This time last week we were all busy preparing to set off to France on Monday, but in the blink of an eye the week has passed and we are all safely back home. We were lucky enough to have a week of great weather, sunny days but not too hot – perfect for trips to the beach whenever there was time.
We had kept our itinerary the same as last year, but somehow this year the time just flew – hence the absence of blog posts during the visit. Instead we regularly used Twitter and Periscope to keep families and friends up to date with what we were doing. Each of the visits was fantastic and valuable in a different way. As well as being immersed in the language and culture of France, children were able to learn about several different trades and ways of traditional life, including baking, farming and sweet-making. They had chance to visit and explore a number of towns and villages and to admire the architecture and local sites of interest.
Tuesday is centred on food, and we were able to return to the boulangerie we visited in our second year. The bakery is run by a married couple and the baker is very skilled in teaching children the vocabulary associated with baking bread and croissants. Children also learnt about traditional techniques such as using a wood-burning oven and even got to try their hands at croissant making. After lunch we headed to Boulogne to a sweet factory, where children followed the process of making two types of sweets, with volunteers able to try out pouring the syrup into the jelly sweet moulds. The best part is of course the tasting of the completed boiled sweets in a range of delicious flavours.
On Tuesday evening we walked down to the centre of Hardelot, and children chose a soft drink and a crepe at a traditional brasserie. As it was a beautiful evening we were also able to head to the beach for games, sandcastle making and a good run around as the sun set.
Wednesday is our WW1 day, which enabled children to gain first hand experience of aspects of life in the trenches. This year we managed to squeeze even more into what is always a jam-packed day. As well as a tour of the tunnels under the town hall in Arras, a visit to Wellington Quarry where thousands of soldiers lived and worked for months, and the essential visit to the stunning Vimy Ridge memorial, children were also able to take a guided tour at Vimy, led by a Canadian volunteer. This gave them an insight into life in the trenches and the lead up to the battle that took place at Vimy.
On Wednesday night we headed into the woodland next to Le Pre Catalan, for the night hike, led by PGL staff. Children sang songs, chant and played games as it becomes darker. By the time we returned to the centre children were well and truly worn out and quickly fell asleep.
On Thursday we headed for the town of Le Touquet, but on the way we called at Etaples Cemetery. This beautiful cemetery is incredibly powerful at giving children some understanding of how many lives were lost during the World Wars. Children had time to wander around the graves and read some of the inscriptions – each one is different.At Le Touquet we visited the market, where children can choose to spend their money and compare the fresh food available to what they see for sale at home. The fresh fish stalls are always a talking point. We ate our baguettes on the beach and played games before heading inland to Le Fond Des Communes – a farm which produces goat cheese. After giving out homemade waffles for us all to try, the farmer’s wife spoke in French to tell the children all about the goats and what looking after them entails. As well as goats, there were chickens, cows, dogs and rabbits wandering around. Then we moved inside for a demonstration about the process of cheese making, when children can sample the cheese and see – and taste – how it changes as it ages.
Thursday night is always a highlight – the disco! Best clothes are a must and again, the PGL staff choose a playlist that gets everyone on the dance floor and enjoying themselves. Afterwards, there was just time for a spooky story from Mr Huthart before bed, and the end of our week.
This year the average age of our children was much lower than the previous years – we took mostly Year 3 children – but we were all so impressed by how mature and independent everyone was throughout the week. If children missed home, they didn’t dwell on it and certainly didn’t let it stop them from enjoying every activity. They threw themselves into the week and we were even stopped by a French lady on the beach front in Hardelot, who told us that our children were very well behaved. We all had a fantastic week and were very proud to accompany such as wonderful group of children. Until next year!
Mrs Mercer 🙂