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The French Host Family: a Wealth of Historical Knowledge

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The French Host Family: a Wealth of Historical Knowledge

So another day done and another example of how brilliant the French immersion approach with a host family in France is the best way to learn French. I had my very own chauffeured tour of the town of Grande-Motte just a few minutes south-west of Montpellier on the sea front of France. This modern seaside resort hasn’t existed for more than 60 years but yet is inspired by an ancient civilisation from a far-away land. Apparently attracting 2 million tourists per year this is a powerful magnet of a seaside-resort with so much to tell. Definitely one worth visiting during your French language stay in the South of France. The ILA French Immersion School in Montpellier assigned me my French host family a couple of weeks before I arrived and this was the first day trip we had taken together.

The French Natives Knowledge

We began the drive from my French host family’s house in Montpellier near the French language school with me having no idea what was is store but Catherine, the matriarch, assured me I was in for a treat. There was three of us on board for the mini voyage: Catherine, her friend Katya and myself. As we approached, the ladies pointed out to me the large bodies of water along side the road; they referred to them as ‘étang’ for which we struggled to decipher an exact translation into English as sometimes during an French immersion stay. Google translate, which unfortunately I was forced to refer to, translates it as ‘pond’ but as I hope you agree this is usually used for small bodies of water in people’s gardens or parks and falls short when talking about these grand bodies of water. Whatever the name they are lovely to drive alongside and are often occupied by groups of flamingos referred to as ‘Pink Floyd’ by my French hosts.

Apparently these bodies of water used to cover more of the landscape but in the 1960s the huge ponds closest to the sea were artificially transformed. By sculpting the land and planting a huge amount of trees to soak up moisture, the area became fit for building upon.

The Unique Design of this Seaside Resort in France

Here the ladies of my French host family began to regale me with their memories of the development of the area which they had witnessed with their own eyes over the years. It was definitely a time where I took stock of how lucky I was to have a French immersion experience with local people in Montpellier. I was hearing a first-hand account of the fascinating history of this area whilst learning French in the process, can’t be beaten !

What Makes this French Town So Unique

Jean Balladur was the mastermind behind this town, and talk about eclectic influences; his main inspiration was the architecture of Teotihuacan, an ancient Mesoamerican city of modern day Mexico!

Right. Why not! Go for it Jean.

Apparently billed as the French answer to the Spanish costas the first two buildings certainly were unique and towering well above anything else on the flat land they were certainly made an impact. There are a few buildings in my home country that are a bit too edgy for the areas they were built and you can tell from buildings made after they didn’t dare continue the theme. Absolutely not the case here. The French clearly took to the new/old French/Ancient Mexican style and all subsequent big buildings follow this unique look long after the original architect finished his work.

With any bold style it has the potential to divide opinion but I think it treads the line of originality and restraint very well. I think the commitment to the theme has really made this a unique place with a fascinating look. It is one of those places in France I feel I can simply walk around, regard and enjoy.

Quiet French Town, Loads to Try

There is of course plenty to do. As you would expect the area is covered in restaurants offering heaps of choice of authentic seafood fresh from the sea that day. The vendors are used to tourists so great to practice what you have learnt during your French language home-stay in France. Why not enjoy one of the myriad of sandy beaches? There is also snorkelling, jet skis or sailing available to try your hand at. We opted for a more relaxed option; a glass of white wine which we enjoyed reclining in some beach chairs talking over the history of this relatively new area with a beautiful view of the calm sea and the luxurious architecture built to make the most of it. It should definitely be on your list of places to visit during your French immersion course here in Montpellier, you get to practice your French skills, get to know your French host family and eat wonderful speciality food.