Plymouth Part 2: Tantrums and Teachers

Well! The house is too small. The beds are impossible. There are too many of us. It’s too small. Two people have to eat in the kitchen!! There isn’t enough room in the rooms. It’s too small. The coordination is horrible. We have to take two cars to get there. It’s just too small. C’est incroyable. C’est incroyable. C’est incroyable. C’est incroyable.

MERDE! Pardon my French, my actual French. The professors were the biggest whiners I had ever met and I was super embarrassed to be “one of the group” at that point. Sure, our host family couldn’t understand them but still. It was terrible. To try and feel like I was being polite I ended up talking with the two, generous people taking us into their house and cooking for us, for about an hour. I was still just mortified. I felt, and continued to feel for most of the trip, that I was jumping in front of bullets just because I would be the one not killed by them.

The next morning didn’t help anything. Note to well-meaning British folk, if French people ask if you have coffee, don’t give them hot water and Maxwell House instant mix. Let’s just say, they won’t be impressed.

Then of course the actual bus pick up spots with the kids was a nightmare too. Two buses, different locations, no list of which students would arrive where, all of the teachers at one stop, the coordinator nowhere to be found, and then to top it all off one taxi takes the students directly to the school without telling anyone.

Can we focus on the taxi part for one second? Perhaps it was just my K-8 school at home (Go Maplewood!) but parents would not stand and teachers would probably be on probation or something, if it was known that students were put into taxis with no supervision to get from one place to another. I thought they were joking at first. No, they were not.

Anyway, EVENTUALLY, with all students accounted for the next morning we got them settled into the school in Plymouth, kind of a technical college, for their morning classes and then us teachers got to sit and wait for 3 hours.

Oh, you think the hissy fit about the house was bad just wait until lunch. I thought the teachers were about to mutiny. Was it a great lunch? No. Was it edible food? Yes. Was it edible food to this group of French teachers? Hell No. I just sat there, eating my little lunch and not saying a word, while once again the world was coming to an end all around me. White Bread!!?!?!? Are you kidding me! This juice box? Is this a joke? A bag of chips? Impossible! C’est incroyable. C’est incroyable. C’est incroyable.

For the afternoon we went to the Eden Project. It has two biomes, one with a rainforest atmosphere, one with the Mediterranean. It was a cool place, the kids had fun and the weather held out nicely. On the way back do you think that the bus driver took the same, wide road, way that he came? No, no he did not. Going a good 30 minutes out of the way on tiny, one lane roads with hedges half-way up the bus he wandered around until getting onto the road that we came on. Only then to take another wrong turn and driving on the wrong side of the road while we all yelled “LEFT” (in French) for about another 45 minutes. So yes, we were late again to meet all of the families and this is when the yelling and screaming between the head teacher and the coordinator commenced. It was quite a site.

“You’re unprofessional!”

“I’m unprofessional? This is terrible planning and ridiculous communication. The worst ever.”

“You’re making a real site, you know.”

Plymouth School Trip part 1

So, last week, starting at 5:15am on Sunday I was on an adventure with 90+ middle school students and seven other teachers to the United Kingdom. Our destination was Plymouth out on the far south west corner of Britain. After orientation onto busses (with what I would come to appreciate later as the worst bus driver ever!) we were off to the ferry. The ferry from Ouisterham to Portsmouth is about 6 hours but it passed relatively quickly. And we were soon clearing customers, where I got to finally speak with some more native English speakers (you miss it, a lot).

Next we had a long and I mean long drive out to Plymouth. The plan was to drive to Exeter, give the kids and drivers about an hour break, see a bit of the city, and then finish the trip out. However, I quickly realized that A) I was the only teacher in the lead bus still awake and B) our driver had turned onto small town roads where the bus barely fit and he had clearly no idea where he was. Imagine a bus driver (French) driving a gigantic bus through small British streets, with his archaic map ON the wheel, looking up, looking down, and clearly lost.

Finally some other teachers wake up, question the time, and help navigate. We are forced to stop 15 minutes outside of Exeter at a tiny rest stop for 45 minutes and almost an hour behind schedule. We bypass Exeter, having no time to spare, arrive in Plymouth 45 minutes late and this is where the fun starts. Yeah, the fun starts…

It’s pouring down rain and we finally find the parking lot to meet all of the host families. The coordinator never received our text or calls so all the families and taxis, yes taxis, have been waiting in the miserable rain for 45 minutes. Caroline is a rough woman with little patience and is unimpressed at our arrival. She tries to coordinate all of the kids with their families and taxis but I’ll be completely honest, if I didn’t take the reins to get everyone to their right places, we’d still be there.

So, with a supposed arrival time at 7:00pm, we, the professors finally get to our host house a little after 10:30pm that night. And it is here that my lovely colleagues, many of my actual favorite co-workers, confirm every French stereotype in the book. Stay tuned.

Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris

Yes, that’s right Disneyland Paris! It was magical.

I got there before the park opened and looked over the map to see the layout. It has the four lands with Main Street and it’s all laid out perfectly. After main street and the castle viewing I headed into Frontier Land and proceeded to do the whole park clockwise. I jumped on the first sailing of the Molly Brown to see all the sites that I could see from there. It was a quick trip but a fun one.

From there I went to the Haunted Mansion. This version is a bit smaller in size than the Dineyland in California, which is kind of the theme of the Paris Park, but in no way smaller in awesomeness. It had a lot of the same parts and aspects of the ride with slight changes here and there. I loved it.

Then it was off to Thunder Mesa. I won’t lie, this one is better than the California version. The under water tunnel and speeding along in the dark added to the experience and being on an island was lots of fun as well. It was by far one of, if not the, best ride of the day. Yes, a long wait, but worth it. Use those fast passes people!

Next up was Adventure Land. Unfortunately Indiana Jones was closed but I still explored Skull Rock, Swiss Family Robbing House, and Captain Hook’s ship. All were really cool areas to wander around in and explore. After that I hopped into line for Pirates. Again, a bit of a wait, but in true Disney style even the waiting is an experience. The entire ruined walled fortress was in character and heightens the overall ride. “Dead men tell no tales” is still the motto here. No Johnny Depps to be found on this one, which is okay by me.

After a bit more wandering around it was off to Fantasy Land. I did decide to give Snow White’s ride a whirl and it was very similar to the one that I remember. Picture taking galore that day and Fantasy Land is definitely a place to do that as well. I stopped into a shop and got a souvenir or two or three for myself and some of my Disney loving family.

I decided to bite the bullet and wait to meet Mickey. While waiting I got to watch tons of classic Mickey cartoons, some in French, some in English. In true French form, you are allowed to give Mickey les bisous, or kisses. I posed as like I was kissing his nose but let’s be honest about how many kids have been doing that that day so no contact was made.

Finally I went over to Discovery Land but not before being interrupted by the Spring Festival show going on in the streets. Bright colors, lots of dancers, characters galore, singing, dancing, and pure Disney magic! It was a lot of fun to watch.

The last ride of the day was Space Mountain, of course worth the wait.

That’s a snapshot of my day in Disneyland Paris, very much worth it. I did not have the normal Disneyland game plan and fast pass skills that my family has honed but it was still great. Big downside was my own fault for the wrong shoes. Since I was in Paris just to visit a friend my shoes were more stylish and not walking a marathon friendly. Ouch!

Friday and Saturday

So, as I mentioned in the video, I finally got to have lunch with Jennifer from Chez LouLou “chezlouloufrance.blogspot.fr/” and it was fantastic. We met at a restaurant in Caen called Dolly’s which is a British run traditional British lunch and tea room type restaurant. It was good food and we both liked what we got. The conversation though was by far the best part. She is hilarious and we connected on tons of subjects and really just had a blast. Originally she is from Spokane, Washington (pronounced Spo-can for those of us in the know) and has lived in multiple places, including Seattle itself. So it was fun to both chat a bit about shared places and life and also all of the differences and her and mine adventures.

I am really hoping that she and I can get together again before I am finished here, not a lot of time to make it happen but always possible. Next time I think we’ll get together in Bayeux since she lives out that way. Check out her blog for all things French food, living, and more!

So, as I mentioned, I had to cut our lunch short. We were having such a fun time that I barely glanced at my phone to realize that I had a train to catch at 13h05 (1:05pm) and it was already 12h46 (12:46pm). We quickly said goodbye and I ran, yes ran across the city, having just missed a tram. Boy were those the wrong shoes to run in. But I made it. I was panting, but safely on the train for Paris to meet my friend Ronnie.

Ronnie is a flight attendant and had a day layover in Paris and suggested that I come down, so of course, I did! Got to his hotel room and woke him up from his nap, he said he’d be ready to go but that didn’t happen. Anyway, we set out to see some of Paris. He’s been here before but only seen a few sights and the inside of a few bars. I got to play tour guide and if you know me you probably know that I LOVE to play tour guide. I was pointing out monuments and buildings, telling anecdotes, it was a hoot.

After walking more than halfway across the city (the best way to see everything) we decided on dinner and ate at a fine little roadside café with a great people watching location. Next we went around a bit, bar to bar to just have a beer or two, enjoy the Paris night life a bit, and called it an early night since he had to get up SUPER early for his next flight.

The next day after Ronnie left I was going to just hang around Paris, drink my café, people watch, read my book, as is my normal Paris past time, but then a thought occurred to me…I had the ability and the time to go to… DISNEYLAND J