Romantic and picturesque Paris counts as one of the most instagrammable cities in the world – and with good reason. 20 French GCSE students left school early on Valentine’s Day to board an easyJet flight to the French capital to explore its culture and take pictures of their own.
After a smooth journey, the party arrived just before 9.00pm, local time. Accommodation at FIAP- Jean Monnet was close to the train station and offered good, clean facilities, breakfast and evening meal in a self – service restaurant, and a games room to relax in at the end of each day. The visit was blessed with wall-to-wall sunshine, as Europe and the UK basked in a most unseasonal February heatwave.
There was no better way to start the first day, than a bateau-mouche cruise along the sun-drenched Seine. “It was a superb vantage point to see the sights,” said Tom Batchelor. From the riverboat, explorers caught their first glimpse of the Parisian crown jewels in all their glory: Notre-Dame Cathedral; La Conciergerie, le Pont Neuf; le Musée de Louvre, le Musée d’Orsay, La Place de la Concorde, Les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower. “A surreal and magical experience,” exclaimed Grace Goodwin.
In the afternoon, students returned to the Arc de Triomphe for lunch and went shopping on the Champs-Elysées. “The Champs-Elysées oozed style, history and elegance,” said Grace. Tom agreed, “The Champs-Elysées was so cool and a great place to shop.” They then walked to the Louvre, passing through the Jardin des Tuileries with its exquisite gardens.
On Saturday, students headed out of town for the beautiful Palace of Versailles, to escape the gilet-jaunes protests. Students were hugely impressed by the grandeur of Louis XIV’s palace and its vast gardens: watching the fountains play their music and gazing at the sculptures.
On Sunday morning, students climbed the hill of Montmartre, to reach the Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur. The imposing basilica sits on a 130 metre-high hill and has lush views over Paris. Students were captivated by the basilica’s stunning Romano-Byzantine architecture and the artists’ playground of Montmartre. The glamour of the Moulin Rouge, with its lipstick-red paint, made its own impact.
In the afternoon, the party divided into two groups, with one half taking in the Centre Pompidou with its unmistakable outside escalators and the huge colourful pipework. Group 2 enjoyed a guided tour of the Stade de France, the country’s largest stadium, which hosted Euro 2016 and the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Located in Saint-Denis, a few kilometres north of Paris, Brooksbank’s football fans were able to follow in the footsteps of world-class players such as Zidane and Pogba as they toured the changing rooms, the warm-up room, players’ tunnel and pitch. “It was giant!” said Tom.
Obviously, no visit to Paris would be complete without ascending the Eiffel Tower – it’s THE must see monument of the French capital. Originally built for the World’s Fair of 1889, students enjoyed catching the perfect camera angle. At 312 metres high, the tower offered stupendous views across the City of Lights in all directions. Soaking up the atmosphere in the Champ de Mars, Les Invalides Military Museum and Napoleon’s Tomb sealed the deal on this unforgettable Parisian experience.
“C’était superbe!” said tour leader, Mr Whitworth, “Superb group of students, superb weather, superb trip!”
“The trip certainly succeeded all my expectations,” said Grace Goodwin. “I’ve been wanting to go since I was five and it was truly amazing!”