Sunday, 29 January 2012

Oh, Paris

The (Not So) Small One is in Paris this weekend. For a school trip which has involved at least twenty packings and repackings of the pink suitcase; along with a Parents Information Evening, a barrage of emails and more form filling than any sane mother needs. It wasn't like that when I went to Paris.


When I went to Paris, at the age of fourteen, I set out with one school friend to join up with a party of teenagers we didn't know; and a teacher none of us had ever met. I had only the name and address of the French family I was to be staying with, a phrase book and enough French Francs to (just about) last me the fortnight. It could have been hell; but it turned out to be closer to heaven.

We stayed In Chartres and our base was a cloistered school right next to the cathedral. I leaned how to love Brie and how to enjoy dressing on my salad. How to fry frites in goose fat and how to snack on chocolate wrapped in bread. I spent an afternoon sitting in on classes at a Lycee and an evening swapping stories with the Girl Guides. We took grammar lessons in the mornings and outings in the afternoons; and every night we went home to our "families" and tried to make ourselves understood.


It frightens me a bit to think of it now, if I'm honest. How did I dare? With the support, I suppose, of a mother who gave me a push and trusted me to get on and make as much as I could out of the opportunity I'd been given. We had no form filling, no safety analysis, no waivers, no handholding. Was that a good thing? I don't know. I guess there must be a happy middle ground. Somewhere in between. But I hope The (Not So) Small One, with all those forms filled in, gets a chance to stretch herself and discover just how much she really does know.

And that seems like a good place to end for today and remind you that it's Storytelling Sunday next week. I think I'll be trying a photo and a story-in-a-couple-of-sentences this time round. You could use a 365 photo if you like; but all kinds of stories are, as always, very welcome.

43 comments:

Amy said...

The thought of going to France at that age, from here, is almost inconceivable .. still! But, I know what you mean about form-filling-in, insurance and parent meetings, the world may be a smaller place but it comes at a price!

Julie J said...

I think my French exchange was somewhere in the middle ground. We travelled as a coach load with our teacher (on temporary passports!) and had coach trips during the day, but the rest of the time we were with our host french families and went to some lessons. The note holder I made in the only woodwork class I ever attended is still in my Father's garage. But I know what you mean about the endless form filling - I'm sure it wasn't like that then.

Cheryl said...

lucky her! and lucky you too - sounds like yours worked out. I never had the opportunity for some reason... i guess i am now on an indefinite 'exchange' in Belgium :-) I absolutely ADORE this page - so delicate and stylish and pretty! x

Amanda said...

I do think we live in a world of Health and Safety madness. I think when I was at school the only condition of school trips was that you paid your money on time. I remember being a 14 year old being let loose in London for the day and only being told to turn up at the meeting point at the right time. Luckily I think my main interest was paying a visit to Top Shop not getting up to any mischief.

I hope The Small One enjoys her trip and has just as many wonderful memories as you do of yours.

Ruth said...

Yay for TNSSO and teachers who are still prepared to take their students abroad ~ I bet she has the most amazing time. I spent three weeks in Lorient, Brittany when I was 14 ~ it was scary, but also brilliant at the same time.

heart.hearth.home. said...

Lovely page Sian. I adore the suitcases...
I believe none of us knew how fortunate we were and how much freedom we had to experience being sent off out into the world back when without a fistful of Health and Safety forms. No doubt though that your daughter will love her time in Paris and you will love having her back home and hearing all about it!

jennifer said...

Beautiful page, I love the banner. I need to use banners on my pages more! Great story too. I remember school trips as a middle ground, quite a lot of forms, but a lessening of supervision around the hostel / campsite.

I hope TSO has fun!

Jennie Hart said...

I still think of my time in France, I too went when I was 14, but it was a supervised coach trip and we all stayed together in a group of chalets. I still remember the excitement of travelling into Paris, watching all those humans who seemed so well, foreign. I had butterflies nearly the whole time.....hot chocolate out of a bowl, dipping warm croissants in, going up the eiffel tower, fontainebleau, monmartre, going to a special shop to get some limoges pots which I have kept jewellry in forever :) Lovely memories.

I hope your daughter has the same wonderment :)

debs14 said...

I bet she's having an amazing time! Speaking as a secretary who has had to type up those H&S forms in the school office, I can assure you that the teachers hate having to complete them as much as the parents do! Sometimes the greatest lessons we learn are when we are confronted with situations we have to deal with independently and it does worry me that kids aren't being taught life skills as we were. I hope TNSSO will be allowed to host a blog post on her return to tell us all about her adventures!

Kirsty.a said...

oh it's a tricky one, isn't it. If the teachers missed out one form and something awful happened noone would ever forgive them (and they would never forgive themselves) I think it's more about the adults' security than the children's, butas a teacher and former Guider, I can understand it. The nOt so Small one will still have a fab adventure.

Clare said...

I'm sure she will have a fantastic time and the form-filling will have been worth it! Your trip to Paris sounds like an experience, my trip as a yougster was an experience, my abiding memories were having gravy on lettuce and no access to a bath for a week! Happy times....

scrappyjacky said...

We live in a country where Health and Safety has gone mad....children need to have some independance to develop the skills they need to be independant adults.
Some of the school trips I went on would be totally banned now I'm sure....but I learned so much from them.
Hope TNSSO has a great weekend.

Jimjams said...

Hope TNSSO has a wonderful time - your post is wonderfully evocative of what, for you, was a brilliant experience. The form filling is an unnecessary evil - it doesn't actually keep the kids any safer - that's down to the common sense of the teachers, the tour guides and the kids themselves. Most of us are pretty sane, and the odd "adventure" spices things up rather nicely!

Cheri said...

I do believe our own mothers trusted in the good in the world far more than we do today. News wasn't so instantaneous back then and either there was less evil to worry about or we just weren't aware of it all. But it is wonderful that TNSSO gets this opportunity. My 18 year olds have yet to travel any distance without me.

Maya said...

Gorgeous layout! Love everything about it!
To answer your question - yes, it was a good thing!

WillieburgScrapper said...

My goodness that is brave- I know many students are enriched by their student exchange experiences but I don't think I will be letting my daughter do this before she's at least 16- too many people with bad habits in this world and I worry about her physical safety. I get the point of this post though- let go- let your children learn and experience on their own. Perhaps it deserves a rethink- it sounds like a fantastic experience. Your page is AMAZING! Love how you shot it as well.

Deb @ Paper Turtle said...

What an amazing opportunity for your girl to go to Paris like that! And how wonderful that you had that experience as a teenager. When Carrie was 16 she went to Seattle, Washington with her journalism group and I remember being concerned although I trusted she was in good hands. And by comparison, Seattle was a short jaunt compared to Paris for your girl. I'm sure she'll have some stories to share when she gets home, and some memories to last a lifetime! ♥

Alana said...

Yes, times have changed. I went skiing to France while in secondary school. We were left to our own devices in the afternoon and skied over the border to Switzeland. One time I was in a cablecar on my own and some random man skier jumped in before we left.....could of ended in tears but it was all very innocent. And the teachers let us have alcohol...shocking. Well I'm sure it won't be like that for the small one and she has a fab time. Lovely lo, love the girl sillouette.

Maria Ontiveros said...

I shudder a bit when I think of all the freedom I had as a child to adventure on my own. Now, as a mom, I think I know what my children can handle. Some days I try to push them a bit to be more independent; somedays I panic when I think about what they are doing. Looking back, I feel like we trained them fairly well - taking them to lots of new places and talking with them about how we were handling all the new situations. I think by the age of ten, each of them had a decent idea of how to disembark a plane in a foreign country and find their way to the hotel, as well as how to read a subway/tube/train map and make appropriate connections.
Rinda

Jennifer said...

Your LO is stunning!! Love all the white space and that banner with twine is terrific! I have been toying with the idea of white space but then my addiction to pattern draws me back. ;) Yes, how did we survive? When I tell my girls stories I always end it with, "but that was the 70's?". As if this excuses all poor decision making. hee hee

Fiona@staring at the sea said...

Ooh I love those vintage suitcases and the silhouette. I went on a French exchange aged 14 as part of a school group. I lived with a family for the week, going to school in the morning and on outings in the afternoon. It was a wonderful experience :o)

Lisa-Jane said...

Times have definitely changed and maybe not for the better, maybe. I love your bunting there because of the pretty doily bits over the top.

Louise said...

Love everything about your layout Sian, your choice of embellies and patterns are always so lovely.

With some things the world has gone mad. I get so frustrated with all the form filling I've had to do when mine have been away on residentials.

I too went to France, in my last year at primary school. We stayed in a hostel, a coach dropped us off each day and we were left to our own devises to explore.

Hoping tso has a fabulous time and manages to take some photos of her time there to look back on

xx

Miss Smith said...

Such a beautiful page - I love the text banner in the background.

And I wish there were fewer forms too.

helena said...

how exciting for her - I'm sure she'll have some great stories to tell.

When I think of the travel I did as a teenager I do marvel at how much my parnts trusted me to take care of myself. And the best lesson I learnt was how to cope when things go a bit off plan - credit cards make that so much easier nowadays!

Lynn said...

wow what an adventure you had at 14! Hope TNSSO has enjoyed her trip. Love the page as well.

Peachy Stream said...

We went to Fougeres with the school just after a schoolgirl went missing. Much dithering from parents and teachers about whether we should go, then all was well as the "abducter/murderer" was found. We went along merrily, had a fabulous time. Two months later, they'd arrested the wrong man. He has never been found since and that was 1996. Moral of the story I guess is you can worry forever and fill forms in until the cows come home but if it happens it happens. Probably not the best moment to tell you this story, but we all came home safely and I'd be so much worse off for not going on that trip!

Peachy Stream said...

P.S. I also love your layout and Amy Tan sticker! X

Karen said...

Oh, what a wonderful adventure you had. I hope The (Not So) Small One has an equally wonderful time.

505whimsygirl said...

Sian,
What a great opportunity for the little one. Wow. You mentioned chocolate wrapped in bread - that sounds so wonderful to me. What kind of bread would you use?

Kay

Emily said...

Lovely page... how fortunate that you had such an opportunity!

Karen said...

What a lovely page Sian. How I wish I had parents like your mum - mine would never let me go to the next town, let alone Paris. What an adventure to look back on.

Scrappi Sandi said...

I do hope that The (not so) Small One comes back with lots of adventures to tell you all about!! I was 17 before I experienced Paris & again, no fuss about going, just passport, francs & a time to meet at the station! We all survived!! Fab LO as usual! :)

Jane said...

waht a gorgeous page, it's hard to let go but it's so good for children to experience these things, the most I did as a child was go on guide camp and then I came home early as I was so shy!

Melissa said...

How exciting for the not-so-small-one. Can't wait to hear how the trip went!

I have my story for Sunday, just need to get it all written down and maybe even create a layout.

Jo said...

Lovely layout. I hope she's had a great time in Paris

Nathalie said...

Oh la la what a nice page Sian! :) I loved reading your comparison and your story reminded me of my trips to England as a little French teenager!

Sue Althouse said...

I would love to visit Paris someday! Your trip does sound heavenly, and I would prefer your experience to the modern version. Lovely page, so airy and captures the idea of a magical city.

Alison said...

I do hope TNSSO managed to have a good time..your own adventure sounds great..and I think you may just have given me an idea for Storytelling Sunday!
Alison xx

JO SOWERBY said...

my first trip to gay paree was most memorable for the ongoing seasickness after the worst ferry crossing from newhaven to dieppe ever. i did recover and loved the louvre and the eiffel tower. i have been back so many times since and have found something new each time. i want to go back ASAP,
jo xxx
ps hope the trip was a success xxxx

Sandra said...

A truly gorgeous page

Wanda said...

What a neat page, especially that you had the same experience at about the same age as your daughter. I'll keep an eye out for follow-up tales...

Sandie said...

That sounds an exciting trip you had at 14, Sian. My son also went to France around that age, completely on his own. I remember taking him to Victoria Coach Station where he waved goodbye on his first big adventure. I wonder now how I let him go? He stayed with people we knew who lived in France and I think he was very homesick, but he came home with some good experiences. I hope your (Not so) Little One loves her trip to Paris. As you say, it is very different now from your school trip. Hope her memories are as happy as yours.

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