Year 7 trip to Normandy, France 10-14th June 2019
We started from school at 5.30am in the rain, aiming for the fast ferry to Cherbourg at 9.00am. We took a wrong turning and got caught in rush hour traffic on the M25, so missed our crossing and had to be booked onto the 2.45pm Brittany Ferry sailing to Caen instead.
However, the teachers managed to book us into the Discovery Centre in the Portsmouth Docks area where we enjoyed trying various action stations such as a weapon simulator, punch bags and climbing.
I liked the boat because the meal we had on board was very nice; we could walk around freely and we had loads of fun on the boat. Also, we went to find a magician and within about 30 seconds of searching, we found one. He did some really cool magic tricks like making the face of the card disappear. We had a long queue to get through customs and an angry man shouted at us when we were waiting the other side.
We were welcomed to the Château de la Baudonnière in the middle of the Normandy countryside by Lili with chocolat chaud before making our way to our dormitories which were called “les Oranges”, “les Pêches”, “les Cerises” and “Robspierre” for the boys and “les Fraises” and “les Pommes” for the girls.
Le petit-déjeuner each morning was an array of “céréales, du lait, du pain, du beurre, de la confiture, de la brioche, du jus d’orange, du chocolat chaud” and one day we had croissants and another pain au chocolat.
On Tuesday we went to the market at Villedieu (God’s town) to buy souvenirs and we were given money to buy fillings for our baguettes for our picnic lunch. Many of us bought colourful bandanas and sunglasses.
Mont Saint Michel was an amazing sight rising from the muddy sand in the bay. The gilded archangel Michael was perched on the top of the cathedral spire, reminding us that the outcrop is named after him, who chooses who goes to Heaven and who to Hell. We walked for half an hour along the pedestrian walkway, then had a guided tour of the ramparts; the narrow alleys in the town were the inspiration behind Daigon Alley in Harry Potter. Back to the coach and to Granville on the coast where we ate delicious savoury galettes and sweet crèpes for supper.
The next day was packed full of 1000 years of History. We were woken at 6.45am (French time) for a 7.30am breakfast, then drove north to the D Day landing beaches. First stop was at Arromanches for the 360 degree cinema which was very emotional thinking about all the soldiers and civilians who gave their lives for peace today. We walked down the hill to the actual beaches, having our picnic lunch on Gold Beach. The American Cemetery above Omaha Beach was very emotional. Guillaume, our French guide, explained to us (in French) that the marble crosses with flowers near them meant that relatives had visited these graves just last week at the 75th Anniversary memorial services and that those graves with the Star of David were for Jewish soldiers. He also explained that President Franklin Roosevelt’s two sons were buried together there: Quentin’s body had been moved from his grave near Ypres after he lost his life in WW1 to be next to his younger brother, Theodore here in Normandy after WW2.
We then went to Bayeux to visit the amazingly preserved 942 year old and 68 metre long tapestry, stored in a darkened rectangular room. We were all able to choose headphones giving commentary of the battle between Harold Godwin and Guillaume, Duc de Normandie in the language of our choice.
Back at the Château that evening, we had a “soirée Française” where we dressed in striped T shirts and berets and most of us tried “escargots” and many liked them! Afterwards our animateurs gave us a French quiz and a fun game passing through a belt with hands joined in a group as well as prizes for the best fancy dress costume.
Thursday was the mud run, made all the more fun by the heavy rain we had had. Two groups did this “parcours de santé” in the morning while the other two groups did “escalade”. There were three parts to the climbing: the waiting part, climbing wall and training wall. We had to learn to say “je voudrais monter le mur d’escalade s’il vous plait” and when we had reached the top, we had to ring the bell and say “je voudrais descendre”. For lunch we had the best lasagne ever! We certainly needed that after the mud run because we played in mud, washed in mud and had to be hosed down outside in cold water before having a hot shower.
Our final morning was spent making our own bread rolls, “fabrication de pain”. We made paper hats and sang the Château’s special song. We set off after eating our rolls for lunch with delicious soup and arrived back at school at 10.00pm after having an amazing week with our friends, listening and following instructions in French and speaking French, too.
Many thanks go to the teachers who accompanied us and looked after us 24/7: Mademoiselle Du Pont, Monsieur Chaque Jour, Monsieur Charcutier et Madame A.