Belgium 2016

Belgium 2016

We left Leek early, in the dark, with neatly packed suitcases, the 25 students full of excitement and travelled to Dover for the ferry to Calais. The excitement of seeing the port, this was clearly the first time some students had seen a ferry, was difficult to contain. Luckily, the journey across the channel was calm and we enjoyed standing on deck watching the white cliffs of Dover disappear in the sea haze.

We arrived in Ypres in the late afternoon and had plenty of time to explore the hotel before tea that evening. The first night of a residential is always an interesting time as some students are exhausted, some are too excited to sleep and the adults begin to realise the magnitude of what they have agreed to. Mrs Ball was the first member of staff to discover the secret door that led to the “fizzy refreshments”.

After breakfast the following day we headed to Bruges. We had a lovely walk toward the town centre, admiring the Flemish architecture before stopping to get our barge for a cruise along the canal. It was a nice way to see the town but perhaps the most fun was had waving to those looking down from the many bridges the barge went through. After continuing our stroll to the centre of Bruges the group split up. Some chose to visit the museum, whilst others, the bravest of the group, climbed the 366 steps to the top of tower overlooking Markt Place. There was even time for some retail therapy before returning to the coach.

On our journey back we decided to head into Ypres and have a look round. Having parked, we made our way to the Menin Gate where Mrs Ball told the group about the young men from Leek and Stoke whose names can be found on the memorial to those that gave their lives. Mrs Ball went on to show the skills that would make her a strong candidate for the Apprentice when she haggled with the proprietor of a chocolate shop to get the students some freebies and 10% off.

The following day we headed to Boulogne. We parked up in the centre of the town and walked straight into a busy market selling, fruits, vegetables, sweets, breads, meats, cheeses, clothes and gifts. After a nervous beginning, some coaching from Mr Pritchard, all the students began testing out their language skills with the stall holders. One stall holder stopped one of our groups and shared her delight and amazement in seeing this group of students in her own town but clearly far from home. She explained her sister had attended a special school in France and had been very much isolated from her community. Seeing these students, with such confidence, experiencing a community so far from their own made her very happy. So happy she allowed each student to choose a gift at no cost from her stall.

We then headed to the Naussica Sea Life centre and spent a fascinating afternoon exploring the tanks and pools containing a variety of weird and wonderful sea creatures. Be assured no one made any comments about the similarities in appearance between some of those creatures and senior members of staff who were back in Leek.

And so we woke up for our final day. We found the set of clothes that smelt the least bad and began to pack our cases. The boys exchanged the pants that were found on the floor, under duvets, under beds, hanging on curtain poles, until everyone had the correct undergarments. We then headed to Bellewaerde Theme Park. A cross between a theme park and a zoo, we had to make the most effective use of time. A plan was made to get us round the most exciting and thrilling rides in the few hours we had. Two hours later we left the park exhausted, wet and some students far quieter than we had ever known them. There is clearly a lot to be said for roller coasters that go backwards.

The journey back was as calm as it had been going. We arrived back in Leek in good time, full of stories to share with our families and friends and already discussing where we will head to in 2017…

Maddison & Frankie on the Ferry leaving Dover

Maddison & Frankie on the Ferry leaving Dover

Group photo in the beautiful town of Ypres

Group photo in the beautiful town of Ypres

Walking through the Ypres, Belgium

Walking through Ypres, Belgium

View from the canal boat in the beautiful gothic city of Bruges

View from the canal boat in the beautiful gothic city of Bruges

Lovely buildings in Bruges

Lovely buildings in Bruges

On a canal trip in the beautiful gothic city of Bruges, Belgium. We had to duck down as we travelled under some very low bridges!

On a canal trip gothic Bruges, Belgium. We had to duck down as we travelled under some very low bridges!

Belfry in Market Square, Bruges

Belfry in Market Square, Bruges

Buying chocolate goodies from a shop in Ypres - Belgium is famous for its chocolate!

Buying chocolate goodies from a shop in Ypres – Belgium is famous for its chocolate!

Mrs Ball pointing out the names of Leek soliders whose names are recorded at The Menin Gate

Mrs Ball pointing out the names of local soldiers whose names are recorded at The Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres

Boulogne Markets, France

Boulogne Markets, France

Buying fruit and practising French speaking at the markets in Boulogne

Buying fruit and practising French speaking at the markets in Boulogne

The group at Nausicca Sealife Centre, Boulogne

The group at Nausicca Sealife Centre, Boulogne

Sealions performing at Nausicca

Sealions performing at Nausicca

Leah, Leah and Imogen looking into tanks at Nausicca Sealife Centre

Leah, Leah and Imogen looking into tanks at Nausicca Sealife Centre

Joshua pointing out the dangers lurking in this pool - and yes the sharks were VERY BIG!!

Joshua pointing out the dangers lurking in this pool – and yes the sharks were VERY BIG!!

Melissa and Holly enjoying Nausicca

Melissa and Holly enjoying Nausicca

Jack and Leah looking at sharks, or should that be sharks looking at Jack and Leah thinking... lunch!

Jack and Leah looking at sharks, or should that be sharks looking at Jack and Leah thinking… lunch!

Will and Madison enjoying a game of table tennis at our hotel, Flanders Lodge

Will and Madison enjoying a game of table tennis at our hotel, Flanders Lodge

Having dinner back at our hotel

Having dinner back at our hotel

Our fab group outside Bellewaerde Theme Park

Our fab group outside Bellewaerde Theme Park

Enjoying the swings at Bellewaerde Theme Park, Belgium

Enjoying the swings at the theme park, most were brave enough to try this ride!

Jack, Des, Miss Gaulton and Aiden - Jack and Miss Gaulton's faces say it all!

Jack, Des, Miss Gaulton and Aiden – Jack’s and Miss Gaulton’s faces say it all!

The water rapid ride - we got a little bit wet on this one!

The water rapid ride – we got a little bit wet on this one….

We got VERY wet on this ride!

… But we got VERY wet on this one! Even Mr Best was brave enough to try it, and we all knew how much he doesn’t like rides!

Getting a soaking on the log flume ride!

Getting a soaking on the log flume ride!

Des, Mrs Ferns and Cezary teacup spinning!

Des, Mrs Ferns and Cezary spinning in teacups

Mr Pritchard on the scariest ride in the park!

Mr Pritchard on the scariest ride in the park!

Mr Best looking like a naughty schoolboy!

Mr Best looking like a naughty schoolboy… “it wasn’t me, honestly”

On the ferry returning home - tired but having had a fantastic trip

On the ferry returning home – tired but having had a fantastic trip

The wonderful Mrs Linda!

The wonderful Mrs Linda!

Our coach and brilliant driver John in the centre.

Our coach and brilliant driver Jonathan in the centre.

 

Roll on next year…. !!