Last week I was lucky enough to take three teachers on a familiarisation trip to Montpellier to get a taste of what this beautiful city has to offer language students. At Rayburn Tours we know that there are fewer places better to practise French and learn about the culture than in Montpellier, so working with our partnered language school LSF, we put a programme together to give teachers a taste for touring and let them experience first-hand why any teacher should take their pupils on a trip to Southern France’s hidden gem.
I had lived in Montpellier for a few months as part of my Modern Languages Degree and had not had the chance to return, so I was delighted to be paying a return visit to this chic city and see if it had changed at all.
Not even the early start to get to Luton airport and drizzly UK weather dampened my spirits. Meeting my three companions for the next three days at the departure gate we all started getting to know each other, all excited for the trip ahead.
Sunshine in Southern France’s hidden gem
In under two hours we landed in Montpellier and were met by glorious sunshine. Andrew, from the language school met us and took us to our hotel, pointing out sights on the 15 minute drive from the airport into the city. After a quick check-in and an overview of the next three days, there was no time to waste – it was off to the city centre.
On the way to the language school, via the Antigone, Polygone shopping centre and the historic centre we were at the Arc de Triomphe before we knew it. I was delighted to see that although a few of the shops and restaurants had changed it was still the stylish Montpellier that I loved and remembered.
Exploring this glamorous city
Now it was to time for one of the LSF team, Romain, to take us on a guided tour (in French) of the historic city centre which gave us an insight into the history of Montpellier and was full of quirky anecdotes. It was then time for lunch which was a tough choice with so many restaurants in hidden squares to pick from.
After a refuel it was back to LSF to hear about their teaching methods and resources. My travelling companions were impressed and I have to admit that I was very tempted to get myself booked on one of their language courses to boost my own French after hearing about it all.
It was then off to the Odysseum area of the city, which is a short tram journey away. This area on the outskirts of the city has lots of options for groups, whether it is visiting the aquarium and planetarium or something a little more adventurous like ice skating and laser quest. Any shopaholics are also catered for with the open air shopping centre’s variety of shops.
We’re going to the zoo!
The next day was as packed as the day before and we started off with a visit to Montpellier Zoo. What makes the zoo a great option for groups is that it is free to visit, it is easy to get to, all the information is in French and there are plenty of animals to see. We also visited the Amazonian Greenhouse at the entrance with some of the more exotic animals, which is well worth the small extra cost to go around.
After the zoo it was back into the historic centre to meet up with the LSF team to have a friendly lunch all together. It was lovely to be sat in a quiet side street having a lunch and talking French!
It was then time to let the teachers explore and discover Montpellier a little for themselves. What would it be? Discovering the outskirts of the city a little more? Exploring the historic centre further? Going to the beach? In truth everybody chose something different, but for me it was re-visiting my favourite places to reminisce about my time her as a student. After having the chance to explore on their own it was time to head to one of the local beaches and enjoy the view whilst having dinner at one of the many pop-up restaurants by the beach.
All too quickly it was our last day in Montpellier, but we still had a few visits to fit in. We spent the morning visiting each site of the language school along with a student residence and the summer camp site. We also visited a local food store which specialises in local produce from the region. The owner offers tasting sessions for school groups and explains about the ingredients and flavours – a great interactive way for pupils to practise their French. It is clear that LSF put a lot of thought in to how they provide the best possible experiences for students. Finally there was just time enough for lunch before having to head back to the airport.
Time to say ‘au revoir’
I could have happily spent longer in Montpellier and I am sure my companions felt the same, but the few days we were there were just enough to give a taster of how much this delightful city has to offer. There are so many activity options that there is something to meet every group’s needs that we did not even scratch the surface.
If you’ve been inspired by Meg’s experiences in Montpellier and are keen to find out more, our knowledgeable team would love to hear from you. You can get in touch by calling 01332 347 828, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or enquire now.