France Year 6 2022
We have had a long and exciting first day and have just returned to our hostel having caught the last rays of sun on Boulogne beach. The dusk walk back along the harbour side was magical.
The journey here was fine. Our driver is Jamie The Legend who has been on many French Trips before, so we are in very good hands. On one memorable trip, he proved he has the Dunkirk spirit when ferry strikes cancelled the return journey from Calais and he found us another way home.
On the motorway, and while waiting to board, we watched Shrek 2. When we arrived at Dover, we had to queue for a long time. Pound Hill showed excellent behaviour going through immigration and having our passports stamped, melting the stern exterior of the customs lady.
Because of the delay, DFDS gave us vouchers for a free drink and chips on the boat. Luckily the crossing was calm and we had a wonderful view through the big windows at the front of the boat as France slowly appeared on the horizon.
After disembarking, we went to a WW2 cemetery which was very peaceful.
We were respectful of our surroundings and listened to the story of the war amongst the resinous aroma of the Canadian pines. The activity was to sketch details of the rows of white gravestones. It was quite a solemn and atmospheric place. Some people who were buried there were as young as 18. There were many different backgrounds and the main two nationalities were Canadian and Polish.
We all dressed for dinner at the hostel and on each table a server helped us to tomato salad, fish in breadcrumbs with ratatouille followed by a lemon tart. We are trying new things and even new ways of using plates and cutlery.
After our trip to the seaside, where we celebrated Mrs Davies's birthday, we are all ready for bed.
In the morning we went to the small market in nearby Le Portel. There were stalls selling everything from underwear to onions, flowers to sausages. Some of the children bought sweets or other small things like an Eiffel Tower keyring. After, we split into two groups for the first time: one going to a cafe and the beach, the other to the goat farm deep in the countryside.
At the farm we met goats Grissou, Noisette, Niege, Caramel and their sisters / daughters as well as Susie the chicken and the rabbits: Sushi, Saussise and Steak Haché. Despite the names, they keep the animals for milk, cheese, eggs and friendship but do not eat them.
We had a go at feeding and then milking the goats, one of which produces five litres per day! The lovely lady showed us how she turns the milk into cheese. We tasted a fresh batch on rye bread. It had a subtle, creamy flavour. Then she brought out the matured cheese - one in the shape of a heart - which had formed a skin on and had a much stronger flavour and a memorable aroma. We also made pain au chocolat in the shape of cats, dogs and fish (and Mickey Mouse, a whale and a turtle). Madame baked them in a dome-shaped, wood-fired pizza oven.
Meanwhile, the other group were trying out the cafe experience:
We started by entering the cafe. Before ordering we practised what we had to say so it was easier. The lady that took our orders was very polite (which made us less nervous). Then our drinks were served; mine was refreshing and delicious. In the end we absolutely loved this experience. It was a big step of maturity.
The two groups joined back together and we all went to a traditional boulangerie where they bake old style bread in batches of 130 loaves in a wood fired oven. The fuel is locally sourced and the ashes go back into the ground to fertilise the vegetable patch. The baker spoke in French with translation from Madame Singleton but the children followed along and answered questions in French. They all formed a bread loaf and placed them in a little wicker basket ready to be turned out and put in the oven on a long paddle. He told us he could load all 130, one by one, in 5 minutes and that it took three hours to clean the dust from the fire after each bake.
After our now familiar buffet breakfast with hot chocolate, we went to the main market in Boulogne. The bells of Saint-Nicolas church rang out as we entered the square. Stalls with colourful canopies basked in the morning sunshine. The children split into small, mixed gender, groupings and went off to explore what was on offer independently. It is amazing what 10 euros can buy you if you have a keen eye for a souvenir!
At the French market we first had some questions to answer in our booklets. There was a certain aroma when you passed the sweet stall (the favourite for most of us children) which drove us all there quickly. The hat stall seemed to draw attention rapidly too. The designs on everything were unique! I also saw some beautiful wood carvings of elephants at one stall. France is extremely keen on culture.
Then, dressed in new hats, jewellery and candy necklaces, we ate the delicious packed lunch provided by the hostel. Two cherry trees by the waterfront gave shade as the fish market put away their briny wares.
Next destination was the chocolate factory. Our guide, Simon, taught us the chocolate song and about the machines, techniques and ingredients used to transform 30 tonnes of cocoa beans into 130 tonnes of handmade chocolates every year. Inside the workshop, he showed us how different shaped moulds are used to form shapes from dark, white and milk chocolate and how some are filled with praline and nuts.
He cast a white chocolate panda and then used a machete to smash apart the one made for the previous visitors. We all had the opportunity to taste some panda pieces. Some of us bought small packets of goodies from the enticing shop but no one went for the two foot tall bunny rabbit.
Returning to the hostel we had a rare moment to ourselves before changing for dinner. We ate in a different dining room: a starter of grated carrot, then turkey escalopes (or vegetarian option) with mashed potato and green beans for main and a chocolate (of course!) muffin for pudding. Then we went to Le Portel to do tenpin bowling.
We had so much fun together, bonding as a group, it was amazing! Every strike and spare was cheered. You could not hear a pin drop. Jamie the Legend joined us and drove the ball down the centre of the lane like a pro. We lingered for a few minutes in the coach when we got back to the hostel and Madame Singleton lead us in celebrating how well we worked as a team, supporting each other and having a great time.
Unfortunately we were not able to go to Le Touquet today this morning, so we went to the patisserie in Le Portel to practise our French. Everyone bought a fancy pastry with cool names like ‘Religieuse’, ‘Chocolate Chantilly’ and ‘Hawaiienne’.
We ate our packed lunch on the beach before one group went to the goat farm. This time, the lady asked us to write and perform songs using the words 'pain', 'lait' and 'fromage'. We all had a go - including Mr Wells - and madame clapped and cheered with us.
Then she asked us to make our pain au chocolats in the shape of a billy goat’s head. They looked great when baked and were (mostly) delicious.
Going to the barn, we found out that one of the goats, Curelle, had injured the leg of another. Also, one was pregnant and due to give birth in about two days so we had to (try to) be quiet.
The other group experienced ordering their own drinks in a cafe:
Going to the café was very refreshing after a walk. The people were very kind. The bar person covered a drink for a teacher so we decided to leave a note and tip.
I would definitely go again.
The café experience was phenomenal. They made us a practise our French so much so that I can order lots of drinks.
Very highly rated.
We were reunited in the hostel for an excellent dinner of pizza to start; about half a roast chicken each with potatoes and petit pois; and a doughnut for pudding.
We used the last of the sunshine (and Jamie's allotted driving hours) to zip off to Boulogne Beach for a party. Madame Singleton, Mrs Davies and Mrs O'Connor ambushed the children with water pistols. On the way back in the coach we sang along to a playlist made by 6RW. When we had parked, we cranked the volume up to onze and bounced and sang to YMCA and Sweet Caroline till the coach literally rocked.
Last thing before bed, the children packed their bags ready for the morning... plenty of dirty washing to bring home!