Ely High School 1905-1972: Trip to Paris, July 1959

from the July 1959 EHS Magazine

Our Memorable Visit to Paris.

It was during February, 1959, that we first heard of Miss Wilby's intention of conducting a school party to Paris. The arrangements were all very capably made by her and on Monday, July 27th, at 6.52pm, we set off very excitedly from Ely Station in a train bound for London. We stayed the night at the Calvados Hotel.

The next morning, we left for Victoria to catch the train which arrived at Folkestone at 10.40am. The breeze was strong enough to rock the boat in the harbour and it is not surprising that several people had the crossing marred by seasickness.

We arrived at Boulogne and then went by train to Paris. When we arrived at the Hotel Crétet in the evening we changed and walked to the restaurant "Aux Lutins", where we were to have our lunch and dinner every day during our stay in Paris. Afterwards we walked through world-famed Montmartre before we finally succumbed to sleep and returned to the hotel.

The next morning we went on a coach-tour of Paris and in the afternoon, accompanied by our French guide, Mireille, we went by Métro to Les Invalides where we saw Napoleon's tomb. We then walked on to the Eiffel Tower, built for the Great Exhibition of 1889, and took a lift to the third floor. There was a marvellous view of the whole of Paris and we recognised many famous buildings.

On Thursday morning we visited the lovely church of the Sacré Coeur de Montmartre, which is almost oriental in appearance. Then we walked through the streets and watched, admiringly or otherwise, the artists painting. After lunch we went to the Ile de la Cité, visiting Notre Dame and climbing the many steps of the spiral staircase to obtain a hard-earned but worthwhile view of the Seine. We then walked to the Sainte-Chapelle with its beautiful stained glass windows and to the Conciergerie where we were shown where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned during the French Revolution, and the way the prisoners went to the cart which conveyed them to the guillotine.

Friday was a change because, instead of the usual visits to historical buildings, we spent all day in the large store, Galeries Lafayette, where we were able to buy souvenirs and presents to take home with us.

It was on Saturday morning that we walked down one of the most famous streets in the world, the Rue de Rivoli, the Paris equivalent of Oxford Street. This was chiefly window-shopping because most of the articles in the shops were very expensive and beyond our pockets. In the afternoon the Bois de Vincennes was our destination, where the more energetic of us visited the Zoo while the rest relaxed in the park.

Sunday was a memorable day because we went to Versailles, where we visited the Château itself and the Grand Trianon. We saw the Hall of Mirrors where the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919. We were fortunate enough to witness a magnificent display by the fountains.

In the evening we went by Métro to the Arc de Triomphe. From there we walked right down the Champs Elysées to the Place de la Concorde, the third largest square in the world. After looking along the Seine to see the lights of the Eiffel Tower reflected in the water, we walked through the Tuileries Gardens, and looking back through the Carrousel Arch, we gazed admiringly at the Obelisk in the Place de la Concorde towering in front of the Arc de Triomphe with the Champs Elysees linking the two, brilliantly illuminated in the dark night.

A subdued Monday morning was spent in the Louvre where we were lucky in seeing the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. The afternoon was devoted to a final spending spree in the Luxembourg Gardens. The last francs went on postcards and "glaces" but as if this was not extravagant enough someone decided to throw her wallet in the Boating Pool.

After dinner that evening, Madame, the proprietress of the restaurant, very kindly provided a bottle of white wine for each table, as a reward for good and well-behaved girls!

On Tuesday we returned to England via Dieppe and Newhaven. The journey went very smoothly. We travelled by train from Paris, straining our eyes to keep the Eiffel Tower and then the Sacré-Coeur in sight until the last minute and afterwards enjoying the scenery to Dieppe. Dieppe is a very cheerful port and above the entrance to the harbour, on top of the cliff, stands a little church - a comforting sight.

Our second crossing of the Channel was much more enjoyable than the first for it was very calm. Soon afterwards we arrived back at Ely with mixed feelings of joy in seeing our parents again and of sorrow at leaving exciting Paris. It is this feeling of enjoyment at visiting other countries, tempered with patriotism, which makes such expeditions so wonderful, and we are very grateful to Miss Wilby and Miss Ling for enabling us to have such an awe-inspiring experience.


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