I just got back from chaperoning a 10-day school trip to London and France. A colleague and I took 14 students with us and pretty much had a ball. Sorry I've been incommunicado, but, as the title says, there's no internet in Europe.
Well, there is internet in Europe, but none that I could easily access. So, instead, I saved it all up and wrote it down in an actual pen-and-paper type diary. Can you believe that?! How retro!
I'll give you the highs and lows here, briefly. First, the low:
We had to send a student home from the trip for misbehaving. Trust me when I tell you that his misbehavior was repeated, flagrant, and over the top. I feel bad for his parents.
Then, the highs:
Oh. My. GOD!!! LONDON!!! I went back to the Motherland! I saw all the sights - how touristy! - and even ate fish and chips. I rode the tube, peered through the gate at Buckingham Palace, and thrilled at hearing the bells chime at Westminster Abbey. From there, I took 11 of the kids on a bus trip to Windsor Castle while the other chaperone took the other 4 into London to Camden Market. Windsor was where Incident Number 1 took place with that student I talked about above.
And then we went to Canterbury - on Easter Sunday - where we visited Canterbury Cathedral and ate Hot Cross Buns. The bus then took us to the white cliffs of Dover, where we boarded the ferry bound for Calais.
Hopping off in Calais, we made our way to Rouen and snapped photos of the uber-Gothic cathedral there before partaking of a truly international dinner: Spaghetti Bolognese at a Chilean restaurant in France. That was a true WTF moment on the trip. That night, a group of students and I ventured out and walked around Rouen as it got dark - surprisingly, we had a pretty good time just goofing around, and wound up at Quick, which is like a French Burger King. My students were thrilled as anything to order their hamburgeurs et frites
in French, and they were really cute! Then, Incident Number 2 took place.
The next day, we got on the bus again and made our way to Caen where we stopped at the Peace Memorial. That was a sobering event, but not nearly as heart-stopping as what followed: visiting the American cemetary and Omaha Beach. It's absolutely staggering to stand at the corner of the cemetary and see all the white grave markers stretching far beyond the reach of your vision. Somehow, all of the kids and I ended up on the beach at the same time. After dipping my fingers into the English Channel and taking 16 pictures of the group assembled in front of the water (one with every camera). We boarded the bus, yet again, for the tiniest town in France, where we were to stay for two nights. Let's just say that the hotel was lacking, the town was dead, and there were no communal meeting facilities for our students. This was NOT a good combination. It led to Incident Number 3, from which there was no coming back. It was decided that our Troublemaker would go home when we got to Paris, as we had to give his mother time to buy a ticket for him.
The next day, we visited Mont Saint Michel, which was awesome!! I got to be our tour leader, since our guide had some bad knees and couldn't climb the bazillion steps up to the top to buy the tickets to the Abbey there. It was amazing - the view is spectacular - and the architecture is just gorgeous! From there, we went to St. Malo, which is a really cute little town in Brittany. We had galettes and crepes, learned about the history of the town, and bought a bunch of souvenirs. Then, holy crap, we headed back to the hotel for the worst meal in the history of France. The kids, though, rose to the occasion, and we had the most hilarious conversation ever around the table. Afterwards, I wandered Plancoet (the town) with a bunch of students. During the evening before, we'd found a condom dispenser outside a pharmacy - which they'd found uproariously funny. It was decided that a packet was to be purchased with pooled euros, and that the condom fairy was going to pay a visit to some of our party that evening. The strawberry condom apparently made its rounds under the doors of our rooms that evening, until it was discreetly left in a bedside drawer.
Then, finally, we were headed to Paris, but not before we made a stop at Chartres to see the amazing cathedral there. Lunch there was also the best meal we'd had in France. One of my kids, H, ordered escargots and salade nicoise for lunch. She loved the escargots. I'm so proud! Another, A, ordered one of the specials of the day - rabbit leg and tagliatelle - and declared it to be the best thing he'd ever eaten. We arrived in Paris that evening and ate at a Moroccan restaurant. From there, I took our group on the metro to Notre Dame and then for a wander around the Latin Quarter. We encountered possibly the most polite Parisian waiter in the 2000+ year history of the city. Sixteen people ordered fancy coffee drinks, pastries, desserts, and crepes in a Parisian Brasserie, and this man was nothing but pleasant and congenial.
After arising the next day at four fucking a.m.
to take Troublemaker to the airport, I had a bus tour followed by a walking tour of Paris. Pictures, pictures, pictures!!! All of the kids were exhausted by the time we were finished, and we decided that we'd just have ourselves a little dance party in the hotel cafeteria. A bunch of the kids came with me to the mall next to the hotel, where, after a little dress shopping (I got a dress and one of the other girls got a skirt outfit), we went to Auchan for some party supplies. We got different kinds of chips, crackers, cheese, candy, a baguette, and some sparkling cider for variety. We got into our pajamas, slapped our iPods into portable speakers, and played card games until we were too sleepy to continue. We bonded. Awwwwww.
Friday was the Louvre in the morning, then shopping in the afternoon. I had a group of kids that I affectionately called my Ducklings following me around the Louvre, as they have really strict rules about the under 18 crowd. We saw the main highlights, but then walked to a cafe and had a delicious lunch. We walked through Les Halles, where we saw a bunch of people lounging on the grass and came across a group of old men playing boules
, which is pretty typical in a French park. I took pictures, but one of my kids got video of it. We did some shopping, finished our souvenir buying, found a bakery (one of our kids hadn't had an authentic pain au chocolat
since arriving in France), got some bread and pastries, and wandered back to the park. Once there, the other group found us, and we all had a nice flop on the grass. We met the rest of the tour group at the Centre Pompidou, and then made our way to dinner. After that, we went up the Eiffel Tower and saw the city from the birds-eye perspective. After that, we got on a Batobus and had a tour of Paris by Night from the river Seine.
After a 3.5 hour nap, we got up and headed for the airport. Then home. And here I am.
I wanna go back!!!!!
Labels: world traveler, yo teach