It's been over a month since we returned from our trip, so a blog post is long overdue! We set out in July on our two week journey which took us to Paris, Northern France and Belgium.
In Paris we visited famous places such as Les Invalides, the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. We were privileged enough to be official spectators of the Bastille Day Parade down the Champs Élysées, where we sat very close to the French President François Hollande. It was a lengthy parade showing off all of the French military uniforms, tanks and planes from throughout their military history. It was an incredible spectacle and once in a life time experience!
After our 4 nights in Paris we travelled North to the town of Arras, where we would spend 6 nights with a homestay family. I was a little apprehensive before meeting my homestay family, as I was one of three Young Ambassadors to be staying with my Arras family by myself. However, the family I had was better than I could have imagined! They were called the Henselmann's and were from a region called Alsace which borders Germany. Luc and Muriel my homestay Dad and Mum had 3 daughters, Aurore (19), Delphine (16) and Oriane (12). The Henselmann's were very welcoming and hospitable, and went out of their way to make sure I enjoyed my stay, and had a real French experience. Delphine even joined in the groups activities on the day where we went to the Carrière Wellington, and took us to the underground cellars below the town square!
While we were based in Arras, we travelled out of town to many World War I sites, museums and cemeteries. I highlight of these excursions was visiting the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery where my great-great-grandfather has his memorial. This was a very moving experience, but I am very glad I was able to visit it. I also got to lay a wreath my grandmother made for him. He died in the Battle of the Somme on September 27th 1916, leaving behind his two young daughters.
After an emotional goodbye to our homestay families, we crossed the border into Belgium. We spent the day in Ypres, and visited the Museum of the Great War. In the evening we attended the Last Post ceremony where 3 Young Ambassadors laid a wreath on behalf of us. In Belgium we visited the Museum of Paschendale. I thought this was the best museum, as it had practical aspects to it. You were able to smell the scent of the poisonous gases used in the war (which were highly unpleasant) and lie on the wire beds in reconstructed bunkers.
We took the TGV from Lille back to Paris, where we spent our last night in France. Since our flight left France in the evening, we were allowed some time in the morning and early afternoon to explore Paris. Harriet and I chose to visit the Catacombs while others chose to go up the a Eiffel Tower and visit the Musee D'Orsay. Harriet and I lined up for the catacombs one and a half hours before they opened at 11, and we we didn't get in until 12! But it was well worth it, we walked through a small section of the catacombs and saw the stacks of bones and skulls. It's hard to believe there are 6 million skeletons under Paris!
The trip was certainly unforgettable, not only because of where we visited and what we saw, but also because of the wonderful people I got to share the experience with. The Young Ambassadors were all so lovely and people who I had great fun with. And Glenda and Ruth were very kind, and made our traveling a breeze. It was weird when we all went to our own homes back in New Zealand, as we were so used to one another's company!
Since I have returned home, I have been working on my project, and have given presentations about my trip to rotary clubs and to my school. I am looking forward to meeting up with everyone again this weekend, in Auckland.
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Last modified on Saturday, 06 September 2014 10:27