By Ashton School on Mar 7, 2017.   No Comments

French Exchange in Pontivy 2017

Jeudi, le 9 mars 2017 Aujourdhui, la transformation est complète. Après huit jours, on parle le français.

Ce matin, on est allé à Rennes. On est parti du Lycée Jeanne d’Arc à 8h20 et on est arrivé à la Gare de Rennes à 10h00.

Avec des instructions écrites et un plan de la ville, les élèves ont pris le métro à la Place Sainte Anne, et ils ont pris aussi une petite pause là. Après la pause ils sont allés voir le Parlement de Bretagne et l’Hôtel de Ville. L’Hotel de Ville est situé à la Place de la Mairie. Ils ont pris des photos là et après ça ils se sont promenés au Jardin du Thabor. En route, ils sont passés devant le Collège Anne de Bretagne. Le Lycée Anne de Bretagne est fermé maintenant, mais Ashton School a participé dans in échange scolaire avec Lycée Anne de Bretagne pour plus de dix ans.

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À midi, les élèves se sont retrouvés à la Place de la Mairie. Les professeurs ont compté les élèves et personne était perdu!

imageDans l’après midi tout le monde a fait du shopping. En passant par le marché, tout a vérifié le prix d’un lapin pour le dîner. Aujourdhui le prix était 12€95 le kilo.image

On s’est retrouvé à la gare à 15h00. Les élèves ont dit qu’ils ont vraiment aimé la journée.

Demain, on partira de la ville en autocar à 4h00. Tout les élèves se sont bien amusés à Pontivy. Ils ont vraiment apprecié le séjour en Bretagne et c’est clair qu’ils ont profité au maximum.

À Cork!

Mecredi, le 8 mars 2017 The group met at Lycée Jeanne d’Arc à 8h00 ce matin. Heureusement, il faisait beau. We had to walk to the school on the other site – Lycée Saint Ivy – about 1km away. When we arrived we were welcomed by the head of the catering department who gave us a tour of the new facilities. He showed us their new extension which houses an amazing state-of-the-art catering kitchen and a number of small classrooms – an extension which one could only covet and which cost just €1,000,000! Wow!

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The catering school is well worth a visit. The new kitchen was built pour la formation professionnelle of 14 students qui travaillent à deux. Each pair gets to travailler with a stainless steel worktop, a stainless steel sink, an enormous gas ring, a hot plate, an induction hob, an oven with electronic controls – avec vapeur, sans vapeur, la temperature etc. and more. The teacher has a fully equipped professeur’s station with the same facilities, and there is another station which backs onto the restaurant which has an induction wok, bains marie and electronically temperature-controlled food storage as well. Students taking the professional baccalaureate in catering learn to cuisiner dans la cuisine or serve food au restaurant d’application and when fully trained will never need to respond to a query from a customer with “I will ask the chef” again.

Après la visite guidée des cuisines the cooking lessons began. We got to déguster beaucoup de choses – des fruit de mer. Amazingly the participation in the dégustation was very high. Les elèves irlandais ont  vraiment aimé les fruits de mer. After that we got to take une petite pause et on est allé en ville.  À midi les irlandais et les frainçais  se sont retrouvés au restaurant d’application pour déjeuner ensemble. Ç’a été une expérience incroyable.

At the teachers’ table the conversation turned towards collaborative projects. New professional goals for the development of French and English teaching materials in our respective schools were agreed and the benefits of the échange français/irlandais were acknowledged.

Demain, on va à Rennes.  À Rennes, les elèves devront prendre le Metro eux mêmes. Ça sera encore un autre test pour eux! Comme j’ai déja dit, si on perd moins de 5% d’elèves, tout ira bien. On verra.

Tuesday, 7th March 2017 Undeterred by wet weather we set off for our day trip to Mont Saint Michel at about 8.15 this morning. The plan was to have a picnic at midday and the Irish helped out by loading five large bread sacks onto the coach which contained the most sophisticated packed lunches one could imagine.

imageWe arrived at Mont Saint Michel at about 10.30 and parked in one of the new coach parks which are some distance from the mount. The packed lunches were distributed and after a quick toilet break we took the free navette ride to the foot of the mount. After choosing a meeting point for later on, we began our ascent to the abbey at the top where our tickets were purchased and the self guided visit The mount didn’t fail to impress and, despite the weather, neither did the views. The tide was out and the views extended for kilometres in all directions.  There was excellent participation from both groups and the visit was enjoyed by all. We met up again at 1.00 at the foot of the mount and made our way back to the coach packed into a navette.  By then the packed lunches (which consisted of a portion of cous cous, a baguette with butter and ham, a packet of crisps, a yoghurt, an apple compote, a fruit madeleine and a bottle of water) were well digested by most so it was time to head on to Saint Malo to visit the walled town and to buy more treats.
imageimageThe journey to Saint Malo took about 40 minutes. At Saint Malo students were free to visit the sights, shops and ramparts of the famous costal town and we agreed to meet for our return journey at 4.00. At 4.00 we counted the group and only two students were missing. As that was an acceptable loss of under 5%, we considered it ok to leave. At the last moment, however, the final two students arrived and we began our return with the same number of students as we set off with in the morning. During the return journey it was evident that real progress on Irish-French relations was being made. Success at last!

Monday, 6th March 2017 All indicators suggested that a good weekend was had by all. The activities of the weekend included trips to the costal towns of Vannes and Lorient, visits to holiday homes, a football match, a trip to the fair in Pontivy, restaurant outings, trips to Carnac and Quiberon, a trip to Nantes, Sunday lunch, and trips to the swimming pool and the Oceanopolis Aquarium.

imageimageWhen the group assembled at 8.00 a.m. on Monday morning to be welcomed by the Principal, all were ready for the challenges of a new day and week.  Correspondants gave guided tours of the school and the group received an AV presentation on France and Brittany en français. During the morning there was a tempête during which the wind caused considerable damage in some places – fallen branches from trees etc.  Thankfully no one was hurt. Later in the morning the weather improved and first year tourism students gave the Irish students guided tours of the town.  Soon after it was lunch time and time for students to visit the “self” – an on-site self-service restaurant which provides 3-course lunches for students and teachers every day. After lunch students prepared for the annual Cork-Pontivy Quiz. Questions spanned all areas of general knowledge – geography, politics, education, sport, daily life and more. Les Irlandais ont gagné cette année. Les Français ont gagné l’année dernière.

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imageIn the late afternoon it was time to experience some more authentic French food first hand.  We had opportunity to goûter des crêpes. These were cooked on site by one of the parents who drove some 40km to Pontivy to provide the treat.  All had their fill and judging by the demand, the crêpes were delicious. Around 100 crêpes later it was 5.00 p.m. and time to head home for the evening.  The storm had ceased and all were looking forward to the trip to Mont Saint Michel and Saint Malo the following day.

Friday, 3rd March 2017 Preparations for the trip had been begun by all early on Friday morning, 3rd March. The rain made for heavy traffic in the morning which caused some delays.  Nevertheless, the excited group assembled in Cork Airport at 9.00 to take scheduled Aer Lingus flight EI822 to Paris at 11.10.  By 9.45 everyone was checked in, the group was briefed, and the queue for security was already building. They were no hiccups at security and once through, and after a quick look about the duty-free shop, the group waited calmly (some sipping take-away coffee) at gate No. 5. The flight left on time and once above the clouds all signs of rain were gone. We were well on our way. Paris here we come! The weather in Paris was better than at home.  All seemed to go well as we pulled up to our designated satellite around Terminal 1.  Soon after we had disembarked the group met up again at Border Control.  The queue seemed to extend into the distance for forever.  The signs estimated about 30 minutes waiting time and we eventually worked out that if you chose the “wrong” queue, you got through quicker. Having “crossed the border” we made our way to reclaim our luggage.  There was no belt which said “EI822 from Cork”.  However, close inspection of all belts allowed us to identify the one with bags with Aer Lingus tags and soon after all luggage was claimed. We made our way to the CDGVAL – a driverless shuttle train to get from Terminal 1 (there are 3 terminals in Charles de Gaulle airport) to one of the two airport train stations – Charles de Gaulle 1.  As you can’t move from carriage to carriage on the shuttle train, students were instructed to go just two stops before boarding the shuttle. Thankfully all managed the first test and no one
got lost at that point.

imageimageIn the train station we purchased a group ticket to take the RER (suburban train) to Paris city centre. After talking nicely to the man at the guichet we secured a further reduction of about €20 on the group rate.  That cost us a conversation about Ireland, Trinity College, and the Book of Kells which he had seen but that I have never seen. We waited for the next train on voie 24. We were all ready to go once it pulled in but just not quickly enough.  We failed to get the last member of the group in before the door closed on him.  Clearly they were only envisaging groups of 22 or fewer.  We were 23.  We disembarked at Port Royal in Paris city centre and again the bell rang as the last member of the group left the train, but we were quicker of the mark the second time.  The next hurdle which presented was the automatic barriers, operated by ticket, when you leave the RER station.  It appeared that you could go through, or your bag could go through, but definitely not both. The second half of each member of the group was allowed through when the next member put in their ticket.  So, who was going to be last?  Somehow we managed it and we left Port Royal to begin our walk to Gare Montparnasse. It was dry overhead so the 1k walk along Boulevard de Montparnasse was very pleasant.  Our convoy of wheelie bags arrived with us at Gare Montparnasse some 20 minutes later.  We got to see and walk by the Montparnasse tower just before we entered the station where we were to get the TGV (high speed train) to Rennes.  We parted then for 40 minutes before assembling again to board the TGV. This was the second test.  All arrived back in time and we made our way to the Grande Lignes where the long TGV trains have snaked their way into the station.   Ours was train 8691 on voie 3.  We walked the length of the platform and eventually took our assigned seats in voiture 7. At that stage most of the hard work was done. imageAfter just two hours we had sped our way to Brittany, stopping briefly in Le Mans and Laval, and 15 minutes later we arrived in Rennes.  We disembarked once again and made our way into the station.  Our coach driver was waiting for us with a sign to help us to identify him.  There were major travaux (building works) going on at the station and the driver explained that the coach was parked 250m away.  After a very long 250m we boarded the coach for the final leg of our journey to Pontivy.  On the final leg the nervous excitement started to build.  In spite of the nervousness, calmness prevailed.  We arrived at 10.00 p.m. local time – some 12 hours after leaving Cork.  The benefits of social media meant that the pairing was done in minutes (as all students already knew their correspondents) and shortly after that all had said goodbye for the weekend. Day one was a great success and very encouraging.  The students were a credit to their school and parents and I was proud to be with them and working with them.  Clearly many students had a lot of preparation done for the trip and it was evident that the preparation was paying dividend already.  Let’s hope the remainder of the week goes as well as the first day did.  I have every confidence that it can and I hope that it will. Adrian Landen Principal