Well, the previous three weeks have been busy. A lot has happened, good and bad, and I’ve learned A LOT. I’ll try and sum up everything as well as possible, but if you know me, I’ll likely end up writing a novel.
Monday the 2nd of March I started my French courses at Accent Français. My schedule is as follows:
Mondays I have standard courses for beginners from 10 am to 1.15 pm.
Tuesdays to Thursdays I have standard courses from 9 am to 12.15 pm and then intensive courses from 1.15 pm to 3.45 pm.
Fridays I have standard courses from 9 am to 12.15 pm.
Apart from the courses, the school offers and suggests various activities throughout the week.
Monday morning a very nervous Charlotte met up for the introduction to the school. A group of around 15 people started on the same day, but I immediately became friends with an 18-year-old German girl named Julia. Anina from Switzerland was nice enough too.
After an introduction and an oral test, we were split into the classes that matched our level of French. Julia had said she was a beginner as well, but at first she wasn’t put into the same class as me. Luckily though, they had made a mistake and the elderly British lady who sat across from me was switched out with Julia. My class for complete beginners thereby ended up consisting of me, Julia (Thank God!), Candice (30s from Canada), Helen (30s from LA), Miki (20 from Japan) and Chaehyun (22 from South Korea).
On the first day we started learning French right away, and when we’d finished, Julia and I went to café Bonobo for pancakes and coffee.
In the late afternoon and into the early evening I joined a guided walking tour around Montpellier. Our Accent Français guide was very funny, but talked A LOT and only in French. After two hours my brain switched off, but it was an enjoyable walk and I talked more with Anina and Matthew, who’d started that morning too. We walked to the tram together, running into a yellow vest protest on the way.
Tuesday I had my first intensive course, which was to say the least, intense. Because we were only three from my class who took intensive courses, they’d put us in the same class as the A1+’ers (who’d been there for 5 weeks already). We couldn’t keep up at all. I did meet Anne from Denmark in the intensive class, though, so it wasn’t all bad.
Wednesday pretty much proceeded as Tuesday had. In the evening around 8 pm, Julia and I met up at Corum tram station and went to the language exchange event that takes place every Wednesday night at café Panacée. We ordered white wine and had a fun evening, without actually speaking any French at all. Poor Julia got stuck talking to a very strange Italian guy, who called himself Star, while I was saved by Paulo from Brazil, who I spent the remainder of the evening chatting to.
Thursday was another regular day in school, although we did join a conference about women in the EU for our intensive course. I tried to follow along the best I could.
Friday Julia and I ate at Green Lab after school.
At 2 pm we met up with a couple of other students at Accent Français and was let to ´Les Demoiselles de Montpellier´, a patisserie specialising in gluten-free and vegan cakes. We spent the afternoon tasting cakes, drinking iced tea and chatting in mostly English (and a little French).
Afterwards Julia and I walked around a little, going to a quirky (and big) games shop that one of the teachers at Accent Français had told us about.
Ben and Eric were away for the weekend, so Julia joined me at home. We cooked a late dinner and watched a hilarious German movie and around midnight I walked Julia to the tram.
Saturday I met up with Julia around 2 pm and went to Café Gazette for an ethical fashion show. Anne later joined us, but it turned out to be not much of a fashion show, but instead 1.5 hours of some French interpretive acting.
I left Anne and Julia a little early and instead met up with Paulo for a drink around 5 pm (since he would be moving to Belgium the coming week). We went to ´The Irish Pub´ and chatted for a couple hours, before I took the tram back home, where I met up with Julia. We made a late dinner, shared a bottle of wine and then decided to explore Montpellier’s nightlife.
It turned out there wasn’t much of it, so after having walked around the Corum area for a while, we decided to follow Caroline’s advice and go to her favourite bar ´Tord Boyaux´. It was completely packed with young French people, had great music and was a lot of fun. Unfortunately all the bars closed at 12.30 am. We got the tram back to my home and went to bed.
Sunday morning I ate breakfast with Julia and then took the tram to dimanches du Peyrou, a super cosy flea market by the Arc de Triomphe. I ran into Caroline (my cousin) and her boyfriend there.
After exploring the city a bit by myself, I met up with Caroline for coffee.
Monday the 9th, Julia and I started of the week with bagels for lunch and a promise to slow down a bit more this week.
Tuesday my intensive courses had been changed, so it was only the three of us from my class, and so we learned a lot more, without the A1+'ers. We went to a nearby bookshop for a presentation about the French language.
Wednesday Julia and I went to the language exchange at café Panacée like the Wednesday prior, although more and more people had started opting out because of the surge in the spread of covid-19. We joined Matthew and Noah’s table and I soon befriended Gaby from Brazil, Alex from Colombia, Luca from Germany and Coralie from China, who were all from Accent Français as well. I spent the rest of the evening chatting to them and took the tram home with Coralie.
Thursday was a bit of a tough day. I had been feeling under the weather for a while and rumours around the school were that Macron might order all schools to shut down at his press conference that evening. So after my intensive courses I went home and ended up staying home that night, instead of going to the free salsa class at a bar in town. I watched the press conference on my computer and true enough Macron did close all schools for an undefined period of time. I spent the evening texting with my friends from school, trying to figure out whether that included Accent Français or not.
But by Friday morning I’d still gotten no mail from the school and so I took the tram to Comedie as usual. We were down to half the class by know: Cheyhun hadn’t been to school all week, Helen had had to take a flight back home that same morning because the US was closing its borders and Friday was Miki’s last day.
Picture: our intensive-course teacher, Miki, me
The day proceeded as usual, although anxiously, as everyone waited to hear whether the school would close. Finally right before the school day ended, we got the news that the school would continue as usual.
Julia had to go home early, so I met up for lunch at Bonobos with Ben and we spent the afternoon exploring the thrift stores and organic grocery shops of Montpellier. In the evening I met up with Matthew, Alex, Luca and Gaby for drinks in town. I lost my voice, but had lots of fun.
Saturday I visited Musée Fabre and ended up wandering around Montpellier for hours, enjoying the good weather and finding adorable little streets.
I spent a good hour perusing ´Le Bookshop´, before returning home.
I once again met up with Matthew, Alex, Luca and Gaby that evening, though only for a couple of hours.
New rumours about Macron shutting down all businesses were circulating and Gaby had a flight back home the following day, her family afraid that Brazil would follow the example of the US and completely shut the borders. So we had our potential last drink together and went home.
Sunday Macron ordered all non-necessary businesses closed. At 11 pm I got a mail from the school that it would shut down immediately for an undefined period of time.
Monday I spent much like Sunday, doing nothing and waiting for more information from my school. Most of my friends from school were heading home.
Rumours about a complete lockdown were going around, people all across France were travelling to get home to their families or out of the cities in time.
I watched the press conference with Ben and Eric. The lockdown would start Tuesday at noon. We would only be allowed to go outside with one of five valid reasons – for work that could not be done from home, for medical needs, because we needed to buy food, for necessary assistance of a sick family member or for some exercise around the block. If you did not bring the official paper with you, if you were not where you said you would be or if you were seen with anyone but the people in your household you will be fined.
Tuesday at 9 am I started my online French courses and went for a walk in the nearby park, before it would close and the lockdown would begin at noon.
I created a nice routine during the week and the first six days of lockdown have actually passed by relatively quickly.
I wake up at 7.30 am, watch the Danish news while eating my ´petit déjeuner´ and then go to my room at 9 am for my French courses.
I usually finish French around noon or 1 pm and eat lunch with Ben and Eric. The weather has been fantastic all week, so after lunch Ben and I put on our bikinis and go outside. I’ll read aloud from the French I’ve worked on that day and Ben will help me with my pronunciation. When we finish, we celebrate with coffee and ice cream.
Every other day I go for a run, remembering to bring my paper.
I’ve enjoyed cooking dinner for everyone a lot of these days (most days Ben or Eric make lovely dinners and lunches that I can eat as well), at dinner we try to speak mostly in French and at 8 pm we go to the terrace to clap for the nurses and doctors working hard. Then I’ll read aloud the sentences in ´Ratus et ses amis´ for Eric that I’ve been practising that day and then read aloud a few pages of ´Marie-Louise et Christophe´ for Ben and Eric.
Friday Ben and I went to Carrefour to grocery shop and were met by a ridiculously long line outside. Luckily we were able to enter the supermarket after a little over an hour and we were back home in two.
Picture: we had gotten 1/3 of the way, the entrance was out of shot a little after the Carrefour sign
The days go by quietly, but we find activities every day to keep us busy and I feel very lucky to be living with Ben and Eric.
Even though they of course miss their children and grandchildren and I feel a little disappointed in how my time in France has turned out, we manage to have fun and joyful days. And now I’m just crossing my fingers that I can go back to school in a month or two, and that the situation will start to look a little better soon.