Waking up at the crack of dawn, we were soon on our way to France. Arriving at our destination, and after a rather long, and at times boring ferry crossing, we went on a country walk near our centre with Yvette and Bob, our hosts. Yvette had set us a challenge to find a rare wild orchid and eagle-eyed Avi and Lewis were the first to spot one. Many of us enjoyed the view from the top of the hills and getting to know a herd of dairy cows and a number of bulls! Back at the centre, disaster struck within moments of taking a shower! Oliver decided to have a shower and despite following Bob’s advice and orders, he managed to create a small ‘flood’. In his defence there wasn’t a shower tray and he was still not adept at using the shower curtain as a water barrier! Rujul, Aedan and Vashisht whilst enjoying bedtime stories with Mrs Andrew decided that Alfred was an ace storyteller and thoroughly enjoyed the stories he told back in their room. They think he should publish a book. The food at the centre was delicious. Freshly baked croissants from the local boulangerie, crusty baguettes and a wonderful barbecue on the last night delighted all the foodies on the trip. We, some of us, bravely tasted a variety of French cheeses (fromages) and learnt how to say “degoûtant” quite confidently! For others it was j’adore!
Some of our highlights included the wonderful beach made from scallop shells at Port en Bessin. We were amazed at all the shells, wonderful colours and the sound it made when we walked upon it. An absolute delight to our senses and joy at discovering one shell more beautiful than another. Nathan H found a crab head which was fascinating, too. During our scavenger hunt, on a different beach, Aedan found a shark’s purse which earned his team 6 points. James and Max were particularly pleased to have found a washed-up buoy on this beach too, which looked just like a Space Hopper. Vashisht loved the thrill of hiking down to this beach at the bottom of a steep, winding, windy road.
Pont du Hoc was an incredible reminder of some of the shelling that had occurred on Jour J (D-Day). The ground was littered with ‘bomb craters’ which now, some 74 years later, we had great fun running up, down and through them. Exploring the bunkers was fascinating. Looking out to sea through the very same lookout the German’s had used was quite chilling. Imagine seeing all those D-Day ships?
We spent a sombre time at the Jerusalem War Cemetery and, once again, were humbled by how many different countries had been involved in the D-Day Landings and how young so many of the soldiers had been when they were killed in battle.
Despite the magnitude of the American War Cemetery and the stark reminder of the number of soldiers buried there, we had a bit of fun with Thomas and Ishaan who had wandered off – we hid! Luckily, before they became too concerned (if at all) they discovered our plan and we all had a chuckle. At this cemetery, Bob told us a fascinating story about Jimmy Monteith, a Canadian engineer, who had bravely captured a gun on Omaha Beach and changed the course of the D-Day Landings and history itself. He was awarded, posthumously, America’s highest war medal – The Medal of Honour. Bob is a storehouse of D-Day landing facts and stories and we enjoyed listening to him as he explained, whilst using a large model-map, the landings on Gold, Sword, Omaha, Juno and Utah beaches.
The majesty and peace of Bayeux Cathedral was another highlight. Exploring the crypt was fascinating, especially the intricate stone masonry. Its many rooms had stunning stained-glass windows which looked out onto the towering Oak tree planted after the success of the French Revolution. Another famous history story was told to us when seeing the Bayeux Tapestry. What a wonderful and a brilliant way to learn about Harold and the Battle of Hastings through the very first, in our opinion, comic strip! We couldn’t believe that it was almost 70 metres long.
Shopping for fruit at the market was good fun and we had a chance to spend some of our own Euros, which were definitely burning a hole in our pockets. We were having a big competition that afternoon to see which team could produce the most delicious and creatively presented fruit platter (Team Tutti-Frutti and Team Tropical Silence were the winners in the end) and so buying and using our French vocabulary was the first priority. Unfortunately, some of us don’t know how to read ‘No Ice Creams in the shop’ in French and inadvertently walked into a shop licking our delicious treats. We soon learnt how to interpret “get out of the shop!”
We went to ‘Tesco’s’ in France! It’s called a hypermarché there. Here we bought mementos from our trip! Unicorns and dragons seemed to be a hot hit! For the teachers, chocolates, cheese and cider were the order of the day!
On the ferry home, we enjoyed the cinema and buying a hot meal and some of us tried very hard to impress the girls travelling back from their school trip, on the disco floor. Clearly, we still have a lot to learn in that department!
We all enjoyed a fabulous time and learnt a lot of new French vocabulary and historical facts. It was a jam-packed, fun-filled French adventure.