Sixth Form historians embark on a trip to Paris

From 9 to 11 February, Sixth Form historians embarked upon the journey of a lifetime: a tour of Revolutionary Paris. Following in the footsteps of the infamous sans-culottes, students trekked across Paris and beyond to gain insight into the minds of the revolutionaries that took Paris by storm from 1789 (a date that no A Level History student will ever be able to forget).

Our trip began with the epitome of the Ancient Regime’s decadence: the Palace of Versailles, former home to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Taken aback by the glamour of the French Baroque architecture and luxurious interior design of Charles Le Brun, we walked the corridors, previously graced by thousands of French aristocrats. Before leaving, we were fortunate to enjoy some heart-shaped macarons and marvel at the Marie Antoinette-themed gift shop.

Our next adventure was the Arc de Triomphe, back in the heart of Paris, which is an iconic symbol of French national identity, dedicated to the victories of the French Army. Following that, we experienced the delights of French gastronomy sampling escargots, mussels, scallops, and traditional French onion soup at L’Alsace on the Champs-Elysees and – on the metro back to the hotel – we were pleasantly surprised by an impromptu accordion performance by a local French man.

On Saturday morning, we rose early and enjoyed a walking tour of Paris’ Gothic Quarter, in which we discovered the history of the celebrated Sorbonne University and L’Ecole Louis Le Grand – which is considered the most academically prestigious institution in France – and its alumni include Victor Hugo, Sartre, Moliere and our revolutionary primadonna, Maximilien Robespierre.

After a quick stop at the Notre Dame to get some photos in front of the construction site, we feasted upon chocolat viennois at a traditional French tearoom, and after filling our bellies with four cups of creamy, rich hot chocolate, tart tatins and chocolate fondants, trooped over to the Conciergerie for the next part of our exploration. Here, we witnessed a display of the number of people killed in the Terror, as well as the sight of many prison cells, still tainted by original scratches made by the desperate inmates, including Marie Antoinette.

Later, we ventured to the Pantheon – the resting place of enlightenment legends such as Rousseau and Voltaire. It was the perfect opportunity to reflect on their dedication to intellectualism and passion for their cause. That evening, we ascended to the highest point in Paris – the Montparnasse Tower – to catch a glimpse of Paris from a new perspective and witnessed the sparkling spectacle of the Eiffel Tower at night.

On Sunday morning, we braved the metro to the base of the Eiffel Tower for even more photos and walked the path across the Champs de Mars – mindful of the massacres that occurred over 200 years prior, then continued on our journey to the precipice of our revolutionary voyage: the Military Museum (including Les Invalides and L’Ecole Militaire). We were taken aback by the impressive portraits and poignant depictions of the Napoleonic Wars. Before leaving, we paid our respects at Napoleon’s Tomb, which was an incredible feat of architectural prowess. 

And so concludes our version of the events that occurred on our revolutionary tour of Paris. There were many unforgettable moments, which will forever remain in our hearts. Thank you to Mr Haines, for organising such an enlightening trip, as well as Dr Bailey, Madame Marquette, and Miss Williams for ensuring that we had an incredible time!

Lily and Nandhika

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