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I wanted to offer a quick update from France. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the trip, you can read about it here. It is late – and I am full of boeuf bourguignon. I also have traveler’s brain, so forgive me for unleashing a series of seemingly unconnected thoughts.
The trip, in short, has been wonderful so far. There have been no major hiccups in our travel schedule. The students have been well-behaved. And the sights we have seen – Mont St. Michel and Arromanches among them – have been both informational and pleasing to the eye.
But I think the best part, so far, has been the discovery that many of the chaperones (faculty at Smith) are closer to home in France than in the United States. Principal Phil Holmes grew up in England. His father is a professor of history at Oxford, so he has been pointing out European architecture to the students as we walk the cobblestone streets. Math teacher Noa Stuchiner is from Israel. You don’t think of Israel as being a neighbor to France, of course, but, as she pointed out, she is a four-hour flight away from home. Much closer than usual. And she has been taking advantage of it by speaking by phone to her parents and sister. French teacher Robin McMahon, who organized the trip and secured the grant from the EU that made it all possible, has been to France many times and is, of course, fluent in the language. And French teacher Valerie Huet, enjoying her first year at Smith, is a native of Normandy. She truly is home.
In fact, her mother sat with us while we ate dinner tonight. She doesn’t speak any English, but she conversed with us as Valerie translated. She was 7 when Germany invaded her village during World War II. She remembers her father digging a hole in the garden for the family to hide in, and the sky, she recalls, was a vivid red during the invasion.
It is one example of how different this trip has been from your typical tourist experience.
Tomorrow, we are headed to the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach. And then it’s on to Paris!
Some random bullet points to leave you with:
· The food here is outstanding. The bread, the crepes, the desserts! It is a good thing we are walking so much.
· Tonight, at the restaurant in Bayeux, we sat next to a couple from Winston-Salem. It’s a small world after all!
· Some of the boys have purchased (and are wearing) scarves – and they are really looking much more European.
· On Sunday, Principal Holmes used his iPhone to provide updates on the UNC-Washington game. With the Tar Heels trailing, our bus broke out into a chant of “Let’s go, Tar Heels!”
· Although I am excited to go to Paris, I am a bit sad to leave Normandy. These small villages are so quaint and charming. And I feel that we are seeing an authentic side of France that not everyone gets to experience. We are lucky!
· I am signing off because our wake-up call comes early tomorrow. And because I am determined to enjoy this gorgeous chateau we are staying in. We feel like kings and queens. I will try to post again soon, assuming I have the time and the Internet connection. Until then, enjoy these photos. Au revoir!