This year’s county Intops trip spent a whirlwind eight days touring France and Belgium. Three Leaders, nine Guides and one gnome named Bernard walked a total of 88.8 miles. Here is a run-down of the holiday:
Day one began by each member of the team getting themselves to Gloucester bus station for 4:20am. This was a heavy day for travelling, which included travelling by car, coach, foot, tube and Eurostar to Brussels. We managed to get soaked in rain when just about two minutes from our hostel, which was entertaining. That evening we simply explored the local area and found some dinner.
On day two we started looking for the famous comic strip murals, one of the key things that the Guides wanted to do whilst in Brussels. Another activity that they chose was visiting Mini Europe. As it happens, on Saturdays during August there is “Mini Europe by Night.” This meant that we could go and enjoy the Atomium, Mini Europe’s miniature iconic buildings and then stay until midnight. We stayed until after the firework display, which was well worth the late night.
To be kind to ourselves, we had a slightly lazy morning on day three. We split into three groups and asked the Guides to decide on where we should visit. One group visited Elisabeth Park, one group visited the palace and gardens and one group visited a beguine church and had a lovely time talking to locals. That evening some of the Guides chose to sample the local funfair, while others stayed in the hostel to avoid spending money on rides!
Day four was another incredibly busy day. We began by making our way to the EU Parliament for a talk and tour. It was really interesting to find out more about the EU, and wonderful to see the rooms where meetings take place. There was also some lovely artwork in the building. We then ate our picnic lunch in the park before bumping into a group of Scout Leaders from Germany, France and Belgium. They were in Brussels for the day and were working on a project about what Europe means to young people so asked us if we had time to stop and chat. Of course we did! From there, we then collected our belongings from our hostel and made our way to the station ready for our train to Bruges.
We had one full day in Bruges, day five. Again we asked the Guides to lead the sightseeing. This trip has certainly developed their map-reading skills. However, there are only so many chocolate shops you can visit before becoming numb to it all. The Guides might feel differently about this though!
Day six was our third big travel day. We got up nice and early, to get ready for our first train. Next stop Paris! We left our main bags at the left luggage and found a nice park for lunch. We then embarked on a two-hour walk across the city to get a good view of the Eiffel Tower. Many a selfie was taken! From there, we caught the metro back, collected our bags and headed off to our Disney hotel. The looks on the Guides’ faces when we arrived at the Explorers’ Hotel, having spent five nights in hostels, was priceless. There were squeals of “we have a bath mat!” and “we have a bath!” to be heard.
The morning brought with it the fun of Disney. All in all, we spent 14 hours at the park and studio. The park seemed fairly quiet, so the Guides were able to go on most of the rides that they wanted to: Rocking’ Roller Coaster, Armageddon, Tower of Terror, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Pirates of the Carribean to name just a few. There were even a few nice, tame rides for me! The group was able to take in some shows while we were there too, including the Cinemagique show which travelled through time using clips from films such as Mary Poppins, Highlander, Titanic and many more…
Our final day came far too quickly. From the hotel, we travelled back to the left luggage facilities and then caught the metro so that we could have lunch at the Arc du Triomphe. We then took the metro back to Gare du Nord station ready to check in for our Eurostar train back to the UK. Our return journey passed with many a giggle, snore and memory shared. The Guides went home happy and tired, excited to tell their families and fellow Guides about their experiences.
If you would like to know more about future county Intops trips, either as a Leader, Assistant Leader or for information about putting forward participants, please contact Gloucestershire Guiding’s International Advisor, Alison Frusher.
Written by Susan Higgs, Intops Leader 2016
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