Sir James Smith's School

Belgium Trip 2016

41 students and 6 members of staff have just returned from a 5-day trip to Belgium as part of the school’s 2016 Activities Week programme.

We travelled by coach from Camelford to Namur in eastern Belgium via the Eurotunnel from Folkestone to Calais. The whole journey took some 17 hours, so we were relieved to finally arrive at our destination.

On our way to Belgium we were privileged to experience a moving and memorable visit to Vimy Ridge and to the French National Necropolis where 580,000 World War 1 soldiers are commemorated. We saw row upon row of graves, visited the basilica and, perhaps most memorable of all, walked around the recently added ‘Ring of Remembrance’ where the name of every soldier who fell in the battle of the Artois is listed alphabetically regardless of nationality.  This was a poignant reminder of the huge loss of life.  Many students were able to find their own family names and one found the name of her great grandfather.

We stayed in the youth hostel in the beautiful town of Namur on the river Meuse in French-speaking Belgium where we explored the citadelle, and we enjoyed day-trips to Aachen in Germany, Dinant, Dreilandecke on the border between Germany, Belgium and Holland. Here students were able to stand, sit or lie in three countries all at once!  In the evenings we enjoyed riverside walks, bowling and a restaurant visit for traditional Belgian waffles.  On our return journey via the Eurotunnel we had a last-minute shopping trip to the Cité Europe hypermarket near Calais.

SJS students were a real credit to their school. They joined in fully with every aspect of the visit, trying out their languages, trying new food and really appreciating the architecture and cultural aspects of the trip.  The experience of staying in central Europe, crossing borders several times a day, hearing and using different languages within one day and spotting different customs made for a really rich cultural experience which they will never forget.

Members of the public, our coach driver and staff at passport control commented on the excellent behaviour of our party. The accompanying staff were indeed very proud of the students.  Planning for the next trip in 2018 is already underway.

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