INDEPENDENT TOUR TO FRANCE – MARCH/APRIL 2015

INDEPENDENT TOUR TO FRANCE – MARCH/APRIL 2015

WEDNESDAY 25 MARCH - D DAY!

The day everyone has been looking forward to for so long has finally dawned and all are eager to make new friends and embark on a great ‘aventure en France’! For the KZN & Cape Town contingent, the journey started this morning and by 16h30 we had all checked in at OR Tambo. On this particular tour we have representatives from 8 different schools and it is always my great joy to introduce the students to each other. After reassuring chats with the mums & dads, followed by fond farewells, we all made our way through emigration and are planning to meet up again at 18h30 at the boarding gate. Everyone is really looking forward to flying on the magnificent A380, which is a veritable hotel in the sky and we are scheduled to land at Roissy Charles de Gaulle bright & early tomorrow at 05h30. I will update the site as soon as I find some internet connectivity, but in the meantime, please rest assured that Fiona & I are acutely aware that the safety and security of your precious children is of paramount importance and we will do all in our power to ensure that they have a wonderfully enriching tour. A demain…

THURSDAY 26 MARCH - SAFE ARRIVAL

20h30 We have just returned to our hotel after a very long, but wonderful day in Paris! Everyone had a very pleasant flight and as the group was seated together, they were able to all get to chat & know each other. At 05h00 this morning we were greeted by the captain, who happily informed us that it was a beautiful day, with a current temperature of 1 degree Celsius!! We then passed through immigration and collected our luggage, but what a pity for Qune, as her case never arrived. She and I made the formal report to Air France, whilst the others went to use the public ablutions to freshen up and change clothes ... but we have subsequently heard the good news that the case had been located and would be delivered to the hotel tomorrow! The cherry on the top is that Qune now has a voucher for 100 euros, per kind favour of Air France! Everyone is very impressed by our comfortable & well situated hotel, the Campanile La Villette and should you wish to make contact with your children, the number for reception is 00 33 1 44 72 46 46. Our rooms were not ready when we arrived at 09h00, so we made our way to the Jardin desTuileries, from where we had our 1st exciting glimpse of the Louvre, the Obélis que, the Eiffel Tower & the Arc de Triomphe! At 13h00 we returned to the hotel to rest for a couple of hours, before setting off to Montmartre, where many, including the boys, had their portraits painted at La Place du Tertre ! Dinner was served in the famous restaurant La Cremaillère, where we all enjoyed a delici ous 3-course meal, before returning to the hotel and there is no doubt that everyone will sleep soundly tonight!

FRIDAY 27 MARCH - QUELLE JOURNEE A PARIS!

We woke up to sunshine and what a wonderful day we’ve had! After an incredible breakfast with a vast selection on offer, we made our way to the Musée du Louvre, where we met with our guide Françoise. She was really passionate about her work and shared so many interesting details about the major works of art. Hannes & Georgie were in 7th heaven and even the ‘not so arty’ members of our group really benefitted from the experience & enjoyed the exposure. We then took advantage of the glorious sunshine and strolled along the banks of the River Seine to the Notre Dame, before continuing on past L’Hôtel de Ville to the Georges Pompidou Centre. Here all had ‘du temps libre’ (free time) and everyone was given the opportunity to explore & choose where to eat lunch, with Starbucks once again being very popular! At 15h00 we hopped on the metro and made our way to Galéries Lafayette, a world renowned department store which was built in 1912 and is now classified as an historic monument, boasting a beautiful stained glass roof dome & an Art Nouveau staircase. Here they again had some free to visit the surrounds, which include L’Opéra Garnier, H & M, Printemps, Sephora and many, many other wonderful places! At 18h00 a happy band of travelers returned ‘home’ and with another full day scheduled for tomorrow, everyone is very excited to have a quiet evening in the hotel, either eating in the restaurant or ordering take-aways!

SATURDAY 28 MARCH - A MAGNIFICENT LAST DAY IN PARIS!

Everyone was so grateful for the slow start to the day and after a good breakfast we departed for the Champs Elysées. All were encouraged to spend time at the historic Place de la Concorde,  before dashing to visit all the famous stores along this world famous boulevard! At 13h30 we met at the magnificent Arc de Triomphe, where we passed through the passage souterrin to visit the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Thereafter we took the metro to the Eiffel Tower, where we ascended to the 2nd floor and some even opted for the 3rd. This was followed by a cruise on the River Seine, which was both relaxing and informative, as we sailed past all the famous landmarks of Paris with live commentary. We then enjoyed a delicious dinner in a restaurant alongside the river and at 20h00 our guide arrived for our private coach tour of Paris by night, which was magnificent! Everyone has bonded so well and whilst all have absolutely loved their stay in Paris, they are really looking forward to the next leg and their experience with host families in Antibes. Our coach transfer is scheduled to depart for Orly airport at 09h15 tomorrow and to note that the French clock will change back to the ‘normal’ SA clock at midnight, so there will no longer be any time difference. My next entry will be from the magnificent Côte d’Azur!

SUNDAY 29 APRIL  WELCOME TO THE COTE D'AZUR!

A wake-up call was arranged for this morning and after a hearty breakfast, we all loaded our cases into the coach and set off for Orly airport, excited for the next phase of the tour! Once on the plane, many were able to catch up on some much needed sleep en route to the Côte d’Azur, where we were greeted by sunshine and vastly improved temperatures! Anais, our animatrice from Le Centre International d’Antibes was there to welcome us and she escorted us to the coach bound for Antibes. At Le Château, everyone was able to store their luggage, change clothing and take a picnic lunch, before heading off for an orientation tour of the vieille ville. With not a cloud in the sky, the views from the ancient city ramparts were quite simply magnificent and everyone has immediately fallen in love with this idyllic part of the world! At 18h00 we returned to Le Château, where the students were introduced to their familles d’accueil and whilst I feel certain that they will be very happy, everyone is aware that they may call me at any time of day or night if they do have any concerns. Bon séjour à tout le monde and I look forward to chatting to all tomorrow as we meet at 08h30 at the school ...

MONDAY 30 MARCH  COURS DE FRANCAIS FOLLOWED BY EXCURSION TO CANNES!

Joyeux anniversaire ã Jenna ~ 17 today and how lucky to be spending it on the glorious Côte d’Azure! At 08h30 everyone arrived bright-eyed at Le Château, all chatting excitedly about their various host families and observing with interest the other international students who would be at the school with them for the week. At 09h00 they met with their teacher for ‘le test’, where they were assessed on their written & oral competence and, based on the results, they were placed in classes to suit their particular/individual level.  After a delicious lunch in the restaurant which overlooks the azure blue waters of the Mediterranean and the snow-capped mountains of the Alps, we made our way to the train station for our afternoon excursion to Cannes. Our first visit was to the Palais des Festivals, which is famous for the Cannes Film Festival in May and thereafter some chose to visit Le Suquet, a landmark which affords a magnificent view over the yacht-lined bay & the Estérel Mountains. The group was then afforded ‘du temps libre’  and after a quick glance at the super-exclusive boutiques along La Croisette, they all swarmedto the well-known brand stores such as Zara, Morgan and Galéries Lafayette! They were also delighted to discover the even more affordable shops on the Rue Meynadier, which boast an abundance of bargains in all shapes and sizes! At 17h00, armed with an array of parcels, we returned to Antibes and at 19h00 we will meet up again for a soirée barbecue in Juan les Pins. This will no doubt be a wonderful evening, with plenty of food and social interaction with the other international students!

TUESDAY 31 MARCH    A WONDERFUL EXCURSION TO MONACO!

We woke up to yet another beautiful, sunny day on the French Riviera and everyone really enjoyed the classes this morning with the other international students. After a delicious lunch, we hopped on board our coach bound for Monaco, travelling along the ‘route du littoral’, where we admired the magnificent views of the azure blue waters. Upon arrival, everyone was struck by the cleanliness and obvious wealth of this small principality and with 1 policeman per every 60 tourists, no-one even thinks of littering! All thoroughly enjoyed the ride on ‘le petit train’, which is a great tourist attraction and the informative commentary gives excellent global coverage as it travels through the streets of the F1 race track, passing in front of the world renowned Monte Carlo Casino. We alighted at the Palace and then had free time to do some Grand Prix souvenir shopping, before visiting the Cathedral where Prince Rainier and Princess Grace are laid to rest. After a stroll through the magnificent exotic gardens of Princess Grace, we headed back to Antibes, where all will no doubt have a relaxing evening.

WEDNESDAY 1 APRIL   FRAGONARD PERFUMERY & FLORIAN CONFISSERIE

Lessons were great fun this morning and everyone is so much more confident to communicate in French! After lunch, all enjoyed relaxing and chatting to friends on the lawn in the warm sunshine, before hopping on board the coach to Grasse. Dubbed the ‘balcony of Provence’ for its magnificent panoramic views, it is also the home of French perfume and at the Fragonard Parfumerie everyone enjoyed a fascinating & most informative tour. The on-site boutique was a great hit and judging by the packets & strong scent in the coach thereafter, many purchases had been made! The tour then continued on to the Gorges du Loup, where they visited the Florian confisserie, which is world renowned for its sweets, chocolates & jams. Laden with even more packets, all returned to Antibes in the early evening, having had a wonderful day!

THURSDAY 2 APRIL A WONDERFUL EXCURSION TO NICE!

Everyone arrived at school this morning in high spirits, once again looking forward to improving their spoken French and mingling with the other international students. After lunch we all made our way to the train station for the afternoon excursion to Nice, the ‘Queen of the Riviera’. From the newly revamped Place Masséna, Anais guided us through the narrow streets of the quaint vieille ville, and the tour culminated at Fenoccios, the famous ice-cream parlour, renowned for offering 107 different flavours, ranging from avocado - sundried tomatoes - basil – cookies – Nutella and even to mojito & beer!! Some then headed back to the Boulevard Jean Medecin for their final opportunity to shop in the well-known brand boutiques, whilst others chose to linger in the old town and then head towards the magnificent beach front, where Teneal & Hannes braved the cold waters of the Mediterranean – bravo les deux!  It was such a lovely afternoon and at 18h00, we hopped on board the train and returned to Antibes, where all will relax before their last full day in France tomorrow!

FRIDAY 3 APRIL - OUR FINAL DAY ON THE CÔTE D'AZURE

The week has flown by so very quickly and today marked the end of formal lessons at Le Centre International d'Antibes. All were proud recipients of a DELF accredited certificate which attests to the 15 hours of tuition and the level attained, as well as a comment from the teacher. Once again the educators were full of praise for the SA students, commenting on their positive & enthusiastic approach, as well as the marked improvement in their confidence to communicate. At lunchtime we discussed the options for their free afternoon, as well as the plans for tonight’s optional excursion to Juan les Pins, which is a vibrant sea-side resort lying adjacent to Antibes. Whatever their choice, the final night on the Côte d’Azur is bound to be special! I will confirm all arrangements with regard to our departure in my diary entry tomorrow morning ….bonne soirée etã demain!

SATURDAY 4 APRIL  AU REVOIR A LA BELLE FRANCE!

Today marks the final day of our tour and everyone is very reluctant to leave this idyllic part of the world! We have done so much in a relatively short space of time and all have such wonderful memories (and so many photos!) of la belle France! The airport transfer is scheduled to depart at 13h00 and at the meeting point everyone will say a fond farewell to their host parents, as well as to our lovely animatrice, Anais. At 16h05 we will board flight AF 7715 to Paris and once at Roissy Charles de Gaulle, the group will remain in transit, where they will have plenty of time to enjoy browsing in the duty free shops! Flight AF 990 is scheduled to depart at 23h30 and to arrive at OR Tambo tomorrow, Sunday 5 April @ 10h00. To act ‘in loco parentis’ is no mean task and I would sincerely like to thank Fiona Stanford who has been a superb companion and we share very fond memories of our tour to France with your children. Merci beaucoup ma chère amie ~ I value your professionalism, ‘personal touch’ and especially your friendship! It has been a successful & happy tour and as parents you can rest assured that you have afforded your children the most wonderful opportunity. I have no doubt that each and every child will return not only academically enriched, but enriched as a person, having matured and grown in confidence and the precious memories & firm bonds of friendships will last a lifetime. It remains for me to wish you all a happy home-coming ~ ‘merci beaucoup, bon retour et a la prochaine’!