During Spring Break 12 CSS students, two teachers and one parent traveled to London, Normandy, and Paris. Throughout our entire trip we had great weather and (unlike Clearwater, I hear) no snow or rain.
We began our tour in London, where we took the underground (or the “Tube” as the English refer to it), which was an exciting first experience for many of us. We visited the National Gallery, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, ate fish and chips, “bangers and mash” (which is just a fancy name for mashed potatoes and sausages) and saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace during our two-day stay. On day three we took the ferry across the English Channel, but before we left the UK we toured Canterbury Cathedral and viewed the white cliffs of Dover.
On our first day in France we visited the D-Day beaches in Normandy and the Caen Memorial, which is a museum dedicated to the Battle of Normandy, the beginning of World War Two, and the D-Day operation. Later that day we visited the Juno Beach memorial center and had a guided tour of the beach, which is where Canadian forces landed on June 6, 1944.
We also visited the American War Cemetery, which was beautiful and very moving. We also saw Pointe Du Hoc, which is a battle site that was left exactly as it was after the three-day battle that took place there beginning on D-Day. At that site, you can walk through the craters left by the extensive Allied bombing of the area and what’s left of the German bunkers. It was very interesting.
On our second day in northern France we visited Mont-St-Michel, which is an abbey on top of an island that for centuries was only accessible by land when the tide was out. We climbed the hill only to find that the government workers were on strike and had closed the abbey for the day in protest. However, the town on the island was full of fun tourist shops and had a great view of the surrounding scenic beaches.
That afternoon we went to St Malo, which is a city built on a rocky outcropping jutting out into the sea. The city is still surrounded by a protective medieval wall. On our tour of the city we saw Jacques Cartier’s grave at the local cathedral. He was born in St Malo, which gave us Canadians a personal connection to St Malo.
The next day we visited Chartres Cathedral on our way to Paris. This church has distinctive stained glass windows, and two famous different towers. The one Romanesque tower survived a fire that destroyed the rest of the cathedral, and by the time they rebuilt the other tower, the Gothic style was in fashion, so the two towers are completely different.
On our first night in Paris we saw the Eiffel tower sparkle, which it does every hour on the hour for five minutes, every night. We climbed up the first 600 stairs to the second floor, where we caught an elevator to the top floor. It was a beautiful view of Paris, and we were thrilled to be seeing Paris from the top of such an iconic monument. Over the next two days in Paris we visited the catacombs, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Latin Quarter, Sacre Coeur cathedral, Montmartre and the artists’ market, Moulin Rouge, the Louvre museum, Pere La Chez Cemetery, many monuments, statues, and the Arc de Triomphe. At the Louvre, we saw the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, The Raft of the Medusa, and many ancient Egyptian relics and Renaissance paintings and sculptures created by the likes of Da Vinci, Botticelli, and Michelangelo to name just a few.
We packed a lot into eight days. We also bonded a lot as a group. Let’s just say that not one female member of our group ever got lost, however, I can’t say the same for three out of the four boys on our trip. All in all it was an amazing trip filled will adventure, intrigue, and beaucoup de fun. Thank you to Mrs. Stel for leading us and inspiring us to travel with her. Thank you to Mr. Stel for organizing the trip and guiding us through Paris – especially through that one section of the cemetery again, again, and again. I am still not sure who the heck Jim Morrison is or Oscar Wilde for that matter, but I now know where their lipstick stained, gum encrusted graves are located. I don’t think I will ever be the same again … Merci!