Europa Centre offers taste of France in Hornchurch

Croissants, chocolate au pain, stores selling a selection of cheeses- it can only mean one thing- France.

But it’s not France as you know it, because it’s right in the heart of Hornchurch.

Head of the Europa Centre and Languages Advisor for Havering, Dan Alliot said: “Its better than a day trip to France.

“For a lot of schools it is not always easy to plan a trip to France and to get permission to take the kids away, so this is the next best thing.”

The Europa Centre based in The Walk, is the only mock European French Town in the country for kids, giving them the experience of a day trip to France, but right on their doorsteps.

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Dan said: “They are not outside for long but they are always surprised when the coach turns up and they see that they have not come very far.

“When they come inside it is like another world and a lot of them actually go away thinking that they have been to France for the day.”

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The centre has proven to be just as popular with schools and colleges as the real thing.

Every day it attracts more 500 students and on Friday July 15 lucky year four pupils from St Albans School in Heron Flight Avenue, Hornchurch were just some of them.

They were able to sample everything that the centre and France had to offer including French specialities, then if that wasn’t enough they took time out to do a spot of shopping with some of the best French fashion and delicacies.

Dan said: “The kids are all told that none of our staff can actually speak a word of English and they are each given some Euros and they have a shopping list of things that they have to buy.”

The school was the winner of the Diana Lowe Award, a special award from the Havering Twinning Association for their development of languages.

Teacher, Nicola Watson said: “In class we try as much as we can to make learning a language as interesting as possible, but coming here is the nearest thing they are going to get to going to France.

“It helps to build their confidence, before they came here they were very shy but looking at them now their faces are lighting up and you can just see that they can understand and have a full conversation with the staff.”

If you don’t want a day trip to France and instead fancy a visit to Germany, or Spain, simple flip boards mean that the French town of Haricotville can easily become Rubendorf for Germany or villa Guisante if in Spain.

The centre first opened its doors in 1987 to offer language learning experiences and support to schools.

Today they consist of 44 french speaking members of staff and they offer visits to children during the day and evening classes for adults.

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