Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Friday, 12 June 2009

… on a hot morning in June!

June is the time of year when schools in France and Belgium tend to take their pupils on an annual instructive and recreational outing. In the morning they usually visit sites of educational interest: a museum, a temporary exhibition, a botanical garden … If you’re really lucky and your teacher likes animals, you might end up visiting a zoo or a farm.

The fun part of your annual school outing, however, starts in the afternoon. You get to spend the rest of the day in a playground, a Disneyland type park, a swimming pool or a movie theatre showing the latest Disney production or Shrek-like animation film. When you are a 6 to 10 year old, you can’t wait for the morning to be over. After eating the scrambled egg sandwiches your mother has put in your knapsack (that was in the sixties, nowadays kids eat a hamburger or a slice of pizza at the local snack stand), you can finally start enjoying your day.

Well, for the educational part of the excursion, teachers in central France often take their pupils to see the Châteaux de la Loire.

On that particular day in 1999, entering the grounds of Chambord castle, we saw an enormous swirling cloud of yellow dust moving towards us. At first we thought that the dry dust of the gravel path was being picked up and tossed around by a small whirlwind. But getting closer, we heard the excited twitter of children’s voices. One by one they appeared out of the dust cloud, a large group of 7-8 year olds on their way to visit the inside of the castle! Reluctantly following their teacher, who was trying to impress them with her knowledge of the splendours of Chambord, they trudged along, pushing each other around, dragging their feet and kicking up the dust. Anxious to get to the playground or other entertainment in the afternoon, they were clearly not enjoying the cultural part of their school outing.

And there were scores of similar clouds, some big, some small, moving around all over the castle grounds.

So, if you don’t want to find yourself suffocating in a dust cloud or trampled over by deadly bored schoolchildren … avoid visiting Chambord on a hot morning in June!

Do you have memories of school outings that you would like to share?

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