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France: French Immersion Adventure 2022

June 30, 2022

We had a very very full first day in Paris with a bit of rainy and chilly weather. Anna discovered and became obsessed with an extremely large pigeon at a gazebo lamplight next to our hostel, sleeping there. A lot of the group was quite tired, yet we managed to visit two nice cafes. At the first café, we enjoyed a light breakfast – real fast with coffee and croissants. At the second one, we ate burgers and fish and chips, and some of us had little cat-naps. We also went to Musee D’Orsay, where we saw Degas’ Little Dancer, Monet’s Lilypads, Toulouse Lautrec, Renoir, Rodin, Van Gogh and more. We skipped around a bit in Paris and enjoyed people watching. At the Louvre courtyard, a couple of us saw a beautiful puppy that could play keep a balloon in the air with its owner. For dinner, we went on a walking street, and some of us shared crepes. Afterwards, we went to the Eiffel Tower and had treats. Then, we went to the top and enjoyed a beautiful sunset. We got to learn about the metro system as well. Then, we went to bed after a really full day.

July 1, 2022

A big travel day for us! It started with us packing up things at our hostel and heading to Gare de Lyon by bus to go catch the French Bullet Train/High Speed Rail to Grenoble. Some of us met Ami, she was a French Engineering student on the train, and we spoke with her the entire trip in mixed French and English and had a great time. We ordered delicious mini baguette sandwiches. Then we had another bus ride up to Mizoen and our little hostel where we were greeted by Pascal, Anne, their son, Sam, and their dog, Jolly, who was so cute. We had a home cooked dinner and apple tart for dessert. Claudia and Chris ran orientation, ice breakers, agreements, and expectations. Then we played soccer and volleyball outside next to the church. The soccer ball fell down the mountain, oops! We got tomorrow’s schedule and hung out in our B&B and are enjoying our first night in the countryside.

July 2, 2022

So, the day started off with everyone feeling a lot more energized and excited for the day. Although we were still groggy, we definitely woke up after white water rafting. It was so much fun! Our highlight was when our guide stole Hattie off of her boat and plopped her in ours. I think she was in shock, but it was so memorable. During our safety test of us swimming down the river, Owen did some interesting glacier water swimming stunts to our boat and the water was freezing, but it was so worth it when we got to the waterfall! Everyone linked hands in a circle under the waterfall and the moment was magical. The best part of lunch was the homemade donuts with cinnamon, apple filling because they were absolutely delicious.

After lunch we met Laurent, Florent and Fabrice who gave us an orientation on our upcoming service work and proceeded to take us to our alpine work site. In all honesty, the hike up the trail – which we would be repairing – was brutal and so steep. Once we started working though, we soon got into a rhythm and made a lot of progress. Our goal today was to widen the trail and add a stone edge on the cliffside to make the trail easier and safer to hike on. One of the groups saw cows and Ava got licked by a cow and she said she enjoyed it. The butterflies loved us and kept landing on us, which made us feel like we were in a fairytale. We were sad to leave them, but the bus ride back was fun because Laurent played awesome music. Dinner was also excellent with lasagna, salad and a rich chocolate gateau for dessert. In our free time, some of us went into town to buy baguettes and some others played soccer on the field. In all, it was a fun, tiring, and fulfilling day with so many good memories!

-Riyana & Bekah

July 3, 2022

We did service work all day today. While It was blazing hot on the trail in the French Alps we were working on, we worked tirelessly to improve the trail for the local people. Nous sommes fatigués (we are tired!). The bells woke everyone in the small town up, since it was Sunday and we live next to a beautiful church. Our breakfast consisted of our usual coffee, baguette and jam, with some delicious peaches that Anya and Ariela ate!

Our trail work leaders picked us up from Anne and Pascal’s hostel and we journeyed to our chantier (worksite). After a few hours, we stopped for lunch and met up with some local French girls who talked with us even though we struggled to form our French sentences. Riyana, Ella, Hattie and Wendell worked hard to improve our French quickly so that we could communicate with our new friends. After lunch, there was a big bike race in the valley and we couldn’t go home until 5:30, so we decided to venture into the village to tell the locals how we had improved the trail in their neighborhood. We filled up our water bottles and headed back up to the chantier to continue our work. The French girls inspected our work and decided that it was tres bon (very good!). We walked back to the vans. Because of the bike race, some of the group went to a restaurant to drink sodas.

Once we made it back, we all sat down to another amazing home-cooked meal from Anne, Pascal and Sam, called Tian which consisted of rice, zucchini, tomatoes, goat cheese, and chorizo baked together. For our dessert, we had a delicious egg based pudding with caramel custard. It started to rain, se we huddled in the main room of the hostel for the evening for some reading and some writing. After winding down, we will head to bed before an early morning.

-Wendell and Maverick

July 4, 2022 

Bonjour everyone! We began our third day in the alps with a lovely petit-dejeuner outside with our amazing mountain view. Today was our last day to complete our trail restoration project, so we wanted to get an early start, especially since some french rain was on the forecast 🙁 We headed out to the site with our guides Laurent, Jean-Marc & Fabrice. Once we arrived at the worksite, we all got straight to work and got so much accomplished!! Highlights were Maverick’s frequent breaks, Ava and Andrea’s magnificent wall (minus the flying rocks), and lots of fighting over rakes. We took a well-deserved dejeuner at the same picnic spot as yesterday, complete with homemade chicken salad sandwiches from our lovely hosts, Anne and Pascal. During this lunch break, some naps were taken, some flower crowns were created, and some good laughs were had. We then headed back to our trail for the final stretch of our work project. We all got to work together on one part of the trail, and, within no time, our work was complete!! YAYYYYYY!!!

Feeling accomplished, we headed back to the vans. Our head guide, Laurent, has a hilarious obsession with American rap/pop music, including the works of DJ Khalid, Cardi B, Meghan Thee Stallion, and many more icons. Some girls enjoyed an amazing ride back to our home listening to one song many, many times, bopping along, and, of course, learning valuable life lessons; some included having big, big energy!! On the way back, we stopped at the cutest little french gas station, which is unsurprisingly much nicer than American ones. We picked up some delicious ice cream bars for the whole team and returned to the house just in time to meet Katie, who joined us in the Alps today!

After some much-needed showers and a reading circle, Anne made us an incredible dinner complete with tartiflette, a traditional dish found in the alps, and a fruit salad for dessert. Some people headed to a nearby basketball/soccer area to toss around a volleyball, but unfortunately found that we were too powerful. Our most powerful person, Mika, hit the ball a tad bit hard, knocking it down our VERYYYYY forested mountain. Our brave mountain man, Owen, took a courageous trek down but the mountain came out on top. Owen returned with recyclables, alive and well! We were all so pleased to see him, such a great, fulfilling workday. Our hopes are high (as well as our nerves) for our long hike tomorrow. À demain!

-Ava & Hattie

July 5, 2022 

Salut parents!! We slept in today and woke up feeling energized (and nervous) for our hike up the beautiful, enormous, and very steep French alps. We were sad to leave our beloved hostel in Mizoën and our hosts, Ann and Pascal. We began our hike near the hostel and continued for the next 7 hours, but do not fear, we all made it through. We stopped along the way, of course, for baguette sandwich breaks and sunscreen reapplication. Andrea, Anton, Owen, and Ava led the way, moving swiftly across the mountain with great stamina. Throughout the hike; Riyana took amazing photos that we are all so excited to look back on after the trip. One of our favorite hike guides, Laurent, brought his daughter, Anouk, to hike and stay with us. We love getting to know her while also practicing our French! Finally, after seeing the most beautiful wild flowers, we arrived at the refuge where we are staying. Our hosts cooked us an amazing couscous dish with pudding for dessert. We ended the long day with games, and live music courtesy of Big Max. Now, we are ready to go to sleep!

-Andrea and Mika

July 6, 2022
We awoke amongst the sheets and blankets which encompassed and warmed our bodies. The aroma of coffee and cereal lured us from our den and we ravenously consumed and gained nourishment from the provided food, replenishing our energy from previous days endeavors. We conversed with our fellow compatriots, finishing breakfast, and started the next phase of our hike. During our pilgrimage, French guides informed us on the wildlife and animals which we observed from afar. Those suffering from fatigue missed out on the wildlife and animals, but instead painted and read. Those who continued, ended in a glacier lake as cold as a winters day and swam surrounded by snowy peaks. We then ate and started the arduous journey down. We reached our dwelling and tired from the expedition we all huddled around a fire as nighttime fell. The warmth of the fire brought out song and dance which ended once again in the warm embrace of sheets and blankets.

Anton and Owen

July 7, 2022
This morning we woke up, had our last breakfast provided by Refuge les Mouterres, which included freshly baked muffins. One of our guides, Big Max, played one last song for us, and we all sang along happily before heading out.

Later on, we packed up our stuff and got ready for the descent of our lives. At first it went slightly uphill, but the rest of the hike was flat, bumpy, and downhill. As we took in the gorgeous view of the mountains, we stopped for lunch at the shepherd’s place. A few of us carried bags of salt downhill for the sheep to eat, which helps keep their coats clean and healthy, and bonded with the sheep. After that we carried on with the hike downhill; while beautiful and less difficult than before, a lot of us were complaining about our feet aching from the hikes beforehand. Right before arriving at Mizeon, we stopped at a nearby village and went into a small delightful museum holding the wonders of the shepherds working in the Alps. We also stopped at a local cafe in the village to take a water break and we enjoyed some refreshing ice cream. Finally, we’re back at our home away from home! One last amazing dinner by Anne and Pascal, and one last night at this beautiful hostel in the middle of the Alps.

– Anya & Ariela

July 8, 2022

We started a long day of traveling with our last breakfast at Anne, Pascal and Sam’s place before bidding farewell to the Gîte de l’Emparis. Our journey took us from the Alps in eastern France to the Pont du Gard at Nimes, a Roman aqueduct where some braver adventurers among us decided to take a dip in the river. We enjoyed ice cream on the bus while continuing down to south-western France, taking a few rest stops along the way to buy goodies and snacks.

Later, we arrived in the medieval fortified city of Carcassonne, we took some time to freshen up in our two hotels before driving down to the lake to meet our French host families! We enjoyed a wonderful potluck, engaged in intriguing conversations, and played a fun game of ‘Bouge tes fesses.’ , where someone in the middle shared something that was true for them and anyone who shared similar views were invited to find a new place in our giant circle. After singing happy birthday to Ariella and eating a bunch of fromage and gateau, we found ourselves saying à demain to our new friends. We walked along the streets of Carca before taking a pit stop at a lively outdoor multi-cuisine restaurant to grab some late night munchies. What a great way to spend our first day in Carcassonne!

– Rena & Catherine

July 9, 2022

We started off the day waking up in a real bed and took advantage of our OWN bathrooms! We made our way down to breakfast, unlike Maja and Catherine who slept through their alarm, and enjoyed the biggest buffet – with an espresso machine! Next we met up with our host families, semi-enjoying the scorching hot weather. After arriving to the market, our competitive Scavenger Hunt began. The tasks included learning a French tongue twister, singing a French song, finding the most expensive item at the local food market, and learning the legend of Madame Carca. Chava, Ava, Andrea, Jade, and Chloe took the win. The first three places were awarded with tote bags, chocolate, and lollipops.

After parting ways with our new friends, we enjoyed a much needed group lunch at the center plaza of the cute town. Refreshing ourselves at the hotel let our bodies reset allowing us to make way to the old Cité de Carcassonne. After visiting the castle, we broke off into groups and did a little shopping for trinkets in the old city of Carcassonne. Many of us enjoyed some ice cream before dinner at Jardin aux Escargots where some tried escargot for the first time (Anna surprisingly liked it, finishing Chava’s uneaten plate). We finished the day off with a violin concert inside the castle walls, and departed back to our spacious hotel rooms.

– Maja & Chava

July 10, 2022
The group spent the day with host families today. As a sampling of what they did, we have a few different entries from students for the blog today!

We enjoyed a day with our host mom, Pascale, at La Fête du Melon where we shopped around the local vendors, played life-size board games, and ate a cantaloupe-inspired lunch. Afterwards, we shopped around downtown Carcassonne, though most stores were closed because it was Dimanche. We decided to take a dip in the pool before going to Pascale’s for a small French dinner. It was an amazing day! ~ Catherine and Rena

We woke up and prepared for our day by showering and eating. Then we met our French family who dropped us off with their son to roam the castle and shop. Afterwards we played chess, ping-pong , and watched Netflix with our French family. We ended our stay airy volleyball in the pool and returned to the hotel. ~ Anton and Owen

Though we were très nervous about spending a day alone with our host lady, Nadege, we actually had such a great time! First, we drove off to a nearby shopping mall but since everything was closed, we shopped till we dropped at the main supermarket there. After beaucoup de toothpaste and loofas, we headed back to chez Nadege for a barbecue lunch spread. Then it was a dip in the piscine and tanning galore. Nadege was kind enough to play our favorite artists while we swam and we read our books on floaties in the dazzling water. Next was some relaxing time on the couch to watch a fun movie. We then ate a delicious home cooked meal (flatbread!) and enjoyed conversing with our host lady and telling great stories. Finally, we had some ice cream to round out an amazing day! Au revoir Nadege! Merci pour une bonne journée!! ~ Cami et Hattie

Bonjour! Today Jade and Chloe picked us up and we hoped in the car not knowing the adventures that awaited ahead. After a 30 minute ride blasting music we arrived at a cave. Our tour guide had a lot of energy and enjoyed singing, making fun of us, and he even pretended to shower in the cave waterfall. The tour ended with a cave light show that went along with music. We then headed over to a lake and enjoyed a picnic lunch consisting of the best sandwiches made of prosciutto, Brie, baguettes and we forced our hosts to put chips in their sandwiches. They loved it! (of course). After lunch, we went on the inflatables in the water. We wiped out about 100 times. After that we gave Jade and Chloe pop rocks which they’ve never tried. They liked them a lot! We headed to Jade’s house for dinner. At Jade’s house we met her two cats Saiko and Souki. We played card games and talked with them until dinner was ready. We had chicken, potatoes, and cornbread balls. Jade poured us huge glasses of grenadine to enjoy along with dinner. Aiden ate all the leftovers after which he thoroughly enjoyed. We talked and laughed a lot after dinner and had some interesting conversations. Finally, we went back to our hotel to get some well needed rest! ~ Goodnight, Andrea, Ava, and Chava

We woke up kind of late but we ended up being on time to head over to our host family’s house to spend the day! We hung out in the pool most of the day, had a nice lunch with them of French raclette, and played a few board games. We were so drained from swimming and talking, we took a nap and had dinner together of pasta, chorizo, and chicken! ~ Ariela and Anya

Audrey, our host mother, and Tomas, our host brother, picked Wendell, Bekah and Riyana up from the hotel and we headed straight to their house. Once we arrived, we took the dog Filou for a walk in the town with our other brother, Clement. After, our host mother made us cookies and we hung out with Tomas some more, he showed us some funny French songs. Once the cookies were finished baking, the house smelled amazing and we started making Mac and Cheese. (Our family had never had it before and wanted to try it.) We barbecued with Tomas and then our host father and grandfather came for lunch! We had no idea that we would be making lunch for a French grandpa, but he enjoyed the Mac and cheese. After our lunch, we spent some time in the pool and watching Stranger Things before heading the the Cité for dinner. We enjoyed our day with our family and are excited to meet up with them again for Bastille Day! ~ Wendell, Bekah, and Riyana

July 11, 2022

We started our day late, munching on an assortment of fruits and pain au chocolat in the tranquil garden of our hotel. We then made our way to a high ropes course, where we cheered each other on as we zip-lined across a beautiful lake. Soon after, we took a quick lunch break and hopped on the bus to a nearby vineyard. Ella, Maverick, and Aidan took the lead and crafted a picnic table while the rest of us worked to clear out the thorny bushes from an ancient wall. Feeling accomplished (and very sweaty), we went back to our hotel via bus, napping the day’s work away. Back at the hotel, we freshened up to go out to dinner at a local restaurant full of games such as pool and foosball. We ate outside in the boho themed garden under twinkle lights. Now, we are ready to go to sleep and recharge for tomorrow’s service!
– Mika

July 12, 2022

This morning, we slept in at nine for breakfast at the hotel. Then we headed to the bus to go to service, about a 45 minute drive through beautiful vineyards and sleepy towns. After 2 hours of work clearing brambles and building picnic tables, we took a lunch break on the amazing benches some of our friends had made the day before. After lunch, we did some more service work for two hours and headed to the lake for a quick swim, which was refreshing and cold: just what we needed after a long day working in the heat! After the delightful swim we left to go back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner at Au Faur Saint Louis, where the meat eaters enjoyed the classic cassoulet meal from Carcassonne, and the vegetarians had a delicious pasta. We wandered for a bit after dinner and bought some tote bags and snacks and a few people went to the haunted house. We took photos of the amazing castle views at sunset. Finally, at the end of the night, we headed back after ice cream. Then we arrived at the hotel by ten and went to sleep.

By Ariela and Anya

July 13, 2022

Wednesday, July 13, was an action packed day full of surprises. We woke up very early for a day of service and the beach. We were met at the service site with USA decorations and croissants to our immense pleasure, and had a very productive last day of service at this site. Bernard, the service director, was so thankful for our contribution to the newly made path and park; in honor of its creation, Bernard allowed us to name the park. After he declined our request to name it the Bernard Park, we named it the Schtroumps Parque which means Smurfs Park. The name is definitely unique. After a delicious dejeuner (lunch), we took an hour bus ride to the beach. The beach had a wonderful breeze and refreshing water to combat the rising heat. We were allowed to split off into groups of three and explore the shops surrounding the beach. Many ice creams later and after playing in the water, Maverick was stung in the water by a fish common in the shallows of the Mediterranean; it was trés painful. Thankfully our trip leaders spoke to the  lifeguard, who told us what the sting was and healed him with an easy hot water foot bath. We ended the day with a long bus ride home and a delicious tapas dinner!

July 14, 2022

Today was Bastille Day, which is similar to the Fourth of July in the US. My group was Anna, Maya, Kyra, Ella, Mika, Maverick, Anton, and Owen. Our host moms, Fabienne and Christine, took us to Christine’s house to swim and have a delicious barbecue. We swam for a few hours and played Marco Polo, which Anton was the best at! We took breaks to read in the shade until lunch, when we had grilled chicken and ratatouille. Then, we played cards for a bit until we went to Fabienne’s house. We ate dinner and played with a ball before we watched a very extravagant fireworks show on the bridge near the Cité de Carcassonne.
– Anna

My group was Bekah, Riyana and Wendell. Once we were picked up from our meeting place, we headed straight to our host family’s house with our host mother Audrey and brother Tomas. Once we arrived we relaxed for a bit, we spent the morning taking the dog for a walk, playing pool, and taking a quick nap. Soon enough it was lunch time, so we headed outside with the whole family to enjoy some delicious pasta salad. After lunch, we watched Stranger Things with Tomas. After quite the eventful episode, we had plenty of analysis in French after. The whole family headed out to the pool since it was so hot. After, we changed and headed downtown to watch the fireworks in the Cité.
– Wendell

We started our final day with our host mom, Pascale, with some boutique shopping, and by the time we were finished, we never wanted to see Pimkie again! We had lunch at a café in the dining square, where Catherine tried foie gras. Afterwards, we spent the heat of the afternoon in a pool in Montréal (the one in France) and returned to Pascale’s house for a fresh summer dinner outside! Then, we viewed some of Pascale’s scrapbooks and did some more light reading before walking to the top of a hill for the best view of the Bastille fireworks above the castle. C’était un jour très amusant!
– Cami, Catherine, Hattie, and Rena

July 15, 2022
Today we spent tout le  journée (the whole day) at a French preschool/summer camp, interacting with the little ones and trying to work on our French, while they tried out their English! What started off as a civilized coloring session soon turned into a full-blown water fight, with any kid in sight soaked to the bone. Things got a bit intense, but we settled down after a break for some popsicles. The water fight continued until la fin (the end) of our day with the kiddos. Then, we were off to the lake to enjoy some time in the sun. We read by the water and enjoyed each other’s company under the shade with some delicious snacks. Much needed showers came next before an amazing pizza dinner! A perfect place to finish off the incredible time we spent in This city. Au revoir Carcassonne, next stop: PARIS!!
– Hattie & Cami

July 16, 2022

Today we woke up with the excitement of our journey to Paris ahead. With a delicious breakfast at our hotel we headed off to the train station. Our first train was delayed and we were a tad worried about missing our connecting train. Sadly our fears came true and our train (rudely) left without us. But don’t fret too much readers, our brave Katie fought hard to get us a place on the next train. We boarded the train with no seats but with our hearts full of love and tiredness. Most all of us had to give up the seats we stole and had to run around the train, but we managed to arrive safe and sound. After arriving at our ivy covered renovated hostel, we changed into clothes more fitting for Paris and headed out. We walked up the many stairs of the Arc de Triomphe but it was no match for our superhumanly strong legs from our hike up the mountains. After, we split off into groups to do some shopping on the Champs Élysées. While many of the stores were just a little out of our budget, we had fun window shopping and getting yelled at in Zara. We then went to a well deserved dinner and we were able to chose places to eat. I got Chinese food and others went to get pasta. We all fell into a food coma and wandered onto our boat for the river Seine tour. While the sun went down we managed to capture beautiful photos and even better memories as we watched Paris fly by.

By Ava

July 17, 2022

Bonjour! We woke up early today at our renovated mansion hostel. We took a train to Versailles and saw the pretty palace. Then we took a promenade through the beautiful royal gardens to grab lunch. At lunch, we ate surrounded by flowers and fountains, but there were bees everywhere. We met up with everyone and split into three groups. One group went to Napoleon’s tomb. One group went back to the hotel to rest up. The last group went shopping in the hip and happening Marais neighborhood. Afterwards, we met up for dinner in Montmartre, walked around the little streets, and had some delicious pasta. We made it back to the hotel to get enough rest for our last day together in France!  By Andrea

July 18, 2022

We started the day off with breakfast at the hostel. After we finished eating we took a walking tour around the Île de la cite with our tour guide Melissa. We saw the Conciergerie where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned, the Notre Dame, and some historic streets! The tour lasted an hour and a half, afterwards we were given time to find our own places to eat near the famous Shakespeare & Co book store in the Latin Quarter. We all finished eating and met up to go to the Louvre. The group split up to roam the museum and once we had seen all the famous paintings like the Mona Lisa and the statue of Venus de Milo, we started our walk back to the hostel. When we arrived everyone was hot and sweaty so we freshened up before heading to our dinner spot where we ate delicious sénégalaise food! Lastly we headed to the park to have our closing ceremony and celebrate the twins’ (Andrea and Anton) birthdays.