Wednesday, May 2, 2012

France Tour 2012 summary, by Claire Hannon

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.

Claire Hannon
Year 10

Saturday, April 28, 2012

France Tour 2012 - C'est dans la boîte!

Well folks, that's a wrap for the France Tour 2012.

No doubt you've been hearing endless stories, i'm certain the memories will last a very long time. I'm still telling my friends and family about it, such is the experience I had!

We can all be truly proud of ourselves - the desire to learn more, to make the most of every day and to meet people from all over the world was impressive to see. It takes a calendar year to plan and implement a France Tour, I feel every single effort mate has been well worth it and thoroughly compensated.

Rather than provide a summary, i'll upload some more photos, they speak volumes.

Good luck to all of us as the transition back to school begins! I know for one that my days and classes will be punctuated and enhanced by the Tour, it's highly satisfying to know that such an experience has been lived and that we'll talk about it until, well, at least 2014.

Thanks for reading the blog - it's not easy to always update and most of the time I found myself writing at 11:30 at night at the end of another action packed day! With over 4000 hits in 3 weeks, I knew people were reading so that spurred me on!

We'll see you all at the movie night - date TBA!

À plus....

Shawn Kasbergen

Monday, April 23, 2012

Le Grand Saut!

Well it's breakfast here on Tuesday Morning - we're about to jump on the transfer to the airport and head home.

The last baguettes, croissants and chocolate chaud are being consumed, we toured Paris by bike last night, saw Mr Manuel at the tour Eiffel and laughed and screamed on Space Mountain at EuroDisney!

We can't wait to get home and tell you all our stories first hand - there's 36 interpretations of the France Tour - Mine is overwhelmingly positive, the students will be too!

See you all bright and early on Thursday!

Signing off,

Shawn Kasbergen & The France Tour Team

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sur le pont...


The adventures continue here in France! We've just arrived in Avignon, but more about that later!

The CMEF is quite simply a unique and special place. I have taken 3 groups of students here now and nobody ever wants to leave. From its immense and mystical grounds, the fun French classes, the indefatigable animateurs, the cooking staff, the cleaners and especially the administration, they make this sejour so memorable.

Our last day saw the students receive their certificates for the 20 hours of language classes completed. The  teachers made a special effort to comment to me on the impeccable behaviour of the students, as well as their desire to profit from every single moment. What really impressed me was that one of the teachers had never experienced a group of Australians before, and I genuinely think she was touched by the warmth, kindness and openness of the students.

We will never forget the 8 days spent at the CMEF, I don't say this flippantly, it really was memorable. Indeed, there were tears from a few students after the last soirée, then there were a few fighting them back too.

We were launched straight back into reality when the train was late, giving us a whole 3 minutes to make out transfer in Nice. Somehow we made it - not without a fair bit of stress on my part! The important thing is that we made it to Avignon and after leaving what consensus said was the most amazing experience, we arrived at our new hotel with a view of the Palais des Papes, huge rooms, large beds, sun shining and suddenly we were all ready for a new adventure again! It could have been a lot worse - another group of 50 exchange students lost 20 of their group! Of course, we'd never let that happen!

Students split into groups this evening and chose a restaurant on the Place de l'horloge. They had a chance to interact in French completely independently, the excitement amongst the group when we met back up was palpable - this is truly a pleasure to be travelling with such a motivated, positive cohort.

Tomorrow brings the Pont d'Avignon and the Palais, plus some time for shopping.

J'attends demain avec impatience!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Allons à la plage!

Another beautiful day here on the Côte d'Azur and we were in for quite a varied day. We took a break from traditional lessons in the morning and instead had an excursion to the local town of Cap d'Ail with our French teachers to put the skills we've been learning in class into action! Visits to la boulangerie, la poste, la supermarche and la pharmacy gave everyone an opportunity to show of their language skills with great success.

In the afternoon, we went on another excursion firstly to an amazing Villa which was a perfect recreation of an ancient Greek villa, down to every mosaic tile on the floor and fresco on the walls. The tour of the Villa told us of everything from the history of the Olympic games to ancient education to the fact that Greek girls married at 14 - the girls didn't quite agree with that one.

In the afternoon, the weather having turned out beautifully, we spent an hour or so on the beach in the village of Beaulieu (literal translation quite accurately being "beautiful place") with our guides Max and Leo. Some of the braver kids on the tour dared to go for a swim in the 14˚ water, but most of us preferred not to!

Finally in the evening we returned to the CMEF for a Casino night, which was basically just an excuse for everyone to dress up for an evening. Some of the boys even put on ties for the occasion, and although we may not have represented Australia very well in the poker tournament (we tried!), I think everyone had a great time.

Unfortunately our time at the CMEF and in France is nearly drawing to a close, but we've got a few more days to make the most of yet and hopefully they're similar to this one!

Charlotte, Tilly, and Isabella Man.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Eze, Villefranche

We've become used to amazing experiences every single day... yesterday was certainly no exception!

The Parfumerie Fragonard revealed the secrets of making perfume and we were all very quick to buy presents for those we miss from home. A few fun facts included the explanation of 'the nose.' There are only 120 'noses' in the world, most in France and they develop all the new perfume flavours. It takes 6-8 months to develop new fragrances and a 'nose' can only work 3 hours a day. If any thinks they're able to distinguish between a broad range of scents - maybe you can become a nose!

Villefranche was superbe, the Rue Obsure - an underground road - dates back to the 13th century and we were quite easily taken back to another time as we walked the streets. The beauty and intrigue is not lost on us whatsoever.

Enjoy the photos!

That's un œuf! Mr Kasbergen's joke of the day!

Eze from below

The group at the Jardin Botanique in Eze - beautiful panoramic views of the Côte d'Azur

Our home!

Devon Martin in Villefranche

Isabella Man in Villefranche

Tilly Dunn-Lawless in Villefranche

Daisy Anderson in Villefranche

Curious dog in Villefranche

Viv Webb in Villefranche

Claire Hannon in Villefranche

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Du soleil!!!

Well the weather has turned for the better, it's sunny and it certainly makes the Mediterranean look even more spectacular and mystic. Our centre and indeed the balconies from our rooms overlook the med ,it has such a calming presence!

Currently all the students are in class, the reports of the experience are great! They're focussing on conversation skills mainly, and we're already seeing many of the new material appear throughout our days. Personally, I am extemely impressed with the willingness to learn and make the most of every situation/learning experience. From the moment we landed in Paris, to museums, galleries, different towns, day to day conversation... We're making the most of the opportunity.

Yesterday we went to the musee jean Cocteau in menton. It's a new addition and what a fabulous place to visit. The dancers in the group were particularly interested in his works, but given that the art of the CMEF is largely by Jean Cocteau, the experience was enriching for all. We could see Italy from beautiful basilica in the old town of Menton. Maybe for the reason gelati called again, and the chocolate noir was possibly the best I've ever tried! Others agreed!

When we have some down time, we're generally playing basketball or soccer up on the terraces. Given the centre currently has about 10 different nationalities, there's a lot of talk of a world cup style challenge. Go Scotch - representing Australia!

Today we go to one of my all time favorite destinations: Eze. It's an eagles nest perched above the med, there's also a perfume factory there too, it's a really informative tour to do. After Eze, we go to Villefrance sur mer, maybe a few rolling stones fans are familiar with this town - if not, look up the story behind exile on main street!

Well, that should sum up our experience for the moment.... Hope you're enjoying the photos and the blog!

A plus, Shawn