I always say how lucky I am to have my job, not only because I love it, but because it takes me to places I would never have visited otherwise. Up until my school trip to Berck-sur-Mer in France, I’d only ever travelled to other places in England through work, so I was super excited to be invited on this overseas trip. It was never going to be a fully relaxing break, and I wouldn’t have the freedom to go off and do whatever I wanted, but I was grateful for the chance to see a new place and escape everyday life for a couple of days.
My three colleagues and I took our coach-full of teenagers off on this adventure in May, just as the weather was starting to warm up. We drove to Folkestone where we boarded a shuttle to Calais. From there, we headed down to our first stop, La Coupole, a World War II museum near Saint-Omer.
The museum was fascinating, accessed by walking through tunnels to get inside the bunker, where many historical artefacts are on display, accompanied by video and audio clips to explain everything. It took us a couple of hours to work our way around the museum, and I was very impressed with how engaged my group of students were. Some of the videos were incredibly touching to watch and I felt that we all learnt things about WW2 that we didn’t know before. It was well worth a visit and I even picked up a cool fridge magnet as a souvenir.
After we’d fully explored La Coupole, we headed South to Berck. I was absolutely blown away by the scenery we drove through and tried my best to capture some shots on my phone. I really wished I had taken my camera, but with my luggage, the first aid kit, and the school trip camera weighing me down, it would have been too much. As we passed by rolling patchwork hills, I decided that one day I’d like to come back and do this drive myself, stopping off along the way to get some amazing photographs. Another one for the bucket list!
We arrived in Berck mid afternoon and settled into our accommodation, a hostel linked to the school we were visiting. It wasn’t The Ritz, but it did the job. I managed to wangle a room to myself which suited me fine as I’m not great at sharing a room with others. I had three beds to choose from, storage space, a plug socket, a sink, and a view of some pretty buildings. I set up one of the bunks for myself and got my stuff organised before it was time to head out again.
Our group had a little time to spare before it was time to eat, so we walked through town and along to the beach. Berck has a beautiful sandy beach which seems to stretch for miles. The kids (and one member of staff) spent some time running around on the sand and dipping their toes in the sea and I got to work taking some photographs for the school website. It was far hotter than I had anticipated, but it was lovely to be out in the sun in this lovely location.
Next it was time to head back to the cottages for dinner, which was kindly laid out for us. We were served mussels with fries and a small ice cream for dessert. I personally really enjoyed the food, however, some of the kids struggled to try the mussels. I sat at a table with one of my colleagues, three of our boys, and our driver, Dave. Dinner was a lot of fun with plenty of funny conversations between us all. It was nice to feel so relaxed after running around all day.
After dinner, I was feeling pretty tired out, but there was no time to stop. We were being visited by some students and staff from the local school, with whom we have had links with for several years. They came with stacks of magazines and the kids all sat down together to make some collages. This activity lasted until bed time when we finally got to relax. Well… that was the idea anyway!
I’ll be honest, I have had better nights. Some of our kids were running about for a while, which kept me awake, eventually irritating me to the point I went out into the hall to tell them off. After that, it was still hard to sleep as all I could hear were the voices of the kids “sleeping” on the floor above us. I was still clock watching at 2AM, so by the time morning came, I was exhausted. Still, the adventure wasn’t over, so I had to muster up some energy!
Breakfast was provided for us, then we met up with the kids from the other school again so they could take us on a tour to find some of the town’s famous graffiti. It was even hotter in Berck now, and I started to regret not packing lighter clothes, but it was fine. I was looking forward to getting out onto the beach. Unfortunately, that never happened…
As we walked along, one of the girls started to feel unwell, and another was suffering with a sprained ankle from tripping the previous day, so I had to honour my role as First Aider and look after them. This meant that while everyone else was on the beach, checking out the graffiti, the three of us were perched on some rocks by the roadside. It seemed to take forever for them to return, and we weren’t actually sure they would be coming back the same way, so after talking to my colleague on the phone, we decided to head back into town, find somewhere to sit and eat, and wait for our group.
Unfortunately, there weren’t many places open that we could afford to sit in, so we decided to head back to our accommodation, stopping by at some souvenir shops on the way. I actually found a couple of things with my name on, which RARELY happens in England! We also bought some snacks from a small shop.
When we got back to the cottages, I called my colleagues and realised we had made the wrong decision. The group weren’t coming back to the accommodation as the next stop was going to be the local school. Having never been there before, I had no idea where this school was, so the three of us set off, guessing most of the turns as none of us had network coverage on our phones to guide us.
Eventually we made it! It was a hot, uncomfortable walk, and with the two girls not feeling great, there were several times when we had to sit down and rest, but I did enjoy seeing all the interesting buildings along the way. I always find it fascinating how buildings look so different in different countries. French houses are so cute!
When we got to the school, it was all a bit confusing for a while. The others hadn’t arrived yet, and the lady we spoke to at the gate didn’t know anything about our visit. She let us in anyway and we ended up sitting out in the empty playground as we couldn’t work out how to get inside the building (or in other words, we were nervous). Eventually we found a door and hunted down a person to talk to. No one seemed to know we were coming, and the language barrier caused a few issues. Thankfully, the rest of our group arrived shortly afterwards and the confusion ended.
We ate lunch then my colleagues and I were given a tour of the school. After this, we rejoined the kids who were continuing their collages from the previous night. I was given a lovely present from some of the girls, and even made some “art” of my own while my colleague and I were feeling the effects of the strong black coffees we had been given – there’s a reason I don’t drink caffeine!
The kids then separated into groups for a while, then it was time to head home. I was definitely ready to leave at this point as the lack of sleep was catching up with me. It was wonderful to get back on the coach and enjoy the scenery on the way back to Calais. In Calais, we visited a shopping outlet and I picked up a few treats to take back home. Then we got back on the shuttle and headed back to England.
Our trip to Berck was a lot of fun, and I’m definitely inspired to take another trip to France soon. I will be returning to France with the school in July, but what I really want is to go there for a week or two with a friend and explore some of the beautiful countryside and pretty towns we passed on the way to Berck. Fingers crossed I can make this happen! Watch this space…