...the cold, early spring weather in Amiens introduced us quite fittingly to a totally different side of France and French history.
If you ever get the chance to visit la Picardie, be sure to put Amiens on your map. The cathedral is well worth a visit. And... inside this stunning gothic church, a UNESCO world heritage building, we discovered a plaque commemorating NZ soldiers. How humbling!
The next day, we traveled to Albert where we visited the World War I museum which we all found very interesting and well done.
We then went on the "circuit du souvenir" by bus (Longueval, Thiepval, Caterpillar Valley, etc). I was a little concerned at first that all these war memorials and stories would not be something for a girls only group, and I was proven completely wrong. The girls were extremely engaged and respectful and could not get enough of the information given by our young guide. Our guide was from the area and she impressed the girls with her childhood stories of finding shells, and all sorts of remains, in the ground when playing as a girl in the family backyard.
To make it more authentic still, I can’t help but mention that as our guide was just explaining these things, we drove past a one metre high live shell. The girls were most excited and a little scared!
I believe every single girl has now a much deeper understanding of the reality of the war, after standing on the ground where thousands of unknown soldiers are still buried.
Before we left Christchurch, the students had talked with their parents and grand-parents to find out about family members who fought in the Somme. The visit brought to the fore a number of stories about these family members, as the girls volunteered their insights.
As a result and as we found out through our communication with the families back home, a number of parents became quite envious of their daughters who were able to visit these sites, as they had not this opportunity
At the end of our time in Amiens. we met Stéphane Brendle, the history teacher in charge of the project "Poppelicot" that St Margaret's had been part of earlier in the Commemoration Period.
Unfortunately we did not see any students there, as they were still on holidays. However, I got the opportunity to give Stéphane the draft printout of our collaborative recipe book (Bittersweet memories) which will be printed in a couple of weeks. It was great to finally meet face to face.
Stefanie Hossbach _ May 2016