In July 2009, I participated in the French Traveler workshop in Bayonne, France. This workshop was established by Valerie Sutter, a former French teacher, and is intended for French teachers who wish to expand their linguistic abilities and cultural knowledge of a specific region of France. The workshop is conducted entirely in French. The location varies from year to year. This year’s location, Bayonne, is in the heart of the French Basque region. Each day of the ten-day program focused on a different topic. There were seminars, lectures, excursions, and social activities. Topics related specifically to the very unique Basque region (history, language, music, art, traditions, and sports) or to contemporary issues in France (immigration, economics, the European Union, and national education). The experience was invaluable — personally and professionally. I would enthusiastically recommend the workshop for any French teacher.
While in France, I also continued my research of the Paris region. This year my focus was two-fold:
- “Green” innovations in the city: Paris has made noticeable strides in becoming “green.” I was most impressed with the new and inexpensive bicycle sharing program, Vélib. It is easy to use and very popular. Other innovations include: recycling programs, hybrid taxis and touring vehicles, bike lanes, reduced lighting on the Eiffel Tower, more organic and vegetarian restaurants, sustainable housing, and a smoking ban in all public places.
- Art and architecture in the greater Paris region: To expand my understanding of French architecture, I visited the châteaux of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Vincennes, Maisons-Laffitte, and Malmaison. These four treasures are usually overlooked by tourists, but they are icons of French architecture from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century. In the various art museums that I visited, I concentrated on French painting from 1600 to 1850.
I loved every minute of my time in France. I hope that my students will benefit from my experiences as well.