At midnight on Wednesday 2nd April (just 2 months before the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings), 48 Year 8 and 9 pupils set off on a History and MFL trip to Normandy.
Nearly all of us managed to get at least some sleep on the overnight coach journey down to Folkestone where we stopped off and had breakfast. Unfortunately, we found out that sleep deprivation, the sudden intake of egg muffins and the movement of Le Shuttle was not a good combination for some of our pupils! However, the long overnight journey was soon forgotten as we reached our first stop on the tour, the beautiful harbor town of Honfleur, just in time for lunch. Pupils spent a couple of hours exploring the harbor, its shops and cafes and practising their spoken French. After getting stuck behind a locked door, Holly Bickerton learnt that ‘privé’ is French for ‘private’, not ‘toilet’.
After all had filled up on pomme-frites & glaces, we set off to le Château which we discovered was located in a stunning setting, surrounded by French countryside. Pupils quickly unpacked and started to explore the hotel and grounds. They were pleased to discover it had a games room, bar for soft drinks and loads of outdoor space for football and rounders. After a traditional meal of Porc de Normandie, some more football/karaoke, everyone made their way to bed for a well-deserved sleep after a very long day.
We awoke early the next day and after breakfast we set off to explore the Norman coastline and the locations of the key battles that took place on the 6th June, 1944. Our first stop was Pegasus Bridge and museum (recently visited by Prince Charles during the remembrance commemorations) where British Paratroopers succeeded so valiantly in making this the first area of Nazi-occupied France to be liberated. After this, we visited la Batterie de Merville, again attacked by British Paratroopers and then Ranville Cemetery, to pay our respects at the final resting place for many of them. We next stopped at Longues-sur-Mer to explore the huge artillery batteries that caused so much death on Omaha Beach. On the journey to France, we had watched Saving Private Ryan and its realistic portrayal of the events that occurred on Omaha Beach in June, 1944. We were therefore all really interested to be visiting the site for ourselves. We were able to have a really good wander around and visit the American cemetery where thousands of soldiers were buried. We went down to the beach itself, which many of the pupils found to be a surreal experience. Our last stop for Saturday was Point du Hoc - an area of huge bombardment with plenty of crater holes to show for it. There were fantastic views of the sea and coastline from here and it was a lovely end to the day. We arrived back at the Château, where there was another traditional Noman meal waiting for us. Afterwards, the pupils played some hilarious team games in which they had to ‘protect the egg’! Following this, another early night was required for an even earlier start the following day.
The third day of our tour began with a visit to Chèvrerie du Mesnil where the pupils were able to play with the goats before learning about how goats' cheese is made. We also got to sample a few different goats’ cheeses. Although this was the first time many of our pupils had tried goats' cheese, it went down very well with almost all. Following this, the group took the time to visit a German war cemetery, an eerie and somber experience. We then travelled to Bayeux, and following some time to explore the town and have lunch we visited the famous 11th-century tapestry depicting the Norman Conquest of 1066. Our final stop of the day was to the Arromanches where we spent some more time on the beach and then the 360° Cinema – a really interesting and poignant way to round off our History studies for the weekend. We saw real footage from World War 2 alongside beautiful bird’s eye views of the local area we had visited. After one final gift shop visit, we set off back to the château.
Our final meal of boeuf bourguignon followed the traditional experience of frogs' legs and snails tasting. All of the pupils were excellent sports and fearlessly ate up their portions of snails and frogs' legs. Some pupils, such as Callum Bettis and Rhiannon Harris, were real snail converts by the end of the meal! We rounded up our last evening with a farewell disco. A great time was had by all, especially some of Year 8 who really showed the rest how to dance! The next day we were quite sad to be making our way back to England after such a fun, eventful and action-packed trip. The journey, although long, wasn’t so bad as we had time to stop off at Cité Europe, the largest shopping centre in northern France, to stock up on lots of French goodies before heading back to Middlewich. Everyone had a great time on the trip to France and feel that the experience really helped our pupils to bring their studies in History and French to life. The pupils were superb throughout the whole trip and a credit to themselves and the school. All of the staff commented on what a pleasure it was to take such a lovely group. Thanks to Miss Beard, Miss Bolton, Miss Loffstadt and Mr Evans for helping with the smooth and successful running of the trip.