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Aberdare Boys’ Grammar School

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Aberdare Boys Comprehensive School
Trip to South of France, 1988

from School Archives

This article appeared in The Leader of July 21, 1988.
Pages 14 and 15 of the broadsheet newspaper were filled completely with articles contributed by boys from the school.

Three days fun in the French sun

By Lawrence Atkins* (2b)

IT all started at half past one in the morning surprisingly enough! Our coach was to leave the school at three, and by half past two the hall was full of boys with cases having last-minute instructions as to what and what not to do from anxious mothers, who were probably seeing their sons off for the first time.

Three o’clock finally struck and we were aboard and off into the black darkness of the early hours of the morning, our destination Portsmouth and the ferry ‘Viking Venture’.

Portsmouth at half-past seven in the morning seemed a lot better than Aberdare at three, and we got off and stretched our legs for the first time since we had started with a five-and-a-half-hour crossing to Le Havre ahead of us. We had successfully completed stage one of our journey from Aberdare to Dover [sic] and were on stage two, La Manche, or the channel.

With three levels, a restaurant, fresh air and plenty of space the ferry seemed like a palace compared with the coach. The first thing everyone thought about was food obviously. With a hearty breakfast inside us and the weather improving, things were looking up until the white horses appeared and the sea started getting a little choppy. With the boat swaying, a few people were looking rather queasy but luckily Le Havre was only half an hour away.

We were in France, the country of good living and good weather. The good weather part was certainly true as we were met by glorious sunshine as we started stage three of our journey to Giens, our resort. With the prospect of a day’s journeying down through France just about everyone decided to get a couple of hours sleep. They say France is colourful, and it’s certainly true with lots of quaint houses and homesteads nestling in sleepy villages and row upon row of fields, trees and grape vines.

Finally our arrival in Giens — or maybe not. It turned out that we had arrived at the wrong place but we soon had that problem ironed out as our flats were only down the road. The general verdict about the flats was favourable and we had three days of sun and sightseeing ahead of us to enjoy.

Monday. Day one, was an excursion to St Tropez, a five-hour round trip but as bad luck had it the streets of St Tropez couldn't’t accommodate our coach so our day viewing a typical French city was lost and we decided the best thing to do was to go back and spend the rest of the day on the local beach which was only two minutes away from the flats and proved to be a very popular place with the boys. Monday night was an early night, and the only one, as the main reception and centre was closed for the night.

Tuesday, day two was a very exciting prospect — a day sun bathing on probably France’s most famous beach, St Tropez where all the stars were supposed to go. Did we see any, alas not a chance. We put our towels down, swathed ourselves in sun tan lotion and hoped for a relaxing couple of hours before we got back on board the coach. We had an hour of peace, but along came a beach salesman (very popular in France) with necklaces, bracelets and who knows what else.

As soon as we spotted him we were like flies round a jam pot. Bargaining for this and asking about that. He must have thought it was his birthday. This went on for a solid two hours and didn’t go on any longer only because we had to depart. In the night we had a sports quiz in the main building. It was held over two nights – Tuesday and Wednesday. Five or six teams of boys were entered, after the scores had been added up there was one eventual winner. Each of the winning team received the handsome reward of a bottle of coke!

Wednesday, the last day we had before setting off was possibly and probably the best day. A full day’s excursion to ‘Zygorolis’ a waterworld and theme park on the Cote d’Azur with 60 acres of rides, side shows and water fun for all ages.

For the older generation there was a swimming pool and sun loungers and for the more adventurous The Cobra, a giant roller coaster, a pirate ship and a water death shoot. The only bad point was the fact that we only spent three hours there. The rest of the day was spent on the beach with the sports quiz in the night.

On Thursday morning we all packed and tidied the flat up ready for an inspection by the teachers. We set off at a more respectable time of two in the afternoon in blazing sunshine as it had been all week. The camp’s director wished us all the best and a safe journey home, and that’s exactly what we did have all the way up through France. From Giens to Calais across the channel to Dover through customs and back to Aberdare. I think that if ever we were offered that chance again we would readily jump at it !


*Lawrence Atkins is now a Specialty Doctor in Psychiatry, and Clinical Lead for Veterans Mental Health Services provided by Leeds & York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. He worked as a Medical Officer in the Territorial Army for 14 years.