I have finally settled in and stopped living out of my suitcase after an unforgettable trip to France and Belgium. I am so grateful that I had the chance to experience this once in a lifetime trip with such amazing people. Since I have been back I have presented the amazing events we encountered, to my school, family and friends, the Eltham Lions, Stratford Genealogy group a maori radio station and to some local papers.
This trip was so eye opening, I got to see the memorials and graves of the fallen men of the great war. I got the chance to meet some teachers from College Jean Fernel my school’s sister school in the Shared Histories Project. We went to many war cemeteries, where we paid our respects. The amount of men who died in the great war is so sad, one cemetery we went to ‘Tyne Cot’, has nearly 12,000 graves. When your standing upon the large memorial and looking over the thousands of graves,imagine each one a standing man. It definitely makes you think, maybe even shed a tear.
LE QUESNOY The most emotional part for me was visiting Le Quesnoy which is a small fortified town that New Zealand soldiers liberated from Germans near the end of the Great War. It was amazing to hear the stories of the men and how they still recognise our country as the ones who saved them.
PARIS Some of my favourite parts in Paris was the river cruise along the Seine and going to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Seeing the Bastille Day parade was a rare experience that we were lucky to see. The fireworks that happen annually from the eiffel tower every Bastille Day was something I had been really looking forward to. While buying some more metro tickets me and Sophie were left behind by the rest of the group. There was no way we were missing these fireworks and we didn’t know where the others were going so we made our way to Montparnasse where we thought we might get a good view. We got there and ended up having to watch them from a pedestrian crossing. All in all it was an amazing opportunity that no one else in the group got to experience.
ARRAS After Paris we traveled to Arras where we were billeted out to host families in pairs, Emma’s and my family was amazing and made our time very memorable. We got to try some smelly french cheeses, escargot (snails) and frogs legs, despite what you might think they actually taste quite nice.
BELGIUM Belgium was amazing and definitely somewhere I would love to travel to again one day. It was beautiful and really relaxed, though when we were told about the battles that took part under our feet one hundred years ago I had shivers running through my body. In Ypres, every night they stop the traffic and play the last post at Menin Gate. We were there an hour early to get a good spot and watch the soldiers and band perform. We tasted some delicious Belgian chocolate and visited the ‘In Flanders Fields’ museum. We had a bit of time to look around the town and do some shopping. We stayed at Messines Peace Village Hostel who provided a lovely guide who showed us around to the nearby Kiwi memorials.
THANK YOU I would like to thank everyone who made this wonderful experience possible and so memorable.