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Institut de Français students enjoying the sun on the terrace of the language school, in the Riviera town of Villefranche-sur-Mer


THE HILLTOP VILLAGE in central France famous for Sancerre wine possesses a storybook quality. Climbing to the top of the 14th-century Tour de Fiefs affords glorious, sweeping views of the vineyards and unspoilt countryside surrounding the Loire river. Coeur de France is a celebrated language school, which continues to earn rave reviews from its students, who appreciate the personalised instruction and picturesque setting. A glance at TripAdvisor reveals a torrent of giddy adjectives, such as “magnifique”, “beautiful” and “wonderful”. Sancerre doesn’t have the distractions of a big city and so it’s the ideal place to experience the relaxed pace of French country life. Established in 1996 by Marianne and Gérard Chartrand, Coeur de France is housed in a 16th-century château called La Thaumassière. “Our philosophy is based on learning by doing,” Gérard explains. “We believe that time out of the classroom is as important as time in it. Grammar and text-based learning

are, of course, necessary but we want students to focus on progressing as quickly as possible and not spend too much time doing things they can do by themselves back home. Toward that end, we incorporate a variety of techniques that encourage independence, self confidence and fun!” Hence the school’s programmes balance academic classroom instruction with real-world missions – perhaps to buy stamps at the post office – which put the concepts learned into immediate practice. The idea is for students to gain confidence through authentic, unscripted interactions with native French speakers. This is complemented by optional cultural excursions, which provide a real behind-the-scenes look at French culture. You might visit a local goat farm, learn how to make baguettes at the boulangerie, or join artisans for a painting or jewellery-making workshop. The most popular excursion is the weekly wine tour, which delves into the process of making (and tasting!) Sancerre. Private and group programmes are available from one to eight

weeks in duration. The maximum class size is eight and there are also family and children’s packages available. Classes either take place in the morning or afternoon, providing ample time to explore the area and practice your new skills. To accommodate students, Coeur de France offers three lovely apartments in the château, starting from €720 per week. The crème de la crème is the top-floor ‘Louis’ apartment, accessed by the spiral stone staircase in the château’s tower. In addition, Coeur de France manages a number of village apartments a short walk away. All have kitchens to prepare your own meals, although it’s also fun to try the local restaurants. Due to the school’s popularity, for the busy spring and summer periods it’s best to register eight-to-ten months in advance. Tuition for the Group Programme (20 hours of instruction) costs €440 per week. Note that the cultural excursions have an additional cost. ● La Thaumassière, 1 place de la Panneterie, 18300 Sancerre +33 9 70 61 59 44

INSTITUT DE FRANÇAIS, VILLEFRANCHE-SUR-MER IF YOU’RE a princess, Hollywood celebrity, or high-ranking diplomat and you need to learn French ASAP, what do you do? You enroll in the Institut de Français in the dreamy Riviera town of Villefranche- sur-Mer, a former fishing village between Nice and Monaco. Founded in 1969 by Jean Colbert, a former French aerospace scientist, and his wife Madeleine, the Institut de Français focuses on the “total approach”, meaning eight and a half hours of instruction a day. Everyday conversation is the vehicle for language acquisition, via audio-visual methods, practice sessions in a language lab, two daily on-site “discussion meals” and evening outings.

Of course the postcard-perfect setting brings added allure to the programme. Classes take place in a Provençal villa, perched on a hilltop with awe-inspiring views of the Mediterranean sea.

The Institut de Français’ intensive courses are conducted year-round in four-week sessions. Or if you’re not an “absolute beginner”, a two- or three-week enrolment. Students are tested on their first day and then assigned to a class based upon their ability – beginner, intermediate or advanced. The cost for the four-week session is €2,990 until the end of April 2015, while from May- November 2015 the fee is €3,620. The Institut can arrange apartment rentals in town, within walking distance. These range from a shared double room (starting at €400) to a “higher standard” two-room apartment (€2,170 and upwards). ● 23 avenue Général-Leclerc, 06230 Villefranche-sur-Mer +33 04 93 01 88 44


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