La Ville-Lumière among highlights of French Tour
“Immensely beautiful” is how Matthew Eton (Year 11) describes the evening view over Paris from the Eiffel Tower. He and fellow French Tour member Ollie Newton (Year 12) said the city often referred to as ‘La Ville-Lumière’ (City of Light) at night, was a sight to behold.
Ollie, visiting France for the first time, and Matthew were among 20 Christ Church boys and 15 Iona girls who left Perth on Good Friday for a three-week cultural experience. The tour began with a week in Paris followed by an exchange with students from St Jean et la Croix school in St Quentin.
The first week allowed the group to soak in Paris and its surrounds including the basilica Sacré Coeur, the Champs-Élysée, les Invalides, the palace of Versailles, Notre Dame, the Sainte-Chapelle; the Conciergerie and various galleries, markets and museums. The group even met the French Minister for Employment Monsieur Xavier Bertrand, and visited his offices – only appropriate given his daughter was a member of the touring party!
Culinary experiences included the famous Les Deux Magots and a group dinner at Michelin star restaurant Hôtel de Crillon. While Matthew enjoyed the traditional French menu, Ollie was not quite as convinced when it came to foie gras. “The food was really different – a bit weird and not really my taste,” he said.
Matthew said during the first week in Paris, their greatest challenge had been ordering food. The second part of the tour is where the boys’ French speaking and listening skills were really put to the test - billeted out to French families from St Jean for two weeks (with Christ Church families reciprocating later this year when the French students come to Perth).
Here, the boys spent their time between attending school with their host students and a number of excursions and tours around the Picardie area, including the Anzac Day dawn service at Villers-Bretonneux and a day trip to Belgium via the Wellington Tunnels.
For Matthew and Ollie, the host family experiences were quite different. While Ollie stayed with the top English student in the class, Matthew’s host student spoke very little English – forcing him to speak constantly in French at home. “I’ve definitely become more confident in my speaking as I had to speak in French a lot,” Matthew said.
Ollie said he had improved his French speaking but not as extensively as he would have liked. “The whole experience offers you opportunities to see things you might not get to see until later in life,” he said. “The French lifestyle is quite different to ours. It’s quite traditional.”
Both agreed that food was taken very seriously and that the family always sat down to dinner together. “They are serious about their food and they go to a lot of effort at dinner,” Matthew said. “It’s not just steak and some veggies, it can be quite involved.”
The boys thanked language staff Elisabeth Gerber, Linda Curlewis and Bob Peterson for their organisation and co-ordination of the tour.