As I begin the first blog entry of the trip, we’ve just left Portsmouth and are on our way to Caen-Ouistreholme. A huge thank-you to all of the parents who arrived promptly and enabled us to get an early start to our journey. Armed with food, toys, cards and games, as well as a few spinners - at least one between two, if not more! Our coach driver was well-prepared and endeared himself to the children by putting some of the favourite films on, including ‘Minions’. As you can imagine, it was a quiet journey down…the customary rest breaks were quick as the children wanted to get back and enjoy the films!
Our timely departure from school and traffic-free motorway journey meant that we arrived at Portsmouth at 10:54 (William P correctly guessing the time of arrival!). Using the collective passport certainly made everything very straightforward…walking up to the desk, presenting one piece of paper and then having each child showing their Foreign & Commonwealth Office-endorsed ID card…much more simple! Having swiftly collected these in and been issued with our boarding cards, we were able to relax with our lunch and then were called downstairs at 1:50 along with another school group who, coincidentally, were also travelling to the Château! Undoubtedly we shall see more of them throughout the week.
When travelling to the Château, we go as foot passengers on the ferry: one company collects us from school and takes us to Portsmouth, where we alight and then check in. Our bags are loaded into a small trailer or ‘cage’, solely for our use, which is then transported on the ferry. We take our carry-on bags with us on board.
For most of the children, this is their first experience of travelling by ferry. Thus far it’s a smooth crossing, allaying the fears that “We’ll be sick!” The crew are hospitable and friendly, and we have our own cabin, so it gives everyone room to spread out. There is a treasure hunt organised for this afternoon, along with a limbo-dancing competition (!) so that will help to keep the children occupied during the voyage.
We are already seeing some of the benefits of the residential experience. Opportunities to sit and talk, and get to know each other in a less structured way. Laughing and enjoying shared experiences, especially those that they are going through for the first time. Playing cards and games together - it was interesting to hear one of our children comment how unsociable another group was being, sitting in a cluster with their tablets!
We went up to the restaurant to have our dinner and only had a short time thereafter before it was time to prepare for disembarking. Back in the cabin one of the Prep 6s, who shall remain nameless, remarked “Is that France over there?” as he looked out of the window….oops!
Disembarking proved to be swift and painless: travelling as foot passengers meant that we literally had to walk off the ferry; take the shuttle coach back to the terminal; go through passport control and then collect our bags from the on the other side. The first job would have been to collect our bags from ‘the cage’ but it seemed that we didn’t even have to do that…a quick check found that the coach from the Château was already awaiting for us, and their diligent driver had already loaded all of the bags for us! We were extremely grateful to simply walk onto the coach, sit down and relax for the 90-minute journey to our home for the next week.
It was lovely to pull into the Château and be greeted by Lily and Ophelie, the night-duty staff, who quickly arranged for us to come inside and have some hot chocolate! ‘This is just like Hogwarts!’ remarked Roni - undoubtedly a reference to the building and hopefully to the atmosphere as well: walking into a stone castle to have hot chocolate, sitting on long wooden benches at long wooden tables does feel as though it could have come from a certain set of books. All enjoyed their chocolate and the obligatory madeleines that came with them.
‘Time for bed’ said Zebedee…and so it was. Ophelie led the way outside to collect the bags: we assembled on the meeting ground and dormitory groups were organised. All were led upstairs, beds quickly found, medication dispensed and ablutions done.
More Tweets, photographs and a blog to follow on Monday…you can see all of Sunday’s on my Twitter feed by clicking here.