Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Canadian Students in Europe for the First Time, Easter Break 2009

This past Easter break, three schools of Canadian students took off to discover France and Italy. Voyages Millefleurs, with all of our guides in tow spent ten days in Europe with students, chaperones and teachers. Each year at this time we attempt to make independent travellers out of Saskatchewan students and teach them how things work in Europe... we learned the metro in Paris, the high speed train across France and the canals and winding streets in Venice!

Leah Fornwald, our most highly organized guide and a high school teacher herself toured northern France and Paris with her group from Outlook High School. Their goal was to learn about Canadian history with a close-up look at the Beaches of Normandy and the old residence of the explorer, Jaques Cartier.

Ryan Radchenko, my brother, tears himself away from skiing to help out with the family business as he has been the guide for Melfort High School for the last three tours. His humour and laissez-faire attitude makes it seem easy to take as many trains, planes, buses and metros as these students were touring both France and Italy. Ryan is a good role model for students learning to travel on their own as he has had many experiences in the Baltic states and in Eastern and Western Europe.

Of course our fearless leader, Corinne Thomson was there to aid in our adventures and co-ordinate everything with the student´s best interests at heart. One year of planning came into fruition and all three tours went off without a hitch. Corinne is currently still in Europe conducting a wine tour in the Alsace and Burgundy and later an Impressionist Art tour through Provence.

I had the pleasure of guiding for the students from Warman High School, with their teachers & chaperones Deanna, Laird and Matthew. We were all proud of the students for practicing their french, becoming independent in the metro in Paris and trying a taste of everything on the menu... I am sure that a few of the brave ones ate duck not once, but twice!

We started our holiday in Nice on the Cote d´Azur where we had great weather - alas we spent some time on the beach and in the markets before climbing up to the Chateau de la Colline for an amazing picnic. In the afternoon we took in the riches of Monte Carlo and their fancy cars!

Nearby trips included visits to Grasse, where flowers abound and perfume is made, with a stop at the hilltop artist town of St. Paul de Vence - a favourite among many students. A must was to see the hand prints of the European and Hollywood stars in Cannes, the site of the famous film festival and known for it´s sandy beaches.

Next we were off to Provence with a side trip to Arles where the spring Feria was in full swing! We got a taste of the Spanish influence as the students tried Paella, a favourite of teacher Deanna from her past travels in the region. We studied some impressionist art and saw the many Roman ruins before heading off to our next stop, Avignon. In this papal town we climbed the fortified walls up to the garden of the Pope´s Palace. Illuminated at night, this town is fantastic and we managed to factor in some free time for exploring and a nice meal at the restaurant of their choice. Closeby Avignon we visited the market at St. Remy de Provence and the town perched on the bauxite cliffs called Les Baux de Provence. We had a chance to take in the grandeur of another well known Roman ruin in the region, the Pont du Gard. Some scrambled up the side embankments just to see how in ancient times, water was channeled across this specially designed bridge.

Our next leg took us on the TGV, dashing across the French landscape at 250kms/hr! We arrived in Paris in three hours flat and without hesitation jumped on the metro to get to the hotel. I am so proud of these travellers...everyone looked out for each other, helped with (broken!) luggage and braved the many stair-laden metro tunnels! Bravo! (... and thanks for the help with [my] broken luggage, Laird!)

In Paris we took advantage of the city of lights by taking a boat ride on the Seine River and we scaled the Eiffel Tower up to the third floor. The evenings were well spent sightseeing just as the days were filled with activity - more stairs up the Arc de Triomphe and some shopping on the Champs Elysées... from the Louvre to Père Lachaise Cemetery, the Latin Quarter near Notre Dame Cathedral and the Basilica at Sacre Coeur de Montmartre. We even got a glimpse of the Moulin Rouge situated in the red-light district! Hey, an independent traveller is not always going to end up in the most delightful of areas, now are they?

I have to say that every student was a pleasure to get to know. I am sure I can say the same for all of our guides and our ¨Chief¨ Corinne. Thanks to chaperones & teachers for your organization during the year and your vigilance while on tour. For us guides it is a fun time of year and it is very rewarding to see the faces brighten on these young people when they discover something that is truly unique and European.

I hope you keep following our adventure stories with the newly created VM Elite Viajes (Santiago de Chile) and Voyages Millefleurs Travel Inc. ¨Your Window on the World of Wine... and the Student´s First Step towards Independent Travel.¨


Natascha Radchenko