Perhaps you last went on an exchange when you were at school. Perhaps you
remember awkward conversations and homesickness. Perhaps you wish you had
paid more attention in double French…but it doesn’t have to be like that…
My first experience of an exchange was as a sixth former, spending a week in a
French Lycee…actually it wasn’t at all awkward and I wasn’t a bit homesick, and I
rarely paid attention in double French…The week was spent giggling in the dormitory
all night with my English friends and laughing with the French students as we
communicated in Franglais during the days. The result was a love of France and its
people which has only recently had a chance to resurface when I joined the Friends
of Chartres and hosted the delightful Chantal.
Naturally it was a bit nerve wracking to meet a complete stranger in Waitrose coach
park late at night and take her back to my house. However, rusty Franglais was
dusted off and we were soon managing to communicate. One of the best aspects of
taking part in the annual exchange is that much of the weekend is spent doing
organised activities with the other participants – that takes a lot of the pressure off
“entertaining” your guest. On the day spent “en famille” it is still possible to join up
with others. So, my friend Jacqui and her guest, Dominique, joined us to visit
Petworth House and to have a Sunday roast dinner. Very obligingly Princess
Charlotte was born that weekend and our French guests were very excited to be with
“les anglais” when the news was announced.
Once you have hosted you then have the treat of going to Chartres as a guest*. This
for me was an amazing weekend. I will admit to some nerves over wondering where
I was going to sleep and what I might be expected to eat. The nerves were soon
banished by the pleasure of seeing a city not as a tourist but as the guest of a
resident. Chartres had its fabulous light show when we visited and the spectacle
took my breath away…in spite of the rain! Another highlight was the visit to a
chocolate factory followed by the longest lunch in history (this is France)
and,unbelievably, yet more delicious food in the evening. If I had a complaint it would
be that I went home a good few pounds heavier than I was when I left Chichester!
Another bonus of the exchange is that whilst you foot the bills when you host, when
you are the guest you only pay for the travel…a four day city break all in for just over
£100.00 – where else can you get that?
Now I have hosted Chantal again and we are definitely becoming firm friends… on
the last evening she was here we had Dominique and Jacqui round for shepherd’s
pie and a very cosy viewing of “Mr Bean’s Holiday”– a film which transcends
language. It was the perfect end to a wonderful weekend.
Chartres watch out because I am coming back in April!
*Please note it is not obligatory to host before you join the outward exchange