6:45am: Alarm goes off and I get into the shower without waking my colleague, who is still asleep (she took the bunk beds because she is amazing). Look in the mirror and notice my eyes look like I’ve been smoking crack all night.
7am: Try to wake children. Most are already up and getting dressed.
7:30am: Breakfast. Croissants and coffee. Real, French coffee. I am in heaven.
7:50am: Notice we are missing several boys, who apparently have decided to go back to sleep. Boys are retrieved and suitably told off.
8:30am: Leave hotel. I apologise to bus driver for calling him the wrong name. He says it’s fine, but that now we are in France the staff are not allowed to sit together on the bus. I take one for the team and offer to sit in the middle of the bus. I think he hates me.
9am: Arrive at a goat farm. Children are briefed about things that they are not allowed to do: Touch any animal without permission, complain about the smell, complain that they don’t understand what the lady is telling them, say the cheese tastes bad. The very accommodating farmer’s wife brings out home-made mini gaufres (waffles) with a caramel-butterscotch sauce and some of the children do not like them. They politely ask for a bin to put them in, and are rewarded with an icy glare and some choice words in French about wasting food. The waffles are collected and put into a bag (for the bus driver, according to goat farm lady. I was tempted to give them to him as a punishment for banishing me to the middle of the bus but my good side won out and we binned them as soon as we were away from the farm), and the tour begins.
9:45am: We see lot of goats. There is some disturbance when the children realise that no, that is not an udder on that male goat. We then get treated to an explanation of how the cheese is made, which is painfully slow because it’s in French, and being half-translated by our trip leader. It’s clear she hasn’t worked with our younger students in a while, because she is pausing to ask them questions every two seconds, and they are all intelligent enough and well-practised at using their initiative to understand most of what the farmer’s wife is saying. We get to try some cheeses which are all at different stages of maturity. Some children try all 4 and share their preferences, which I am impressed with. Some children look like they want to cry at the thought of eating food which is not processed and doesn’t come in a vacuum pack/ freezer bag. Unsurprisingly these are the same children who were buying footlong subs at 8:30am yesterday.
11am: Head to a chocolate factory in rural France. Children are briefed that, due to the hot weather (35°c!), they should avoid buying too much chocolate from the gift shop, as it will just melt. Listen to a guy talk about cocoa beans, cocoa butter, milk and generally manufacturing chocolate. Get some free samples (staff get the leftovers and they are GOOD chocolates), and head to the gift shop. Children buy overpriced chocolate rabbits, Eiffel Towers, and various other random shapes.
11:45am: Children advised to use toilet before getting back on the coach. Only 1 toilet, plus 39 children and 5 staff members, means that we are in the chocolate factory an hour longer than anticipated!
12:55pm: Children waving chocolate Eiffel Towers in various states of disintegration under the bus air con, in the hope that they will magically go back to their original form.
1pm: Stop for a picnic. Our usual picnic spot is up in the hills, but bus driver refuses to take us there as it’s too far out of the way. Forced to stop at a Péage instead. Children hunt for Pokémon and get told off by bus driver for trying to get back on the bus because they are too hot. We console them by informing them that the air con only works when the engine is running anyway, so they cool off by tipping entire bottles of water over themselves.
1:25pm: Children complain that they are thirsty and have no water.
3pm: Arrive at water park. Water park do not want to give out locker keys to 39 12-year-olds, and so send a harassed staff member to unlock lockers and lock them when children have finished changing. Temperature is unbearable and male staff are very self-conscious about having to wear tight trunks. In fact, no one is even looking. It’s not like I work with Daniel Craig or David Beckham. The thought of seeing one of my colleagues in a speedo is far too traumatising for me to take a close look!
4:25pm: Annoying child has stood in some glass and is bleeding. We send one of the men to deal with it so we can queue for nearly an hour to go on a water slide which turns out to be incredibly unexciting and really not worth the wait.
5pm: Manage to get self showered and dried and strike up a friendship with harassed staff member. She enjoys practising her English, which works well for me since my French is embarrassingly bad.
5:45pm: Miraculously all children are showered and ready to head off, apart from one who has ripped off a toenail somehow. I explain (in mangled French; I can’t remember the words for accident, toe, or bleeding) to a first-aider who initially thinks I’m complaining that the girl has lost a shoe…
6pm: Send child back into water park to find his bag, which he thought his friend had taken for him. Bag is gone but child deals with the loss well.
6:30pm: Dinner. The food on this trip is surprisingly good; so far I have not been fed meat (I’m vegetarian), or been forgotten about. Tonight I have an omelette. Many, many, many jokes are made about sausages, chipolatas and hot dogs, after the speedo debacle. My colleagues are about as mature as I am 😂
7:30pm: Head to beach. Slightly quicker route tonight but still not the correct one. I tell the other staff when we arrive that I can remember the original route but am told that there is a quicker one (which we apparently haven’t found). Like Queen Elsa, I let it go.
9pm: Next to the beach are some stalls selling churros, candy floss, slush, ice cream, crepes and waffles, and a carousel. We spend half an hour there, making the stallholders immeasurably richer. Some children appear to have been swimming in their clothes and we are not sure how this has happened without any of the 5 staff members noticing.
11:30pm: Send children to rooms. It is unbearably hot, and when I go to bed around 1am I leave the balcony door open again. No fridge-related disturbances tonight, although I am so tired I don’t think I would have noticed anyway!
CAMEMBERT UPDATE: It stinks.