Blog: Year 7 French Trip

DAY 1

What time is it? Are we there yet? Are they there yet? Where am I? Who stood on my ham sandwich? Why are your jokes not very good, Mr Bradbury?

All frequently asked questions from the moment we met at the ridiculously early hour of 4.30am on a fine Monday morning at Sandroyd. But did anyone complain? No! All of the children were bright eyed and bushy tailed…at least until we got down to the coast and all went relatively silent!

The journey went well and the children were very well behaved…when they weren’t snoozing, they were playing with Rubiks cubes, reading, playing cards - Top Trumps was popular -making friendship bracelets…and…talking to each other!

Pains au chocolat were consumed for breakfast and fab ham sandwiches and various other goodies supplied by the marvellous Rob from back at base for lunch. We arrived at 7.30pm at Maison Claire Fontaine, only half an hour behind schedule, due to a series of long roadworks around Paris. But the children veritably leapt off the bus and started speaking French straight away to the teachers who had gathered to greet us.

  

They enjoyed a wonderful meal then free time playing in the evening sunshine that beamed down on a fine Burgundian evening. They went to bed and slept soundly. The hard part was over but again, what a great group we have here…so engaged and polite. And they even laughed at some of my jokes…well Ivo and Edward did…and it isn’t true that that was just because I bribed them with extra Jaffa Cakes.

It is now the start of Day 2, the sun is ripe in the azure sky and the children are about to have breakfast, then off to a variety of activities from archery, to French lessons, to cookery and a late afternoon walk. Updates daily! A bientôt!

 

DAY 2 

Burgundy was ablaze this morning with glorious sunshine. Temperatures tickled 30c and the children were up and ready by 8am – playing outside – some throwing balls, some on the table tennis tables, some testing their skills on the table football. Breakfast was wolfed down before the day started in earnest. There was archery, cookery and French lessons for all. Clearly, many of the children had not forgotten lessons learned by our ancestors at Agincourt and popped balloons with alacrity – others seemed intent on scaring the wits out of distant wildlife and fired high and far over the targets! It also has to be noted here that the girls are particularly good with the bow and arrow! Tarte tatins were made in abundance and later judged on looks and taste by discerning staff. Clearly, some future contestants for Master Chef are amongst us!

After a fabulous lunch, there was more free time; some read, others played on the swings and the table tennis tables were all busy.

In the afternoon the children were split into two groups for a walk through the woods to the impressive ancient granite quarry. They learned all about the local wildlife including Charolais cattle, wild boar, deer and trout, as well as the way the granite was mined – and, all in French! The children were impressive in their efforts to recall vocabulary and towards the end of the walk the groups were split into teams to complete a game centred on what they had learned. The scenery is fabulous, awash as it is with vibrant cornflowers, broom, marigolds, all dwelling amidst the deep greenery that makes up this deep, deep part of France.

The late afternoon before supper the children again enjoyed free time and it was so wonderful to watch all the happy, smiling faces as they interacted together or simply soaked up the atmosphere. After supper, they were all put into teams to try and complete a giant jigsaw puzzle before retiring for a well earned night’s rest.

The children all continue to be well behaved and polite – a real credit to Sandroyd.

Every child seems fully engaged and we have all been very impressed with how well they all integrate, support and encourage each other.

  

 

DAY 3 

The children slept deep and well last night; despite a remarkably sonorous thunderstorm that raged briefly but spectacularly around 2am. The morning was a tad cloudy but by midday the sun was smiling high in the sky and the temperature snuck quietly into the early 20s, cooler than yesterday but still very pleasant indeed. There were lessons in French in which they learned a song about an elephant and worked on a dance! They also got to make mosaic tiles, and as usual, all the instructions were in French with questions to ensure everyone understood. The children were not shy in their responses and again, I was very impressed with their French and how quickly they picked vocabulary up, as well as their ever-improving accents! The mosaic tiles they designed were very stylish indeed and are currently setting. Clearly many have Roman blood in them!

After a very hearty hot lunch which was devoured with a flourish, the children had free time before our trip to Vezelay. They had been well prepared in their lessons yesterday and in teams, each with an adult leader, they conducted a questionnaire on their way up to the Basilica. Many unsuspecting locals were confronted with eager students and the interaction was great to see. Sandroyd children are flying the flag well here and their polite and friendly approach won friends and garnered positive remarks. The French teachers who work for Maison Claire Fontaine are excellent and they have formed a great bond with the Year 7 pupils. They guided the children around the beautiful Basilica explaining in English and French the history of the building and especially the story of the holy relic in the crypt – a rib from the body of Mary Magdalene. Afterwards, we all had a drink stop in the gardens and marvelled at the stunning views across the valley. Opportunity, too, for a group photo! Then the children had time to pop into shops to buy some local pastries. Again, their manners were impeccable.

  

As I type, I can hear the happy sounds of the boys and girls playing outside. Supper is very soon and, if the smells wafting from the kitchen are anything to go by, it is going to be another super meal.

We have also celebrated two birthdays whilst we have been here and the spirit of the children (and the staff it has to be said!) could not be higher.

After supper we have a pétanque competition. Tomorrow we are off to a traditional local sweet factory in the morning and a chateau in the afternoon. Never a dull moment, and certainly never a boring one.

Rest assured Year 7 are all having a fabulous time and making the most of every moment. A joy to spend time with.

 

 

DAY 4

Yet another wonderful day in our week-long sojourn in this idyllic corner of La Belle France.

Today we set off after breakfast for Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, a journey of some 45 minutes through stunning scenery. True, it was a little chillier than yesterday, but by the time we arrived the sun was beginning to doff its cap and all was well. The children were in awe. We had a talk outside the famous sweet factory – Anis de Flavigny – before a tour to watch the sweets being made. They export to over 45 countries just from this one small place. It has been producing sweets since the 1600s! Julius Caesar brought the first aniseed to the region and used them to improve the health of any soldiers who were ill. There is also, as ever in this land of romance, a love story involved, but I will leave it to your sons and daughters to tell that tale! The Abbey-St-Pierre, which now also belongs to the factory, is very impressive despite being mostly in ruins. It contains the 8th century tomb of St. Reine and the children were fascinated by the story behind it. Oh, and yes, they all got to sample various anis sweets! The visit was a veritable hit with them!

Then after a picnic lunch, observed by two very friendly dogs and a Siamese cat, we had time to stroll around the village itself, voted recently as one of the most beautiful in France. It was so pretty and even had a street named Rue Trop Chaud (Too Hot Street!).

Then a short drive to Chateau de Bussy Rabutin. Again, a place of jaw-dropping beauty. Our teachers from the centre took groups round on a tour and explained all the fascinating stories entwined within its walls. A play was even acted out by the staff (I have to say at this point that the staff member who played King Louis XIV did so with an Oscar winning performance!) to illustrate how Rabutin came to be exiled here and how he developed it into such a finely decorated home.

After a drink and snack break, the children were split into teams with teachers for leaders. Each team member had to memorise a question in French and then race around a maze to get to the centre where, on reciting the question correctly, they would be given the answer card. It was a lot of fun and there was an enjoyably competitive air between the sides! It is not for me to point out, but I will, that Miss Adkin pinched our team’s rap method for memorising the questions!

Then we piled back into the coach, happy and tired, as the sun shone high in the aquamarine sky, to head for Maison Claire Fontaine.

As I type, the children are getting themselves ready for supper and then….the Disco!

It has been yet another marvellous day. Every single child has smiled their way through every hour. There has been nothing but unconfined joy and friendship so far. No tears. No homesickness. Everyone has looked out for everyone else and I do not think I have been on such a joyous school trip for a very long time.

Tomorrow morning, we are off to the market to allow the children to buy ingredients for their lunch, obviously employing their impressive French. Then in the afternoon we will be visiting the supermarket in Avallon.

 

Final Day

 The weather turned a little more autumnal this morning. After breakfast, the children were given a talk about the market we were about to visit, and they were tested on useful phrases and market related vocabulary. Then off we set to Vermenton. We arrived in good time and though the skies were overcast our spirits were not! The children were given a sum of money per group to buy ingredients to create a cold buffet style meal and they set about the task with zeal and an eye for a bargain! They interacted very well with the local vendors and many were offered free samples to taste along the way. Children were seen wandering hither and thither with ever bulging shopping bags and one young lady was jealously guarding her prize pineapple purchased after careful negotiation. Poulet roti seemed fairly popular as did the strawberries and golden kiwis. Gaufres were bought to add to desserts. Freshly squeezed local apple juice, saucisson sec, hams of varying descriptions and regional cheese were all purchased in flowing French. The rain held off until we got back on the coach which was jolly kind of it. On return to the centre the task was for each group to prepare their food and present it with as much Gallic flair as possible! Then they had to write it up on a white board and make a presentation to the whole group, and judges, in French, explaining what they were going to eat and where they had bought it. These were all incredibly impressive – every child spoke with aplomb and the camaraderie was plain to see. And gosh their food looked good!

Then all that remained was to tuck in!

After lunch and a short rest, we all headed off to the hypermarket in Avallon. We spent just over an hour there and, once again, and without sounding like a broken record, the children’s behaviour was first class. I think they have impressed a lot of people in the local environ!

The children are now all packing ready for a very brisk and breezy start tomorrow morning at the alarmingly early hour of 4am. Yikes!

Then they will be having a drama lesson in French, creating sketches for the staff to watch before supper. Tonight it is snails followed by steak hâché-frites! Let’s hope the first course does not slow them down too much! Once all the table have been cleared we will all gather to watch a French video before an early night.

It has been a super week, enjoyed by all, not least yours truly who has been highly impressed by every member of Year 7. A real credit to Sandroyd….. and to you!

à demain!