At 2am on Thursday 12th October, 44 students excitedly waited to board our coach to France. The four days that followed were filled with sunshine (mostly), laughter, croissants, history, culture, shopping, great food and only a little sleep!
We travelled under the English Channel via Euro Tunnel and made our way to Honfleur where all the students practised their language skills by ordering ice creams and crepes in French. After exploring the port we continued on to the Chateau which is situated about 20 minutes from Bayeux. After a 3 course meal and some time to unwind everyone had an early night.
Friday dawned warm and bright and the day started with half the group playing games on the beach whilst the remainder of the group learnt about biscuit making, even making and tasting their own biscuits. After the groups swapped over we all made our way to Arromanches where the events of D-Day were brought to life in a 360° cinema experience. We then spent some time looking at the Mulberry Harbour and enjoyed a picnic lunch on the beach before heading into Bayeaux. After completing the town trail and further improving our French skills, more ice creams and crepes were sampled before we visited the famous Tapestry. The day was completed by some shopping in a hypermarket, although some needed encouragement not to stock up on British sweets and snacks! Another 3 course meal was enjoyed at the Chateau before the group chose either watch a movie in the Chateau’s cinema room, or just relax in the courtyard in the warm evening.
Saturday started a little earlier with a coach trip to Mont St Michel, although upon arrival you would not have known there was anything there due to the thick fog! Thankfully during the course of our visit the fog lifted and the students realised the extent of the structure. We made our way back up the coast to the American Cemetery and Memorial at Omaha Beach and after spending some time in the visitor centre had an opportunity to look around the cemetery where over 9,000 American Servicemen are buried. We saw the graves of the Niland Brothers, made famous by the film Saving Private Ryan, and saw the grave of Theodore Roosevelt, son of F D Roosevelt, whose grave was marked with a Gold Star to reflect the Medal of Honour which he had been awarded. Sadly the fog had returned thicker than ever making it unsafe for us to go down onto Omaha Beach as planned, but it made the cemetery a quieter place of reflection for the students.
Once we had returned to the Chateau the much anticipated food tasting session was included within our evening meal and everyone who wanted to was able to sample both snails and frogs legs! The face pulling and varied expressions were thoroughly enjoyed by those who had decided not to give them a try! A final night Disco made the Teachers feel very old, and tired everyone else out!
We left the Chateau on Sunday morning and made our way to Port-en-Bessin where we explored a traditional French food market and did a little bit of final souvenir shopping. Our stop at Longues-sur-Mer provided an opportunity to explore the remains of German gun casements, a Fire Control post and some ammunition bunkers. It was hard to imagine in the sunshine and blue skies quite what the scene would have looked like on the morning of D-Day when the battery was bombarded from the sea by Allied warships to destroy the Nazi’s ability to spot and fire on the Allied invasion that was to come. After a picnic lunch and a look at the British Cemetery in Bayeux we visited our final site at Pegasus Bridge and learnt about the incredible flying skills of the 6th Airborne Division who landed in gliders before taking the key strategic river crossing at Benounville. We could still see the bullet and shrapnel holes in the bridge construction.
We finally made it back to school just before midnight, tired but happy. Overall, it was a very good trip providing lots of different experiences for us all.
Head of History