Part 2: France Exchange 2015
After almost 5 months, this girl finally decides to make the time to continue writing about this amazing trip! If you haven't yet read the first part of the France Exchange, I will leave a link right here. Following this post, there will be two more parts to conclude my recap of France 2015!
Friday, March 6, 2015 - JUNO BEACH ET BAYEUX
Today was the last day of our 2-hour bus ride trips from La Ferté-Bernard and it consisted of visiting three different sites. It was also the only time we got to go with all of our French correspondents. At 11 AM, the first place we went to was Juno Beach Centre in the Normandy region of the country. It is a museum on the beach which is most famous for the area in which the invasion of northern France, also known as D-Day, took place during the Second World War.
During our 2 hours there, we had two tours. The one on the beach was guided and we got to see the bunkers where soldiers observed the scene, as well as their command post. We also went inside the centre for a self-guided tour and learned more about this famous day through videos and various types of artifacts like radio recordings, interviews and letters of loved ones, and the many uniforms of people who played an integral role in the war. After our visit, we ate lunch before heading to our next mini destination that was planned at the moment.
After a half hour bus ride, we paid a visit to a cemetery specifically for Canadian soldiers who died during D-Day. Not much happened there, but I remember spotting this huge fly on a seat made of cement... I even took a picture of it (I'm weird, I know, lol).
After commemorating the Canadian soldiers, we hopped on the bus again to see the famous 70 metre long and 50 centimetres tall Bayeux Tapestry which was hand made during the 11th century and portrays the story of the Norman conquest of England. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take photos, but there are numerous amounts of them online. After the very historical and informative visit at la Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux, we all took a group photo and had the chance to explore the little french town. At 4:45 PM, we finally left on our last more than 2-hour bus ride for la Ferté-Bernard and to our separate houses to rest our tired selves.
Saturday, March 7, 2015 - LE MANS
Today and the next two days, all of the Canadians were left with their host families to spend the last remaining days together, thus meaning that this part of my exchange is different than all of the other students. Anyways, today was spent with my French correspondent and another exchange participant and hers. We explored the beautiful city of Le Mans which is only about half an hour away from where we were staying.
The day started with lunch. We all got sushi at this place and I found it very interesting and shocking that sushi isn't as available in France as it is in Vancouver which meant that it was more pricey. It also wasn't at the same level as the sushi game here, but I mean, pros and cons, pros and cons... hahaha (I still love you just the same, France). Afterwards, we visited old Mans, including this vintage french bookstore that we all fell in love with because of how adorable it was, the local Saint Julien cathedral, and other small shops we visited along the cobblestone alleyways. We also walked along the shopping area, although the other Canadian girl and I wanted to save our money for Paris, so it only ended up being a short visit.
We ended the day off at the local fair which included small rides and lots of food. While the other exchange girl and I were watching our French correspondents on this one ride, I took the time to soak in everything that was happening once again. It was crazy being in this small city in France and seeing all of these people who were probably around the same age as me. We all have our differences and our own personas, but either than language barriers and cultures, there's so many teenagers out there who most likely go through the same situations as you and it's so easy not to think about that. I don't know, me being me, I just found it so fascinating being surrounded my french speaking teenagers and realizing that once you finally get out of your own country, there are so many opportunities for you to connect with other people.
Sunday, March 8, 2015 - FUTUROSCOPE (LAST DAY WITH HOST FAMILIES)
Today, I had the chance to go to a french amusement park called Futuroscope along with the two girls we were with the day before and the French girl's dad (our chauffeur for the day). We left the early morning with packed lunches and met the others at their school parking lot to leave for a 2-hour drive to the theme park.
There weren't that many rides there -more like little shows, but it was still fun. I remember seeing this documentary on reserves in Africa, which included elephants and gorillas (or it may have been orangutans). I only remember this because I'm really into elephants. I also remember this simulator ride called Danse avec les Robots which blasted Martin Solveig (French DJ) music while spinning you around like crazy and you could even control the level of harshness. Since we had just finished eating lunch, we choose the mild level which was still pretty cool. There were tons of other themed rides like Le Petit Prince, La Machine à Voyager dans le Temps, etc. After a few hours in the amusement park, we hopped back into the car for the long drive back to La Ferté-Bernard.
As it had been our last night in the french town, for dinner, my correspondent and I met with some of the other exchange participants and had dinner at this Italian restaurant. After finishing our delicious food, we went outside in the parking lot to play little games such as duck, duck, goose and some other tag games (the names were probably cooler than how we know them...) and ended the night after we all got too cold to stay out. More so, we also had to get our luggage ready for our departure from the country to the city the following day.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - FROM LA FERTÉ-BERNARD TO PARIS
This was probably the most packed day of the whole trip because it consisted of leaving the small town of La Ferté-Bernard for the famous City of Light, Paris. At 7:45 AM, all of the exchange students and our correspondents met at school with our luggage to say goodbye for the last time. I think that it was a bittersweet moment for everyone; despite leaving to Paris to continue the rest of the trip, we've made so many memories with the French students. We all had the best experience, being totally immersed into a real French family and being able to experience the life of a French teenager!
Sometime around 12 PM, our bus arrived at the Versailles where we were to see the famous palace. We arrived early, so beforehand, myself as well as others left to get some lunch. A tip that we all learned while in France was NEVER to buy food that is close to a tourist attraction -the further you walk from the attraction, the cheaper the food, and still the same quality! After our delicious sub sandwiches, we headed back to Versailles to take photos and meet the rest of the gang. We were divided into two groups and set out for a 2-hour guided tour of the huge palace.
First of all, my current vocabulary can't even explain how beautiful this place is... the whole tour, I was in awe at every head turn and every detail that we passed by. Most of the group wasn't really paying attention to the historical notes the guide was saying and I'm pretty sure the only fact we remember from the tour was that there were holes in the seats of the royals who stayed in the castle because they were allowed to poo while eating... wonderful fact, isn't it? I also remember that people would watch the king and queen make love to make sure that there was no treachery going on... what an odd era.
Anyways, this was the tourist attraction that had the most diverse amount of people. We saw students from America, Germany, Japan, you name it. After the long tour, both groups met at the back of Versailles and had free time to explore. Myself as well as five other of my friends walked deeper into the huge garden of the palace and found these tandem bikes that we could rent. The next half hour or so was honestly a memory I will never forget. We were the only ones out of the rest of the group who found bikes to rent and we ended up riding along the back of Versailles, past this lake, through the paths between trees, and we were all just really really happy and enjoying the moment.
After our bike ride along the garden of Versailles, we had to run back to meet the rest of the group since we got a little too carried away with our tandems. One of my friends also got her scarf stuck in the bike mechanism so we had to stop and solve that issue as well. 30 minutes from Versailles, we arrived at our hotel in central Paris, called Hotel Mercure Paris Centre Tour Eiffel. We were so excited to see our next place of resting (not really... haha) for the last days of the trip. For the most part, the hotel rooms were neat and nice looking (the view of the Eiffel Tower was astonishing as well, but you'll see photos in the next post!!!), and one funny memory concerning my friend/roommate and I was that we were given two different access cards to two different rooms, and obviously, we were only supposed to have one. We then decided to see which room would be the closest to our friends, but when we tried to check the first one, we heard the voice of someone singing in the shower (or something like that) and so we realized that one key was just given to us by mistake... oops.
After settling into our hotel rooms with our things, we left with the rest of the group to walk to Hippopotamus, our restaurant for the night. Honestly, it wasn't that satisfying (it was kind of like a Denny's or White Spot equivalent -definitely a family restaurant), but we all probably had high expectations for dinner in Paris. At the restaurant, there was also another school there that may have been from Vancouver, but we couldn't really tell, although we did hear English speaking going on.
To end the night, we made our was to the Arc de Triomphe and saw the beautiful view from a-top of the city we were going to be exploring for the next 4 days of the trip. It was a spectacular first day in Paris, and the proceeding days just kept getting even more unbelievable.
To be continued...
It's getting more difficult to write about this trip, but it doesn't mean that I'm not enjoying the fact that I can look at my photos and videos to remember all of the fantastic times in France. Hopefully, whoever is reading this, you can continue following along this wonderful trip as I share these memories of mine. Stay tuned, ya'll!
**Also, sorry for the MIA. I hadn't posted for 2 months... term 2 is two months long which explains it. I got accepted into Simon Fraser University for IS and I'm not planning on being revoked! This girl has got to keep up her marks! I'll soon give a more detailed update on my life's happenings during the first 2 months of 2016 since spring break is coming up REAL soon -so much has already happened!** OK, LOVE YOU GUYS FOR READING THIS FAR.