If any of the leaders managed to catch some sleep prior to embarking on this journey, it was certainly needed to sustain them throughout the next four days. The trip proved to be an unforgettable experience for everyone involved.
Like with any excursion, one hopes that nothing will cause delays or complications. However, in our case, we were held up – not by our own doing but rather due to tardy coaches.
It was the early hours of Friday 17 August and precisely at 3am when a team dressed in high-visibility clothing arrived at Buttercups Tearoom to arrange parking facilities for approximately 140 cars within a dimly lit car park. Despite it being a time when they would be in bed, they did an exceptional job directing both vehicles and people safely towards appropriate spaces.
We were fortunate enough with dry weather conditions while waiting for the arrival of our coaches. However, tensions began rising once we realized that it was now past 5:20am and we were running behind schedule – making us apprehensive about missing our ferry ride at Dover which was further compounded by light drizzles beginning to fall from above.
The truth is that road closures had caused the delay in departure time whilst resulting in long detours en-route for the coaches’ drivers before finally arriving just as daylight began breaking through the horizon. After bidding farewell and boarding designated buses along with luggage loaded onto each vehicle’s storage compartment, a group consisting of 151 Guides, Rangers and their respective leaders commenced on their twelve-hour trek southward whereupon their adventure officially commenced!
The initial phase encompassed equal parts excitement and slumbering since travel would consume most of the day ahead.
We arrived at PGL’s Chateau de Grande Romaine later than anticipated, eager to stretch our legs and settle into our rooms. Most importantly, we were all looking forward to a hearty meal and exploring the Chateau. The next morning was filled with commotion as we prepared for our first excursion. After eating breakfast and packing lunches, we embarked on an unexpected but highly enjoyable tour of Paris due to closed roads leading us off course. As the coach drivers navigated expertly through the city streets, PGL staff provided historical commentary about Parisian monuments.
Our destination was just a short distance away from the Eiffel Tower – an impressive structure that is even more magnificent in person than it appears in pictures or on TV. Despite warm temperatures and drizzling rain, 134 of us decided to take on the ambitious challenge of climbing up its 647 steps to reach the second floor – a great achievement that will not be forgotten easily. We felt accomplished after completing this task and took advantage of some time spent exploring the nearby cafes and shops while taking photos against beautiful backdrops under sunny skies.
During one such photo opportunity featuring several girls posing with Paris as their background and the Eiffel Tower as their stage–despite rainy weather–the looks on their beaming faces said it all: they were feeling proud! They said their Guide and Ranger ‘Promise’ with raised Guiding salutes in recognition of this accomplishment before descending much faster down those same stairs with visible bounces in each step.
During the lunch hour, we embarked on our next adventure by boat through the Bateaux Parisiens along the River Seine. As we cruised down the river, each building possessed a fascinating history waiting to be uncovered, in addition to iconic landmarks that captured our attention. With time on our side, everyone took advantage of Carrefour (a local shopping centre) for some retail therapy before heading back to the Chateau. Later in the day, clear blue skies graced us with their presence and were accompanied by an intense heat that was perfect for indulging in a refreshing dip poolside!
To commemorate the conclusion of an extraordinary day, we convened around a blazing campfire. The PGL staff treated us to a boisterous and thrilling performance of songs, which we embellished with our own Guiding touch by introducing classics like “Alive, Alert, Awake, Enthusiastic,” “Fishy Wishy,” and “Black Socks.” Additionally, we observed two birthdays that evening – an occasion that called for cake and candles as well as toasted marshmallows.
The following morning presented itself with excitement everywhere thanks largely due to Minnie & Mickey ears worn by most guests present who boarded coaches headed towards Disneyland Paris theme park! Upon arrival, individuals dispersed swiftly towards their preferred rides or attractions. A group of leaders led a joyful procession down the main thoroughfare towards the Disney castle, where singing and dancing ensued in full girlish glee. Visitors patiently queued for their turn to ride while being serenaded by camp songs that resonated gently throughout the air, evoking smiles from strangers and enchanting small children alike – after all, who doesn’t appreciate a good camp song?
As the evening drew near, wearied countenances surfaced. Nevertheless, disco dancing commenced despite the impending slumber and preparations for an early departure the following day.
As the weekend drew to a close, joyful laughter and fond memories were shared amongst both new and old friends. However, it came to an abrupt end after travelling over 1000 miles in cramped quarters with three coaches full of people. Nevertheless, within the limited time frame of 97 hours, we managed to experience an array of delightful activities such as scaling towering edifices for breath-taking views of the city skyline, cruising along a river steeped in history while conversing in foreign tongues and braving inclement weather conditions – all while relishing each other’s company. We even indulged our inner child by exploring Disneyland with boundless energy and enthusiasm, running around trying to see everything possible despite having only 96 hours at our disposal – truly mind-boggling!
Everyone agreed that given another chance, they would eagerly do it all again…