Firstly, having not been to France in many years and never visited Paris, I was just as excited as the young people, and maybe more than some, because several of the 40 or so I travelled down with had been before. This was a good thing because enthusiasm is important in any job, and particularly with children. The other PGL leaders were equally upbeat, especially on the excursions and together I think we managed to make the week even more exciting.
On Monday we travelled in to Paris, and going by coach is definitely a good move. You see lots, you can show and tell the young people about the city, while keeping them in an enclosed environment so that they can't scatter. It's also a stress-free way to travel.
We parked outside the Eiffel Tower and began our day by climbing to the second level, an experience which costs (to my amazement) just 5 Euros. Although you're only about half way up, the views are still superb. Of course 600 or so steps is quite a lot for some kids but we got there without too much difficulty. Rounding them up and getting them back down proved harder, especially when they decide to go and sit down, hiding amongst the hordes, but we made it eventually.
The tower was followed by a river trip, not necessarily the most exciting, but good again for keep the children together, showing them the sights and giving them a time to sit down. After a time for some souvenir shopping we returned to the Chateau where we were staying, and if this had been it I would have been a bit disappointed. Fortunately, though, I had the next day off, and so returned to roam further across the city.
Tuesday's trip began with a march up to the Arc de Triomphe, which the 3 of us who had come in discovered was free to enter for anyone up to 25, this makes it even more of a must see. Views from the top show off the Eiffel Tower and the many roads leading away from the roundabout-without-rules. To be honest, though, the best thing to do is to peer down at the carnage as the hundreds of vehicles try to navigate around the unmarked tarmac!
Obviously the most recognisable road is the Champs Elysees, which was where we ventured next.
It's just one of those special places to be and have lunch, which we did, equally revelling in the fact that we weren't having to count children every 5 minutes.
The best part of two miles away, in an arrow straight line, lies the Louvre, not somewhere we ventured in to but of course extremely recognisable, with the large pyramid at the centre of the ancient palace.
Continuing the tour I walked along the banks of the Seine, something which is not necessarily as appealing as it sounds, (it doesn't smell so great) up to the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral. Again, I didn't go in, but appreciated the Church from each side.
We completed our day at a restaurant, sat outside under the awning, feeling very pleased with our Parisian day. There were and are many, many other things/places we could have done and visited, but it's always better take time and do things well, than rush to do everything in one go, which never works, especially when seflie-taking children are involved.
Wednesday turned our attentions to Disneyland. Probably not somewhere I would have considered going, but if you can get in for free then why not. Actually the best way to see Disneyland is with a large group of kids, even if it means stopping in every stall and shop for some expensive cuddly toy. The attention to detail in the park and on the rides is fantastic and I even enjoyed the parade at the end of the day!
The rest of the week was quieter, even with a visit to a large supermarket with the group, but we rounded off with another trip, this time to Park Asterix. Much more of a rollercoaster park than Disney this was a fun day for the trill seekers and those who somehow still hadn't spent all their money. There were also several shows, of which the Dolphin display was the only one I managed to see, although it was a nice way to end the week.
A final note came on the journey home when one girl asked if I had enjoyed my holiday.
"Holiday!" I exclaimed, "I've been working this week, you know!"
"Yeah, but it's not that difficult is it," she replied.
'Oh no', I thought, I've been rumbled! Yet, on further reflection, while it may not have been the most challenging week, and has definitely been enjoyable, I'd like to think I have made a worthwhile contribution through my work to these children, who, I hope, will use these experiences and memories to spur them on socially and academically in the future.