Published on 23/05/18
Year 6 enjoy their wonderful trip to Normandy
It was with great excitement that Year 6 pupils set off for Normandy on Tuesday 1st May. Our two coaches and their wonderful drivers, Gordon and Robbie, arrived promptly and we were soon on the way. The traffic was exceedingly light and we reached Folkestone in such good time that we caught an early train and arrived in France well ahead of schedule. As we came through the tunnel and onto French soil there was a joyous cry of ‘Bonjour la France’ from the children before UNO, Top Trumps and singing began again in earnest.
The bustling pretty port of Honfleur made a perfect pit stop to stretch our legs and get some fresh, sea air before the final stretch of our journey to Château du Molay.
‘I really enjoyed the stops along the way.’ Isabella
Upon arrival we were greeted by cheery staff and everyone was soon exploring the beautiful grounds in front of the château. After unpacking and enjoying a welcome dinner the children enjoyed a huge game of rounders as the shadows lengthened and the sun sank behind the trees.
Rather bleak weather on the morning of Wednesday 2nd May did nothing to dampen our spirits as we headed towards the medieval town of Bayeux. Our first stop was, of course, the Tapestry and it did not disappoint. Seventy metres long and encased in glass in a dimly lit room, this pictorial representation of history from 1064-1066 was just like an ancient comic strip. We followed our audio guide to focus on and learn about each part of the tapestry.
‘The audio guide was great as it went into lots of detail about each section.’ Aaran
We thoroughly enjoyed looking at a different era of British History and learning about the Norman Conquest of Britain.
‘I was amazed that the tapestry has survived so much, such as being burnt and WW2. It was so interesting that it is only made with 10 colours and 4 different type of stitch.’ Amelia D.
It was also fascinating to spot connections such as, ‘I was surprised that le Mont Saint Michel was shown in the tapestry.’ Hagen.
Later we spotted another connection, this time to WW2. We spied an inscription on a war memorial in Bayeux which translates from Latin to ‘We, once conquered by William, have now set free the Conqueror’s native land.’
We then had time to contemplate and reflect on what we had seen as we looked around the stunning cathedral of Bayeux.
We spent Wednesday afternoon at Arromanches on the coast. This key strategic site of the Normandy landings of June 1944 was where the famous Mulberry Harbour was constructed to land troops and supplies following D-Day. Our first stop was the Arromanches 360 Cinema which is situated on a headland with dramatic vistas of the town and its surrounding bay. There we were treated to an all-round screening of dramatic period footage from D-Day and the subsequent Battle of Normandy. The stunning, and sometimes shocking, images were accompanied by a rousing soundtrack and powerful extracts from speeches by war leaders, including Churchill, Roosevelt and de Gaulle. The impact of the film on the pupils was clear from the look on their faces: they were totally absorbed and visibly moved by what they saw.
‘I thought the 360 Cinema was great because when looking at one screen you would hear something else behind you.’ Bethany
‘I found the music and images used in the 360 Cinema highly emotional.’ Jess
‘The 360 Cinema made you feel like you were actually there as it was happening.’ Juliette
‘The map in the 360 Cinema was particularly helpful in showing the German and subsequent Allied advances during the course of the war.’ Haruka
This key turning point in our history was further brought to life in a contrasting style at the D-Day Museum down on the seafront in the town of Arromanches. The large panoramic windows of the museum look out into the bay, where the hulking remains of the Mulberry Harbour still lie, as a permanent reminder of the incredible achievement of the Normandy landings. The Herculean task of constructing the components of the artificial harbours, transporting them across the English Channel and then assembling them, landing men and equipment and defending the harbour from enemy attack was described by a speaker, with the aid of massive and highly detailed models of the harbour. We also watched two films about the landings, one based on the first-hand experiences of someone who lived through these events, and then had a chance to go round looking at the museum’s incredible range of exhibits, which included weapons, uniforms and many personal mementos of participants in the Normandy campaign. Both of these styles of presentation, high-tech cinema and more traditional museum, complimented each other in helping the pupils relate more directly to the History they have been learning about in lessons and the debt we owe to those who sacrificed so much during WW2.
‘I found it amazing that there were so many artefacts in the Arromanches Museum to share the history of the war so people could come and see them.’ Nicholas
The evening of Day 2 was all about pushing boundaries by trying a new culinary experience. Each of us had the opportunity to sample some garlicky snails, once we had eased them out of their slippery shells. As if that wasn’t enough, frogs’ legs were next on the menu. Our pupils were completely unfazed and nearly all tried one or other of these French delicacies. There were some some very funny faces pulled!
‘I really enjoyed the snails and encouraging my friends who weren’t so sure about trying new things.’ Smera
‘The frogs’ legs tasted bland and disgusting, however the snails were garlicky and delicious.’ Abigael
Having digested our food, everyone went out to the front lawn to compete in ‘It’s a Knockout!’ style relays. We were all certainly ready for bed when that came to an end.
Marché du Molay-Littry - quelle atmosphère fantastique!
Thursday morning found us in the market place of Le Molay-Littry, ready to seek out the best ingredients for our lunchtime challenge... and what a choice. Baguettes, salami, paella, prawns, mussels, pastries, fruit and vegetables galore, and enough cheeses to keep the whole of Normandy’s mice population more than happy! We even had time to explore the market stalls for our own knick-knacks and souvenirs. Great collaboration and a wonderful opportunity to impress the locals with our French. Un merveilleux matin!
‘The produce was local and beautifully fresh. I think it was very different from shopping in a UK supermarket.’ Henry
‘The market was similar to the ones I see in the market towns around Cambridge, Leicester and Leeds except that it was much smaller and more spacious.’ Alexander
‘The market was an adventure that tested our French skills which was exciting but challenging.’ Gabriella
Having made our purchases we returned to the château where each group was assigned a table and tasked with creating a savoury platter and a sweet platter. La salle à manger was soon a hive of activity; suddenly it was time up and Ben, the chef on duty, appeared. He listened carefully as each group described their dishes and gently encouraged pupils to use their French. Praising every group on their collective efforts, Ben finally announced that the members of ‘La Pomme Pomme’ were the winners and it is fair to say that their creations were worthy of a MasterChef award!
Le Mont Saint-Michel
After a fun morning shopping at the market and creating our group lunches we were off to visit the spectacular Le Mont Saint-Michel. The weather was just perfect for our trip to this magical island.
‘I was amazed at how they managed to create the Abbey on an island.’ Marton
Excitement grew in the coaches as we approached the island and the vision of this medieval monastery, first seen represented in the Bayeux Tapestry on Wednesday, became reality.
‘I was so impressed with how breathtaking it was, especially as we came around the corner and saw it for the first time.’ Smera
After a quick bus ride on the Passeurs from the parking area across the bridge to Le Mont Saint-Michel, we were welcomed with a truly impressive sight. We ventured our way through the steep and narrow cobbled streets, surrounded by shops, restaurants, hotels and museums until we reached the beautiful abbey at the top.
‘I can’t believe how the streets spiralled all the way up to the abbey at the top. I didn’t expect that.’ Bethany
Upon reaching the top we took the opportunity to reflect and take in the stunning views surrounding the island (and to rest our legs too!).
‘I was amazed about how much of Normandy I could see from the top.’ Juliette
It was great to take a trip back in time to see how the magnificent monastic buildings were added in the medieval times and to spend some time in the different sections, which were developed from the 10th century right through into the 21st century. The abbey became a renowned place for learning and attracted some of the greatest minds and manuscript illuminators in Europe. What a truly special landmark to visit and it’s clear to see why it is on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites.
‘I thought it was amazing how the whole thing was made such a long time ago and that it had been through so much and changed over time but it’s still so sophisticated.’ Pi
On our way back down to sea level we were all treated to a refreshing crème glacée, which gave us another opportunity to use our French vocabulary. It was a delicious way to end our day.
‘Going to Le Mont Saint-Michel was an impeccable experience, one I shall never forget. One of the attractions I enjoyed the most was walking through the streets between the buildings and then seeing the models. It showed how the mount progressed in its development.’ Ishita
Our final evening at the château included tasting wonderful crȇpes, filled with raspberry sauce or lemon and sugar.
‘Seeing the crepes being made in front of us was mesmerising and quite satisfying.’ Pi
We were then free to make the most of the farewell disco with nothing left but to hit the dance floor.
‘I loved the disco because everyone got to party. Although tired, everyone was happy. Even the teachers joined in!’ Yuxi
‘The evening activities were a great and energetic way to end the day.’ Haruka
Absolutely! And Year 6 pupils certainly entered into every activity with great enthusiasm.
Packed lunches made, suitcases squashed closed, rooms inspected... yes, it was time to say ‘au revoir’ to Château du Molay and begin our journey back to Cambridge.
Our first stop was the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer. We arrived at a peaceful time, the dew still lay on the neatly mown lawns and the view over the English Channel was clear. We made our way towards the viewing point high above the beach and it was hard to imagine a time when this stretch of coastline was the scene of a turning point in history, the D-Day Landings. As dawn broke on 6 June 1944 the Western Task Force poured on to the beaches, remembered as Omaha and Utah, while the Eastern Task Force landed on Gold, Juno and Sword. The Cemetery covers an area of over 170 acres and contains the graves of 9,385 American service men and women, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day Landings. The rows of white crosses, in straight lines from every angle, and the stillness made this a very moving visit for both pupils and staff.
Once back on board the coaches, we drove to an E.Leclerc, for a hypermarket experience – a last chance to pick up a few gifts and treats. As we chatted with friends, played games, read, watched dvds, and munched on our baguettes, the kilometres of French countryside rolled past and the signs for Calais became increasingly regular.
‘The films were good!’ Kerry
‘It went past much more quickly than I thought because I was with my friends.’ Rebecka
‘We had lots of time to play with our unicorns and eat chocolate!’ Sophie R and Molly
Finally, we found ourselves once again in Eurotunnel’s le shuttle and heading for home. Quite amazingly Gordon and Robbie managed to pull up in Panton Street at precisely 20:30, our scheduled arrival time. It was a well timed end to four wonderful days.