Sancerre French Immersion 2017 travel blog

Wine tasting

Another shot of wine tasting

The wine producing areas of Sancerre

A view of decorated rooftops through a restaurant awning

A display of produce in France. Actually not Sancerre, but Narbonne, last...

First, I want to thank all of you who have sent emails to me in response to my journal entries. I am glad you are enjoying them! And I really enjoy hearing from all of you!

Today was another very intense day, in part because Peter was not feeling well and so I ended up with a three hour private lesson! And we built further on yesterday's work with pronouns. So on top of yesterday's flow chart, I now have a number of rules for how to work with other tenses and also with helping verbs. And for homework, my teacher thought it would be good practice for me to explain to Peter what we did today! That is going to be interesting. Fortunately, as I have noted, Peter is very advanced so I am sure he will easily see through any of the mistakes that I will likely make.

That was this afternoon. This morning was a session of pronunciation, followed by a session of open dialogue. I was really glad to get the pronunciation practice. We rarely get that in concentrated form in class, so it was very good to have the dedicated time. And the conversation was quite interesting. It was just me, a teacher, and Sadhi from Pakistan. She has lived in NYC where she worked for Lehman Bros, and now is back in Pakistan working in the transport industry. She is here with her two daughters who are getting their first exposure to French. It is cute to see how all the kids that are here this week cling to their parents. I think they aren't quite sure what to make of all that goes on around them.

This evening was a wine-tasting with one of the local vineyards. Like last week, this is a very old vineyard (about 400 years), passed down from generation to generation, and producing very small quantities of very high quality wine. One thing that is interesting about Sancerre and its vineyards is that even though the general environs are moderately hilly, Sancerre itself is probably at twice the elevation of most of the other hills, and the surrounding area is about twice as hilly as elsewhere. That seems to produce great variety in sunlight, soil types, aeration and water. And these vignobles know all the minute differences, and are very happy to share their knowledge with you--and, at least for us students, provided you will listen to that in French. I am sure, though, that they make a point of speaking at a level and pace where we are able to follow them.

Interesting, too, for me to reflect on the speaking French component. Most of my first year of studying used a lot of English to explain things. That has been gone ever since I started my second year at home, and certainly it is not a part of how things are done here. I have days where I feel like I am never going to master this language, so I try to remind myself of where I was a year ago, or six months ago. On occasion, when I want to be absolutely certain I have something right, I will ask the teachers to repeat in English for that purpose, and they have always accommodated that. But that is about as much English as I get.

And one other thing that strikes me is that so far, other than the farmer's market, I have barely spoken of the food, which is what almost everyone thinks of first! The food is delicous; it is based on traditional cooking and what is locally available, and it is a different experience from being in Paris. For the size of this town, there is actually quite a selection of restaurants. And while by US standards this is a very small town (about 1500), by French countryside standards it is a bit of a metropolis. On top of that, Sancerre is a bit of a destination, which is a mixture of its unique physical attributes being on top of a hill, its history (dates back to about 900 AD), its excellent and world recognized wines. It is also quite prosperous. One immediately notices that roads are well paved. Unlike so many older town and villages, you are at little risk for twisting an ankle when out for a walk. And modernizations have been done without disrupting any of the ancient appeal.

So back to the food. In town, you can only buy four things: bread, cheese, chocolate and wine. (Quite frankly I could probably live on these). Otherwise you have to head down the hill to the "supermarche" in St. Satur. There are about 10 restaurants in town. Most are traditional French, two have MIchelin stars, and there is one that serves delicious hand-tossed pizza. Food is simply prepared but excellent. Omelettes are an art form. Ham (more like proscuitto) dominates the meat options. Salads are bibb lettuce with vinagrette--no such thing as Caesar here. You can get local fish and sometimes salmon, all very, very simply prepared. Most of my fellow students eat lunch and breakfast in their apartments. I have tended to do the same. It is partly a matter of time and other priorities and partly a matter of a breakfast of yogurt (which is SO good here!) and fruit with a lunch of baguette, cheese, fruit or last night's leftovers suits the bill just fine. It is all very good but also not pretentious in any way and very matter of fact. I wish I had another week here. I think once out of Paris, the French do an admirable job of balancing what is important in life. I am just now really being able to get into that vibe, and it is not so long before I am back to Paris, and then back home. And that is all OK. A little time away from the US also makes you appreciate what we are all about.

En Francais:

Un autre jour tres difficile!! Peter, ou est vous quand j'ai besoin de vous pour le mastere des pronoms!! Mais, j'espere que vous est meilliur, et que vous retournerez de class demain. Mais, c'est possible que la lecon est tres bizarre, parce que Laura pense que je peux vous apprendre les lessons de pronons!!

Un pensee que j'ai eu que je n'ai pas partage un explanation de les nourissements en Sancerre! C'est tres different que les repas dans une grande ville, comme Paris. Les restaurants offrent les repas tres simples, avec les ingredients locales et availables. Mais, c'est tres bonne fare! Depuis, tout le mode mangent le petit dejeuner et le dejeuner dans ses maisons. Et le meme chose pour moi. Je trouve que une petit dejeuner de yourt et fruit est tres bien. Et pour dejeuner, le pain et fromage, et plus fruit. Pour diner, il y a les bons restaurants, mais les repas sont simples avec les produist locales.

Et aussi, c'est encroyable que mes temps ici sont pres de fini! C'etaient un experience remarkable. Il me manquera. Mais, aussi, quelque temps loin de USA me donnent plus appreciation pour mon pays.

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