Voyage a Paris

Paris Trip: February 2011

   We arrived fresh faced at Lincoln train station at the civilised hour of 5 o’clock. After numerous coffees we were soon on our way to catch the Eurostar from St. Pancras. Madame Keegan was very keen to teach us Belote, a popular card game amongst the French, however her efforts were unsuccessful. Let’s just say it was a rather complicated game involving ‘trumps’. Our William Farr troop met with another group from Branston who were also travelling to Paris for the ‘Your future in Europe’ conferences.

   In search of our hotel, we struggled through the metro with our suitcases, which is not ideal when there are numerous turnstiles and escalators to get through! (However the moving walkway was a novelty). After having quickly settled in we went for a stroll around Montmartre to adjust to the Parisian atmosphere. It was rather amusing to see an artist draw a caricature of the teachers as they sat in a typical French restaurant. Sacre Coeur gave us a beautiful panoramic view of Paris, and much excitement was had at the first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. We took the opportunity to visit the designer shopping centre Galleries Lafayette while we could before we retired for an early night after a long day of travelling.

   Beginning the first full day with the Eiffel Tower was the peak of our excitement, and though we couldn’t go to the top level, the middle floor was high enough for some! The panoramic view of Paris and its suburbs was extraordinary, as was the gift shop with its Eiffel tower shaped pasta, which I personally couldn’t resist buying, however I have refrained from eating it because it’s so unique!

   We just had enough time to grab some lunch at the Paris conference centre before the ‘Your Future in Europe’ conference started- totally in French! For most this wasn’t too much of a problem, however those amongst us who hadn’t done French since year seven were somewhat baffled! Speakers included representatives from Eurostar and a journalist from France 2 (a television company), who gave useful advice and information on the environment, an A2 topic, tourism and travel and starting a career in Europe.

   The evening was spent admiring the famous Notre Dame Cathedral and having tea at a restaurant close to Rue St. Michel. We just made it in time to the surprisingly small (yet ‘cosy’) theatre where we experienced the joys of French theatre in the production of ‘Venus et Mars’ which involved the audience and enacted the differences between men and women when it comes to relationships. It was hilarious even if at times difficult for some of us students to understand and was great to be able to experience some French culture.

The second conference, which was in English, was lead by Dermot Murnaghan (presenter of ‘Sky News Today’), much to the delight of Mrs Keegan whose possible highlight of the trip was meeting him! I’m sure he was thrilled to be told by some William Farr pupils that he was ‘A much better presenter of Eggheads than that new guy.’ The amphitheatre contained 2,000 pupils though it was only half full and it was a privilege to be in France’s largest auditorium. The conference was intriguing, especially as there was a speaker from Innocent smoothies, Joe McEwan, talking about entrepreneurship. Peter Luff spoke about the expansion of the European Union, he is the chairman of the European Movement, and director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti gave a passionate lecture on human rights and responsibilities. Other topics included the Erasmus Project and The Economic Argument. The question time panel was particularly interesting and as debate turned to the right of prisoners to vote, the speakers got very passionate. Chakrabarti and Daniel Hannan MEP were even strongly debating as they headed off stage. Much to the annoyance of the audience, Charles Kennedy was ill and this led to the panel getting even more of a battering by the room full of sixteen to eighteen year-olds!

   Afterwards, we visited the iconic Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysee, where we witnessed a regular ceremony involving very important looking people in uniform. Madame Keegan found us a bargain deal for some tea on the expensive Champs Elysee and much fun was had. This was followed nicely by cruising the River Seine to traditional accordion music, admiring the famous buildings that line it, including the Louvre, Notre Dame and of course the Eiffel Tower. On the way back to the hotel for the last time, the metro stations were alive with buskers and we were all in high spirits. Choruses of ‘A William Farr’, which was arguably the trip song, were sang by most, and the teachers were content in singing a merry melody about the ‘Champs Elysee’. ‘Metro groups’ were called and the last night of the trip was ended in an oxymoronically happy sad way.

   This time we were woken at a more civilised hour in order to catch the train to leave ‘gay Paris’ and head home to a drizzly England. Tired and spent up, a few more card games cheered us up, despite the fact we were leaving a place that had given us some amusing memories! In all honesty, the trip was a great opportunity to improve our French speaking skills, not only because of the conference, but because being surrounded by Parisians allowed us to refine our accents and fine tune ourselves to the speed of the language.

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