By Caroline Koury and Josephine Harders
For one week in November 2018, thirteen French-speaking students, three non-French speaking students, one Madame, one principal, and one fabulous Fab spent a week exploring three cities in France as a part of the Agora program.
Madame Hanlon, chaperone and Ottawa Hills French teacher, states, “I am so proud of the Agora travelers to France. They impressed me with their curiosity, their flexibility and their willingness to leave their comfort zone. Hearing my students use their French, not for points, not for a grade, but to communicate authentically, is thrilling. I’ve been asked before if I ever get tired of this itinerary, and my answer is a resounding no. Even if two trips share an itinerary, they are never identical. Exploring a place I love with students I love will never get old.”
After leaving the Detroit airport around nine on Saturday night, we arrived in Paris at ten the next morning. We immediately got on a bus and drove to the city of Arromanches, where we saw the D-Day Landings Museum. At dinner that night in Caen, we expanded our pallets and tried pâté for the first time.
The very next day, we paid our respects to over nine-thousand soldiers buried in the American Military Cemetery in France. Our four Choraliers, George Mancy, Rohit Mukherjee, Catherine Byrne, and Henry Seifried, sang the National Anthem while Preston Smith and Claire Webne presented a wreath in the center of the memorial.
After the ceremony, we drove to Mont-Saint Michel, a historic abbey off the coast of France. We climbed 350 stairs to the top to see breathtaking views of the ocean and coast below.
From there, we drove to the historic walled city of Saint-Malo. A walking tour of the town gave us knowledge of its rich history and its connections to World War II. The next day, we were given free time to roam the city before boarding a bus back to Paris.
Upon arriving in Paris, we ate traditional beef bourguignon and walked around the city. Our eyes lit up upon seeing the Eiffel Tower lights for the very first time.
For our first full day in Paris, we visited the Musée D’Orsay, a museum built into an old train station. We strained our leg muscles walking up the 387 steps of the Cathedrale Notre Dame. That night, most of us jammed out at the Hozier concert (while Nich took a much needed nap).
The next morning, we woke up early to visit a French lycée, so we could meet students around our age living in Paris. After talking with them for a while, we learned a lot about their lives, including that it is very normal for kids our age to smoke in France (they said approximately 70% of the student body either vaped or smoked).
On the Metro (the subway system of Paris) we had a close encounter with pickpockets. But, thanks to our tour guide, Fabian, we avoided them. Fabian held open the closing subway doors and told the pickpockets to leave the train.
Next, we visited the Louvre, where we saw the famous but underwhelming Mona Lisa. After the Louvre, we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The view of the clouds was astounding. That night, we had the most AMAZING crepes at a traditional French creperie.
On Friday, we travelled deep underground to the Catacombs, which are famous tunnels that are the graves of six million people. After, we travelled to L’Orangerie, where we saw the long panels of Monet’s Water Lilies.
As for the last day, we took a long metro ride to visit the Palace of Versailles. We received an exclusive tour of the King’s apartment as well as the gardens. That night, we went to Montmartre, where we went to a fabulous restaurant. Many students experienced French culture and tried escargot, a delicacy of snails and butter. For most students, that was their favorite meal they had all trip.
Caroline Dayton, a French V student states: “It was a really fun week! It was a great group of students who all got along really well and we had a lot of fun exploring new cities with Madame and Mr. McMurray.”
Those of us on the French Agora trip had an absolutely rewarding time. We were able to practice our French language skills, and enjoyed learning about a different culture and way of life.