By Lakshmi, Órla and Jennifer of the Hatters ESU
It was early in the morning at the district HQ as the Hatters ESU along with the Red Barons and Winchmore Hill Unit met for our trip to the wonderful Centre International EEDF de Bécours. You could feel the excitement in the air as we began our journey. We travelled by Eurostar to Paris, where we saw the Notre Dame, the River Seine and had more than one traumatic experience in the French toilets. We then took a very cool double-decker train down to the South of France. Once we arrived, we stayed in a chalet in the hamlet that the campsite surrounds and met up with a few of our wonderful leaders that drove all the way from London with the minibus.
On the first day we set up camp in the sweltering heat and used our brilliant pioneering skills along with Ash’s architectural talents to build a dining shelter. It almost flew away a couple times… We ate some lovely French cheeses and relaxed in the shade. On the second day we visited Sévérac-le-Château and got to know our patrols through a scavenger hunt around the town.
Over the next couple of days, we did a range of activities, rotating between volunteering, a treetop course and aqua hiking in the transparent teal-blue water in the Gorges Du Tarn. Fears were conquered and friends made in the first incredible week of our two-week adventure.
When not climbing trees or jumping into water from high rocks we spent our time in the dining shelter playing various card games and playing our favourite game… Town of Salem led by Joe, the ultimate Moderator. This helped us bond with Explorers from across the district.
We travelled to the Plage Baleine (a beach near to Montpellier) to relax and swim for a day at the beach which was a highlight for all of us expect Ruairi, Dan and Brian who spent a day walking and shopping in the heat. Most of us managed to avoid sunburn despite the scorching heat. The next day we had a cooking competition, which was quite the challenge for Zac’s patrol who had to battle 5 different dietary requirements but was nevertheless a bonding experience. Chris’s patrol won the competition after some difficult decision making from the panel of judges. They were given a run for their money by Aidan’s patrol who were quite the entertainers.
The next day we travelled by coach to Montpellier, explored the city and spent all our money. We said goodbye to Kell (we were Kella sad) and retuned to base where Zac’s patrol cooked dinner.
We rotated through some more activities over the next week, including Canoeing, Volunteering and Via Ferrata (scaling cliffs with harnesses and metal footholds) where we took in the epic views.
Campfires in the evening were a wonderful way to reflect on our busy days and to chat with our fellow campers. We reflected on the state of our world, discussed philosophy and pondered on how to move the planet over cakes in oranges and marshmallows.
Our wonderful two weeks in the South of France came to an end and we took a train up to Paris where we stayed the night in the Aloha Hostel. The Eiffel tower at midnight was a moment to remember (we got all our #instaworthy photos) despite the rats and the smell.
The next day we explored Paris where a few of our Explorers rode back to our meeting place on electric scooters after their long search for frog’s legs. Despite their untimely arrival we were all amused. Our time in Paris was ended with a lovely sing along to Valerie, which was substituted with “Malachy”, accompanied on the piano by Chris. The ride back on the Eurostar was sad but we were happy to have had such an incredible week shared with such amazing people.