We'll Always Have Paris - Ard Scoil Visits The City of Light
5th November 2012
Group Photo at Sacré Coeur de Montmartre
On Saturday, October 27th, fifty two students and six teachers set out at 8.30 from the Ard Scoil for the school tour to Paris. In no time at all we were queuing up at the Aer Lingus desks in Cork airport and a very efficient crew saw us all processed very quickly so that we had plenty of time for a co9ffe or breakfast!
On arrival at Charles de Gaulle airport we were met by our coach driver Sillima who would be with us for the duration of our visit. We set off for the city centre, seeing tantalising glimpses of the Eiffel Tower and the Sacre Coeur on Montmartre. As we drove through the city, we drove through the seeming mayhem of traffic at the Arc de Triomphe wondering how there aren’t accidents all the time! We passed along some of the great boulevards and the majestic Opera House before reaching our destination....Pizza Hut!!!
After a delicious variety of pizza, we headed off to meet our guide, Joe Walsh, at the Place de la Concorde. As we drove through the city, Joe informed and entertained us with his vast knowledge and amusing anecdotes. One student, not usually known for her silence, remarked, “I’m speechless`!” amazed by la belle Paris! We ended our trip at Trocadero from where we had excellent views of the Eiffel Tower and in spite of the cold we held out to see the Tower sparkle on the hour...all agreed it was worth the wait. We climbed back aboard our coach to go to our hotel in Roissy. Once rooms were allocated, every one had time to settle in and set up essentials such as hair straightness! Finally, it was time for bed in preparation for the busy day ahead.
T.Ys at the Eiffel Tower and Singing Under the Bridges of Paris
Next morning we were delighted to find an excellent buffet set out in the hotel dining room and made we sure we had a substantial breakfast before we set out for our busy day. First stop was Cite des Sciences in La Villette. Here we wandered around the Explora section wondering at the different aspects of science shown in varied and sometimes amusing exhibits. At 11.00 we went to La Geode, a huge 3D cinema where dinosaurs seemed to come out of the screen! After a quick snack break we went to the Planetarium where we saw two shows,the first showing us the autumn sky,the different constellations and their place in Greek and other mythologies. The second presentation was of possible life on other planets and took us on voyages which will perhaps be a school trip in the future!
What could possibly surpass this? Well, the shopping centre Quatre Saisins at La Defense was certainly a wonder to behold! There were so many shops even the most inveterate shoppers were overwhelmed!
Following dinner, we went bowling and here we saw some great skills displayed as well as some rather unusual techniques!
On Monday morning we first visited the magnificent cathedral of Notre Dame and then went off to the museum of the Louvre. Once everyone had reached the Mona Lisa (along with thousands of other visitors!) we separated to enjoy different sections of the museum,be it Egyptian antiquities or Starbucks! Sillima then drove us to the Champs Elysees where we had time to browse in the many shops and enjoy strolling along this famous street.
That evening we dined at Aquaboulevard before some took to the water in this tropical paradise . As well as the huge main pool where a siren gives warning of impending waves, there are other pools, slides, Jacuzzis etc to wallow in amidst towering palm trees. Mrs. O’Sullivan and Mrs. Power accompanied the girls in the pool and were persuaded to try out one of the slides with them. While Mrs.O’Sullivan enjoyed it well enough to have a second go, Mrs. Power admitted it was one of the most terrifying experiences of her life!
Strange Illusions at the Cite des Sciences
Tuesday there was great excitement as we arrived at Disneyland for a day of fun. As soon as we entered the park, students scattered in every direction to get in line for the rides. Luckily the rain held off and everyone had a fantastic time before we gathered at the exit for dinner at Planet Hollywood where the decor, music and antics of the waiters added to the girls’ enjoyment of their meal. We then had to contend with the traffic as we travelled into the city again to climb the Eiffel Tower; that is, everyone got to the second floor by lift but found the descent by stairs quite nerve wrecking.
On Wednesday morning we set off in beautiful weather for Versailles, the wonderful chateau and gardens created by Louis IV.
No matter how many times you may visit them, the splendour of the great rooms is always astonishing and we were lucky to have such a glorious day to wander about the gardens, take a trip on the little train or even take a boat out on the lake.
In the afternoon we went back into the city to Montmartre, the area which was once a village outside the city where many artists worked. The girls were delighted to see the famous Moulin Rouge as we drove along en route to the Basilica of Sacre Coeur. Some were rather dismayed as they saw the steps they had to climb to reach the church but once they had puffed their way to the top they were glad as they saw the views over Paris and as well as the street performers. After a prayer in the basilica, we turned the corner into the little streets where there were plenty of little shops in which to buy some final presents. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to linger as we had to face into the traffic to head to our dinner in a street beside the Georges Pompidou centre. The girls had a short while to take in the oddities of this building as well as art works nearby before we drove off to go ice skating. Some girls were already adept at skating while others were beginners but didn’t take long to learn and were soon whirling around the rink. Mrs. O’Sullivan showed us how it’s done while Mr. Collins and Mrs. Hughes bravely represented the teachers! It was a tired group that returned for our final night in the hotel to pack and be ready for an early start the following morning.
Our last morning and, bags packed and on board the coach, we had one last place to visit before going to the airport. We arrived a little early to find that Stade de France was not yet open and the surrounding shops were also closed as this was a bank holiday in France, the day it’s a tradition to bring flowers to family graves. The stadium opened on the dot of 9.30 and we went in to meet our guide who took us first to sit high up in the stadium while he explained how it is used not just for matches but concerts and athletics as well as other events including chariot and car racing! The heaters were on the pitch to prepare it for an upcoming match and we couldn’t resist a mention of the disaster last January when the French Ireland match had to be cancelled at the last minute!!
Leaving Certs in Players' Dressing Room
So that the stadium would not tower about the nearby ancient cathedral of St. Denis, the site was excavated deeply and so much of the stadium is below ground level where an entire small town exists! There we saw the medical facilities for spectators before going into the players area where we saw some of the fantastic rooms and had a chance to take pictures in the dressing room before we met one of the fire brigade team which is permanently stationed here. The girls formed into two teams and walked out through the players’ entrance to the pitch with the sound effects of thousands cheering to get an idea of what the players experience as they walk out for a match....absolutely amazing.
Group at Stade de France
Visit over, it was time to board the bus for the last time and go to the airport for our flight home. At the airport we bade farewell to Sillima and thanked him for his endless patience and kindness as well as his calm when faced with traffic jams. It was an exhausted group that arrived back in Cork but with every intention of going back to Paris again sometime in the future.
Compliments must be paid to the girls who did their families, their school and their country proud by their well mannered and good humoured behaviour, even when very tired! Where to next????