Incroyable. Emouvant. Passionnant. Amusant. Interessant. There are so many words I could use to describe our trip to France. Ever since I returned to New Zealand people have asked me about my favourite part of the trip. I simply can’t give a single favourite part of the whole 2 weeks. So I will have to break it down into a few highlights which stood out from the others.
Sunday the 13th of July was the first full day we had in France. Naturally, we were all extremely excited to see all of Paris’ sights. In the morning we visited ‘Les Invalides’ which was my favourite army museum from the trip. I thoroughly enjoyed the various information about the French Army between 1871-1945. The WW1 section was particularly intriguing. I have included a picture of a poster I found in ‘Les Invalides’ below. We also visited Basilica Sacré Coeur in the afternoon.
Monday the 14th was Bastille Day, and I was enthralled to take part in the celebrations that seemed to sweep over Paris. I doubt that I will ever forget sitting on the Champs Elysées as an official spectator of the Bastille Day parade. To be honest it was a bit weird and ironic watching the French military being paraded around on the national day, when the whole reason we were in France was to commemorate the tragic event of WW1. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the parade, or the thousands of celebrating French on the streets though. We also watched the fireworks that night, which was also a great experience. If i had to choose a favourite day of the 2 weeks, Bastille Day was probably the most interesting, enjoyable and exciting.
Our time in Arras was another part of the trip that I absolutely loved, and our host families were all so welcoming and made us feel comfortable. Whilst in Arras we spent a day visiting various WW1 battlefields. This was the most emotional day in my opinion. Some of the places we stopped are Lochnagar mine crater, Thiepval, Longueval, and Caterpillar Valley cemetery. At Thiepval (a large Franco-British memorial) while looking at the photo I have attached below, I realised that had I been born 100 years earlier then I would likely be just another face on the wall of fallen soldiers. It was also shocking to discover the sheer size of WW1 memorials. This day was very moving, and I think a lot of us discovered the massive toll of the war whilst visiting the memorials.
Shared Histories has been an amazing project to be a part of so far, and I look forward to being a part of the project’s bright future. I would like to quickly thank Glenda and Ruth for being amazing Chaperones in France; the Young Ambassador’s greatly appreciate the massive amount of work you put into the trip. I would also like to thank my mentor, Jennifer Bush-Daumec for all her help with my personal Shared Histories project. Thank you to the other 10 Young Ambassadors for making the trip better than I could have ever imagined. I loved spending the 2 weeks with you guys, and I think we all agree that this trip has given us some great, long-lasting friendships.
I am excited to continue my research and blogging on the Shared Histories website.