The school’s attempt to join the cultures of France and Britain started and ended in the same half term this year. DCGS and Laccordaire School in Marseille have had a long history of working together to improve the linguistic skills of their students. The French students visited from France first and got to enjoy the beauty and warmth of Britain in winter (Il y a beaucoup de pluie), and although their English speaking ability was varied, they all learned a lot from visiting London, Windsor, Cambridge, and the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour. Over the weekend our host families took the exchanges to see other parts of London or other cities entirely, such as Oxford or Tring (which is quintessentially English). Nearing the end of their visit the exchanges and their corresponding students enjoyed a Pizza Express dinner together, getting to know the other students from France, before going there themselves in only a few weeks time.

Upon arriving in France, we were greeted by the bright sunshine of the Mediterranean, their spring having the qualities of warmth and heat (bien sur!), a big difference to what we have in England. The first evening was spent acclimatising to France, but the real fun began the next day.

Cassis is a beautiful French seaside town, and only a 45 minute drive away from Marseille, yet with its picturesque buildings, beautiful cliffs, and glistening seaside, it resembles nothing of the blackcurrant after which it was named. Cassis, the 'blackcurrant town', is famous for its restaurants (I would recommend le tartes aux pommes), and the Calanques - beautiful, naturally formed harbours which are walled with high cream coloured cliffs, with overgrown trees crawling over it. The water in the harbour is deep enough to naturally hold boats. There were also climbers, swimmers, divers, anglers, (et Les bains de soleil nu!), and though it’s a hub for tourists and athletes, it still had a calm and secluded feel to it.

Earlier the same day, we visited a savonnerie, a soap factory, all handmade and artisanal. They made the soap in a variety of scents, both liquid and solid, whilst the building was filled with soapy particles, causing a sneezing epidemic. At least our lungs left clean!

But perhaps out of all the areas we visited, like Camargue with its storks, egrets, and flamants roses (pink flamingos), the best was Avignon. It is a historically significant city as it houses le Palais de Pâpe. The papal palace was built in under 20 years after the King of France had an argument with the Venetian Pope. After murdering the Pope, he then manipulated the Conclave of Cardinals to get a Pope more in favour of the French. He later moved the entire papal palace to the south of France, leaving the Papal States without a Pope.

So after that whole fiasco, we are left with an interactive iPad tour, using virtual reality to give a unique and fascinating insight into the life of a papal palace filled with continental Catholic bureaucracy.

Ultimately, the French exchange is an excellent way to experience the culture that we’ve spent years studying, while constantly improving our conversational French, speaking skills, and listening skills in real situations.

Huge thanks must go to the Language department for making the trip possible.