A parent of one of the children going on the trip very kindly offered to give me a lift to the school. We gathered outside the building and ticked off the kids as they were brought in by their parents. It all felt pretty surreal, being in the vicinity of school with these kids and their mums or dads at 11.00 at night.
We boarded the bus and were off by 23.35
The kids were obviously hyper and I knew that I wouldn't get too much sleep. There were four of us teachers and thirty three kids. We were lucky to have a really friendly driver, whom I found out would be staying with us throughout the entire trip, which was nice to have.
We made our way down to Folkstone, to catch the Eurostar to Calais. To my astonishment, the place was full of school-kids, all making their way through the tunnel - despite the fact that it was 2.30 a.m! I was intregued when I saw another coach turning up in the car-park...but when three came along, I realised that this travelling at night lark is the norm in the school-trip universe.
We got the kids out of the tunnel shop and back onto the bus. After the usual head count, we boarded the train carriage and waited for the Eurostar to leave. You really do feel like some cargo, as you're being packed into this nondescript can. The ride across was bumpy, if uneventful and I looked forward to getting a little kip on the other side.
As the train doors opened in Calais, we were greeted by the unwelcome sight of an almighty thunderstorm. Each time, I tried to close my eyes, they were sprung open firstly by the streaks of lightning and then by the kids shouting "did you see that one?!"
It was going to be a long, long night.
I did manage to doze off a little (much to the amusement of some of the other teachers) and woke up to face the daylight. We eventually arrived at our hotel at around 08.00 - dazed, but excited about the day ahead.
The hotel was themed around a castle and there were artifacts like faux suits of armour in the lobby, as well as a sword in a stone and two royal looking thrones.
You can see some photos here.
The hotel couldn't let us into our rooms until 3 pm (although the other teachers did manage to get theirs....grrrr) so we left our luggage in a holding area and went off to the park, which only opened at 10.00
I would have liked to have changed clothes, had a shower but it was not to be...
It wasn't too bad getting into Disneyland, although it was surprising to see armed soldiers walking around the entrance to the site. We were also subjected to a bag search. Does terrorism really have to intrude on something as pure as Disney?
We let the kids go off and do their thing whilst the four of us mooched around. To be honest, I really didn't feel like doing something too strenuous, which suited the others fine! We perused the shops on Main Street, ignored much of the tat on offer and sat down for a coffee.
The weather started off OK, but started to get progressively worse and at one point, it was bucketing down. This however did nothing to stop the various Disney parades and it was fun to see the characters in all their full sized glory.
We did go on some rides, such as the Phantom Manor (or Haunted House) and Steamboat, but it was lovely to take things easy and bump into the kids every now and again (we'd set up a number of meet-up points) as they went around buying presents or trying to get onto rides (some of which consisted of forty five minutes' queuing) . We also walked around Sleeping Beauty's Castle and heard a lovely brass band playing Disney tunes.
However, the highlight was finding a restaurant for lunch, where we could sit, just the four of us and feel civilised for the first time since we had boarded the coach.
The day passed by smoothly and we made our way out of the park and back to the hotel. I think we'd all had enough of Disney!
We came back and found our way in our rooms after battling electronic key entry cards that stubbornly refused to work. I can't describe the experience of being able to finally get out of my clothes, have a shave, brush my teeth and shower. It was, without a doubt, the finest shower I have had in living memory. I was reborn!
Dinner was pleasant and fortunately, there was quite a bit of (kosher) food that I could eat, including tuna and smoked salmon. I passed on the frogs' legs (yeuch) and snails (gross) but was happy to watch others grappling with their challenging dinners.
Dinner over, it was time to get the kids to sleep - and that's when the fun really started....
Imagine a long corridor. The kids' rooms ran alongside the length of the entire first floor. Our job as teachers was to ensure that they stayed inside their rooms and basically settled down, so we patrolled the corridor and had a go at any kids who came out of their rooms. This went on for a long time as some of them were determined to find out who had more staying power.
We tried all sorts of tricks, like hiding in alcoves and waiting for them to come out or keeping outside the range of the peepholes they looked through in their doors...and pouncing when they thought we'd gone.
One of the teachers, M, confiscated a play sword and was walking up and down the corridor swishing it around in the air and against the wall hangings. She had the rest of us in hysterics.
We sat on floor waiting for the kids to settle down. I struggled to stay awake and found myself lying on my stomach, supporting my head on my up stretched arms, battling sleep.
After about an hour, we felt that they'd finally settled down and I finally got into bed. 00:12 - my head hit the pillow and the world around disappeared into the distance. It had been a very long twenty four hours.
To my embarrassment, I overslept and looked at the clock - 08:20
I quickly made my way downstairs and the other teachers were most understanding (I won't live this down though!)
We had breakfast and eventually made our way back onto the coach. The journey back to Calais went by smoothly and all was well, until the kids spent a little too long in the Euro tunnel shop and the customs, seeing that we had some students with African passports, felt the need to check our bags for firearms (did I mention that we were on a school trip????) as well as all the childrens' and teachers' passports. So we had to get off the coach again and go through a totally unnecessary customs operation.
We missed the train.
However, we caught the 15:20 and made our way back to Folkstone.
Traffic was light until we got caught on the M25 (as per usual) but managed to arrive exactly on time at school - 17.30
It had been a wonderful trip. The kids on the whole were well behaved and the teachers pretty much so too.
My head is spinning, my bed awaits and I look forward to being back at school tomorrow (NOT) after a good night's sleep.
(If you are reading this post on Facebook, please check out the photos of the trip in the left hand column)