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France 2017: Day 2

Posted on 9th May 2017 by Chris Barnes

As I was packing to come away here, I found my little notebook from the last trip: a little A7 scribbler where I kept an ongoing log of what was happening to help me remember the little points when writing up the daily blog.  It made interesting reading and I wonder how it will differ with this year’s entries when I come to write up each day.

7:15am arrived and the children were all awake, mainly bright-eyed and bushy tailed…a few hours of sleep had done them the world of good!  Showers were taken, dormitories tidied and it was soon time to walk over to the dining room for our first breakfast of the trip.

There was a distinctly French flavour to breakfast… hot chocolate, chocolate bread, baguettes, fruit, cereal, fruit juice, plus tea and coffee for the adults.  One of the animateurs (instructors) introduced the meal to the children and how they should go up and ask for more (in French, naturally!), should they want anything else.  It was great to see a few little Oliver Twists take up the challenge of saying ‘Je voudrais encore du pain, s’il vous plâit.

Once breakfast was finished and we were ready to clear away, two volunteers started the ongoing rota of clearing the table.  All children will do this at some point during the week.  There is a specific routine to be completed and therefore some responsibility for all of the children, and no-one leaves until the table is cleared - hence everyone needs to help in some way in order for the task to be completed properly.  This is another benefit of the residential experience: giving the children collective responsibility for a task.  

After breakfast, the whole site had a fire drill and then we split into our activity groups ready for the day events.  First up was a tour around the whole site, to help the children familiarise themselves with the layout and find everything quickly and easily.  The site around the Château has had a few changes since we were here last, with an all-weather surface and family camping area amongst some of the additions.

Then, it was off to activities!  Breadmaking for one group; fencing for another.  The bread makers begun with the most important task - making and decorating their hats - whilst their instructor talked them through the process of bread making.  The children passed the flour, water and yeast along the table and soon the table sang to the noise of claps and bangs as the children beat air into their dough, to the rhythm of ‘We Will Rock You’ and similar songs!  Once cut and shaped, the bread was baked and returned to happy children after dinner - pictures have been posted on Twitter.

For budding D’Artagnans, fencing was their activity.  They were given an explanation of how to dress, the names of the parts of their equipment and how to behave when fencing.  The children learned how to stand, how to approach, how to be ‘en garde’ and then to attack but crucially, where to mark with the foil to gain points.  A new and different activity for them today, but one which all of the group enjoyed.  

Following a delicious lunch, it was time to swap around.  Fencing for the group that had not done it this morning, whereas the other group headed off to the archery range.  This, as with most of the activities, began with the children spelling out their names in French…I always appreciate that they do this at the Château as the children never forget how to do it!  It helps the instructors to remember the children as well. Coralie, our instructor, took the children through the rules of the range and explained about the different parts of the bow and arrows (kudos to Alex M for knowing that the feathers on an arrow are called ‘fletchings!)  The children had three sets of three shots each: a practice round, a points round and then a bonus round where they had to try and hit a balloon in the centre of the target, where they could double their points score.  Needless to say this went down extremely well, and a few balloons were popped.  Great shooting from all; particular mentions to Isabella M, JJ and Ben G.

After some free time, it was time for a delicious French evening meal.  Mozarella and tomato salad, followed by pork with couscous and vegetables, then a surprise for pudding…I don’t think the children had banked on quite how much they would be fed, and there were a few wide eyes at the dining table (they thought that the starter was the main course!). Pudding was a surprise for Roni, who had her birthday on Sunday whilst we were travelling - a ‘gâteau from the Château’ to celebrate her birthday, a little belatedly. 

The evening’s activity was a sports tournament.  Definitely not ‘just a bit of fun’…each team wanted to win!  They were all still up for it despite having had such a long day and many being really tired, so credit to the children for getting out there and taking part.  Great resilience from everyone.

However, bedtime was appreciated when it arrived…no arguments when it came and we all appreciated a longer night last night.

Here is a link to my Twitter feed again so you can look back over yesterday’s photos - click on the Tweets and replies header so you can only see what I’m posting.  We have taken some pictures with the camera but need some opportunity to upload them!  Gallery links to follow.

Tuesday means a visit to the market town of Villedieu de Poêles, then on to Arromanches and the D-Day Landing beaches, and finally to Bayeux to see the tapestry…a great day and highy appropriate in timing, coming a day after VE Day and on the day that Russia celebrates Victory Day.  More to follow tonight or tomorrow morning.  I’ll try and get some tweets out during the day, reception permitting.

A bientôt!


M. Barnes