St. Nathy’s College go to France. Paris trip 2023 for 5th & 6th years
At midnight on Tuesday last, 21st of November, 29 enthusiastic students accompanied by Ms. Finan, Mr. Curley and Ms. Farrell set off for what would be a memorable four-day school tour to the beautiful city of Paris. Packed with cultural immersion, linguistic exploration, iconic sightseeing, old friends (and new), this trip will ‘hopefully’ remain engraved in their memory for the rest of their lives, long after they leave the hallowed halls of St. Nathy’s. From the moment they left Dublin airport for the city of lights, ‘la ville des lumières,’ the journey was a whirlwind of excitement, education, and enjoyment.
The adventure began with bleary-eyed excitement as our students gathered in the Cathedral car park to board O’Hara’s coach for their journey to Dublin airport. Despite the early hour, the buzz of anticipation and the promise of adventure permeated the night air. The cold dark air of midnight was no match for their sunny disposition. Upon landing in Paris, the group wasted no time immersing themselves in the French language and culture. They headed straight to “le Musée d’Orsay.” Ms. Owen’s Art students saw at first hand the paintings they had only read about before. Right before their eyes they could see priceless famous masterpieces. “Le Musée d’Orsay” houses the largest collection of Impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin and of course Van Gogh. After eating along the banks of the Seine, on ‘la rive gauche,’ they then proceeded to ‘Le Cours de la Reine’ where they met their guide for a 70-minute guided tour (by coach) of Paris.
They stepped back in time as the guide raconted tales of battles, castles, revolutions, Kings and Queens of France, executions etc. They drove through centuries of history in those 70 minutes. Then it was time to recharge their batteries and ‘manger’. Little did they know that another surprise lay in store, one that was not on the itinerary! Quelle bonne chance! Quelles bonnes nouvelles! They found a “Sephoria,” which is a French perfume department store, (which you CANNOT get in Ireland!) across the road from the HD Diner! There was considerable damage done to bank balances in and around the Ballaghaderreen area that night! Sephoria never saw a Black Friday like this before as les Irlandais ont debarqué!
The following morning saw a much-awaited trip to that symbol of Parisian elegance “La Tour Eiffel” / The Eiffel Tower, the most famous tower in the world. After rigorous security checks and long queues, we made it. Students stood and stared in wide-eyed amazement at the tower that yawned into the dizzy heights as it made its silhouette against the blue Parisian skyline. Some went to “le premier étage” the first floor, while others went straight (via the second lift) to “le sommet,” the top floor. The view was breathtaking.
From one dizzy height to another, next stop was “ L’Arc de Triomphe,” Napoleon’s gift (among many) to France. Students took pictures of the names of those who fought and died for France during the French Revolution which are engraved on the inner and outer walls of the monument. Under its vault lies “la tombe du Soldat inconnu”/ the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the First World War. The flame was burning brightly beside “la gerbe des fleurs”/the wreath of flowers. Unfortunately, due to “les grévistes”/ the workers who were on strike, we were not able to enter the Arch or climb its 284 steps. C’est la vie!
Next stop was the iconic “Champs Elysées.” A shoppers paradise and home to only the best fashion houses in the World. Our students had the opportunity to stroll along this famous avenue and wonder in awe at the Cartier watches, Louis Vuitton shoes and Channel handbags. Students were afforded the possibility to practise their classroom-learned vocabulary in the real-world as they ordered much needed food in preparation for what would be one of the highlights of the trip, “Les bateaux mouches,” the cruise boats down the river Seine.
We started off on our cruise in broad daylight, but all too soon it became a “starry starry night”….., One that would have made Van Gogh proud. We were all secretly glad to rest our feet. We cruised down the 15 kilometre path through the heart of the City. One could see” La Place de la Concorde” the Concorde Obelisk, le Musée d’Orsay, le Louvre, the 37 bridges, la Cathédrale de Notre Dame and la Tour Eiffel. This time the Eiffel Tower was sparkling! Each landmark became a living lesson in history, architecture, and, of course, language. Students eagerly embraced the opportunity to practice their French with locals and fellow tourists, adding authenticity to their language skills. It was an immensely proud “teacher moment” hearing the students having real conversations with real French people! After years of learning irregular verbs and past participles! Well done students! Bravo!)
After all that, it was time for dinner in Beaubourg and bed!
Day three was the day when we all became 5 years of age again. The excitement as we drove into Disneyland coach park was palpable. Mickey, Donald, Minnie and friends did not disappoint. Screams filled the air with delight as roller coasters sped through dangerous ravines. To say kids were on the edge of their seats would be an understatement. Disneyland Paris provided a magical setting for this. Leaving Certs found their inner child again and forgot about the stress of exams as they clung to dear life up Space Mountain. That evening, the Rainforest Café offered a unique dining experience where students fuelled up again in time for the Disney Parade. A big “Merci” to our bus driver who waited two extra hours to allow us to see this.
Our final day took us out to “Le Château de Versailles.” We all looked like Lilliputians as we meandered through the marble, gilded halls of Versailles. Students marvelled at “La galerie des Glaces,” The Hall of Mirrors. Our final day encapsulated the essence of French history and artistry. A visit to the opulent Château de Versailles transported students to the era of Louis XIV. Students strolled through its manicured lawns and stared in wonder at the sheer size of EVERYTHING.
Our last stop was Montmartre and “La basilique du Sacré-Cœur.” Monmartre offered a glimpse into the bohemian spirit of Paris. With its winding, cobbled streets, stunning Basilica, artists and bistros, Montmartre has it all! Some braved the 222 steps up to the Basilica, whereas others opted for the cable car to spare their failing feet! The group grabbed much needed, last-minute souvenirs. We said our final farewell to beautiful Paris as we boarded our coach for the last time to head for “l’aéroport de Paris.”
Landing at Dublin airport, we were swiftly transported home in the capable hands of Eamonn O’ Hara. Thank you to O’ Hara coaches for looking after us so well.
Although the tour is over the impact of the Parisian adventure still lingers in St. Nathy’s. The school tour has not only prepared them for ” le document” section of the French oral exam next March but has also (hopefully) instilled a passion for French. As they bid adieu to Paris, one hopes that they are glad they have chosen French but also have a newfound love and respect for the language that will undoubtedly endure for years to come.