Last weekend had a very strong French theme. Distinctly garlicky, actually. I was up at 5am - yes, FIVE IN THE MORNING - on Saturday, in order to get to Farnborough station by 6am, so that we could get to Waterloo in time for the 9am Eurostar to the Gare du Nord in Paris. If you're thinking "you went to Paris, you lucky bastard" at this point, there was a catch. Twenty-three catches in fact. Namely 23 students from Fleur's school.
It's some catch, that Catch-23.
Thankfully, it was only a day trip, and the kids had been specially selected from best French classes in the school, so they were surprisingly well behaved, though I did need to get a little shouty with them on the Eurostar back, as they were getting just *too* loud, and we didn't have the carriage to ourselves.
It was an unusual way to see Paris for the first time, but I definitely want to go back - but preferably *without* all the pre-teens. We saw most of the sights, Notre Dame, the Champs Elysees, the Arc d'Triophe and naturally the Eiffel Tower. We spent most of our time on an open top bus, though we did have lunch outside the Louvre, and take a walk down the Seine to the Notre Dame. Things were a little rushed, unfortunately, and we were lucky to make it back to the Gare du Nord in time for train, as we got caught in the rush hour traffic, and wouldn't have made it unless the bus driver hadn't offered to alter his route and take us directly to the station. Parisians have a bad reputation for being snotty (especially to foreigners), but this guy was a real star. I don't envy his job either, the traffic in Paris is incredible - even worse than in Porto, and they were complete nutters.
In places like the Place de la Concorde and the Arc d'Triophe you're getting cars six abreast, just randomly cutting each other up and changing lanes, with no indicating or lane markings... you'd never get me and my Coupé in there.
We were lucky with the weather, though, and the kids all really enjoyed themselves. There was all the novelty value of me not being a teacher - most of the kids kept calling me "Mr Foltzer" because they couldn't either remember or pronounce my surname, which was quite amusing. At least when I told them to do something, they listened, which was nice. Though I suppose you don't talk back to a 6'1", 15 stone Glaswegian in Matrix shades if they tell you to do something in the middle of a strange city if you're only 11 or 12 years old...
We only had a couple of traumas on the trip - one at the beginning, and one at the end, though nothing too serious. One of the girls on the trip was from Zimbabwe, and the border police kicked up a bit of a fuss since she didn't have a visa to visit France, which caused a bit of stress for about half an hour until they managed to get everything sorted out. The worst thing was at the end, when we got back to Farnborough. The letter for the trip had told the parents that they needed to be at the station for 10pm to pick up the kids, and when one girl, Michaela, rang her mother to get her to pick her up, she was told "I'm in London, I can't pick you up." How charming is that? No, I can't pick you up, I'm 40 miles away. Just make your own way back to Camberley thankyouverymuchdon'tbotherme. The poor girl was in tears, and we ended up having to give her a lift home, which thankfully wasn't too out of our way. I'd be giving that parent a serious kicking if I saw her for a student review day, because that's *well* out fucking order...
Fleur and I made it home around 11pm, making it officially A Very Long Day Indeed. We then kept up the French theme on the Sunday by visiting a travelling French market that was in Camberley for the weekend. Fleur bought lots of jam, and I bought some a couple of saucisson sec - duck and wild boar, respectively - with some rather special mustard (wholegrain mustard with cassis & white wine) to go with them.
And just to finish off the weekend, I watched the highlights of the French Grand Prix whilst drinking some French Cabernet Sauvignon... A very French weekend, non?