it’s hard to feel inspired when you’re sat at home gamely working through language exercises on an app. What’s needed is some real-world input and what better way to gain this than by enjoying a range of activities whilst on holiday that help introduce you to the local language. To that end I’ve got five fun activity ideas that will help you pick up some useful French that can be put to good use during your Provence vacation. Bon chance!
A cooking class
Good food is a cornerstone of French society with most social activities centred around food of some description. Even trips to the market (a social activity in its own right) are carried out with the ultimate goal of purchasing wonderful local ingredients that will find their way into a delicious dish or two. The French certainly know their way around a kitchen and a cookery course not only offers the ideal opportunity to acquire the skills needed to take a taste of France home with you, but also a chance to learn some culinary French words and phrases!
My favourite Provencal cookery course is held at Hostellerie Bérard, a 4-star hotel and spa set in the heart of Provence. Home to renowned chef, Jean-François Bérard, the courses themselves are held in the ‘Bastide des Saveurs’, set overlooking the beautiful kitchen garden. Courses last for one day and are normally themed. The day starts with a tour of the kitchen gardens during which you will select fresh produce to harvest that will be used in the dishes before heading back to the kitchen to prepare the meal. And the best bit? Enjoying tasting your creations together at the end of the class, paired with regional wines! Whilst English can be spoken, you’ll be free to partake in French conversation or just pick up a phrase or two as you wish throughout the day.
Wine tasting and vineyard tour
Lunch or dinner in France wouldn’t be the same without a glass of wine (or two). France is as well-known for the variety and quality of its wine as it is for good food, so a wine tasting and vineyard tour are an absolute must for any gastronomically inclined holiday maker. And as a bonus, it offers another ideal opportunity to pick up some French language hints, tips and phrases on the way. And with the edge ever so slightly taken off your inhibitions after a glass, having a go at holding a conversation in French suddenly seems a whole lot less intimidating!
Moulin de la Roque near Bandol offers a 1-day wine tasting course conducted by Jean-Luc Poinsot who has 10 years’ experience in this fascinating field. You will learn all about the history of this vineyard, what the different stages of wine tasting involve, take a trip around the vineyard itself and of course, taste a selection of wines (up to 8). English is spoken but there will be plenty of opportunities to experiment with your French lingo and you will also learn lots of wine related phrases which tend not to appear in the more mundane language learning books!
You can also enjoy a wine tasting at the superb Maisons des Vins de Bandol. Hosted by Tim, these tastings will guide you through a range of wonderful regional wines. Afterwards enjoy exploring the extensive selection of wines using your new found knowledge to decide what to purchase! Find out more here.
Street tour around Marseille
Marseille is the second largest city in France and the largest on the Mediterranean coast. Not only is it sizeable, it’s also really rather spectacular and should definitely feature on your tour of Provence either as a stopover for a couple of days or even just a day trip. With so much to see and do it can be hard to make the most of your visit on your own. A guided tour offers the perfect way to see the best bits and whilst doing so a chance to brush up on your French!
A quick Google of tours will reveal lots of options but I have selected a tour of The Old Town of Marseille run by the Marseille Tourism Office. They take their tours seriously, so you can be assured the guides are knowledgeable and the tour informative and fun. Their Saturday tour is bilingual (English and French) allowing you to enjoy picking up a bit of French whilst still being able to understand some of the more complex sentences! The tour will take you through the streets of the oldest district of Marseille to discover its monuments, history and landmarks that make up this 2600-year-old area of Marseille.
Guided boat tour
The Provencal coastline is stunningly beautiful. And the best way to see and explore the coastline is without doubt from the sea itself. Unless you are a supremely good swimmer, that means heading out on the water in a boat! There are plenty of options available to you from small motor boats to large yachts, along with the choice of hiring a boat which is skippered or braving the open waters yourself.
For many, the most relaxing way to enjoy the view from the sea is by taking a half or full day’s skippered boat trip. Choose where you want to go and what you want to see or let yourself be guided by your skipper. Head to a secluded beach or a restaurant only accessible from the sea. The choice is yours! And on the way your skipper will be happy to converse in French ensuring you not only come back to shore with salt in your hair but with some nautical French phrases to add to your growing French language repertoire! Pirat are a boating company who operate out of pretty seaside town of Bandol (which is well worth a visit regardless). They offer inclusive half day trips with a professional skipper for up to 12 people on modern motor boats.
Drawing and painting classes
One of the many reasons people visit Provence is to enjoy the sheer beauty of the region. Gorgeous countryside merges into beautiful towns and villages. The quality of the light lends an additional charm to scenes which provide a mecca for artists looking for a beautiful scene to paint or sketch. Whether you regularly exhibit or just like dabbling with a few paints, a painting or sketching course offers a fantastic opportunity to enjoy Provence and at the same time practice your French!
Why not try a class offered by Catherine Moulle who is based in the prettiest of towns, Aix-en-Provence. Catherine offers a range of Drawing, sketching, painting, travel journal classes throughout the year. A favourite is a sketchbook drawing workshop which tells the story of what is seen on a stroll around Aix-en-Provence, armed with a sketchbook. This is a wonderful day out with the added bonus of leaving with some memorable sketches and improved French!
Su Stephens is Owner of Olives & Vines. Olives & Vines is a luxury holiday company based in the South of France offering stays at their beautifully designed holiday house and boutique hotel in Le Castellet.
Provence (/ p r ə ˈ v ɒ̃ s /; French: [pʁɔvɑ̃s]; Provençal: Provença in classical norm or Prouvènço in Mistralian norm, pronounced [pʀuˈvɛⁿsɔ]) is a geographical region and historical province of southeastern France, which extends from the left bank of the lower Rhône River to the west to the Italian border to the east, and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the south.
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