Straight off the EuroStar and on to the Metro, only to get lost immediately...
On a rainy February morning last month, 18 of our French language students took the Eurostar train from St Pancras station, London to Gare de Nord, Paris - where it was also raining... "il pleut"
After a smooth journey beneath the English Channel at 180mph, our first impressions of the French capital were rather mixed, with one group getting slightly lost on the seemingly complicated Metro underground system and the other fending off the attentions of a pickpocket (welcome to Paris!), but all arrived safely at our very nice hotel in La Défense.
The modern La Défense district, with the La Grande Arche de la Défense in the background
After settling into their rooms, students set off in groups to explore the local area. Around its Grande Arche and esplanade ("le Parvis"), La Défense contains many of the Paris urban area's tallest high-rises. It also houses a substantial shopping mall with many restaurants and a cinema, where our students got to practice their language skills on the shop staff.
Olivia Emin said “I really enjoyed the touristy stuff but what made the trip for me was getting the freedom to go out and around the shops (I love 'Sephora') by ourselves. I even met some girls from another school, which was nice.”
Outside the prestigious Sorbonne University
The following morning, after a hearty continental breakfast, it was back on the Metro for a visit to the Sorbonne - the prestigious and historic university.
Just an average classroom inside the Sorbonne...
Jasmine emulates the great thinkers depicted in sculpture around le Grand Amphithéâtre
We were given a guided tour (in French) of the magnificent interior of the beautiful old building including the Grand Amphithéâtre, a vast auditorium decorated with enormous statues of some the great French philosophers such as Descartes and Pascal.
'Team Pete' - outside La Metro at a traditional market
From the Sorbonne it was a wander through the Parisien streets to an open market for lunch and then back on the Metro (as the rain returned) for the obligatory trip to the Eiffel Tower, and a trip along the Seine on a pleasure boat.
At the foot of this little-known French monument...
Boat trip on the Seine, passing Notre Dame Cathedral - With Ms Pari, Rebeka and Carolyn
Aroosa Safdar said "The Eiffel Tower was a a bit of an anti-climax, but then - it was raining... But the boat tour was great because we got to see lots of the main attractions of Paris without bring in the cold. I really enjoyed Paris, our hotel wasn't just dorms it was an actual hotel with nice food., and the trips out were interesting - we had options about what we wanted to do - we were treated like adults. Oh, and of course I picked up lots of new French words and phrases."
The pyramids of the Louvre
On day three we took a trip the Louvre - the renowned museum and art gallery - where the students spent half the day tracking down the Mona Lisa, just to turn their backs on it and take a selfie (along with a couple of hundred other tourists) - certainly not the way Leonardo Da Vinci would have expected it to be viewed, but how times change.
Looking for the Mona Lisa...
Tim De Clerck said "The Louvre was really interesting, the Mona Lisa was a bit crowded but the sculptures were really great. I also liked the freedom we got to speak with lots of French people - in French - it definitely helped me improve my accent. I met lots of new people from Woodhouse I didn't know before the trip and it was a great group. There weren't too many of us (18) so I felt that I really got to know them."
Joana Martins said "It was great to see the Mona Lisa in person because it's such an iconic work of art. I'm studying art so it was really useful to see so many other paintings and sculptures too. Some pieces also made me think about new methods of working to try out back in the art studio - like painting on mirrors to change the concept of space.
The trip was very informative for my French. Having freedom meant that we were forced to use our French to ask for directions and buy stuff. I learnt new words and rehearsed my accent in my mind before speaking so I didn't make a fool of myself."
After an afternoon shopping it was back to La Défense for food and a group trip to the cinema to see a French film (L'ascension) in French - without subtitles. Fortunately this comedic adventure about a young man 'climbing Everest for love' was pretty easy to follow - it was all uphill.
Joana said "I understood about half the jokes, I had to ask a few times - but that's how you learn."
Nightlife on the streets of La Defense - Max, Shreya and Ella
Ella Harvey said "Seeing the French film really helped my language skills. Being in a cinema made us sit and engage with it and really listen to what the actors were saying. And it was a fun group activity.
I got closer to my class mates and it was a good way to bond. They were a great
bunch to hang out with."
Halfway up the hill to the Sacré-Cœur
On our final day, students climbed the long steep hill to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as simply Sacré-Cœur. This Roman Catholic church, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city.
Ella - "I really enjoyed the Sunday morning trip to the Sacré-Cœur. There was a service on and I got to light a candle and say a prayer.
I thought the whole trip was very interesting and one of the best I've been on because we were treated like adults and had a say in what activities we did. We really got to see what we wanted to see, and explore the city."
At the Basilica with an impressive and impressionistic view of Paris
And after that there was nothing left to do but to visit the gift shops and return to Gare de Nord to catch the train back to London.
Olivia Emin found the trip to be enlightening... - "Before the trip I was going to drop French next year, but going to Paris has made me reconsider - the syllabus does not do the language justice.
In school (and now college) I've found French speaking to be terrifying - but being in France made it so much easier. It took the fear out of the subject.
The highlight for me was the boat ride on the Seine. It was so nice, just being outdoors and seeing everything. Paris is so beautiful and seeing the city from the river was lovely.
I wish we'd had a whole week - but we squeezed so much into just four days."
You can see lots more photos from the Paris Trip in our Flickr albums below