2 January 2017
On the first Sunday of October Half term, 17 Fifth Formers jetted off to Nice in the South of France to spend a week attending morning lessons at the Alpha-B Language School and to go on a number of planned excursions along the beautiful Cote d’Azur in order to sample the climate, tastes and sights of this lovely part of the world.
Stoics stayed with host families, all of whom spoke little or no English, so we had no choice but to use our GCSE French to communicate. Meals were served en famille, with many Stoics encountering niçoise specialities for the first time, such as pissaladière, socca, pan bagnat, poutine and daube niçoise – all met with varying degrees of approval!
Our French teachers, Martine and Patrice were so helpful in the lessons, suggesting improvements in our French GCSE work and organising linguistic treasure hunts in the Old Town, followed by some very spirited conversation sessions where Stoics of all abilities and bravery were able to join in and make the most of their newly-learned vocab.
Our guide for the afternoon excursions, Nicolas, was very well clued-up on the Riviera and its customs and gave us a wealth of information on our guided tour of Nice and the Old Town. We were shown the Place Masséna, leading on to the Opéra de Nice and the famous Cours Saleya with its antiques and flower market. We then went up to the castle and waterfall, with its breath-taking views over the Baie des Anges and the port and then around to the Confiserie Florian, a sweets and chocolate factory where Stoics were very quick to put their language to good use in the factory shop!
On a serious note, this year there was the very visible presence of the ‘Vigipirate’, a military security force carrying loaded machine guns, who are on constant alert following the terrible attack on Bastille Day of this year on the Promenade des Anglais by a man who drove a truck through crowds of partygoers, killing 84 people. We visited the bandstand which now acts as a memorial to those killed in this awful attack.
On Tuesday afternoon we went East along the coast to the medieval walled town of Èze where we visited the tropical cactus garden and went on a guided tour of the Fragonard perfume factory. Wednesday afternoon saw us on the train to Antibes where we visited the old market town and the Picasso museum and got to spend some time on the beach and swim in the sea.
We went further East on Thursday to Monaco and the town of Monte Carlo, taking in the Casino, Café de Paris, Hotel de Paris and the starting grid of the Formula 1 Grand Prix. It was then up to the Oceanographic Museum with its spectacular underground aquarium and then Prince Rainier’s collection of exotic cars.
After a heartfelt thanks to our Alpha-B teachers and guide, we had a pizza and pasta lunch where Esme Foster (Fifth Form, Stanhope) and Helena Vince (Fifth Form, Queen’s) won the prize for the best involvement in French lessons, Will Perry (Fifth Form, Cobham) won the petrol-head award and Dulcie Hopkinson-Woolley (Fifth Form, Stanhope) was recognised for her politeness and consideration for others. This was followed by sunbathing and swimming at the beach for a couple of hours until we all made our way to the airport to fly back to the winter weather at Luton.
Simon Dobson, French Department