There was great excitement this afternoon as students from a variety of schools (St Alban’s College, St Mary’s DSG PTA, St John’s College, St Peter’s College, St Stithian’s Girls College and Southdowns College) gathered at OR Tambo to embark on an exciting & academically enriching tour to la belle France! I am delighted to be accompanied by 3 experienced chaperones: Marianne Scholtz, Kona van Rooyen & Tanya Jones and you can all rest assured that your precious children will be in good hands! Check-in went smoothly and we are all looking forward to flying on the magnificent A380 to Paris, Roissy Charles de Gaulle. We are scheduled to arrive there bright & early tomorrow and then connect to Nice, Cote d’Azur, where members of the language school (Le Centre International d’Antibes) will be waiting to greet us. 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 - Michelle may also be contacted if need be on 071 351 1410.


Breakfast was served at 03h30 this morning (!!) and at 05h35 we made a perfect landing in Paris, Roissy Charles de Gaulle. Although a little weary, all were in good spirits and so excited to be in la belle France. We effortlessly made our through security & passport control to Terminal 2F, where we awaited our domestic flight to Nice. Here we were warmly greeted by our 2 animatrices for the week, Marie & Claire, who escorted us to our awaiting coach. Once on campus we enjoyed a delicious picnic lunch in the central courtyard, where the Management team explained their expectations of the students & the formal programme for the week. Thereafter all were given access to their rooms and they had time to freshen up and change into beachwear for their much anticipated afternoon in Antibes. We started our tour at the spectacular Place de Gaulle, before walking through the marché provençal and along the ramparts, which offered such magnificent views of the Cote d’Azur. At the quaint little beach, La Gravette, many enjoyed bobbing in the calm waters of the Mediterranean Sea, before discovering the hidden gems of the vieille ville ... rumour has it that they found “the best ice-cream ever”!  Upon return to campus, all enjoyed dinner in the school restaurant, before being introduced to the other international students and everyone is very excited for the week ahead in this idyllic part of the world! A reminder to follow my face-book page, by either searching ‘Personal Touch Schooltours – August Independent’ or by following the link and clicking ‘LIKE’ to receive updates. A demain…..


Last night was apparently great fun, as our group became acquainted with all the other students on campus. After breakfast this morning, everyone made their way to their designated classes and in spite of some initial trepidation, all emerged ‘unscathed’(!) and most were really happy with their level of placement. One or two asked to be moved (some up/some down) in order to feel more comfortable and this was arranged with the minimum of fuss. After a delicious lunch, we all hopped on board our coach and made our way to the Principality of Monaco. The views en route were magnificent and everyone was in awe of the spectacular mountains and azure blue sea … but the only down-side was that half of France seemed to be enjoying the same experience!! The traffic was horrendous and we arrived in Monaco much later than anticipated, but this in no way deterred from the enjoyment of the visit. We started with a ride on le petit train, a tourist train which weaves its way through the famous F1 streets, followed by a viewing of the Palace, some souvenir shopping, a visit to the Cathedral, a walk through the Princess Grace Exotic Gardens, before departing for home at 18h45. It was a wonderful day and the singing and social interaction for the entire journey back to campus lay testament to this! Tonight there is a soirée barbecue followed by ‘une soirée dansante’ … should be fun!


Having effected the modifications for those who had requested this, everyone happily made their way to class this morning and all really enjoyed their lessons. After a delicious lunch a ver y excited (and loud!) group of animated students hopped on board the train to Cannes. We first made our way to the Palais des Festivals, where all loved posing on ‘le tapis rouge’ and then they became the real stars of the red carpet, as many spontaneously took to dancing & singing, drawing crowds from afar! Had they put hats down for a collection, they would have made a fortune! We then announced ‘du temps libre’, which equates to free time, and most headed for the well-known brand stores such as Zara, Morgan and Galéries Lafayette, as well as to the more affordable shops on la Rue Meynadier, with its abundance of bargains in all shapes and sizes. The St Peter ’s College four-some decided to brave the heat and join Marie, Claire & the teachers for the walk up to Le Suquet, a landmark in Vieux Cannes which affords a magnificent view over the yacht-lined bay & the Estérel Mountains. At 17h45, a happy band of travellers returned to Antibes and after a quick dinner & shower, everyone boarded the bus for the evening excursion to vibrant Juan les Pins, a small town adjacent to Antibes which transforms into a wonderful tourist destination during the summer holidays, attracting many rich and famous personalities. The beachfront is strewn with colourful stalls and the sight of diners enjoying a meal on the beach in the moonlight with the waves lapping at their feet, is always so romantic! Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the evening and only returned to campus at 23h30…where they literally fell into bed!


The colours & fragrances of summer in this magnificent part of the world are indescribable and everyone awoke to another picture-perfect day. After a substantial breakfast, much fun in the classroom and a delicious lunch, all boarded the air-conditioned coach for their afternoon excursion to Grasse, which is known as the ‘balcony of Provence’ for its magnificent views. It is also known world-wide as the home to French perfume and everyone thoroughly enjoyed a fascinating guided tour of the Fragonard Parfumerie, before having the opportunity to purchase authentic products from their on-site boutique ~ judging by the many packets & strong scent in the coach, all had great fun! The tour then continued on to the Gorges du Loup, where we visited the Florian Confisserie, world renowned for its sweets, chocolates & jams, which also boasts a wonderful on-site boutique! The return journey was incredible in terms of energy & volume – to witness 34 ecstatic students singing their hearts out as they danced in their seats was heart-warming indeed and a very special memory for all.


Once again we awoke to beautiful sunshine & clear blue skies on the Côte d’Azur and a wonderful day indeed for Daniel Soverall on his birthday - joyeux anniversaire! Everyone made him feel very special, with Mme Scholtz organizing a gift & a card and the language school organizing 2 wonderful cakes at lunchtime. After the ceremonial blowing out of the candles and sing-song, everyone excitedly boarded the coach to the Yacht Club in Antibes, where they donned life jackets and listened attentively to the instructions for sailing on 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! After the sailing we all made our way to the public beach, where we relaxed, frolicked in the waters and ate ice-creams until our departure at 17h00. What a very special afternoon in this idyllic part of the world and tonight the traditional soirée cabaret will take place in the campus theatre and all of our students are eager to show off their many & varied talents!


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 newly revamped Place Masséna all were afforded ‘du temps libre’. Many immediately headed off to the name brand boutiques along the Boulevard Jean Medécin, whilst others explored the narrow streets of Vieux Nice or soaked up the glorious sunshine on the pebbled beachfront. At 18h30 all returned to the campus and by popular request, a 2nd visit to the vibrant summer resort of Juan les Pins has been organized, which is bound to be a perfect ending to our week on the French Riviera!


This morning all had their cases downstairs by 8.30am and were ready to hop onto the bus for a final visit to Antibes at 9.00am. Many enjoyed strolling through the old town, buying last minute souvenirs, whilst some opted to visit the Picasso Museum and others chose to have one final swim in the Mediterranean. At 12h00 we gathered at the Place de Gaulle fountains, where a bus was waiting to transport us back to campus, where we were given a packed lunch. Everyone enjoyed this quiet time in the shade of the beautiful central courtyard and all said a fond farewell to new-found friends... with many a tear! Once at the airport, our drama started as, halfway through check-in, all the computers crashed and the queues were out of the doors! There were some anxious moments as we prayed for all our group to make it on board, but this we did and we arrived safely in Paris at 18h30. Our 3* hotel Campanile Paris La Villette is lovely and everyone was delighted to have a delicious 3 course meal which was beautifully presented and accompanied by cokes & orange juice. Everyone was exhausted and all were delighted to have no ‘formal’ arrangements for the evening … other than to ‘chill’ and sleep.


This morning we had an early start and after a delicious breakfast, we made our way by metro to the Musée du Louvre. Here we fast-tracked our way to the ‘groups desk’ where we were furnished with headphones and introduced to our guide. The students were in awe of the many amazing works of art and, as chaperones, we were very impressed by the sincere interest they showed, with several children even asking to see particular pieces. We then had time to visit the Louvre’s impressive ‘shopping gallery’, where all enjoyed some retail therapy & ate lunch, before strolling leisurely though the beautiful neo-classical gardens of the Jardin des Tuileries to La Place de la Concorde. At 14h00 we returned to our hotel to relax and freshen up, before our late afternoon/early evening excursion to Montmartre. Everyone really enjoyed this outing, starting with some souvenir shopping en route to the beautiful basilica of Sacré Coeur and ending with portraits being painted & a delicious 3 course dinner at La Cremaillère on the Place du Tertre! At 21h30 a very happy band of travellers returned to the hotel, having had an amazing first full day in Paris!


Everyone was grateful for the later start this morning and after another delicious breakfast all excitedly made their way by metro to the Champs Elysées where, girls & boys alike, enjoyed discovering the hidden gems on this world famous boulevard! At 16h00 we made our way to Trocadero, which offers a magnificent perspective of the Eiffel Tower and there were squeals of joy from those who had never seen this Parisian icon before. After several photo shoots, we enjoyed some street theatre en route to our reservation on Les Bateaux Parisiens. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed this relaxing cruise with informative commentary and they were amazed & enthralled by the beauty of all the famous landmarks. At 18h30 we gathered for dinner in the restaurant alongside the river, Le Bisto Parisien, which never fails to impress and here we were treated in fine style to a delicious 3 course meal. At 20h00 we met with our guide for the Paris by night coach tour and we all so appreciated her incredible knowledge, inter-personal skills and sense of humour. At 22h00 we stood in awe of the sparkling Eiffel Tower and felt so blessed to witness this. The coach driver then dropped us by the ‘group access’, where we fast-tracked the queues to ascend to the 2nd floor of this incredible structure and at 23h55 we were delivered safely back to the front door of our hotel. Everyone unanimously agreed that this had been a very, very special day!


This morning everyone was so very excited at the thought of Disneyland Paris and at 10h00 we hopped on board the RER bound for Marne la Vallée. Once in the park, the teachers said farewell to the group, as they rushed off to join the throngs of tourists and at 18h30 we were reunited with some tired, but exceptionally happy children! Although the queues had been long, apparently all the rides were worth the wait and they had all so enjoyed reliving their childhood fantasies. Dinner tonight was in the hotel restaurant and once again the meal was delicious, accompanied by a great deal of chatter! What a superb day and such wonderful memories we have all shared!


Today marks the final day of our tour and there are certainly mixed feelings - sadness leaving those we have become used to seeing on a daily basis and excitement to see loved ones back home! By 10h00 we had already said farewell to Matthew Green, the Freeman sisters and Tanya Jones, one of our amazing chaperones. We left our luggage in the bagagerie before setting off for our final taste of Paris, as we made our way to l’Ile de la Cite. Everyone was so impressed by the magnificent cathedral of Notre Dame, with the majority of students gaining immediate access using the ‘Jenny Peddle queue-hopping technique’! There was no encouragement needed when I suggested that the final few hours be spent on Boulevard Haussmann, visiting the famous Galéries Lafayette and all the other ‘gems’ in close proximity! By 16h30 we were back at the hotel, where we freshened up & changed, before boarding our coach to CDG. Check-in went quickly and without any problems and here we said a fond farewell to 2 more members of our group, Daniel & Rebecca Soverall. Those remaining enjoyed the duty free shops before our scheduled departure at 23h30. It has truly been such a successful tour and a great joy to once again escort an outstanding group of students to France – all have been superb ambassadors for their families, their schools & South Africa! The ultimate success of any tour depends largely on the chaperones and I sincerely appreciate the invaluable assistance of my dear friends and French colleagues: Marianne Scholtz, Kona van Rooyen-Enslin and Tanya Jones. They have been an amazing support for me and fine role-models for your children and we share precious memories of this tour - merci mille fois mes chères amies, for flying the Personal Touch banner so high! So much has been packed into the last 13 days 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 say 'merci beaucoup, bon retour et a la prochaine'!