Paris Trip Provides Students with Global Perspective


Walpole High Students Pose for a Photo Outside the Palace of Versailles.

Hannah McLaughlin

Walpole High Students Pose for a Photo Outside the Palace of Versailles.
Walpole High Students Pose for a Photo Outside the Palace of Versailles.


When planning an international voyage or any adventure away from home, for that matter one must consider several specific factors that ultimately determine the perfect vacation destination. Does the desired location boast some of the most picturesque sights in the world? Is the country home to a melange of monuments and tourist attractions? Does the country’s cuisine attract millions of aspiring chefs and food connoisseurs alike to its cities? Is the area steeped in tradition, oozing with culture, and rooted in history? Will the kids enjoy it? More often than not, one must sacrifice a few of the aforementioned factors when choosing the right location just ask any exasperated adult in the process of planning a relaxing respite away from the stresses of daily life.Unfortunately, it is rare to find one destination that successfully encompasses everything a tourist wishes for in their trip.

However, thanks to a recent opportunity to tour France with their peers, a group of Walpole High School students were exposed to all of these attractive cultural components and more. On April 19, a group of 21 students from Walpole High School departed from Boston’s Logan Airport for a seven-day trip to France. Excited to visit several World War II sites in and around the region of Normandy as well as famous monuments located sporadically around the city of Paris, the students chattered noisily in anticipation before boarding their first flight of the long day of travel which lay ahead of them.

Organized and chaperoned by Foreign Language Department Head Mrs. Lisa Osborne, the 2014 trip was the second of its kind offered by Osborne to students interested in travelling to France for a chance to submerge themselves in the French language, culture, and history. The first group of students to accept this same opportunity embarked on their French adventure in April 2011. This year, English Department Head Ms. Lauren Culliton joined Osborne and the students as a chaperone for the seven-day trip.

Upon arriving at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris on Sunday morning, the students met the local English-speaking guide who would be staying with the group for the remainder of the week. At the end of the trip, Junior Kristen Mich said, “Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable and such a great person to show us around France. I learned so much from her.”

From the airport, the group boarded a bus to Normandy, where they were scheduled to stay for nearly two days exploring various World War II sites and other well-known locations around Normandy. The Walpole group ate a traditional French lunch of salad, roasted vegetables, chicken, and decadent desserts at a small farm restaurant called Seminaire Mathilde Guillaum. Immediately after their meal, the students traveled to Mont St. Michel— the infamous fortified city settled in the middle of a bay and constructed around the renown cathedral that bears the same name. Afterward, students explored the town, admired the gothic and Middle-Age architecture, and had their first taste of just one of the many French cullinary delicacies the crêpe.

The following day was devoted almost entirely to the events which occurred on June 6, 1944. The students went to the Musee du Debarquement which showcased relics of D-Day as well as other World War II paraphernalia. One site that was certainly a group favorite was the American St. Laurent Cemetery, located just ashore of the famous Omaha Beach. Here, students walked silently around the well-manicured grounds while reading the hundreds of names engraved into white marble in memoriam of the American soldiers who died there. Additionally, students enjoyed viewing the stirring 360 degree cinema presentation a thrilling short film which chronicled the events and sacrifices that took place on D-Day and discovering hillside bunkers containing abandoned machine guns and cannons near Pointe du Hoc.

That afternoon, the group headed to the French commune of Giverny to visit the home of celebrated artist Claude Monet. They admired the flower gardens and took pictures by the infamous lily pond which  inspired Monet to paint his series of approximately 250 canvases entitled “Nymphéas.” To end the eventful day of sightseeing, the group mounted the bus that took them to their hotel in Paris where they would stay for the remainder of the week.

Months of meticulous planning were devoted to the organization of this trip to ensure its success as both an informative and exciting week abroad. Of the decision to include certain attractions in the itinerary and omit others, Osborne said, “I chose the monuments that interested me the most when I studied and worked in Paris. Additionally, I brought with me three different group during three exchange programs, and I remember well which sites the students preferred.”

On Tuesday, the group explored the armory and exhibitions at Les Invalides the location of Napeoleon’s tomb. Arguably the most well-received activity on the itinerary was visiting the Palace of Versailles and its vast gardens. Students spent their spare time before the palace tour by strolling through the maze-like hedges or sitting by the sparkling lakes and fountains. Another highlight of the day was an impromptu trip to the Louvre after dark an expedition which taught the students how to take the Metro and navigate the city at night.

Wednesday was also packed with exciting items on the itinerary, for the students thoroughly enjoyed observing Impressionist exhibits at the Musee d’Orsay and eating lunch along the Seine. Soon after, they drove to one of the most famousand most expensive streets in the world, the Champs-Élysées for a few hours of free time. Here, most students decided to walk to and climb the Arc de triomphe, which offered an incredible view of the Paris skyline and a perfect backdrop for more photos. After eating dinner at their hotel, the Walpole group took the metro again into the heart of the city to see the eiffel tower lit up at night.

Thursday was spent in and around the Latin district a lively section of Paris with an extensive selection of chic stores and cafés. The group visited the Notre Dame Cathedral and walked by the National Museum of Modern Art to appreciate its innovative and imaginative architecture. Dinner was at a restaurant called La Butte en Vigne, located atop the hill of Montmartre. Waiters served a traditional French dinner including signature dishes of buttery escargot and rich French onion soup.

On Friday, the final day of exploring the city, the WHS students ascended the eiffel tower. Though it was not scheduled on the itinerary, an impromptu trip to the catacombs an underground tomb home to millions of skeletons arranged in various patterns and designs thrilled the students. They were then allowed a few hours to shop and dine at the Galeries Lafayette a shopping center near the ornate Napoleon III Paris Opera House. Finally, to mark the end of the trip and an exciting week abroad, the students donned dresses and dress shirts for a nighttime dinner cruise on the seine.

After hopping aboard a boat made almost entirely of glass windows, the group ate, admired the view, and danced to the music provided by the entertainment. In reference to the dinner cruise, Osborne said, “I will always have a good memory of going out to dinner on the Bateaux Parisiens. We took photos, ate dinner together, and everyone danced as a group. The musicians who entertained were so shocked to have such a large group of teenagers dancing to their music that they panicked because they didn’t have enough ‘cool’ music to keep the kids dancing.”

Overall, the response from the students regarding the France trip was extremely positive. Mich said, “The France trip was an incredible experience and a great opportunity for us to live in a city that has so much history and culture—if only for a few days. I’m so grateful to have been able to spend time with such a fun-loving and welcoming group of people.” For the students who study French at Walpole High School, the week-long adventure also functioned as an opportunity to put their recently-acquired knowledge to use. Sophomore Max Simons said, “The Paris trip was a great chance to be able to use my French skills in a real-life atmosphere and be able to really use what I’ve learned in the classroom in real life.”

Recognizing that the abroad experience is equally as informative as it is enjoyable, Osborne said, “The practice of traveling is extremely important for the students. They learn a special kind of independence when they have to embrace certain responsibilities, such as keeping track of their passport, exchanging money, deciding how they spend their money, living without their parents for a week, and being aware of the time to meet with the group. Additionally, they are responsible for making their own decisions during their free time, helping their friends when they need it, and finally being open to getting to know the students that they don’t know.”

Of the 21 WHS students, Osborne said, “This group was terrific. The students had a strong sense of cooperation and an optimistic attitude. They were patient, polite, and enthusiastic during the outings on the bus, at the restaurants, and at the museums. They appreciated each adventure of each day. They made an effort to speak french, and they listened to the guide to learn.”

International adventures such as the 2014 France trip provide students with a realistic sense of the the world outside of their hometown, their own state, and their native country. After observing the students assimilate into the French lifestyle and culture, Osborne said, “For me it is a pleasure to see the French students who have studied so much in their books to have the opportunity to travel to France, use all they have learned in their class, and to actually speak French. To really know a culture, one must live there and speak the language. I remember many times when the students said, ‘oh wow, we studied that statue, that painting, the history.’ I hope that their experience will be the beginning of many opportunities for traveling to see the world through a global lense.”