Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Only 2 days until we leave!
I can't quite believe it, but we are leaving for Clères in two days! Everything is ready for our departure on Friday. We will meet in the library at 8.45am (luggage should be left neatly in the corner nearest reception). Pupils will be told their groups and should have their passports and EHIC cards ready to give their teacher. Any spending money to be looked after by staff should be handed over in a named, unsealed envelope with the total written on the front. Any spare medication (inhalers etc) should be given to Mrs McDonald for safe keeping.
Posted at 09:07:32 GMT
Thursday, 22 March 2012
Excitement mounts . . .
I hope everyone is finishing their packing and is ready for our departure to Clères tomorrow. The weather in France is forecast to be very good over the next few days, so be prepared for everything from cool mornings to warm and sunny afternoons (hopefully). Sunscreen may well be required for those with delicate Scottish skin!
Do remember to keep essential items in your overnight bags, as they will come on the ferry with you. Cases will remain locked in the hold of the coach, so you won't have access to them until we arrive in Clères.
Bonne nuit - et dormez bien!
Posted at 20:40:53 GMT
Saturday, 24 March 2012
On arrive en France! Nouvelles de vendredi et samedi . . .
We arrived safely in Clères this afternoon after a smooth but long journey. Yesterday we enjoyed a stop in York en route to Hull. We had time to explore the old town, see the Minster and have an ice cream in the Shambles. Half an hour in a park by the river allowed us to relax a little before getting the bus to the ferry.
The crossing went well, as the sea was as flat as a millpond, so everyone made the most of the bufet dinner. Despite some late night chatting in the cabins, everyone made it to breakfast at 7.30am ( 6.30am British time)
Today the weather was amazing - sunny and 24°C. I've just phoned round the French parents and all the pupils seem to have had a good evening; dinners have been eaten, video games and football played, and in one household, daffodils have been picked in the forest for the Daffodil Festival in the village tomorrow.
Tomorrow we are off to Paris, so I hope the pupils are sound asleep with their watches moved forward an hour.
Moi, je me couche aussi. Bonne nuit!
Posted at 21:43:35 GMT
Sunday, 25 March 2012
Well, what can I say? Today in Paris we had the best weather ever . . . it is hard to believe it is only March. Sunshine, no wind and 25° - incroyable! As it is Sunday, there was very little traffic and we got to Paris very easily. Our guided coach tour in the morning allowed pupils to see the main sights - the Champs Elysees, the Opera, the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Tour Eiffel. We then enjoyed a cruise on the Seine, sitting out in the sun, admiring the views and waving at the passers-by. After the obligatory stop for crêpes and barbe à papa, we jumped back on to the coach for a quick trip up to Montmartre, where Allan managed to park the coach in an impossibly small space and dropped us off at the foot of the hill so we could climb up to Sacré-Coeur. The steps were hard in the heat, but the views at the top were impressive. We visited the Basilica and watched the artists in the Place du Tertre before heading back to Clères. Our FV pupils, Hannah and Laura, met up with some friends from our exchange school in Buc, near Versailles - I hope some of the younger pupils will follow in their footsteps and keep in touch with their host families.
Pupils went off happily with their French parents tonight, and I'm looking forward to hearing about what they got up to when we see them tomorrow morning. They certainly seem to have enjoyed their dinners last night!
I'm off to bed now, but the forecast is good again for our day in Bayeux and at the coast tomorrow.
Posted at 21:45:13 GMT
Monday, 26 March 2012
Bonsoir à tous !
Today we had another stunning day with sunshine from dawn until dusk. We started our tour of Normandy with a visit to Bayeux. We all appreciated the empty autoroutes and the impressive Pont de Normandie at Le Havre. The scenery is beautiful, with timbered farmhouses surrounded by apple orchards and grazing cattle, and lots of local producers of cider and calvados.
In Bayeux we headed straight to the Tapestry Museum and borrowed audio guides which explained each scene in detail. The pupils were very attentive, as they had been given a quiz to complete with the promise of an edible prize ! It is being marked as I write and the winner(s) will be announced tomorrow. The tapestry is nearly 900 years old, but the colours are still striking and the detailed embroidery fascinating – it is like an early comic strip telling the story of the Battle of Hastings. The gift shop was very popular, then we had a quick picnic in the sun before heading to the coast and moving forward in history to the Second World War.
We started off at the Pointe du Hoc, an impressive headland overlooking the Channel, which was taken on 6 June 1944 by American Rangers who scaled the cliffs using ladders and grappling irons despite heavy German fortifications on top. Aerial bombardment by the Allies before the attack left the headland covered in craters which remain to this day, so pupils were able to appreciate the scale of the assault as they explored the gun emplacements and the shell holes. Many spoke with feeling and real understanding of the events which took place here.
As we left on the coach, we showed pupils the opening scenes from the film Saving Private Ryan. When we then arrived in the American cemetery above Omaha Beach, they had some idea of what had happened there on D Day. Pupils explored the cemetery in small groups and took photos before we went down through the dunes to the beach. Here the mood lightened and some sun bathing, paddling and sandcastle building took place – although apparently the sea was very cold (hardly surprising given that it is only March!)
The trip back to Clères went smoothly and after filling up with diesel, we had a 'Guess the cost ?' competition. Hannah C. and Chris won with guesses nearest the total of 405 Euros (!) The French families were once again full of praise for the Scots. 'Impeccable' and 'adorable ' were often used by the French mums to describe the children - they are splendid ambassadors for both the school and Scotland !
Tomorrow is a more relaxing day, as we will be spending it in nearby Rouen.
Posted at 21:45:11 GMT
Tuesday, 27 March 2012
We’re over half way through our trip to France already – it’s unbelievable how quickly the days are passing! Today we went to Rouen by train accompanied by Allan, our driver, who had a day off. It was another fantastic, sunny day and we made the most of it.
We arrived before 9am, so the town centre was very quiet as the shops don’t open until 10am. We walked round the town centre and visited the main attractions, exploring the narrow, medieval streets with their timbered houses and specialist shops. We went to the Ecole de Beaux Arts which dates back to the 15th century, and was linked to the Great Plague in Rouen. The skeleton of a cat in a tiny window attracted a lot of interest from the children!
We looked at reproductions of Monet’s paintings of the façade of the cathedral before going in to visit and admire the stained glass windows and soaring nave. After a quick look around the market and the site of the stake where Joan of Arc was burned, the pupils set off eagerly for one and a half hours shopping and their picnic lunch. Meanwhile, macaroons (a speciality in Rouen) were purchased by staff and soon scoffed by pupils. The winners of yesterday’s Bayeux tapestry (Ella and Lucy) and diesel quizzes enjoyed extra large macaroons!!
A fairly long walk in the heat took us to ‘le bowling’ where two very competitive games took place before we headed back to the station and our train to Clères. As we got back around 4.30pm, we had time to go with several pupils to the Parc de Clères. The grounds of the old château are home to a zoological collection, mainly of birds, including pink and red flamingos, pelicans, storks and a wide range of ducks and geese. We also saw lots of wallabies nibbling the grass, Chinese water deer and even a lemur sunbathing! It was a perfect end to a very successful day.
Tomorrow is the long-awaited day at Disneyland!
Bonne nuit et à demain!
Posted at 22:06:14 GMT
Friday, 30 March 2012
It was chilly when we met up at the coach at 8am this morning, but as the sun rose, it became clear that we were going to have another beautiful day. It's a long way from Clères to Disneyland and there is no way of avoiding the notorious Paris ringroad, the Boulevard Périphérique, but apart from a couple of big traffic jams, we had no real problems en route.
After identifying the staff cafe, pupils set off eagerly to explore the park - many had been before and the fast track tickets helped make best use of the time available. One girl even managed to go on Space Mountain six times - could that be a record?! Some souvenir and gift shopping was inevitable, but this year's group was more restrained than those in previous years. By mid-afternoon, it was really hot - T-shirt weather in March. (Last year was freezing and drizzly, what a contrast!) At 4pm, we headed back to the coach, where our driver Allan's tuck shop provided refreshments for the thirsty group. We also said goodbye to Clémence, who left us to spend Easter in France with her family.
Amazingly, Allan managed to get us back to Clères on time at 8pm - quite a feat, given the distance and the traffic conditions. The pupils headed off for their last night with their French families, with instructions to pack their bags carefully for the return journey tomorrow.
Posted at 22:18:15 GMT
Friday, 30 March 2012
Jeudi et vendredi
For the last time, the French families dropped off our pupils at the coach at the Gare de Clères. There were tears from several families . . . and pupils . . . when it was time to say goodbye. It really has been a wonderful stay, and the families have been so kind to both pupils and staff. I hope many pupils will keep in touch with their families. Several have set up pen-pal links with the host children, and some have even talked of exchange visits, which would be marvellous.
We set off shortly after 8.30am, driving once again in sunshine up to Belgium along the autoroute from Boulogne to Calais. We stopped off at the Baie de Somme for a morning snack and some last minute shopping, then continued across the border to a Belgian chocolate factory where we had our packed lunches and did some more shopping!
From there, it was only half an hour to Bruges, where we enjoyed a lovely boat tour on the canals, Belgian waffles and a seat in the sunshine in a park.
Check-in at the ship was straightforward, and we had time to get settled into our cabins before dinner. The buffet dinner again proved popular - particularly with Scott! After dinner, the pupils wrote thank you postcards in French to their host families, and everyone retired to bed at 10pm, looking forward to gaining an extra hour's sleep after a very busy week. The crossing was very calm once again and most people got more sleep than thay had on the outward journey.
Breakfast was served at 7am and lots of pupils enjoyed a cooked breakfast, much to the horror of a group of French pupils who preferred their croissants and pains au chocolat! Disembarkation was slow, but we finally made it to the coach around 9.15am. The journey north was broken by a stop at Wetherby services and lunch at Gretna. Allan once again got us back to Dollar ahead of schedule - he is a fantastic driver, always cheerful and very good with the children. Although he does not speak French, he made a full Scottish dinner for his French host one night - what a star! We have already asked him to join us again next year, and I'm delighted to say he has agreed.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Mrs McDonald, Mr Young and Clémence for all the work they have done to make this trip a success, and I'd also like to thank the pupils for being such enjoyable company and for contributing so much. I hope you all enjoyed the trip and I look forward to seeing your photos after Easter. Have a wonderful holiday!
Posted at 22:37:06 GMT