We have just returned from a wonderfully relaxing holiday in a gîte near Vire in Calvados, Normandy with my parents. I have spoken French every day and we have laughed so much. Going on a French bank holiday weekend is not a great idea as there were lots of traffic jams or “confiture de voitures” as some bright spark translated the term! We chose the bank holiday itself to go to Mont St Michel which was like being on a conveyor belt. We also went to see the Bayeux tapestry which was on my list of things to do during my lifetime. I swam in the cold Channel seawater for the first time since I was a child. And we saw cows being milked and lots of birds of prey, one in particular which was out hunting every evening when we returned.
France is a lot more expensive than it used to be; we really noticed it in the supermarket. But some things were free, which was refreshingly unlike rip-off Britain: children under 10 went in to see the Bayeux tapestry for free, a lot of car parks were free and we only paid for parking, not entrance fees, at Mont St Michel.
We had some linguistic treats too. We were invited for an apéritif of Calvados by our landlord who showed us his amazing collection of antiques. The children were very well behaved and had a go at speaking French. Monster had us in stitches as his pronunciation of pain au chocolat came out as pain au choco-ah and morphed into pain au choco-oo-ah!
But the pièce de résistance has to be that on the penultimate evening, my daughter made friends with a French eight-year-old who was holidaying in the gîte next door (we didn’t even know there was anyone living there!) They were able to communicate despite neither knowing any of the other’s language thanks to the joys of childhood. Madam somehow managed to explain to her new friend how to play a Nintendo DS game which was in English (amazing as she doesn’t have a console herself). I have tried many times to teach her French but she has a burst of short-lived energy and loses interest, despite having a fantastic accent. When she was small she used to shake her head if I spoke to her in French but when we stayed with a French friend, her toddler-speak turned from “la la la” to a French-style guttural rrr!
Maybe, now that she has exchanged email addresses with someone of her own age, this might change. Watch this space…