In September this year, 32 pupils from Year 5 & 6 set sail to spend a fun-filled five days in France. The pupils were all excited to be taking their first overseas residential trip – good practice for South Africa later on – and spirits were high as the coach left school on Saturday morning.
Our destination was the Château de la Baudonnière in the la Manche region in Normandy; a traditional French château set in the beautiful countryside with rabbits and peacocks running free in the grounds. The chateau offers “French immersion” residential courses where all lessons and activities are conducted in the language, giving all pupils the opportunity to shine and show off what they know, as well as picking up some new skills along the way.
We were welcomed aboard Brittany Ferries by “Pierre the Bear”. The journey was pleasant and most pupils liked to spend time on deck, being blown around by the wind!
We arrived quite late so went straight to bed to get plenty of rest ahead of our first action packed day of activities. Sunday morning started with the sweet smell of pain au chocolat, straight from the bakery that morning and our pupils had their first experience of asking for their breakfast in French. Fortunately, this is something we do in school and they were all experts.
The French staff took charge of the pupils and set them off on their first activity – bread making. Clouds of flour filled the air as the pupils showed off their talents, kneading the dough whilst singing along in rhythm. They then had to shape their bread into something that reminded them of France. After lunch, the pupils enjoyed a game of aeroball followed by archery – once again, all instructions and scores were given in French and the children all picked it up very quickly and it was lovely to see them really excited by the games. In the evening, after a meal served with their own bread, we played fun indoor games with the French staff.
The following day started with a firm favourite – canoeing on the chateau’s lake. There was a sign on a tree warning “Danger – crocodiles” so naturally all the pupils couldn’t wait to get out onto the water to try and find them! We were reassured by the staff that the crocodiles are vegetarian though. Once the children had been shown the basics – how to paddle and “raft up” – they followed a course around the lake, keeping a sharp eye open for the crocodiles before ending the session by jumping into the freezing water. Our pupils are certainly very brave.
The afternoon was spent on a trip to Mont St Michel to see the famous landmark, visit the monastery and marvel at the panoramic views out over the bay. After a wonderful visit, pupils had the chance to go souvenir hunting.
Day four was a full day out, dedicated to history as we went to the D-Day museum at Arromanches. The highlight of the visit was the 360 cinema which showed moving films using archive footage to show the 100 days of the battle of Normandy on nine screens to give a 360-degree experience. Many people were on the verge of tears after such a moving experience. We then went to “Gold Beach” where the British landed on D-Day and visited the “Musée du Débarquement” where we could see the remnants of the Mulberry harbour constructed for the landings. We finished the trip with a visit to the American cemetery by Omaha beach – the land the cemetery is in was gifted to America after the war so we can truly say we set foot on American soil too. This had been a very thought-provoking day and our pupils showed their maturity by appreciating the sacrifices made by all the soldiers for the freedoms we enjoy today.
We rounded off the day with another fun French evening with pupils dressing up in French outfits (Coco Chanel, French footballers etc) and tucking into the well-known French delicacy – escargots or snails. Some pupils were a little reluctant to try them but most pupils loved them and there was even some competition to see who could eat the most!
It was with some sadness that we returned to the UK the following day but it is safe to say that we all had a wonderful time in France on a trip none of us will ever forget.