Students return from France

Thirty-three students and four teachers travelled to Europe over the March Break and for all it was an amazing experience. One of the highlights for many of the students was the opportunity to speak French. Craig Lyons said it best when he quipped “If you ate today, thank a French teacher” after failing to find something to eat during our stopover in Bolougne! 
The students left Glencoe on Thursday March 8 and took an overnight flight to Paris where they immediately boarded a bus to begin the first of many battlefield tours. At the Canadian National Memorial Park at Vimy Ridge, they toured the trenches and tunnels of the Allied forces, spent time in the museum and were awed by the actual monument which bears the names of thousands of Canadian soldiers.
After an overnight stay in Arras the group travelled to Ypres in Belgium where they met their tour guide Filip Depergh. The first stop at Essex Farm was perhaps one of the most poignant for the students as this is where John McCrae wrote “In Flanders Fields”.  Two more cemetery tours followed, the Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial and the Langemark German Military Cemetery. Filip was an engaging guide who explained details of the battles and shared stories that allowed the students to understand what these areas would have been like during battle times.
Along the way, Natasha Thomson stopped to take the picture of her great uncle Private W F Vanstone shown elsewhere in this paper.
During some free time in the afternoon, many students shopped for Belgian chocolate, scarves and souvenirs. In the evening Natasha Thomson and Steven VanBilsen had the honour of laying a wreath during the Last Post Ceremony at Menin Gate which was attended by approximately a thousand people. This moving tribute occurs every night, rain or shine. The inscribed names Private Charles MacGregor Blott and Private WF Vanstone are among the 54,896 Commonwealth soldiers who perished during World War 1 and have no known final resting place.
The next day began with a stop at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetary where Patrick Wood viewed the grave of his great great grandfather, Wlliam Henry Rose.
On the way to Dieppe, the coach driver, Philip wowed the staff and his students as he took a “road less travelled” which required him to squeeze through a tunnel just a few centimetres wider than the bus! The drive was worth it as it ended in an area of Dieppe that many won’t see. There is a beautiful tribute to the Canadian soldiers who lost their lives in this tragic attempt at a beach landing. Students had some time to explore the larger beach of Dieppe and the beautiful town of cafes and hotels. On the way to the hotel, as the sun was setting many took pictures at the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetary.
The next day was a highlight for many of our students and staff as this day was spent at Cite Scolaire Andre Maurois, the school with which Ms. Oliver’s French classes had exchanged videos as part of their class work. Ms. Grover’s pen pal since high school, Severine arranged for the GDHS students to sit in on several classes, have a tour of the school, eat lunch with the French students and then participate in a tour of the beautiful seaside town of Deauville. After the tour and some free time, parents and students at the school prepared a light dinner and social time. This day was a fantastic opportunity for GDHS students to practice their French language while learning about teenage life. Many have become Facebook friends with the hope of maintaining contact for many years.
After Deauville, it was on to Caen, the site of William the Conquerer’s fortress, where the students would spend three nights at a beautiful hotel. One of the day trips out of Caen was to Mont St. Michel, a breathtaking fortress and abbey that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 1000 step climb and tour were well worth it.
That afternoon the group learned the story of William the Conqueror by listening to a whisper set tour of the Bayeux Tapestry. At night, back in Caen, everyone climbed to the top of The Fortress for a view of the city and its many abbeys.
The last two days of the trip were action-packed tours of Paris by coach, boat and on foot. On the tour was the Louvre where guides showed students some key sculptures and paintings such as Venus de Milo, the Mona Lisa and David to name a few. Everyone went up the Eiffel Tower and saw from above the many sites they had seen earlier in the day. Several students had their hands full of purchases from the day’s shopping during free time.
After dinner on the last night, while waiting for the coach at the Arc de Triomphe, the Glencoe Senior Tap group spontaneously performed their routine. This brought on a challenge from a trio of observers who responded with a few dance steps of their own. These girls were shut down when Glencoe cheerleaders threw up a stunt and wowed their opponents. Then, of course, the teachers had to get in a rendition of “Stop in the Name of Love”!
The trip was a huge success and the teachers are very proud of how the Glencoe students conducted themselves.
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