A cloudless sky and 40-degree heat could mean only one thing–we, the French Tour, had arrived in Nice. We had a good first impression of our hotel, Auberge de Jeunesse Camellia. The lobby was air-conditioned, classy, and in general, a nice place to be in. Our room, however, was none of these things, thanks to a lack of any way to cool it and a special appearance from a staple of the tour–plastic bedsheets. The next few days in Nice would, therefore, be spent away from the hotel and at the beach, one of the few respites from the heat. Swimming out to the sunset every night was a highlight of the tour.
Next, a six-hour drive to Carcassonne. The walled city took our breath away, from spectacular night views to intense ping-pong matches in the youth hostel courtyard. A special mention needs to be made to the 10s vs 12s ping-pong match, in which Ewan Tipping and myself put our seniors in their place.
After Carcassonne was Sarlat, a small town with a vibrant nightlife. Buskers and fire-breathers in the main square kept us up late into the night, and proper sheets (finally) at Hotel Recollet ensured that we were well-rested for the next day. The boat ride through Padirac cave was a memorable experience and a definite must-see for anyone in the area.
Bordeaux was next, and with it came hours of shopping and, at last, a single room in our hotel, the Hotel du Theatre. Some highlights were the Escape Room, which had us stumped over the case of Jack the Ripper, and the ballet, which saw the tour dressed up in our finest clothes (a special mention to Adam Wyatt for his Mr Fergus-inspired outfit). Our time in Bordeaux came to an end with a disappointing shopping trip, mostly because we were declined entry to the Rolex store.
Back onto the bus, and despite a malfunctioning alarm and missing tour hat we were in Amboise by midday. There, Mme Gunn revealed her surprise addition to the itinerary–Beauval zoo. The animals were magnificent, from monkeys to pandas, but the real highlight was the Gondola ride which gave us a beautiful view of the animals from 35m up. Next on the agenda was Leonardo da Vinci’s manor, Clos Luce, and with it came a disastrous Mona Lisa drawing class, followed by a medieval-themed dinner to finish the day.
We woke early the next day to leave for Saint-Malo, en route to Paris. The tiny beachside town was a personal favourite spot of mine. Free time in the afternoon saw us jumping from a 4m diving platform at the beach (shout-out to Matt Stoward for conquering his fear of heights) and eating too many churros at street vendors. We ended a memorable night watching the sunset over the beach–definitely a special moment for the French Tour.
A final bus ride and we were back in Paris. The next four days were non-stop action, with no shortage of museums to visit. The Musée Orangerie left us wondering how it was possible to paint such realistic pictures, and the Picasso Museum left us wondering how it was possible that drawings reminiscent of a five-year-old’s crayon sketchbook were in an art museum. That evening we visited the Louvre, hoping to spend a few peaceful hours gazing at paintings. These hopes were quickly dashed by an Egyptian exhibit that took half an hour to escape from, a rage-inducing map that failed to account for renovations taking place and mysterious exit signs that in actuality led to an Islamic prayer mat room on level 2 (the paintings were amazing though, and worth every second we spent there). Our final day was chock-full of Mme Gunn’s treasure hunts, and in the evening was the piece de resistance of the tour–the Eiffel Tower. The top was everything we had hoped it to be; a full 360° view of Paris did not disappoint.
Before we knew it, we had left France behind and were on the flight back to Brisbane. And while I may have left France longing for home, I found myself wishing I could go back.
Benjamin Mollee- Year 10