The France Tour isn’t really an experience that is easy to put into words. It’s a lot harder than you’d think to pick the correct adjectives to perfectly describe the emotions associated with all of the fantastic things we were exposed to.
First and foremost I would like to thank the teachers and supervising adults, without their helpful and constantly energetic presence the trip could not have taken place. A special thank you goes to Mr Kasbergen, he truly put everything he had into planning this outstanding expedition for us, and it was clear how much he cared about every single student experiencing the best of France, and falling in love with the country like he had. In combination with Miss Parnell, Mr Rogers, old scholar Diana Hancock and boarding parent Rowena Conway, they formed a highly supportive tem.
The first leg of the tour had us in Paris, within three days we’d already soaked up the atmosphere at the Artist’s Square in Montmartre, explored the streets of Paris by bike, visited the architecturally stunning Musée D’Orsay, indulged ourselves in shopping at Galeries Lafayette, seen three fantastic pieces of artwork at the Louvre – the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory Angel and the Mona Lisa -, enjoyed traditional French cuisine at Chez Papa, and learnt how to be a true Parisian in one hour at a hilarious show performed by Oliver Giraud. It may sound overwhelming, but each new experience just left us wanting more.
We were all eager to go down South to Monaco, and when we arrived it didn’t disappoint. Daytrips to places such as Nice, Cannes, Monte Carlo and Eze left us with images of unfathomable wealth in the form of expensive cars and yachts, but also simplicity and beauty tucked away in small towns, bathed in hues of oranges, yellows and pinks, along the French Riviera. When we weren’t off delighting in the many arrays of things that the Côte D’Azur has to offer, we were at the CMEF. The Centre Méditerranéen d’Etudes Françaises, the language school in Cap-D’Ail that everyone has very fond memories of. Along with immensely large and exquisite grounds, the place had such a positive and comfortable atmosphere that we all settled right in. We had the amazing opportunity to meet and spend time with people from all over the world, as well as getting to participate in the centre run activities such as Musical Quizzes, a Jean Cocteau painting class, crêpe and waffle nights, discos and probably the most memorable of all, the Casino night. Another very beneficial experience from the CMEF was the chance to take part in language classes in which our teacher spoke to us entirely in French. Everybody came into the classes with an open mind and left with a significantly improved grasp on the intricacies of the French language and culture.
After our eight days at the CMEF were completed, it was time to go to Avignon. No one was looking forward to leaving the CMEF, which really says something about how excited we all were when we first began to explore Avignon. We stayed at a fantastic location in the old walled city, opposite the former home for the Pope at the Palais des Papes. We spent some time visiting the site of the Pont D’Avignon, looking through the Palais, shopping and trying our best to understand a French movie without subtitles. We were given a lot more freedom to explore the town and consequently responsibility. Everybody responded well to this and rose up to the challenge of conducting themselves in a mature and trustworthy fashion. Being able to select our own restaurant and dine in small groups was a real highlight!
We were all feeling quite sad as we were reaching the final part of our trip. We returned to Paris and prepared for that night’s ascension of the Eiffel Tower. Some people were a little nervous to begin with, but soon forgot their worries when they saw the magnificent view from the top. The next day we set off for Disneyland, we tried our hardest to ignore the wet weather and focus on the spectacular plans for the day. The daring tested their courage on rides such as Space Mountain and Indiana Jones, whereas others settled for exploring the vast theme park with different lands around every corner. That night we had another bike tour planned, but there was also a surprise in store for us. Instead of another tour of Paris, we rode our way towards the Seine for a night cruise along the river. It was a beautiful way to end the trip, passing under countless historic bridges and enjoying the scenery along the bank. We were lucky enough to pass a sparkling Eiffel Tower, and then again on the way back to Fat Tire Bike Tours. We stopped to take various group photos and take advantage of our last night in France. The history, the cuisine, the language, the culture, none of its significance was lost on us.
It was amazing to see people transform over the course of the trip, to become a lot more confident in themselves and their ability to speak French, and to make new friends or become closer with people that they might not have otherwise. Whether close or not, everyone that went on that trip is a part of something very special, and we all have memories that will not easily be forgotten.