Year 9 French Exchange to Bayeux
Getting up extremely early, we travelled to Normandy by coach and had a sunny stop in lovely Honfleur. Our first challenge was to look natural on the old fashioned carousel ride, and then order our first ice cream in French, s’il vous plait! We ended our long journey in the wedding reception room of the Town Hall (l’Hotel du Doyen is not a hotel!). The local representative mentioned in her speech that our visit coincided with the European Week in Bayeux, so we felt doubly welcome. After gifts and drinks, the French families took our students away for their first evening “en famille”.
The first morning started in school, and our visit fell during the Y9 careers fair in school. Instead of lessons, the students were given 20mn presentations on various professions organised by local adults. I was an insight for everyone on that day. After break, we walked to the local Médiathèque, where the students had to discover the various areas available to the public, and explore the French classics in children’s books. The travelling desks were a hit, as well as the snug reading area. Lunch at school and the afternoon started our cultural visit. Our guide walked us around the main sites in town, and in one hour, we covered 2 centuries of mainly Anglo-French history. Hopefully, our booklet will help us retain most of the key moments… The world famous Bayeux Tapestry was next, having been explained during our tour. An amazing sight which doesn’t fail to impress! It was the perfect introduction to the Anglo- French re-enactment battle that took place later that day at the laser games. The French boys defeated ours, but the English girls won their battles! A few of our students reached the top score twice! That evening, we all reconciled our differences while tackling the avalanche of pizzas that was waiting for us back in Bayeux. Topped with a crêpe; the perfect end of a very busy first day!
During the week-end, the families organised a lot to entertain our students; some went as far as Paris, Mt St Michel, Caen, others went to castles, adventure parks, aquariums, the beach, a dance show, farms, night visits to museums, markets… Some played football, mini golf, went swimming, others made sushi, attended a birthday party or played in an orchestra. It was so very varied; it was hard to keep up with their news on the Monday! Monday was our historical D day. Our guide, who was a parent in the exchange last year, gave us the background stories of the 6th June 1944. We visited the Arromanches museum, climbed to the circular cinema to get better acquainted with the Normandy landings. We walked around the Longues batteries, visited the Pointe du Hoc site as well as Omaha beach, where so many American troops died on that day. Our last stop was the American cemetery, where the moving video account of some of the surviving soldiers set the scene for the 5pm Retreat Ceremony. Many of us learnt a great deal about how WWII came to an end 75 years ago.
Our last morning, we gathered with our French partners and Mr Wilson taught us 2 Scottish dances. It was not as easy as it sounds, as speed and coordination were required, but we all gave it a try! We finished our visit with a French song and some English lyrics, and a photo with the other European visitors to the school. It was just time enough to spend our last Euros in the local supermarket, and we were already going home!
A packed-full stay, six days spent living the French life and experiencing what school cannot conjure up in lessons. We are very grateful to our hosts for making feel so welcome and sharing their daily lives with us. A lot of French was spoken and heard! Mr Wilson and Mr Johnson both improved daily!
I sincerely hope the students keep in touch with their French partner and maintain their linguistic and friendship links in the years to come. From all of us; MERCI!