Institut de Français, Villefranch sur Mer (photo Tripadvisor)
I am leaving this afternoon on a 25 hour trip from Perth, Western Australia to Nice in France, to take a one month language immersion course at the Institut de Français in Villefranch-sur-Mer. My son will then join me for two weeks to travel through Provence and then onto the wine growing areas around Bordeaux.
While having spent a lot of time in France over the years on short holidays, I have never had the chance to immerse myself in the language and the culture, to have the opportunity to "live like a local" at least for the four weeks in Villefranche. I will be shopping at the markets, finding my way on the local public transport, attending church on Easter Sunday...and cooking to fill my little apartment in the Old Town of Villefranche with soothing and comforting smells while discovering new tastes and recipes.
|Near St Émillion (photo LP 2006)|
My first two weeks will be spent alone, attending class five days a week for eight hours a day. I hope that I will be dreaming in French by the time my two friends arrive to spend two weeks sharing my apartment and filling their days exploring the region. We will obviously speak in English during the evenings but whenever I am out of the apartment I will try to speak in French...making mistakes and listening and learning.
The manners and culture of France, in fact any country other than my own, fascinate me and as much as I will be immersing myself in the language I will be actively striving to understand and appreciate the nuances of the manners of those with whom I come in contact.
Villefranche-sur-Mer (photographer unknown)
When people ask me whether etiquette is relevant today, and if manners are less obvious than they were a few decades ago I answer yes to the first part of their question and no to the second. Etiquette is relevant, every country has its own culture of appropriate etiquette. The manners, the obvious guidelines for considerate human interaction, are continuously evolving as society changes and as the world increasingly "shrinks" and they are as obvious as they have ever been...the emphasis on what is important has just shifted.
So, for the next few weeks this blog will be about my journey into the realm of French life...its language, culture, manners...and its food and wine.