Year End Academic Trip: Normandy & Paris

Isaac & Willa, Class of 2023
Our journey to Normandy began with a long day of travel. Departing early from Neuchâtel, we embarked on a train to Geneva, then Paris, and from there, a bus ride to Caen. Despite the long journey, everyone's spirits remained high, and upon our arrival, we were greeted by the enchanting allure of Caen. The town's charm was unlike anything I had ever seen. Everywhere you looked, it was breathtaking and unique, with a style of architecture that caught your eye from a mile away. Many students (myself included) enjoyed takeout for a sunset picnic dinner in front of the historic Caen castle, while others opted for authentic French cuisine. Either way, it was a great way to start the trip.

After a good night’s sleep, we were off on a full-day bus tour of the Normandy beaches. This is where we got to see where the Canadians, British, and Americans landed during the D-Day invasion. In addition to visiting the Juno Center and the beach, we also had the opportunity to tour a German bunker and Canada's Second World War museum. We learned about Canada’s contributions to World War II, and how Canadian troops were integral to D-Day success. It's not every day you get to see Juno Beach, where Canadian soldiers sacrificed their lives so many years ago. As Canadians, we must commemorate these soldiers by honoring their bravery, remembering their sacrifices, and ensuring that their legacy is never forgotten and that their contributions never go unnoticed. This experience opened my eyes to how lucky we are to call ourselves Canadians. When we got back to Caen, we were free to eat wherever, and afterward, many students decided to explore and enjoy the lively Caen nightlife. 

Once again, great weather greeted us on our final day in Caen; it was a little chilly but there was no rain. And after an early bus ride to Bayeux, a picturesque town close to Caen, we saw a 58-scene tapestry depicting William the Conqueror's conquest of England! This thing was massive! Being 68 meters long, it was quite the walk, but worth it. After our short but sweet visit to Bayeux, we were off to our second stop of the day. A Viking village! Exploring the Ornavik Viking Village was an extraordinary experience. By learning about their traditional clothing, medicinal gardens, and how they built their villages and maintained their communities, we learned all about Norman Viking life. Playing the traditional game Kubb, where you throw sticks at wooden blocks, was a personal highlight for me! After we got back to Caen in the afternoon, we had the rest of the day to ourselves to roam around the city and find a nice spot for dinner. It was awesome to soak up all the amazing things Normandy had to offer. The start of our trip was a success!

On the final full day in France, we took the bus back to Paris. When we arrived, we had time to eat and explore with our friends, and then we were able to go and experience the Louvre. Class of 2023 is filled with people who are very passionate about history and art, and the freedom that we had to explore the museum was exciting. I personally went with many others to see the classic Mona Lisa first, and then covered as much ground as possible. The parts of the museum that really stood out to me were specifically all of the incredible sculptures like the Venus De Milo and Psyche Revived By Cupid’s Kiss, along with the fascinating and abundant collection of ancient Egyptian art. It was an experience that all of the students could really appreciate, especially because the museum has something for everyone, especially for our class full of art and history lovers.

We had the entire rest of the day to do what we wanted. We explored, shopped, saw sights, and ate. After dinner time, a large number of students gathered for the nighttime light show at the Eiffel Tower and shared an important and sentimental moment while savouring the last night of the last school trip of the year. We laughed and talked, and some even ‘promposed’ in front of the tower. It was a great way to end the trip; with everybody being together and enjoying each other's company. On the last morning, we had until the afternoon to explore more as we wished. Many people went out for food during this time and enjoyed being with their friends. I had a great time getting food with my two roommates and reflecting with them on the trip and eventually reflecting on the year itself, as it is coming to a close faster than we expected.

The Paris segment of the Normandy trip was an incredible opportunity and a bittersweet one at the same time. School trips always provide great immersive learning experiences and extra opportunities to enjoy the company of our peers, and this one was no different, though many of us were saddened to know that it was our last. For that reason, we all made the very most of it, and we certainly ended the school trips of the year on a positive note.
Neuchâtel Junior College offers the unique opportunity to study Canadian curriculum abroad. While living in Switzerland in a French community, students enjoy an international education through travel and experiential learning in Europe. Gap year and Grade 12  high school students gain international experience and develop independence and life skills that prepare them for university and the global workplace.

A Canadian high school in Switzerland | Grade 12 & Gap