Would you like to come on a culinary retreat in France with me someday, but you’re worried about not knowing the language and not being able to get around?

I understand. It can be scary or intimidating to go to a country where you don’t speak the language, or where you only know a few words or phrases, but not enough to understand the response someone gives you.

I know how you feel, because I’ve totally been there. I remember arriving on my French college campus and staring like a deer in the headlights at the woman in the exchange student office who was speaking French to me…at what seemed like a mile a minute. I thought I knew some French, but that encounter was a very humbling moment after a long journey across the ocean and the start of a my full junior year of college abroad. It put be in the right frame of mind…to be ready to learn, make mistakes, sound a little stupid, and eventually get better.

Well, I have just the person for you, if you want to brush up on your French from high school, or start learning totally from scratch.

I met Llyane recently, and I already held a demo cooking class for her French conversation group.

Read her golden nugget below and let us know how it works for your French. The rest of this article was written by Llyane.


So, I like to think that I’m always in your corner.

And, even if you read every newsletter and blog post I write, and watch my free resources, some things are worth additional attention.

Here’s something to enjoy this weekend…

Today, a golden nugget from my Bilingual Extensif program.

There’s speaking taking place in conversation but there’s also listening.

A Cinderella skill, often taken for granted.

How can you improve your listening?

The technique is called Ear Gymnastics (or active listening).

Here’s where things get interesting:

The fastest way to improve your listening in French is to speak. 🙂

Let me explain.

Our Brain doesn’t pay much attention to what it hears passively, it’s not enough for us to be able to pick up on each sound in a foreign language.

(Have you ever heard parents asking their children: “Why aren’t you listening to me?“)

But IT (the Brain) pays a lot of attention to what WE are saying, and we often remember every word that we say.

How to use this ‘bias’ to our advantage?

Try to speak out loud every time you read, write, listen or watch something in French.

I understand that it may not work every time, especially when you listen/watch. But try anyway, and say out loud the words that you can actually hear.

Because your brain hears them from you, IT will pay a lot of attention to the sounds and words.

Then, when you hear those words from someone else (podcasts, videos, movies), you’ll be able to decipher them much quicker.

Listening alone doesn’t work.

…it didn’t work for me, when I learned English, and it doesn’t work for most people I know, or it takes a long time.

And that is because it’s passive (remember the parents and children I mentioned above?).

Everyone who went through the Bilingual Extensif program had spectacular results with the Ear Gymnastics technique.

It always starts with us. 😉

Isn’t it so much simpler?

Just speak along every opportunity you get, and the conversation will take care of itself. 😉

Always in your corner,

Meet Llyane Stanfield

Llyane is a Parisian French language coach, and founder of the J’Ouellette® French Method – an organic method using performing arts techniques and neuroscience elements. She travels between Toronto, New York and Paris, while teaching French via Skype in more than 15 countries. She is a French language coach for business professionals who struggle with learning French on their own and with conversation anxiety, and she helps them to instead speak Parisian French confidently in their travels and in business. She has produced an unprecedented Extensive Program and French Pronunciation Cure Course, as well as other visual and teaching materials. Now in training for holding the Higher Education Teaching Certificate at Harvard University, she spends a large portion of her time in Paris, where she also organizes a unique annual Immersion Retreat 1:1. Her groundbreaking methods produce a quantum leap in conversational confidence, and a short session with her is the perfect start to brush up your French (whatever your level!) in preparation for your next trip to Paris.

Get her free French Crash Course for easy conversation here!


Photo credit: FrenchCafeChannel

Things to do in Eure et Loir in September & October

By Katrina (Brink) Billard

Are you a tourist coming to Chartres and the area called Eure et Loir in France this September? 

This is a beautiful region of France full of rich history and charming villages to visit. Plus it’s all within 2 hours of Paris, so it’s super easily accessible. Escape the chaos of the city and enjoy a relaxing respite in the countryside. You’ll be so glad you got out and experienced more of France than just Paris! There’s way more to see than the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. 

If you’re coming from Paris or Versailles, a visit to the Maintenon Castle is a must! It’s a renaissance period castle that was owned for a time by Madame de Maintenon, who happened to be the second wife of King Louis the XIV. She led an extraordinarily-intriguing life that you’ll enjoy learning about at the castle. A woman of humble beginnings who became widowed and then took care of the king’s illegitimate children, to later become his mistress and then his wife. The king was apparently very devoted to her and never took another mistress after marrying her. While at the castle, make sure to take a walk along the imposing old aqueduct and learn about even more sordid history of the making of the aqueduct, which was never finished. 

After exploring this intriguing place, continue your journey south to the beautiful, small city of Chartres. First of all, you must visit the Chartres Cathedral, or the cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres. It’s a gorgeous gothic cathedral in the center of the town and is worth a visit, simply to see the stunning stained glass windows and look up at the mind bogglingly high vaulted ceilings and flying buttresses. It’s a sight to behold, and nestled all around it are typical charming French bistros and high quality restaurants. If you happen to be there on a Friday morning, you could even have a chance to see the famous labyrinth that’s on the cathedral floor. Make sure this is on your list.

Right behind the cathedral is the Musee des Beaux Arts (Art Museum) that’s a must visit and has an Auguste Rodin sculpture exhibition through October 2nd. Take the time to wander around and soak in this beautiful setting. Maybe even sit and have a picnic out on the lawn.

While in Chartres make sure to walk around the lovely “basse-ville” or “low city”, which is a part of the city which dates from the middle ages and figures along the lovely Eure river. Take a stroll in this area of charming old architecture and stop along at one of the beautiful and delicious “gastronomique” restaurants overlooking the river. A romantic spot if there ever was one. 

If you’re there in the evening, you absolutely must watch the incredible light show that illuminates sites throughout the city and is set to music. It’s a sight to behold, especially the show illuminating the cathedral, which I forgot to mention is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It really is worth the visit to Chartres just for this. The whole family will be mesmerized.

illuminations of Chartres Cathedral
Chartres Cathedral illuminated at night

Leaving Chartres I’d suggest you continue your sojourn south to Bonneval, also known as the Little Venice of this area. Meander through the town on the river in one of their electric boats you can rent. If you go in the evening, you can even see the light show they put on their bridges and historic sites throughout this charming medieval village. It’s absolutely worth a visit. Speaking of these boat rides, the highlight of September in this region is a relaxing culinary and well-being retreat at the Chateau de Bouthonvilliers with moi. Come experience France like you never have before. 

I’d love to have you join me from September 13th-17th on The French Countryside Retreat where you’ll get the full French cooking experience in this beautiful old chateau. Learn how to cook restaurant quality, plant-forward meals in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere with only the best fresh products from local farms and gardens. Techniques will take the flavor of your food to the next level, while being practical dishes you can actually recreate everyday in your home kitchen. We’ll focus on flavors and cuisines from around the Mediterranean, so you’ll enjoy herbs, lots of fresh vegetables, some light meats and a few lovely spices. Come expand your palate and cooking horizons!

Katrina at Château de Bouthonvilliers
The grounds of the Château de Bouthonvilliers

Book your room here. 

We’re going to have a wonderful, renewing time cooking, enjoying wine, and taking time to relax on the expansive grounds of a very quiet and remote old estate. You’ll get to kick back, get a full hour massage, enjoy being served delicious catered meals with local specialties, and have three fun, interactive cooking lessons with Katrina Billard of The Empowered Kitchen (that’s me!).

We’ll even go on a boat ride through those picturesque streets of Bonneval I mentioned above. You’ll take your cooking skills up a notch or three, take part in a wine tasting with a local wine expert, and tour my husband’s honey farm where I’ll walk you through a private honey pairing. He happens to be a very handsome beekeeper.  Then we’ll go to Chartres to see the stunning Gothic cathedral and you’ll have an afternoon to tour around on your own. That evening we’ll regroup for a fancy dinner covered by the retreat, and stay to take in the light show. 

You’ll get to stay in a charming cottage and have another lovely French breakfast the next day before the taxis take you to the Montparnasse train station in Paris. Oh, did I mention those same taxis will bring you from Montparnasse to the chateau the first morning of the retreat? Ya, it’s all-inclusive, and I’ll take care of you from start to finish. 

If you’ve been wanting a break, or just really need to clear your mind after the wild ride we’ve all been on over the last few years, this is the perfect way to get away from it all. Escape to another time in this very special place where you’ll learn skills that will last a lifetime, make you healthier in body and soul, and have memories of a beautiful vacation in France. 

Seriously. I want you to come. It’s going to be awesome and you’ll make new friends, meet new folks from around the world and become a better cook while you’re at it. Let’s all go unplug for a little while and get back to doing something real with real food in a real old French chateau. Book for you and a spouse or a friend here! We already have men and women signed up, so all are welcome!

A bientot!

Much love and good food, 

Katrina Billard (Brink)