On the morning of Halloween, a coach of about 70 sleepy Year 11s set off for a 3 day residential trip to Paris, where we would gain some new insights into the history of the city by visiting several memorials of the First World War and exploring the art museums and colourful streets. Although most students (and staff) were understandably irked by the rather early start, our spirits were lifted as we passed through the Channel Tunnel into France, excited for the sights we’d see and the activities to come.

As soon as we left the Eurotunnel in Calais, we made our way to our first historical memorial of this trip - the Vimy Ridge Memorial. We were able to see the trenches French and Canadian soldiers would’ve fought in towards the end of the First World War. It was quite interesting to hear about the battles fought at this significant location in French history. As our first day in France came to a close, we had the opportunity to go up the Montparnasse Tower to admire the beautiful skyline of Paris, before heading to the hotel for dinner and a good night’s rest.

On the second day, we made our way to the Musee d’Orsay, after having a filling breakfast and preparing baguettes for lunch. The Musee d’Orsay is a museum for art, sculpture, furniture and photography and can be found pretty much opposite to the Louvre. We had the opportunity to see many famous paintings by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet. Although it was quite the tedious queue to endure, it proved to be worth every bit of the wait. After our time in the museum was up, we embarked on a treasure hunt around Paris to photograph various objects and attractions in the city centre, such as a French flag, a statue of Joan of Arc and the Louvre. The next stop on our journey was the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, which was incredibly busy and therefore infamous for pickpocketing incidents. Fortunately, the majority of us left unscathed and were able to appreciate the beauty of the cathedral and explore the surrounding streets, where fashionable berets, delicious crepes and unique Lindt bars were being sold and purchased. After such a packed day, we made our way back to our hotel and rested up in preparation for one last day in the country of France.

We checked out the hotel on the final day and departed for the Wellington Quarry in Arras, where we had an interactive guided tour of the underground tunnels in this First World War Quarry where New Zealand tunnellers would dig several paths out by hand. The authentic artefacts, realistic projections and even the historically accurate helmets we wore immersed us in this experience and allowed us to understand what life was like for these soldiers. Finally, we visited the Notre Dame de Lorette, the biggest French national military cemetery in the world, where over 40,000 casualties are buried. This rounded out our list of places to visit on this trip and the coach took us back to the Eurotunnel entrance in Calais where our journey had begun just two days ago.

In summary, the trip was a great chance for us Year 11s to enjoy a residential outing for the first time, as the coronavirus pandemic had disrupted many plans for these in the past, while also educating us on some lesser known aspects of the First World War and on the revolutionary art that originated in France.