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I had always believed there was something unique and special about sharing a good meal with others. For the most part this event is undertaken with friends and/or family in familiar settings, when the event is well understood, the conversation free flowing, and the food frequently somewhat predictable. This is where the dinners I shared while attending Ecole des Trois Ponts were radically different to all previously known experiences I had of eating with others.

How often does an individual get to eat a four course designer meal over a period of two hours, with food prepared by an award winning French chef, conversing with between eight and fifteen strangers, whose homes are thousands of miles away, AND conduct the entire experience in a language which is not their own, and which they are a long way from fluent in? Welcome to an evening at the French Language school in Roanne – Ecole Des Trois Ponts.

In studying here I quickly learned meals to be an integral part of the learning experience, and for this student, just, if not more important, as the 3 – 5 hours of French classroom instruction which I signed up for. They were definitely way more enjoyable.

Students attending the School commence the day with a buffet breakfast, lunch takes place with all eating together at one long table and lasts about an hour. While both these meals are congenial, for me it is the dinners which are unique. On one occasion a four courses dinner consisted of roast duck salad, marinated fish on a bed of vegetables, strawberry mouse and a cheese plate consisting of four choices. A limitless supply of white and red wine accompanied the food. Free seating means each student never knows who they will be sitting next to, or opposite. Sometimes the conversation involves the entire table, sometimes it breaks down to individual groups. Despite French not being the native language of anyone (except a soul member of the staff who attends each dinner) there is never a silence. All conversations, despite the late hour, are conducted in French.

The large, long, wooden dining table is located in the same room as the open plan kitchen, where the chef is on hand preparing the next course and to answer questions which may arise about the food, occasionally adding to the banter of the group.

At Ecole des Trois Ponts the French learning does not stop in the classroom, but continues over these awesome meals.

Jayne Seagrave
April 2024