INDEPENDENT TOUR TO FRANCE (GAUTENG) – JULY 2015

INDEPENDENT TOUR TO FRANCE (GAUTENG) – JULY 2015

TUESDAY 30 JUNE D DAY!

The excitement was palpable as 38 students from PHSG & PBHS gathered in the International Departure Hall at ORT this afternoon. Once they had checked-in and said fond farewells to family members, everyone made their way through emigration, where all were a bit apprehensive, but God is good and there were NO problems at all! They are planning to meet up again at 18h00 at the boarding gate and everyone is really looking forward to this great aventure en France! They are scheduled to land at Roissy Charles de Gaulle at 09h55 tomorrow, where I will be waiting to greet them, as my Air France flight will arrive Paris 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 the 4 chaperones and 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. To note that my present SA mobile number does not have a roaming facility and I will be using my French sim card which is + 33 6 34 48 50 95. My daughter Michelle may also be contacted if need be, on 071 351 1410. A demain...

WEDNESDAY 1 JULY SAFE ARRIVAL

Bonjour de Paris! I arrived at 05h30 this morning and then made my way to Terminal 1 to greet the group! It was wonderful to see them all again, most still kitted out in their red French Tour shirts, kindly arranged by the chaperones. Although we could have all done with more sleep, there was great energy & excitement as we hopped on board the coach and made our way to the hotel. Everyone is very impressed with 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. Upon arrival we were informed that our rooms would only be ready at 14h00 so, after a quick change of clothing and a freshen up, we all made our way to the Jardin des Tuileries, from where we had our 1st exciting glimpse of the Louvre, the Obélisque, the Eiffel Tower & the Arc de Triomphe! At 14h30 we returned to the hotel to unpack & rest for a couple of hours and at 17h00 we will set off to Montmartre, where we will all enjoy a 3-course meal in the famous resta urant La Cremaillère, on La Place du Tertre ! There is no doubt that everyone will sleep soundly tonight…!

THURSDAY 2 JULY  MUSEE DU LOUVRE + NOTRE DAME + GALERIES LAFAYETTE

We all had such a wonderful sleep and after an incredible breakfast, with a vast selection on offer, we made our way to the Musée du Louvre, where we met with our 2 guides who passionately shared so many interesting details about the major works of art. Everyone really enjoyed the awesome experience and all were united in their disbelief of “how small the Mona Lisa is!” After some free time for lunch & shopping in the Louvre’s ‘shopping court’, we strolled along the banks of the River Seine to the magnificent cathedral of Notre Dame. At 16h00 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 landmarks! At 18h30 a happy band of travellers returned ‘home’, delighted at the thought of a relaxing evening and dinner in the hotel restaurant.   

FRIDAY 3 JULY  CHAMPS ELYSEES + CRUISE + EIFFEL TOWER

Everyone was so grateful for the slow start to the day and after another good breakfast, we departed for the Champs Elysées, which extends from the Place de la Concorde to the magnificent Arc de Triomphe. Here they were afforded a few hours to explore this famous boulevard and at 13h15 all gathered for a quick visit to tomb of the Unknown Soldier, before returning to the hotel to off-load packets and to relax. Then at 16h00 we made our way to the River Seine, where all thoroughly enjoyed a cruise + commentary on the many famous landmarks of Paris. This was followed by a delicious 3 course dinner alongside the river and at 20h00 we met with our guide for the night coach tour ~ Les Illuminations! At 23h00 our group ascended to the 2nd floor for a magical view of this iconic city, before returning to the hotel - what an incredible experience & a veritable life memory!

SATURDAY 4 JULY  DISNEYLAND PARIS!

Today was spent at Disneyland Paris and it never ceases to amaze me as to how much the children absolutely love this theme park! We set off this morning at 09h00 and a very happy band of travelers returned to the hotel at 19h30, with just enough time to freshen up for dinner in the hotel restaurant. Everyone has thoroughly enjoyed their time in Paris, in spite of the immense heat and the frenetic pace of the metro and many have vowed to return as soon as possible (apologies to all the parents in advance!) Tomorrow we fly to Nice on the wonderful Cote d’Azur, where we will connect with my 2nd group from the Cape and there will be 56 Personal Touch students in total on Campus Horticole! I will update the site tomorrow evening from the magnificent French Riviera!

SUNDAY 5 JULY  ONWARD TO THE COTE D'ÁZUR!

This morning our coach arrived at 09h00 and after having loaded all our cases along with all the extra packets, we made our way to Orly Airport. We have really covered such a lot of Paris in a relatively short time AND we have survived the incredible heat-wave! At the airport we were directed to a dedicated check-in desk which made our lives less stressful and was very much appreciated! As we flew into Nice, everyone was delighted to see the glorious coastline and the azure blue waters. Here we were warmly greeted by representatives from Le Centre International d'Antibes, who accompanied us back to the campus and there was great excitement as everyone quickly changed into beach wear, grabbed a picnic lunch and boarded the waiting transfer bus. Thereafter all enjoyed a walking orientation tour through the quaint streets of the 'vieille ville' and, with not a cloud in the sky, the views from the ancient city ramparts were quite simply magnificent. There was then time to relax on the beach and some enjoyed their first swim in the Mediterranean Sea, surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery on the French Riviera! Upon return to campus, everyone settled in to their rooms and enjoyed dinner in the restaurant, before being introduced to all the other international students - 250 in total on the campus! Everyone is very excited for the week ahead in this idyllic part of the world...

MONDAY 6 JULY  LANGUAGE COURSE AND MONACO!

The 1st night on Campus was great fun and all enjoyed the ice-breaker activities & social interaction with new-found friends. After breakfast this morning the students were all placed in multinational classes and the general consensus at lunchtime was that the teachers were ‘so cool’ and the lessons were both stimulating & enriching. Where necessary, we have suggested a few modifications with regard to the levels in an effort to ensure that the students are 100% comfortable and benefit to the maximum from the course. After a delicious lunch, we all hopped on board our 2 designated coaches and made our way to the Principality of Monaco. The views en route were magnificent and upon arrival, everyone was struck by the sheer beauty, pristine cleanliness and obvious wealth of this small principality ~ with 1 policeman per every 60 tourists, no one even thinks of littering! With such a large group we were very grateful to have a ‘reserved booking’ on the tourist train, le petit train and everyone really enjoyed the informative commentary, as we travelled through the streets of the F1 race track, passing in front of the Monte Carlo Casino and the surrounding luxurious hotels. It was a very special afternoon and all returned in high spirits to the campus, where a soirée barbecue and an evening of fun awaits …!

TUESDAY 7 JULY  CLASSES, CANNES & JUAN LES PINS!

Having effected a few modifications for various individuals’, everyone was happy with their level of placement and all really enjoyed the lessons this morning. After a delicious lunch we hopped on board the train to Cannes and everyone was excited at the many options this summer resort has to offer. They all posed on the red carpet at the Palais des Festivals, home to the annual Cannes Film Festival and then Axel offered any brave & heat-resistant students the opportunity to visit Le Suquet, a landmark in Vieux Cannes which affords a magnificent view over the yacht-lined bay & the Estérel Mountains. Many preferred to shop and headed for the well-known brand stores such as Zara, Morgan and Galéries Lafayette, as well as delighting in the more affordable shops on la Rue Meynadier, with its abundance of bargains in all shapes and sizes. Others opted immediately for the beach to enjoy a swim in the azure blue waters – a really good idea on such a sweltering day! At 6.00pm, a happy band of travellers returned to Antibes by train and after a quick dinner & shower, everyone boarded the bus for our evening excursion to vibrant Juan les Pins, which is always a highlight!

WEDENSDAY 8 JULY  FRAGONARD PARFUMERIE & FLORIAN CONFISSERIE

Everyone is really enjoying the lessons, challenging themselves and integrating with the other international students. They are all so much more confident to communicate in French and even our complete beginners are having fun! After lunch everyone enjoyed relaxing and chatting to friends in the courtyard, before hopping on board the 2 coaches to Grasse. Unfortunately the air-con was not working in the 1 bus, but in true stoic SA fashion, they accepted the situation and did not let it deter from their enjoyment! Dubbed the ‘balcony of Provence’ for its magnificent panoramic views, Grasse is also the home of French perfume and at the Fragonard Parfumer ie they enjoyed a fascinating & most informative tour. After making several purchases at the on-site boutique, they continued on to the Florian confisserie in the Gorges du Loup - world renowned for its sweets, chocolates & jams and also boasting an on-site boutique! So, laden with even more packets, all returned to campus in high spirits, having enjoyed a wonderful olfactory experience, as well as a taste extravaganza!

THURSDAY 9 JULY  A WONDERFUL AFTERNOON IN NICE!

Everyone arrived at class in high spirits this morning, once again looking forward to improving their spoken French and mingling with the other international students. After lunch all excitedly made their way to the train station for the afternoon excursion to Nice, the ‘Queen of the Riviera’ and at the newly revamped Place Masséna all were afforded ‘du temps libre’, which equates to free time! Many immediately headed off to the name brand boutiques along the Boulevard Jean Medécin, whilst others decided to explore the narrow streets of Vieux Nice, but the majority chose to make their way to the pebbled beachfront. At 18h30 all returned to the campus and after dinner, there was the traditional soirée cabaret, where our SA students once again out-performed all the others, with some great dancing & singing!

FRIDAY 10 JULY  SUN, SEA & SAILING!

Our week in Antibes has flown by so very quickly and today marked the end of the formal lessons with Le Centre International d'Antibes. All the students were proud recipients of a DELF accredited certificate which attests to the 15 hours of tuition + the level attained + a comment from the teachers and once again the educators expressed their absolute delight with the South Africans, praising their positive, enthusiastic and serious approach. After lunch all excitedly boarded the coach to the Yacht Club in Antibes, where they donned life jackets and listened attentively to the instructions for sailing in a catamaran! This was such a wonderful experience and all were stunned by the incredible beauty of the calm azure blue waters, with the vieille ville in close proximity and Italy in the distance! Thereafter they had time to frolic in the waves or suntan on the beach and all loved relaxing in this idyllic part of the world! By popular request we organized a 2nd visit to the vibrant summer resort of Juan les Pins and this was a perfect ending to our week on the French Riviera!

SATURDAY 11 JULY  HOMEWARD BOUND!

What a happy tour it has been and there are mixed feelings of sadness at the thought of leaving and excitement to see loved ones back home! All flights are confirmed and at 12h00 the coach depart edfrom campus to transfer the group to Nice Cote d’Azur Airport for their onward flight to Frankfurt. I am sure there is no need to remind parents that your beloved children are scheduled to arrive at OR Tambo at 08h40 tomorrow on flight LH572. It has once again been my great joy to escort an outstanding group of students from PHSG & PBHS and I compliment each and every one on their impeccable behaviour and sense of adventure. All have fully embraced every opportunity and they have been superb ambassadors for South Africa. The ultimate success of any tour depends largely on the chaperones and I would like to sincerely thank Mrs Elzahn Bloem, Ms Mirella Lippi and Ms Abbi du Preez from PHSG, as well as Mrs Heather Gioia from PBHS for their invaluable assistance throughout ~ your children have certainly been in very good hands! They all played a crucial role in the success of the tour and have earned my greatest respect – merci mille fois mes chères amies, for flying the Personal Touch banner so high! It remains for me to wish you all a very happy home-coming ~ ‘merci beaucoup, bon retour et à la prochaine!”