It was a quiet crowd of 42 students that gathered inside Dublin Airport on Saturday morning, along with the attending teachers, Ms Mazzucato, Mr Kirwan, Mr Byrne, Mr Ryan and Mr Cronin. The time was 4:00am, an early rising time for all, and they were tired. It would be a long day, and everyone knew that they would only arrive at the hotel, the Kyriad Prestige, at 9:00pm.
Arriving at Paris at around 9:45am, we were soon off on our coach and heading to our first place of interest, Champs Elysées, a street running for over a mile amidst grand Parisian buildings and green gardens. We were dropped off near the Arc de Triomphe, and unleashed among the famous shops and restaurants. In moments, the group had splintered off, disappearing into the crowds, not to return for a few hours.
When all together again, Ms Mazzucato, acting as our guide, brought us to the Arc de Triomphe, leading us safely underneath the infamous roundabout of the Place de la Charles de Gaulle. Then, after a brief wander around the Arch, we again boarded our bus and began our tour of Paris, guided by a man we knew as Joe. We were shown the true scale and beauty of the city, and, at least on one occasion, there were exclamations of oohs and ahs.
Our next planned activity, a cruise on the Seine at night, unfortunately couldn't take place as most of Paris's lights would be turned off. At 8:30pm, local time, millions switched off their lights, and all the monuments of the city were cast in darkness. It was Earth Hour, and so our plan was ruined. Until, that is, it was decided we would come the next day. The idea pleased all. But we still had a couple of hours to spare, and we ended up climbing the steps that weaved their way up the hill of Montmartre. Looming up before us were the tall white domes of the Basilica de Sacré-Cœur, and the amplified music of a busker filled the air.
Somehow, one of our own, Daniel Plummer, managed to get a hold of the busker's guitar and start a tune of his own, standing in front of an attentive audience of perhaps a hundred. The wild cheers and applause of the De La Salle crowd met Daniel Plummer as he finished.
And that was only day one.
On day two, Sunday, we were much more confined in terms of our trips. We made just two, but Disneyland is a very special place. Fully rested, we were ready to take on the giant theme park. For most of the day we were there, screaming on rollercoasters, exploring Adventureland, screaming some more and watching the motor show or enjoying some other visual experience. Coincidentally, our time and place of meeting took place just as Disneyland's 20th Anniversary parade was rolling by. It was an appropriate ending to our day in the park. Just one thing was left for us to do before returning to Paris, and that was to have a very American dinner at Planet Hollywood.
Our cruise of the River Seine awaited us as we drove back into Paris. The barge we sat on, the Bâteau Mouche, had enough seats for a few hundred people.
Oddly enough, many found the bridges to be the most exciting part of the cruise, even though the wonders of Paris rose to either side of us. Each time we came under a bridge, everyone screamed, perhaps caught in the amazement of how sound bounced back at them. Putting aside all sarcasm, it really was a great experience, as we saw the heart of Paris, with all its splendour lined up on each side of the river, ready for our cameras to snap.
Monday, the first properly warm day, with a clear sky and a hot sun, saw us journey into that most famous of museums, the Louvre. On the first day, we were told a couple of interesting facts about that museum. First, it is just under a mile long, and that, if one were to look at each painting in it for fifteen minutes, it would take three years. We didn't have that much time to spend there, however, so we went to the most essential places, and even saw the Mona Lisa. Ms Mazzucato gave us a tour, and shared her surprisingly vast knowledge of the history of many paintings, while Mr Byrne insisted on teaching trigonometry.
Our next venture brought us where Paris had first sprung from, Île de la Cité, an island on the Seine where the Romans had originally founded the city. We were taken into Notre Dame, the incredible gothic cathedral that is the home of the fictional hunchback of Notre Dame.
But what we were to do next had everyone excited, for the Eiffel Tower was the last destination of the day. And we weren't just going to stick on the first or second floor of that massive structure, we were going all the way to the top. It was no short climb. Suffice it to say that it was bright when we started our ascent and dark when we reached the top. Perhaps that was for the best, though, as the night really seems to bring out the right atmosphere for the city.
Many found that they were enjoying the trip too much, and wished that they were staying for just one more day, but our fourth day in Paris was our last. Yet, there was still more to do before we departed. Versailles is perhaps one of the most beautiful palaces in the world, and one of the grandest. When we arrived, it certainly seemed that way. Each of the rooms we walked through was exceedingly big and extravagant, and it was a wonder to see.
Our Paris trip ended with a visit to a shopping centre, where, for just a few hours, we rested after four days of what some of us called 'the best trip of our lives'.
We returned to Dublin, exhausted but fulfilled, each of us with fond memories to look back on.