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Sunny Montpellier and Marché des Arceaux – French immersion after class!

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Sunny Montpellier and Marche des Arceaux - French immersion after class

It has always been my dream to learn French in France. Living in Montpellier for several weeks seemed liked the perfect opportunity to make it happen so I enrolled in a beginner immersion course, to learn French in France, for a month!

Having resigned from my role in financial services in London, I was keen to explore the South of France and enjoy some sun. ILA was recommended by a friend who also completed a summer course with a host family in Montpellier during a gap year. The location in a city with over three hundred sunny days a year and a language school that catered to young people, in the heart of Montpellier, seemed ideal for what I was looking for.

Meandering Montpellier

I am always keen to make the most of opportunities and whilst I hoped to learn some French in the classroom, the most enjoyable part of this French immersion programme is seeing it (or me!) put to work whilst out and about in Montpellier. From ordering a coffee to knowing how to ask for a particular cheese you would like to try or buy, these outings force a beginner like me, to practice.

I love discovering new areas and local haunts as well as living in a new place and getting to know what is beyond the guidebook or the tourist office map. Montpellier has a significant history and as it is a relatively small city, it is possible to walk or ride a bike through narrow streets such as Rue de l’Ancien Courrier, encounter lively squares like Place Castellane or enjoy relaxing in the sun near a fountain or in a quiet garden, as beautiful as Jardin des Plantes.

Marché des Arceaux

One of my favourite expeditions is to the regional produce markets around the city. French immersion is all about taking in the sights, sounds and experiences as part of learning a new language, not to mention the food and wine of the Languedoc-Roussillon region! This area lies between the Mediterranean Sea, the Causses and Cevennes mountain range to the North and Provence to the East and therefore it is the ideal climate for growing local fruit, vegetables and producing wine, cheese, charcuterie, honey, olive oil and more!

The Marche des Arceaux is one of many food markets around the city. It is a very large and vibrant market open on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8:00am to 1:00pm. Set under the shade of the trees and the arches of the aqueduct, it is a perfect way to enjoy a Saturday morning.

The French are proud of their history with food and this is noticeable in the presentation of up to eighty stalls. Succulent and plump green and black olives reach the top of huge wooden barrels. Countless varieties of hard and soft cheese from regional France are elegantly piled high, until you request your own wedge to be delicately sliced and wrapped in paper. Seafood, meat and charcuterie are laid out for the scrutinising French shopper, thoughtfully inspecting each cut and planning a meal. Lastly, be sure not to miss the chance to taste the olive tapenade, jams, preserves and the golden array of floral honey sitting proudly on display.

The stalls get incredibly busy closer to lunchtime, particularly on Saturdays. There are also several clothing, second-hand books and other items to pick your way through.

Arrive early to see Montpelliérain locals busily buying their fresh supplies and afterwards, sit and enjoy a coffee! If you are lucky enough to steal a seat in one of the busy cafes nearby, it is all part of the atmosphere. Order an espresso and soak up the chatter of locals as soft French syllables become words and sentences, to form conversation that you can begin to follow.

I have found that not only have I commenced learning French by undertaking a wonderful Summer course in France but I have a further appreciation for the French lifestyle and have had fun discovering Montpellier whilst doing so!

The market takes place at the foot of the old aqueduct, alongside Boulevard des Arceaux. Many stalls sell organic fruit and vegetables and the vendors will be more than happy for you to sample the variety of their delicious wares… as long as you ask in French!

Anna (ILA student)