In July we welcomed the first French students to our home. We were a bit nervous and I guess they were a bit nervous too. Would we be able to make them feel at home, would the English lessons be good enough, would we be able to keep them entertained? Perhaps any normal person would have been a little anxious, and the youngsters were away from home so they might be homesick too.

Well, after a very short while, we all began to get along together very well and the week was very enjoyable. Julie and I worked hard and were tired after each day but the youngsters, three girls Philippine, Coline and Valentine, were absolutely adorable. They were kind, talkative, interesting and polite. They were the perfect guests for our start in hosting French students for English language sejours. We have since kept in touch with all three and one of them, Valentine, lived only an hour away from us. We had met the family when they brought Valentine, and Julie met them again when they came to fetch her (I was taking the Philippine and Coline to catch their trains). Julie told me they were very nice and that they had discussed meeting up in future. They were Stephane and Nathalie and their daughters Victorine and of course Valentine

The first opportunity we had to meet up was Sunday 28th August, after we had said goodbye to our last set of 3 students for the summer. Stephane and Nathalie had kindly invited us to visit them and had suggested a visit to the zoo near to them. So we arrived at the village church where we were to wait to be met by the family, we were both excited to see Valentine again and after a short wait we saw her and her sister Victorine arrive in their car. We said hello and followed them to their home.

We didn’t know exactly what to expect but if you have ever met a nicer family you are indeed lucky. We were shown into their home, offered drinks including a very good looking bottle of champagne. Neither Julie nor I drink alcohol so we declined but knew we had been offered something special. It was a sign of things to come. we talked about all sorts of things and we were relaxed.

We reminisced about our time with Valentine, Julie has related some of the stories in another blog. Valentine has a very active and sometimes mischievous character. She is thoroughly charming and we had a laugh about some of her antics. But the rest of the family are equally charming, we had a very enjoyable time and we saw their holiday photos from Corsica. It is an island in the French sphere of influence and we have only now discovered how beautiful it is. The photos and videos showed clear blue seas full of fish. We must visit one day.

Nathalie had cooked dinner for us all. We had seafood and I can’t tell you what the dishes were called but we had a lot to eat and it was delicious. Not content with feeding us so much savoury food, Nathalie had also prepared a beautiful smooth strawberry dessert and Valentine and Victorine had made cup cakes, they reminded us of the fun time we had had making cup cakes during the sejour. After eating so much I was uncertain if we would make it to the zoo.

But outside were 5 bicycles ready for us to ride the five hundred metres or so. There were 6 of us so Nathalie went and fetched a cushion so that she could ride behind Victorine.

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I hope the family enjoyed the day as much as we did because it was super. We talked all the way around. The zoo was really well kept and the animals looked happy. Their enclosures were very inventive too. There were not so many bars as usual because we were allowed to go in with the animals where it was possible. At times above us capuchin monkeys were walking along ropes between trees and all around us seemed to be macaws and pelicans and cranes and all sorts of things

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And we were hand feeding goats and wallabies and budgerigars

at the zoo A video of Nathalie, Victorine and Valentine feeding the budgerigars

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There were also some interesting games for the young at heart

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And there was a tunnel in the mongoose enclosure which allowed you to get up close to the animals. It also gave Valentine the opportunity to look like a space girl, to make us all laugh, and to show off her sparkling smile.

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We had a very enjoyable day with a generous, friendly and welcoming French family. We were talking about it all the way home and we really hope this friendship will continue for a very long time. Victorine is embarking on some really intensive and challenging studies now. She will be busy and working hard for a lot of months. Valentine will return to school this Friday. Good luck to both these intelligent and charming girls. Thank you to all the family for a lovely day!