DURBAN COMBINED SCHOOLS TOUR TO FRANCE – JUNE/JULY 2015

DURBAN COMBINED SCHOOLS TOUR TO FRANCE – JUNE/JULY 2015

SUNDAY 28 JUNE D DAY!

After months & months of anticipation, D day has finally dawned and there was great excitement as all gathered at King Shaka International airport this morning. Mixed with the excitement was the trepidation regarding the enormous amount of documentation now required by the Department of Home Affairs, but I am delighted to report that I have just spoken to the 2 chaperones, who confirmed that all the girls are safely through emigration, enjoying some retail therapy! Everyone is really looking forward to flying on the magnificent A380, which is a veritable hotel in the sky and they are scheduled to land at Frankfurt just before 05h55 tomorrow morning. They will then connect to Paris, arriving at Roissy Charles de Gaulle at 10h45, where the coach will be waiting to take them to their hotel. I will update the website as soon as I have heard from the chaperones, but please rest assured that all arrangements are firmly in place and a wonderfully enriching tour awaits ~ a demain…

MONDAY 29JUNE SAFE ARRIVAL & DINNER ON LA PLACE DU TERTRE!

I have just received a lovely message from the chaperones confirming that all is well:"We've just arrived in Frankfurt having gone through a huge security check. All went very smoothly for everyone. The flight was superb. Much excitement to be in Europe in this stunning airport. As we got off the plane we sang Happy Birthday to Khanya who turns18 today - how special for her and a birthday she will never forget!" They are scheduled to land in Paris at 10h45 - more news later .... I have just spoken with the chaperones and apparently everyone is impressed with their comfortable & well situated hotel, the 3* HOTEL IBIS BERTHIER - should you wish to make contact with your children, the number for reception is 00 33 1 40 25 20 20.The evening will be spent in Montmartre, where I’m sure many will be tempted to have their portraits painted on La Place du Tertre. Dinner will be served in the famous restaurant La Cremaillère, where the group will enjoy a delicious 3-course meal, before returning to the hotel and there is no doubt that everyone will sleep soundly tonight! I have just received this lovely update from the chaperones: "We've had a 'magnifique' start to our stay in Paris. Soon after we arrived we went to the Montmartre area & climbed the stairs up to the Sacre Cœur church. From there we sat on the steps overlooking Paris - blues skies and lots of fabulous activity to watch. Some girls were really moved during the visit of the Basilica and as a chaperone, it was touching to see that. We then made to an outdoor restaurant where we had a lovely dinner. Traveling by metro has been so exciting! There are hundreds of people in the city and it is extremely busy. We have a good system of all getting on & off together and do lots of laughing!"

TUESDAY 30 JUNE  CHAMPS ELYSEES, ARC DE TRIOMPHE, BATEAUX PARISIENS, EIFFEL TOWER & PARIS BY NIGHT!

What a wonderful day awaits and I will update once I have heard from the chaperones...17h00 Please to note that I am departing for France with a group tonight and will only be able to update the website tomorrow. My SA mobile number does not have a roaming facility and I will be using my French sim card until 17 July, which is + 33 6 34 48 50 95. My daughter Michelle may also be contacted if need be on 071 351 1410. Update from chaperones: "We’ve had such full days, strolling through the Tuileries Gardens, then up the Champs Élysées via some shops! ..... to the Arc de Triomphe, where we climbed up all the steps to the top from where we had a spectacular 360 view of Paris. We've been blessed with incredible blue skies. We then made our way to the boat cruise down the Seine River, which was so relaxing! Dinner on a boat overlooking the Eiffel Tower - cannot get better than that! Then a coach drive through the city with an amazing guide and finally our ascent up the spectacular Eiffel Tower! What a thrilling day!"

WEDNESDAY 1 JULY PALACE OF VERSAILLES & CYCLING!

“Today we set off early and we had an excellent tour of the magnificent Palace of Versailles. For lunch we had delicious baguettes before cycling in the gardens and this was such a lovely experience - for some girls it was the first time on a bicycle and they tell me that they'll be back on those wheels again once they're home! It was such a relaxing time for all of us, before heading back to Paris, where we visited the stunning departmental store, Galeries Lafayette…. les soldes (sales) have just begun so all eyes were on alert for bargains! In short, such a good mix of culture & retail therapy today and the girls have bonded so well – how lovely to see new friendships forming!”

THURSDAY 2 JULY  MUSEE DU LOUVRE + NOTRE DAME + QUARTIER LATIN

“After 3 days on the run, we had a welcome late start this morning and all thoroughly enjoyed the breakfast! Our girls have now got the hang of the metro system and it has been such a privilege to witness their growing confidence in this short space of time. Paris is experiencing an epic heatwave that had the locals wilting in the streets but we as South Africans are not daunted! Pounding the pavements, Prajna even has a gadget that measures how far we walk and today we did 14 kms on foot in the magnificent city! At 11h15 we enjoyed an excellent guided visit to the Louvre museum, where we were delighted to meet up with Jenny Peddle and her group. After the Louvre visit we went to the beautiful Notre Dame cathedral on Île de la Cité and our timing was perfect, as the sun was shining through the magnificent stained glass windows. Many of the girls were deeply moved by this visit. We then set off to the quaint île St Louis for the famous ice cream parlour, Berthillon and no words can express their delight! Then, more shopping…. after all there are 23 girls in this group! "Sales... this shop....that shop...can we go to that one too? We're sure that one must be even better..." Happy faces! Our day finished in the most charming area, Le Quartier Latin, where we enjoyed dinner and we were treated to a beautiful solo by Kemi, which set the tone for a festive return to our hotel. A very special day indeed!”

FRIDAY 3 JULY DISNEYLAND PARIS!

It was lovely for me to meet up with the group on Thursday at the Louvre – the girls are clearly having a wonderful time and I know that they were all looking forward to a fun-filled final day at Disneyland Paris!

SATURDAY 4 JULY ONWARD TO THE FRENCH RIVIERA!

Au revoir to Paris, as they flew from Orly Airport to the south of France this morning. At 12h15 they landed at Nice, Cote d’Azur Airport, where they hopped on board the coach and made their way to glorious Antibes. I have contacted the hotel reception, who confirmed their safe arrival, saying that they are presently enjoying an orientation tour with a guide. A reminder that the group is staying for the next 4 nights at Hotel Le Collier and the contact telephone number is 00 33 4 93 74 56 40. I have heard that the girls are absolutley in love with this idyllic part of the world and their guide for the next few days, Estelle, gave their a wonderful orientation tour of the vieille ville.

SUNDAY 5 JULY FRAGONARD, FLORIAN & CANNES

This morning Estelle met the group at reception and everyone was excited for the day’s visit. They hopped on board the coach to Grasse, dubbed the ‘balcony of Provence’ for its magnificent panoramic views and also the home of French perfume. At the Fragonard Parfumerie everyone enjoyed a fascinating & most informative tour and the on-site boutique was a great hit! 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, they continued on to Cannes and all were amazed by the beauty of this resort and many joined the throngs of sun worshipers on the beach, marveling at the azure blue waters. It was such a wonderful day and dinner tonight was served in a beautiful restaurant Le Duplex on the central square of Antibes. I arrived with my group that afternoon, so it was wonderful to be able to meet up with the Durban girls and chaperones and share some stories…all seem very happy indeed!

MONDAY 6 JULY  SUN, SEA & SAILING!

The girls all enjoyed a free morning in Antibes where they explored the marché provencal and mix with the local Antibois, before meeting with Estelle and travelling by coach to Villeneuve-Loubet for an afternoon of sun, sea and sailing! At the Yacht Club they were asked to don life-jackets and under the tutorship of professional instructors, everyone enjoyed sailing on a catamaran on the calm waters of the Mediterranean Sea, surrounded by some of the most incredible scenery on the French Riviera ~ what a real highlight for everyone!         

TUESDAY 7 JULY  PRINCIPALITY OF MONACO & NICE

Once again Estelle met the group in the hotel foyer, before hopping on board their coach and travelling along the route du littoral’, where the views are magnificent. Upon arrival in the Monaco, 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. After viewing the Palace they enjoyed 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, they headed back to Nice, the ‘Queen of the Riviera’. Nice boasts the newly revamped Place Masséna and whilst many enjoyed shopping in the name brand boutiques along the Boulevard Jean Medécin, others loved exploring the narrow streets of Vieux Nice, noting the strong Italian influence of this fascinating city. The beach too was a great draw-card, flanked by the beautiful palm-lined Avenue des Anglais. It was a wonderful final day on the Cote d’Azur and dinner tonight is bound to be special in a restaurant alongside the magnificent yacht-lined harbour.

WEDNESDAY 8 JULY  FAREWELL TO LA BELLE FRANCE! 

The time has gone by really quickly and the girls have had a wonderful tour! They all had an early start today, as they made their way to Nice for their cooking course and, under the watchful eye of master chef Aude BERTAUX, they donned aprons and prepared to make a delicious dessert. They really enjoyed this experience and the dessert comprised fresh berries, mascarpone & cream on a triangle of puff pastry, accompanied by a sweet pistachio sauce and it is only fitting for such a wonderful dessert to have such a glamorous name - “feuilleté aux fruits et crème mascarpone vanille, pistou sucré”! At 12h00 the group was transferred to the airport and at 14h40 they all boarded their flight to Frankfurt. LH572 is scheduled to depart at 22h05 tonight, arriving at OR Tambo at 08h40 tomorrow and I am sure there is no need to remind excited parents that the group will arrive at King Shaka at 13h30 on BA6211. It has been such a happy & successful tour and I am delighted to have been associated with Durban Girls’ College, Maris Stella and Northlands Girls' High School. It remains for me to say bon retour and happy home-coming …a la prochaine!