Friday, March 30, 2007

French Trip 1969 web page -- London to Paris to the Moon

While I did many early travels with my family;
in the summer of 1969 I went off to Europe without the parents. I certainly had companions but little adult supervision. We managed to have an awful lot of fun.
This was a school trip organized here in Vancouver. I was a student at King George Secondary in Vancouver. Among other subjects I was taking high school French language lessons. A few of us were offered the chance for a summer month in England and France. I saved my newspaper delivery earnings, talked my father into making a contribution, and then fly off to Europe.
I have created a new web page with photos of my 1969 Trip at www.NotSorry.com/travel-france-1969.asp.
There was about 20 students and a couple of female teachers. Most students were from University Hill or Point Grey high schools in Vancouver. I think that we were all 15 or 16 years old. The plan after flying to Heathrow Airport was to travel to Paris quickly and spend two weeks of French Lessons. Then we would be off to the French Riviera -- La Cote d'Azur -- after a tour of the Loire and Avignon. Finally it was a long slog across France for a couple nights in London before flying home.
We travelled by bus and train and ferry. We stayed at school dorms and university hostels.

The Trip Out
From Vancouver it is a long overnight flight across Greenland to London. From there it was another long day trip to Paris. Due to a Channel ferry delay we missed our train connection to Paris. I remember spending considerable time at the French Immigration office at Calais.
The delay meant that most of us stood up all the way on a crowded train. We arrived exhausted at our suburban school dormitory after midnight.

Paris Streets and Museums
The next morning was early wakeup time to head to the Champs-Élysées for a rather boring Bastille Day parade. There was a lot of military units, just a couple bands and few horses. There was a very big crowd though. They must have been 12 rows deep on the sidewalk.
That night -- or perhaps the next -- we stayed out late to attend an outdoor Renaissance era music and dance concert beside one of the Parisien boulevards. The thing that we found the funniest was that they used original costumes complete with tears and worn patches. They must have been three hundred years old. The music was deadly serious and we were exhausted. The dancers never cracked a smile and the pace was glacial. After we left -- we couldn't wait until the end -- we rolled out on to sidewalk and laughed for 20 minutes. This was definitely one of the funniest events of my young life.

We had lessons from a French instructor named something like Mr. Ligne. He kept us entertained with his accent acquired in England we kept him with our Canadian hijinks. We visited a number of museums. I loved the Louvre. The Victoire de Samothrace remains a personal favourite. What a great setting! I took my pictures with a Polaroid camera. Some of the detail is missing but it did capture interesting colours.

We sang on the bus and travelled through the hot summer rains. We drank a lot of cheap wine and some Spanish students taught us about Sangria and Spanish dancing.

It was a great summer. I have returned to Paris several more times and I have some great memories. But the funniest and most fun ones were from the summer of '69.

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