Study Tour to France - British International School

Few cities on Earth (if any) can compete with Paris when it comes to offering sensory stimuli. The sights, sounds, history, and flavour of Paris are justifiably legendary. BIS students must have known that when they have voted for Paris as the destination for their annual study tour and have been looking forward to this journey for months.

We dedicated our first evening to spend in Montmartre. We went to see the most famous cabaret in the world immortalized by the works by Toulouse-Lautrec – the Moulin Rouge. Then we went to the Place du Tertre, the place where artists gather to display their talents and try and convince us to let them draw our portraits.

Montmartre is also home to the Basilique du Sacre Coeur, a beautiful church, which is more famous for the view of Paris from its steps. We took a lot of photos and then decided to eat at a nice little restaurant while there. We had snails, French onion soup, duck in orange sauce, and finished off with a creme brulée. Most of the kids did not like the French food.

Next day we went to explore the Louvre which is one of the greatest collections of art and culture on the whole planet. The museum is HUGE so it can take weeks to admire it all. We only got to spend an afternoon in Louvre and we barely touched on things. However, we had to rush through and see some of the more famous artworks (Mona Lisa, Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo along with several other sculptures and paintings by Rafael and Michelangelo).

The Mona Lisa has a wall all to itself and is protected by glass, and there are several barriers preventing visitors from getting within about 15 metres of it. You really can’t get a good look at it but Luka managed to take very good photos for the school web site. I heard him saying: ”I’ve never been in a museum that made me feel so small and insignificant.”

The most important day of our trip was a day spent in Disneyland Paris. At 10am, music started to blast out of hidden speakers around the park, and we all started running towards the rides. KS3 students were with us all the time and seniors explored the park on their own.

We made our way to the Buzz Light Year ride. It was really quite fun as you would sit in a spaceship and try to shoot at targets with your laser gun.

The hotel Terror was an interesting ride though as we didn’t have a clue what to expect. We ended up being strapped to a seat, get lifted up and dropped down 13 levels very quickly about 3 times, and we’re only strapped in with a seatbelt!

The other rides we covered that day included of course Space Mountain 2, Star Tours, Peter Pan, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, Crush Coaster, Disney’s ‘Finding Nemo’ spinning roller coaster ride where you rode through the East Australian current and It’s a Small World. As we were walking around, we spotted Pluto and Donald, so had to take the obligatory photos with them. We also checked out some of the souvenir shops for fantastic souvenirs.

Disneyland closed at 8 pm that night with a magnificent parade of Disney’s characters who sang and danced mostly Christmas Carols. All in all, it was a great Disney experience for us all, and students thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They claimed it was their favourite day of the entire trip though some of them felt tired and dizzy.

The bus was waiting for us and we went back to Paris to visit the Eiffel Tower. Lights of various colours in the night, this was splendid sight to see. On the top of each hour it is lighted up and shimmers like diamonds! We had a special treat there. Anastasia felt like singing and she sang a song for us (what an amazing voice) at the second level of the Tower with that spectacular view behind her, surrounded by the lights that glittered brilliantly. What a better way to end a day.

On the third day we went for an excursion out of Paris to visit Palace of Versailles, most famously known as the royal retreat of Louis XIV and his wife, Marie-Antoinette. The building, the rooms, and the hall of mirrors – everything was absolutely gorgeous. But the gardens were amazing. The kids ran around huge fountains and statues and hedges carved in intricate designs and had a great time.

In the afternoon we decided to head over to the Galleries Lafayette Department Store. A stunning range of fashions in elegant boutiques within the stores. Walking in on the ground floor you totally just feel like you are in Paris – surrounded by perfume and make up counters that could take up at least two football fields. Girls adored it. Robin bought Dior’s boots though some of the designer prices were just outrageous. I fell in love with a million pairs of shoes….but decided to hold off on the purchases! Almost everyone bought a perfume. We barely scraped the surface of Galleries Lafayette and Printemps in four hours.

After short recovery in Starbucks, where we watched people watching people, we headed back to the Champs D’Elsysees, the shopping centre of the universe, for window shopping! Our favourite! Armani, Cartier, LaCoste, and of course Louis Vuitton. This street has the potential to bankrupt the richest of the rich. We saw a woollen cap in Louis Vuitton for over 300 Euros… for a CAP!!! On the way, we also found the most expensive women’s shoes. I think they were over 2,000 Euros for one pair! Who buys this stuff, honestly?? We discovered the macaroon cookies which were amazing. We bought a little box of mini-macaroons so that we could try each flavour.

We started day four with Notre Dame Cathedral to check out the beautiful stained glass windows and look for Quasimodo. The stained glass did not disappoint, but unfortunately the hunt for the hunchback did not prove fruitful. We saw the large bell named Emmanuel. It’s really massive, over 13 tons. Aleks commented that Quasimodo would have to be pretty ripped to ring a 13 ton bell. From there we strolled through the Latin Quarter, passed by Sorbonne (Ana said her goal is to study there), saw Arc de Triomphe with the Eternal flame at the base of the memorial. “If the flame is eternal, why do they have to relight it?” asked one of the students.

Our French adventures went on with a tour of the Loire Valley. We visited five castles in two days: Chateau de Cheverney, Chateau de Chenonceau, Chateau Blois, Chateau Chambord and Chateau Amboise.

Both hotels that we stayed in were very good, especially the one in Blois, which had a swimming pool. No need to say how much everybody enjoyed swimming after the whole day of exploring the castles.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in many ways, going to France was worth a thousand pictures. Our time in Paris went by so quickly. This truly was an experience of a lifetime and we are all glad we had the opportunity to come on this trip.