France trip results in joie de vivre for Neil McNeil students

It was late February when the excitement truly set in for my European adventure.

Of course I had known about this trip since early September when my school, Neil McNeil High School, held the first information meeting about this year’s trip to France. The anticipation was mounting and I could often be seen with a cheek-to-cheek grin while walking through the halls at school.

My fellow travellers and me were just weeks away from seeing the Eiffel Tower, The Champ-Élysées, Juno Beach and so many more intriguing sites. Then on Wednesday, March 11, the agonizing wait was over – we were off.

Having travelled to Europe the year before, I believed I was prepared for whatever loveliness France had to offer … I could not have been more mistaken. Coming off the flight we were whisked away immediately to the Louvre, which is an absolute marvel, inside and out. The hallways, adorned with priceless works, re-energized our group and set expectations high for the rest of the trip.

Neil McNeil students pose with Canadian flags in front of Canada House at Juno Beach in France. PHOTO: Submitted
Neil McNeil students pose with Canadian flags in front of Canada House at Juno Beach in France.
PHOTO: Submitted

These expectations were soon matched and exceeded, as the next day we ventured to Versailles. After seeing the vast palace of Versailles, it isn’t hard to see why the French people overthrew the monarchy in 1789, and to even sympathize with their cause. The gardens stretch out, with intricate stonework and lavish fountains spread as far as the eye can see. The rooms are colossal, with each ceiling portraying a beautiful scene painted in perfect detail.

Just when we thought France could not get any lovelier, our tour experienced Paris at night. It was as if the streets had new life breathed into them, and of course the beating heart was the glittering Eiffel tower. Looming over the city at 301 m, this exquisite feat of engineering lives up to its publicity. Overlooking the extensive urban landscape, a feeling of absolute calm washed over us. We know we will remember this forever.

Normandy was the next leg of the journey. Walking along Juno Beach had to be a personal highlight; I have never been so far, yet felt so close to home as I did that day. It was a profound experience to walk on the same ground where so many laid down their lives for our freedom. We wore our Canadian pins with pride, which were graciously given to us by MP Matthew Kellway. While driving away, the bus was mute, an unorganized moment of silence for the fallen.

Our final leg of the trip was another stop in Paris. We travelled down the Seine at night on a riverboat cruise; we could not have asked for a better ending to our adventure. While on the cruise, the sights we had seen during the day enthralled us all. Perhaps the thought of leaving put us in a hypnotic state, attempting to freeze in ourselves that one singular moment of beauty.

On the flight home, the nostalgia had already set in. The memories still burned bright in my mind, yet I felt incomplete. Fortunately, a middle aged Italian gentleman on his way home from Barcelona imparted some wisdom to me. He explained that travel is great, but there truly is nothing better than the comforts of home.

After our brief discussion, I am content, and looked forward to my own bed and the familiarities of my humble abode. Now, almost three weeks after our European escapade everyone is settled in and dealing with the day-to-day routine of school and home. Our astonishing trip is in the past, but the memories and feelings we experienced will last long into the future.

Au revoir, mes amis!


Hello all! My name is Brendan Petrasek. I am a grade 11 student at Neil McNeil Catholic Secondary school. It is a pleasure to share my experiences with readers of Beach Metro News. Having been a Beacher my whole life, it is a great honour to write about my experiences abroad!

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Hello Brendan:

I most certainly enjoyed reading your article about your trip to France. You express yourself so eloquently.
I think you should take up writing, you seem to be well suited to it.

Thank you for sharing that wonderful story.

Catherine Cassar (Stuart Cassar’s Grandmother)

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