INDEPENDENT TOUR TO FRANCE (CAPE) – JULY 2015

 INDEPENDENT TOUR TO FRANCE (CAPE) – JULY 2015

 SATURDAY 4 JULY  D DAY & GREAT EXCITEMENT!

There was great excitement this afternoon as students from a variety of schools gathered at Cape Town International to embark on an exciting & academically enriching tour to la belle France! I am currently in Paris, so un grand merci to my daughter, Michelle for handling the check-in procedure, ably accompanied by the 2 chaperones from Bridge House School, Mr Spencer Jones & Mrs Liza-Marié Laubser. The group is scheduled to arrive in Dubai at 05h25 tomorrow morning, thereafter connecting to Nice, where members of the language school (Le Centre International d’Antibes) will be waiting to greet them. I will also be flying from Paris to Nice with my group tomorrow and we will all meet up on Campus Horticole, with 56 Personal Touch students in total! I will update the site tomorrow evening, but please rest assured that all arrangements are firmly in place and a wonderful tour awaits! Please to remember that my SA mobile number does not have a roaming facility and I will be using my French sim card whilst in France + 33 6 34 48 50 95 and Michelle may also be contacted if need be on 071 351 1410.

SUNDAY 5 JULY   SAFE ARRIVAL ON THE MAGNIFICENT COTE D'AZUR!

This morning I flew with my group from Paris and was delighted to have enough time to greet the Cape Town contingent as they arrived from Dubai at Terminal 1. It was lovely to see everyone and all were in good spirits, in spite of feeling a little grubby and a tired after the long journey. Together we made our way by coach to the Campus, where they were introduced to my other group of 38 students from Pretoria. After a quick freshen up, they changed into beach wear, grabbed a picnic lunch and boarded the waiting transfer bus. Thereafter everyone 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, they all 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 view s, Grasse is also the home of French perfume and at the Fragonard Parfumerie 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   SUN, SEA & SAILING!

Everyone arrived at class in high spirits, once again looking forward to improving their spoken French and mingling with the other international students. 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! After dinner there was the traditional soirée cabaret and our SA students once again out-performed all the others, with some great dancing & singing!

FRIDAY 10 JULY   EXCURSION TO NICE, QUEEN OF THE RIVIERA!

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 made their way to the train station for the afternoon excursion to Nice, the ‘Queen of the Riviera’ and at the new ly 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 by popular request we organized a 2nd visit to the vibrant summer resort of Juan les Pins, which was a perfect ending to our week on the French Riviera!

SATURDAY 11 JULY  ON VA A PARIS!

This morning everyone enjoyed a quick visit to Antibes, before returning to campus for a picnic lunch and fond farewells to the Gauteng sector who are returning to SA tonight. They have all bonded amazingly well over the week and so many friendships have been forged through so many shared special memories. At 13h00 the coach transferred the Cape Town group to Nice Cote d’Azur Airport and everyone was so excited for the second part of their ‘aventure en France’- Sude was even in tears at the thought! We arrived at our hotel Campanile La Villette at 18h30, which gave us time to relax, unwind, freshen up and make contact with home, before enjoying a 3 course meal in the dining room. Everyone is very impressed with the standard of the hotel and should you wish to contact your children, herewith the telephone number: 00 33 1 44 72 46 46.

SUNDAY 12 JULY  CHAMPS ELYSEES, CRUISE, & EIFFEL TOWER!

Everyone was really impressed with the delicious buffet breakfast this morning, which translated very nicely into lunch too! After a briefing on safety & security in Paris, as well as contingency plans on the metro, we all departed from the hotel at 09h45, ready to take on all that the Champs Elysées had to offer! Here they were afforded a few hours to explore this famous boulevard and at 13h45 all gathered by the Arc de Triomphe, excitedly sharing their stories & purchases over the last few hours! We then returned to the hotel to off-load packets and to change into ‘glamour clothes’ for our evening ... highly recommended by our fashionista chaperone, Liza-Marie! Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the cruise & commentary on the River Seine and Maya was actually in tears of joy at the end! This was followed by a delicious 3 course dinner in a restaurant alongside the river and at 20h15 we met with our guide for the coach tour of Paris by night ~ Les Illuminations! At 23h00 the group will ascend to the 2nd floor for a magical view of this iconic city, before returning to the hotel - what a wonderful day and what an incredible life memory!

MONDAY 13 JULY   WHAT A FULL DAY - LOUVRE, NOTRE DAME, MONTMARTRE & PLACE DU TERTRE!

After a late return to the hotel last night, all enjoyed a slower start to the morning. At 09h45 we hopped on board the metro and made our way to the Musée du Louvre, where everyone was in awe of the magnificent exterior of this majestic national treasure. After several photoshoots, we presented ourselves to the Groups’ Desk, where we were furnished with headphones by our guide, Stephanie, who introduced us to so many wonderful works of art. All were then afforded time to recharge batteries with some retail therapy & lunch in the Louvre’s impressive ‘shopping gallery’. Thereafter we strolled leisurely along the banks of the River Seine past the bouquinistes to the magnificent cathedral of Notre Dame and we were delighted to witness a wonderful parade of cavalry heralding in the 14th July – the French National holiday which commemorates the storming of the Bastille. At 15h30 we hopped on the metro and made our way to Montmartre, where all enjoyed some souvenir shopping, before climbing the many stairs to Sacré Coeur, the wonderful white basilica which proudly stands on the highest natural point in Paris. We then walked to the Place du Tertre, where so many of the students opted to have their portraits painted …and how beautiful they were! Thereafter we all enjoyed a 3-course meal on the terrace of La Cremaillère, before returning to our hotel at 22h00. Everyone was by now totally exhausted, but on a real ‘high’, having enjoyed such a full and varied day in beautiful Paris! There is no doubt that everyone will sleep soundly tonight…!

TUESDAY 14 JULY  BASTILLE DAY & DISNEYLAND PARIS!

The 14th July, Bastille Day and how lovely for us to be in Paris! Our breakfast dining room was bedecked with blue, white and red decorations and looked so very festive, appropriately acknowledging this day of French national pride! Everyone was beyond excited at the thought of Disneyland Paris and at 10h00 they hopped on board the RER bound for Marne la Vallée. According to Katja and Sude, “ït was an awesome experience and we had the choice to go to the theme park or to the Studios and we all chose the latter! We got to see cool sets and props used in previous films, as well as enjoying roller coaster rides, which included going upside down and being dropped 12 stories in a lift – scary indeed!” Dinner tonight was in the hotel restaurant and to celebrate the day, there was live music which created a wonderful atmosphere. Thereafter, all were then given the option of staying in the hotel to pack & relax, or accompanying Liza-Marie & Spencer on a stroll to the Tuileries to try and catch a glimpse of the famous fireworks. Quelle journée magnifique!

WEDNESDAY 15 JULY   HOMEWARD BOUND

Today marks the final day of our tour and in 11 days we have managed to cover so much in the South of France & Paris. It has been a very happy tour, with students from Bridge House, Somerset College, St Cyprian’s Chesterhouse, Springfield Convent, Pinelands Girls High and Bloemhof all bonding so well. After breakfast this morning we left our luggage in the hotel ‘bagagerie’ and travelled by metro 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 had some free to visit the surrounds, which include l’Opéra Garnier, H & M, Printemps, Sephora and many, many other wonderful landmarks! At 14h30 all returned ‘home’ to freshen up, pack and ‘çhill’, before our organized coach transfer to the airport. I have confirmed the return flights, departing Paris @ 21h50 on flight EK76 and I am sure there is no need to remind all excited parents that your beloved children are scheduled to land at Cape Town International at 16h25 tomorrow, Thursday 16 July on EK770. Everyone will no doubt return exhausted after having accomplished so much in a relatively short space of time, but all have had the most incredible experience and whilst the many wonderful anecdotes may not immediately be forthcoming, they will, I know, reveal themselves in the days, months and even years to come! To act ‘in loco parentis’ is no mean task and Mr Spencer Jones & Mrs Liza-Marié Laubser have been exceptional chaperones. Not only have they ensured that your children have been well cared for, happy and safe throughout the tour, but they have added an extra dimension, for which I admire & applaud them. They have been an absolute pleasure for me to work alongside and their sense of fun, energy, spontaneity and enthusiasm have been inspirational. 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 say ‘merci beaucoup, bon retour et à la prochaine…..!’