The day we arrived we had some time to freshen up at the hotel before heading out to explore Montmartre. In our chosen groups we explored Montmartre, Sacre Coeur and the shops in the area. We had time to grab some food and do some workbook activities - such as scavenger hunting for shops before heading back. Each day in Paris we had a group meeting after dinner and breakfast. The second day we spent a lot of time exploring - visiting la Bastille, Notre dame, admiring the medieval architecture along the Seine, the gardens and enjoying the best ice cream in Paris from Bertillon, despite the freezing cold spring weather.
Wednesday, we explored the Champs Elysées before heading over to the Latin Quarter for free time to look around. We also got to climb the first few levels of the Eiffel Tower, and enjoyed the magnificent view taking plenty of photos and looking through the binoculars. Sadly we only had so much time and had to move on to our other destinations. Later we had a picnic dinner all of us together at the hostel to celebrate our last night counting points from the challenges we'd done (with Don, Michael, James and Matthew coming first) and receiving prizes from Madame Bush-Daumec and Mr Tattersall.
Thursday, our last day in Paris we returned to the Arc de Triomphe to climb to the top and check out the souvenir shop. The view from the balcony of the Champs Elysées was incomparable and afterward we headed down to grab lunch nearby. Before long, we had to return to the hotel to prepare our things for the ride to Amiens.
The last day of school in Amiens, we had a full day of classes followed by a party with the French and New Zealanders where we shared food and chatted. Then the boys performed the haka and Hannah and Don led the waiata and the National Anthem. After one or two tries, we even managed to join in with the French students singing the marseillaise. Then on Friday morning we set off on our three day trip to Belgium. On the first day, we spent it exploring Carrier Wellington, an underground museum that explores the tunnels in a section of the many kilometres of tunnels dug during WW1 and commemorates work done in particular by the New Zealand and British armies. We were given headsets and helmets and divided into groups to follow the visual tour of the network of tunneling. Afterwards we set off towards Le Quesnoy, the small town that New Zealand liberated during the first world war without harming any of the citizens. We were given some time to look around the massive walls surrounding the city, the small garden belonging to the New Zealand people and the many streets named after things associated with New Zealand - Helen Clark, the All Blacks. We also had afternoon tea with the Mayor and performed a haka and waiata with the French students.
Then we arrived at our hostel. It was very picturesque with a lake, playground, workout equipment and ping pong tables. We enjoyed a multi course dinner together in the cafeteria and then went outside to enjoy the last hours of light and play games.
On the second day after a short bus trip we arrived in Ypres. The weather was perfect, the sun was shining and we were allowed a short walk around the Menin gate and the Flanders museum as well as the town centre. Then we went for a bus tour around the local area, where we found unexploded shells and Freddy our tour guide told us plenty of stories about the troops and the battles they fought in the Belgian countryside. We visited the yorkshire trench, a preserved system of trenches which we got to walk through. We also stopped off at Hill 60, where the last major assault of the Gallipoli campaign occurred. Following this, we went to Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth cemetery on the Western Front and were given some activities to do such as finding out the oldest and youngest soldiers and the average age. Lastly, Gravenstafel, a battle site where one of the Wellington College boys had lost a relative in the second battle of Ypres.
As a way of saying thank you, we sung Te Aroha for our guide Freddy and then rode the bus back to Ypres for a whole group dinner. We also had some free time to explore, buy as much Belgian chocolate as we could carry and look around the market. Then we walked to the Menin Gate to watch the daily ceremony, with a few students laying a wreath.
The last day we headed back towards Amiens, we got some free time in Lille, although it was election day so not many shops were open we stopped had some lunch and looked around at all the beautiful sights, including the Lille Cathedral.
We arrived back on Sunday night, so we had Monday to spend with our host families, pack and say goodbye as well as buy any last minute things before we flew back. Tuesday was spent flying to Hong Kong and when we arrived early Wednesday morning we were all ready to freshen up in the airport lounge. We spent a few hours there, showering, eating and relaxing before hitting the tour bus for a guided tour around Hong Kong. Our guide was very quick and had a lot of stories to tell, but not all of us could stay awake to hear them after such a long plane ride with not a lot of sleep..We got to do a short boat tour and ride the cable car to the top as well as look around some huge shopping centres with over 700 brands. Then it was time for our flight back to New Zealand, and we were all exhausted. Ready to return home, we met our families at the end of the journey with open arms.