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French Lessons

Nida Spalding loves to read, travel, and spend time with family and friends. She believes that curiosity and persistence are key to happiness and success.

Je suis content. In French, this means, I am happy.  It's a complete sentence, so beautiful in its simplicity.

I learned Je suis content and other French expressions at the Institut de Francais in the French Riviera. There, I learned French grammar, verb conjugation, and French conversation.  I challenged my mouth, lips and tongue with French pronunciation and struggled in the language laboratory. But I enjoyed learning and making mistakes with other students from around the world. Four glorious weeks, in a French language immersion course in Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera, were dreamy.

I learned that being a debutante (beginner) was not a bad thing. With this mindset, I could only improve. I just had to leave my ego at the door. Learning was heady. Striving was exhilarating. Being a stranger in a new place was grounding. And I had fun.

There is a back story why I wanted to learn French and how I ended up in the French Riviera. My fascination with France started when I saw the 1995 movie Sabrina, starring Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond. In the movie, Sabrina's life was transformed when she went to Paris. You could say I fell in love with the idea of Paris. It would take many years before my dream to visit Paris would materialize. There was work and the cost of going there. More importantly, I welcomed my baby boy in 2001.

Finally, I went to Paris in 2011 with my husband and son, then ten years old. Armed only with French survival phrases, we did fine in the City of Light. The people at the airport, hotel, cafes, restaurants, and train stations were pleasant and helpful.


The secret? We said Bonjour (Good day), Merci (Thank you), Excuse moi (Excuse me), followed by Madame (Ma'am) and Monsieur (Mister). And I fell in love with Paris, the French culture, and its people. I returned to California determined to learn the French language. But… I was still working and was busy being a mom.

In 2015, I finally retired from paid employment. As a gift to myself, I booked a Western Mediterranean cruise for me and my family. Cannes, France was one of the ports-of-call. One highlight of that cruise was waking up one morning and seeing the city of Cannes shimmering at a distance. I practiced my French at the welcome desk, pharmacy, BNP Paribas Bank, and train station. We were comfortable enough to take a day trip to Nice by train. At that time, I didn't know that Cannes and Nice were in the French Riviera. I fell in love with the whole country. I vowed to learn its beautiful language.

Perhaps it was by serendipity that while searching online for a French immersion class, I found Institut de Francais in Villefranche-sur-Mer. That I found great reviews of the school was a huge factor. That the village was in France played into my decision. I registered for the 4-week class for the February 2017 session. The class and the trip were pricey. Mais, ca valait la peine. (But it was worth it).

I enjoyed the three-course lunches prepared by Chef Natalie and her team. I discovered that I love being taken care of. I discovered I love being a student and the challenge of learning something new.

The experience expanded my world view. Since my time at the Institut, I've pursued my passions—travel and writing, with renewed enthusiasm. I've kept up my French lessons and discovered a whole new world. I discovered myself and I am happy.

~ Nida Spalding






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