In late May 2016, I had my first French language immersion program, and it was a great! I traveled to Belle-Île from Paris and spent 5 days at the home of Michel Denance. I have a few comments I’d like to share about my experience, and why I recommend the French immersion program on Belle-Île with Michel.
First, Michel is an excellent French professor (in fact, the best that I’ve had). He is able to discern readily your level of proficiency in speaking, comprehension, reading and writing French. Together, the two of you decide on a program focused on your particular needs and goals. Each day, you spend a couple of hours in an informal classroom setting with lessons, class work, and conversation. There is homework, but just enough to keep you engaged, interested, and motivated to learn. I enjoyed particularly reading short works from French literature in the evenings and discussing them the next day. Casual conversation over dinner is a wonderful bonus.
The lodging is first-rate. Michel has a two-level apartment adjacent to his country farmhouse. The apartment is fully furnished with a comfortable bed and cozy furniture. There is a small kitchen with most anything you need for a short visit, and after a brief trip to the grocery store, fresh produce (and maybe a bottle of wine) to enjoy at your leisure. Michel has a large garden with beautiful flowers, trees, and herbs that you can explore.
Michel is a gracious host and an outstanding chef. Daily, he prepares a delicious meal that you share at his dining table. The food is fresh, local, and seasoned well, and the conversation over meals is delightful. Michel has a great sense of humor and a charming manner that puts you at ease quickly. He’s knowledgeable about a great many things and you soon find common interests. Michel enjoys the company of others, and wherever we went, everyone knew him.
Last, Belle-Île is truly a beautiful island. The countryside, the beaches, the small villages, and the ocean are gorgeous, where you can take some time to sit, relax, and bask in them (and take some impressive pictures). I took breaks from homework in the afternoon to explore the island by bicycle and on foot. There were flowers blooming everywhere, along roadsides and paths and in small gardens. One afternoon Michel took me on a grand tour of the island, from one end to the other, and it was clear why Belle-Île is a favorite vacation destination.