Vimy Ridge – Follow our Journey

April 17

All 351 of our Niagara Catholic students and staff are back from the most incredible adventure to Europe to participate in the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and to experience the cultures of England, Italy and France. It was an amazing experience for everyone who participated in this massive adventure, and we’re grateful that everyone is back safely on Canadian soil.
Our final group of travellers from Saint Michael and Saint Paul Catholic High Schools touched down at 10:30 p.m. Sunday night, and had an outstanding experience, attending Mass at the Vatican, Notre Dame de Paris and at Our Lady of Victories in London – three Masses in three countries – and participating in the Easter Vigil in London as they travelled home on Easter Sunday.
Stand by in the next couple of days for a larger photo collection from all of our Niagara Catholic travellers here and on our Board Facebook page.

 

April 12

Today has been another incroyable day a France! We took a beautiful walk in the morning sunshine along the Seine to Notre Dame Cathedral – after a quick stop in the area surrounding it to pick up a few more souvenirs. It was a great place to take photos, too, and we even saw a bride and groom taking wedding photos, which seemed strange for a Wednesday morning. We also had a little fun after a number of long days, and played in the park at the back of Notre Dame de Paris before going in for Mass.

It’s hard to imagine still being able to use a building that was started being built in the 13th century, and took about 200 years to build! The sculpture, architecture and stained glass windows are amazing to see, and it would be incredible to have as a parish church!

We noticed Mass was much different than what we are used to in Canada. Other than the fact that it was en francais, it was different because it was much shorter, with no hymns. Still, it was an incredibly beautiful service and we were so fortunate to be able to participate in a Mass at Notre Dame during Holy Week.

After Mass, we travelled to the famous Latin Quarter, which is full of fun, hip bistros, patisseries and shops, because it’s a place where students love to go. The Sorbonne University is located here, so there are good prices and lots of things that students would want in this trendy neighbourhood. I think everyone went home with a bag (or two) from stores.

You’ll be thrilled to know many kids are expanding their culinary horizons. Mussels, escargot and grenouille – most commonly known as frogs’ legs – were on a few plates this lunchtime, while others took advantage of what might be their final crepe opportunity in France for a while.

After that, we walked to the Louvre, where we didn’t have much time, but enough to see what is probably the world’s most famous painting, the Mona Lisa. We were all surprised at how small it is compared to some of them, like the Wedding in Caana, which practically filled an entire wall!

Then we walked back to our hotel along the Left Bank, where we saw families, friends and lots of couples enjoying what has been an absolutely gorgeous day. We are so grateful to God for the incredible weather we have had this entire time, and now it’s time to pack up and move. Our second group heads home tomorrow – mums and dads, check the airline to make sure that you know when to pick us up at the school. Don’t worry, we’ll have the kids text you to tell you they’re on their way home. And our final group departs for London tomorrow aboard the Eurostar, and will be back in Niagara on Monday.

Hopefully we’ll get a few more updates from the folks in London over the weekend, but if we don’t, we’ll be sure to update you as soon as we can. In the meantime, visit our Facebook page for new photos from today!

April 11

Hi mums and dads – or should we say, mamans et papas? We have really become immersed in life here in Paris! Today we had another huge day, taking a walking tour through the City of Lights, a train ride to Versailles and a few trips on the Metro to see the incredible sights of this beautiful city.

After breakfast, we walked through the city to a marche where we had a bit of an early lunch from some of the tasty items we found there, then made our way to the train to travel to the Palace of Versailles. It’s almost impossible to describe how beautiful it is and the artwork that is inside. You can see it in the photos. After Versailles, we went to the upscale shopping mall, Place Lafayette, to see how the other half lives, and then we went for a dinner without some of the other schools. Then we took a very long walk – including two up some very long stairs! – to look down on Paris from the Village of Montmartre. It’s such a pretty little place, and it was bustling with activity. While the chaperones enjoyed a cafe at an outdoor cafe, students raced from stall to stall, buying souvenirs and taking photos, including ones of the very famous Sacred Heart Basilica. It was a perfect end to a perfect spring day in Paris.

Group Two has one more day in Paris before heading home on Thursday. Wednesday is another busy day, with shopping, Mass at the Cathedral of Notre Dame and a visit to the Louve on the agenda before dinner.

When Group Two heads to Rome to fly back to Canada, our friends in Group Three will make the move to London, where they will tour around until heading home on Easter Sunday.

Be sure to visit our Facebook page for photos from today. See you all soon!

April 10

Greetings from Paris! We have had an incredibly big couple of days, and we’re super tired but it’s the kind of tired that comes from doing some really incredible things that we will remember for a lifetime.

Our journey to Vimy Ridge was absolutely incredible! When we arrived, they were reading the names of the Canadian soldiers who were killed during the battle of Vimy Ridge, and were placing a pair of boots on the field in honour of each of the soldiers. You’ve heard crowds of people sing O Canada together at hockey and baseball games, but it was surreal 30,000 people of all ages standing and singing our national anthem together, and to see people like our Prime Minister, Prince Charles and the French Prime Minister speaking about Canada’s role in the war. It was also incredibly moving to see so many people from the surrounding village walk to Vimy to participate in the celebration.

Two of our students from Notre Dame were interviewed by CBC News, two Blessed Trinity students did a FaceTime interview with CTV News in Toronto and other Niagara Catholic attendees were featured in The Globe and Mail’s story on the special day. Check out the video from CTV here, and the Globe story here.

On Monday, we travelled to Normandy to see the the Juno Beach Centre, and two walk the sand where the soldiers walked nearly 75 years ago when they stormed the beach in June, 1944, in the D-Day operation to liberate France. We travelled to Canada House for a huge group photo and then went our separate ways. Some went to a cemetery to honour the war dead, and others went into the village of Arromanches, where we had incredible crepes and seafood and did a little bit of shopping. Then we came back into Paris for dinner and a walk along the Champs Elysees before taking a boat ride down the Seine. It was incredible to see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. Be sure to check out our Facebook page for more photos. They’re a bit out of order, but we wanted to get them up for you as quickly as possible.

Our first travellers go home in the morning, and we wish them a safe journey home. Our travellers will visit the Palace of Versailles tomorrow, and head to the market for a taste of life in Paris before dinner and – what else? – more shopping!

Bonne nuit from Paris!

April 8

Well, the big day is finally here – the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. It is for all of us in Europe, anyway, as it’s already after midnight.

Today was a big travel day for our travellers from Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School, Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School, Lakeshore Catholic High School, Saint Francis Catholic Secondary School, Saint Michael Catholic High School and Saint Paul Catholic High School travelled from Rome and London to Paris.

Our folks from Denis Morris Catholic High School and Notre Dame College School who were already in France spent the day exploring Paris, while our new travellers got a birds’-eye view with a panoramic bus tour.

After dinner at a local bratisserie (that’s a street cafe), everyone has headed back to our hotel in Paris to prepare for what will be an early start in the morning to travel to Vimy Ridge. It’s the start of a couple of very busy days where we walk in the footsteps of young Canadian men who took to foreign battlefields during the Great War and the Second World War when they were practically the same age as many of our students. After our journey to Vimy on Sunday, we will explore Normandy and Juno Beach on Monday – something that is certain to be life-changing for our students.

We have posted new photos on our Facebook page and Instagram today whenever it’s possible, and when photos are provided by our group leaders. Please be patient with us until Monday night – we have a very, very busy couple of days ahead and will have limited access to wifi at Vimy, so we may not be able to post an update or photos either here or on our social channels until we get home after our boat cruise Monday night.

We do hope to have some ability to upload some video of Niagara Catholic students to the website set up by CTV News, and will let you know if any of our video is online. We also hope to FaceTime with CTV News on Sunday evening, if we have enough of a signal. And on Monday afternoon, listen to the Larry Fedoruk show on 610 CKTB in the afternoon – we hope to do the interview with Larry at 3:30, although we are not firm on the time, due to our schedule – and you can hear about it live.

We’re taking good care of your children; they’re exhausted, but they’re having lots of fun. Until we can update again, mamans et papas, we bit you bonne nuit a Paris!

April 7

Welcome to Rome, Niagara Catholic Group 3 from Saint Michael and Saint Paul! We’re so excited that we’re all about to be together on this fantastic journey to Vimy Ridge. Just one more sleep and we’ll all be together in the City of Lights tomorrow before our huge days at Vimy Ridge and Normandy on Sunday and Monday.

Our groups from Denis Morris Catholic High School and Notre Dame College School in Paris visited Versailles today – and ooh, la la! it was very fancy! Across the Channel in England, our groups from Blessed Trinity, Holy Cross, Lakeshore Catholic and Saint Francis spent a very long day exploring London, including a visit to see the Changing of the Guard (and a quick glance with royals on their way to a memorial service for the late Lord Snowdon, who was the Queen’s brother-in-law), picnics in Hyde Park, time at Big Ben, Westminster, time at Piccadilly Circus, the British Museum and Covent Garden.

We’ve posted a whole lot of photos on our Facebook page, and will continue to post them there as it’s much quicker to post them that way than for the website and we know how anxious you are to see photos. We’re posting the photos we receive, so please be understanding if you’re not seeing every group as quickly as you’d like. When we get back, we’ll do a full gallery of the photos from each trip, but for now, especially as we move around, we’ll be posting whatever we have.

It’s now 2 a.m. here in London, and it’s time we went to bed. Have a great rest of the night, everyone! Our travellers in London and Rome are on the roam tomorrow, so we won’t have much until later until in the evening to share photos. Until then, enjoy your Saturday!

April 6

Hello! Today we said “Arerivderci Roma” and cheerio to England, as our two groups moved on to their next destinations.

After a little more than a day in England, our first group on the ground moved on to Paris, where they will eventually meet up with the rest of the group. And after a very busy afternoon, evening and morning in Rome, our second group boarded a plane for London on Thursday afternoon.

Everyone will be relieved to hear that we had no idea anything was going on at the Coliseum this morning – there is such a heavily-armed military presence in tourist areas in Rome that we wouldn’t have noticed anything different. But by the time tour guides told us about the false alarm that caused the Coliseum to be evacuated, we were already on our way to the hotel for lunch and to get ready for our flight.

We enjoyed a great first evening with a bus tour around London, and then a bit of free time for a bite to eat and to enjoy the sights of Kensington (yes, near the palace! It’s a great neighbourhood!). Everyone is now tucked up in their beds, sound asleep and ready for a big walking day in London tomorrow, where we’ll see the Changing of the Guard and lots, lots more.

Over in Paris, our group on the ground took in the sights around the Eiffel Tower and are getting to know the city they’ll call home for the next few days.

We’ve updated the photo gallery with some new pix – there are also some on our Board Instagram account (@niagaracatholicdsb), so check them out and share them with family and friends.

We wish our friends in Group Three a safe transatlantic journey tonight, and we look forward to seeing everyone in France on Saturday. Tune in tomorrow for more.

April 5

Tonight we say “Ciao, mamma and dad” from Rome, and hiya, mum and dad from England!

Group Two arrived in Rome this afternoon and had a very full day exploring the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica and Square. No matter how many times you see it in books, you can’t possibly be prepared for how truly beautiful Rome is, and how utterly amazing it is inside St. Peter’s Basilica.

Timing didn’t allow for us to attend Mass – there were thousands of people waiting in line ahead of us before the 5 p.m. Mass time – but we had lots of time to see inside this incredible building. The art, the architecture; everything about it was just amazing!

After that visit, we jumped on the Metro and travelled to the Trevi Fountain for some pizza and gelato and the chance to do a little bit of souvenir shopping.

The internet is a little bit choppy here in Rome, so we are having trouble uploading photos tonight – maybe we’ll have better luck at the airport before our flight to London tomorrow. We’ll do our best to get those photos up from here and the couple sent by our team in England, who seemed to be enjoying their day, too.

So for now, we say, buona sera from Rome, and goodnight from London. Hope you enjoy the rest of your day at home, and we’ll have more to report tomorrow!

April 4

Well, the best laid plans can sometimes go a little awry, and some of our travellers had a bit of a day journeying from Rome to London. But we’re happy to report that everyone is on the ground in Londontown now after a long, long day!

Group Two – from Blessed Trinity, Holy Cross, Lakeshore Catholic and Saint Francis – is now at Pearson Airport – Mrs. Pauco is taking a zillion photos of her team, and we’re grabbing a quick snack and getting into our groups before we get on the plane. See you all on the other side of the Atlantic! Due to a technical glitch, we can’t upload the snaps from today, but we’ll upload a whole bunch of fantastic photos tomorrow!

Good night, everyone! Group Three – we can’t wait for us to all be together at Vimy!

April 3

After a seven-hour flight from Toronto to Rome, our first group of Vimy travellers had a busy first day of their European adventure, seeing the sights and enjoying the culinary delights of Rome.

They travelled to the Vatican and explored St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square; then had some authentico pizza and gelato. Two of the groups took the metro back to the Trevi Fountain Monday night, before calling it a night after a long night and day.

More from Rome and London with Group One tomorrow, and we’ll have photos of our students from Blessed Trinity, Holy Cross, Lakeshore Catholic and Saint Francis as they make their way to Pearson for their flight to Italy.  Scroll down to check the gallery for photos from today’s adventures!

April 2

Our first group of travellers to Vimy Ridge is on its way to Europe. Students and chaperones left Denis Morris Catholic High School and Notre Dame College school late this afternoon bound for the airport and their first stop – Rome!

We’ll look forward to their first update from Rome on Monday night, and Group 2 is excited to get ready to leave on Tuesday. Until then, here are a few scenes from DM and Notre Dame.

 

March 27

Good morning!

One week from today, the first group of students and staff from Niagara Catholic will touch down in Rome, beginning the Board’s journey to Europe to attend the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge on April 9.

This will be an incredible experience for everyone who attends and is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Another group will head over on April 4, and the final group will depart on April 6.

We’ll be posting daily blog posts from Europe throughout the trip. Follow along to see the sites and hear all about the students’ incredible overseas experience.

Parents, for your information, please click here to find the names of the hotels where your children will be while in Europe, the dates they are at each one and the phone numbers (including country codes) for each. Please remember to dial 0+11 before the country code and the number.

Vimy