On Saturday 30th March, forty four 1st years and their four leaders Ms Whelan, Ms McGowran, Mr McGonigle and Mr McManus gathered in Parnell’s GAA coach park to embark on their six-day trip to France.
The excitement was high as everybody checked in and soon we were all aboard Joe Moroney’s coach for the short journey to Dublin port. After a little delay, we boarded the shiny new W.B.Yeats ferry, found our cabins and gathered on deck for a photo opportunity and to say Au revoir l’Irlande. Thankfully it was a very smooth crossing and ‘most’ had a full night’s sleep!
The following morning, we arrived to glorious Normandy sunshine in Cherbourg. After a quick picnic, thanks to Ms Whelan’s catering, the lads ran free amongst the World War II craters and bunkers at Pointe du Hoc. This cliff top location offers panoramic views of Utah and Omaha Beaches and the surrounding areas and allowed the students to experience a little bit of history and imagine what happened on D-Day as the US Army Ranger Assault Groups attacked and captured the German fortified artillery battery.
Later that evening we got our first view of the lights of Paris, the Champs Elysées, and the Arc de Triomphe and on arrival, we took a wonderful cruise down the River Seine on the Bateaux Mouches to admire many of the famous landmarks Paris has to offer. We were just under the Eiffel Tower at 11pm when it burst into sparkling light. Finally, we settled into the Kyriad Hotel, weary after our travels.
After a hearty breakfast on Monday morning, we took off to Disneyland for the entire day. The brave amongst us tried out Thunder Mountain, Tower of Terror and Space Mountain etc., while others (namely Ms McGowran and Ms Whelan) strolled around enjoying the atmosphere and the sunshine.
That evening we had a gourmet dinner in the hotel and returned to Disneyland to go on a few more rides and be dazzled by the impressive night time fireworks display.
Tuesday saw another jam-packed day. We started with a guided tour of the Stade de France to walk in the footsteps of Zidane, Henri and more recently Martial and Mbappé.
There was just time for some shopping in Decathlon and lunch before we headed to the Eiffel Tower. Despite the long queues, the lads remained patient and in good spirits, entertained by former French teacher in Chanel, Ms Fitzsimons, who paid us a surprise visit and kept us company. Eventually it was our turn to go up the lift to the summit and admire the panoramic views of the city.
As we descended the Eiffel Tower, the good weather gave up, the heavens opened and we scampered for the bus, never so happy to see Joe and his coach waiting for us. It didn’t matter as we were heading to the water. A few hours in Aquaboulevard with its 11 giant water slides, lazy rivers and sandy beaches were very welcome after the hot busy day.
On Wednesday morning, we had a bit of a lie in before starting the journey home. We stopped along the way for lunch and to do a final bit of present shopping. Spirits were high and there was lots of singing and dancing in the back rows of the bus. Before long we were back on the W.B. Yeats ferry sailing for Dublin. Card games and Mr McGonigle’s and Mr McManus’ entertaining table quiz shortened the journey. Although there were a few unanswered questions in the Teachers Round!!
Back on Irish soil, Joe had us in Parnell’s in no time and reunited with our families. Overall it was a hugely successful trip. The 44 first years behaved very well, were extremely good humoured and a pleasure to bring away. The four leaders got to know them better and through the lad’s entertainment on the bus, we may have spotted contenders for next year’s Ireland’s Got Talent!