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French Exchange Trip to Marseille – Friday

What a week of contrasts! The beautiful coast at Les Calanques, then Marseilles, the second largest city of France, followed by Aix which oozes chic and Cezanne, a day of French school, Arles full of Roman history with Van Gogh thrown in – and today we were called by the wilds of the Camargue.

Our base for the day was a ‘manade’, a ranch typical of the Camargue – hectares of flat land stretching towards an étang, with grazing for cattle and the famous white horses, with an arena for La Course Camarguarise. This is an ancient sport whereby brave (?) or mad (?) young men (called ‘razeteurs’) run at bulls (or rather bulls run at them), with razeteurs aiming to take, from the bull, a red ribbon, a white pompon and a twirl of string which have been carefully attached to a horn! After an interesting introduction (thank goodness for Madame Seabrooke-Moore’s and Madame Lindsey’s translation skills), we were treated to a show of white horses, and then razeteurs in action – fantastic! The bull was just a little too frisky for Mrs Jenkins to venture into the arena – please note, she did volunteer!!

A mountain bike ride to the étang (and, yes, those distant specks are definitely pink flamingos!), a gentle stroll around the ranch, past grazing horses, rice fields and bird watching opportunities, picnics in the warmest sunshine of the week (ice creams instead of ‘chocolat chaud’ today!) filled the rest of our time in the Camargue. Oh – and the youngsters just had to prove that they too could vault over the wooden walls, fortunately only running away from imaginary bulls in the arena! A little dog muscled in with his ball for a game of ‘catch’ during a great game of tag in the arena!

A stop at a service station on the way back to Cabriès provided an opportunity for some last minute purchases – we are good at the ‘je voudrais….’ stuff now; but then there were a few missed teacher heartbeats when our exit road was closed off by an accident but we made it back to school with 5 minutes to spare before the bell. When we say ‘bell’, we should make it clear that it was not a bell but a very jolly, uplifting jingle – something for Mrs Stevens to consider for Ranelagh?

All too soon, we were back to our hosts for a quick turnaround before getting to the airport for our flight home. Hugs, kisses and tears – it was hard to drag our students away from their new found friends. An uneventful flight home, and back to Ranelagh on time.

What a fantastic week we have had. It seems both like yesterday that we got on the coach to Heathrow with some trepidation and also ages ago – so much has happened in between.

A huge thank you to the Collège Marie Mauron  and particularly their two teachers, Madame Nunn and Madame Rigaud who have led their school’s first ever exchange and who put in so much work to ensure the week would be fun, educational, interesting and varied – just brilliant. The school in Cabriès and the families are such a good match to Ranelagh – the families took in our students with open arms and made them very welcome and the young people all got on so well. The Headteacher and the staff involved are so excited and proud to be twinned with Ranelagh; they hope for a long and fruitful twinning relationship.

Our young people were a joy to be with – so well behaved, good company and they threw themselves into the French immersion, trying really hard – the families were so complimentary about them. The Y12 on work experience were truly magnificent – such a hit with their host placements – and have gained so much.

Ranelagh at its best!