Paris, whether combined with a visit to Disneyland® Paris or run as a standalone trip, is one of our most popular tour destinations for school groups looking to undertake educational, sports and music tours alike.
Earlier this year, four of us made the short hop across the Channel. Heather, Lynsey, Emma and Delphine were keen to check out what the city offers for a number of different subjects.
Here Heather, one of our expert Itinerary Managers and former Paris resident, tells us what they got up to!
After just a few hours, and a few short train journeys from Nottingham (where Halsbury HQ is located) to Marne-la-Vallée via London and Lille, we arrived at Disneyland® Paris to begin our short stay in Paris.
First thing on the agenda for myself and Lynsey were two hotel visits.
Our first stop was the Hotel Misterbed Torcy. My first impression of the hotel was that it is ideally located for our school groups, whether they want to visit Disneyland® Paris or the city.
Marne-la-Vallée (for Disneyland® Paris) is just a short coach transfer from the hotel, or three stops (approx. 20 minutes) on the RER. And Paris itself is just an hour’s coach drive from the hotel (traffic permitting).
The hotel, which is currently undergoing refurbishment, is situated directly adjacent to the Bay 1 Loisirs commercial centre – so, in their free time, groups can enjoy the cinema, bowling alley and numerous restaurants. Plus, just 15 minutes’ walk away is the Bay 2 Loisirs centre – ideal for some retail therapy thanks to the many shops here!
Our next visit was to the Hotel Première Classe Bussy Saint Georges. The hotel is located on the edge of the modern, yet charming commuter town of Bussy-Saint-Georges.
It’s recently undergone an impressive interior refurbishment, with a new and improved breakfast area and upgraded bedrooms. Just 10 minutes’ walk from the shops and eateries of Bussy-Saint-Georges and from the Bowling Paxton bowling alley, this makes for a great base for a school trip.
While we were visiting these hotels, Delphine and Emma were pretty busy too! Music groups visiting Paris might be lucky enough to be invited to perform on one of the stages at Disneyland® Paris as part of the Disney Performing Arts programme.
Groups interested in taking part are asked to submit a video audition. If successful, they are then invited to perform a 20-minute concert at either Videopolis (in the Disneyland® Park) or Cinemagique (at the Walt Disney Studios Park). Groups also receive tickets admitting the group to one of the parks for the day.
So Delphine and Emma took the opportunity to meet with our main contact at the programme, Jean Pierre, to discuss the programme and learn more about the experience.
Of course, never ones to miss an opportunity for a little added sparkle, after the meeting we were all able to pop into the Disneyland® Park for a short while that evening, to enjoy the last of the Christmas decorations. Delphine and Emma even managed to catch a glimpse of the Christmas parade!
After collecting our hire car, we checked into a hotel that is very popular with our school groups, thanks to being well located for both Disneyland and Paris itself – the Hotel Ibis Budget Pontault Combault.
The hotel boasts an abundance of communal space for school groups with a bar area, library and two conference rooms that can be hired for meetings, games or even a movie night.
After a complimentary glass of champagne with the hotel manager (when in Rome Paris!), we headed next door to the Ristorante del Arte for our evening meal. The restaurant is literally a 20 second walk from the hotel and offers three courses of Italian cuisine, with plenty of good food to send students off to sleep after a long day!
After a comfortable night’s sleep and continental breakfast at the hotel, the four of us set off for a day full of hotel audits!
We perform these regularly to ensure that the hotel is still offering safe, suitable accommodation for our school groups. It also gives us the opportunity to really get to know the accommodation, so we can best advise you what options will be most appropriate for your group.
The day started with a good test of both our navigational skills and vast combined knowledge of Paris, as we tackled the infamous Boulevard Périphérique – Paris’ answer to the M25!
Eventually, we did reach our first hotel, the Hotel ibis Styles Saint Ouen. This is a great option whether you’re planning to visit Paris by coach, Eurostar or air.
Not too far from La Défense and Montmartre, the hotel is in the northern suburb of Saint-Ouen, at the northern end of metro line 13, meaning guests can reach the famous Avenue des Champs-Elysées in just a little over 30 minutes.
Coffee sampled and audit completed, we hit the road again and headed back east to continue our visits. After an obligatory lunchtime stop at the local Carrefour supermarket, we arrived at the eastern campus of the European Campus Saint-Thérèse (ECST for short) in the commune of Ozoir-la-Ferrière.
The eastern campus (‘Est’) at ECST was originally built as a boarding school and is still a fully functional secondary school, set it in its own expansive grounds that include three hectares of forest!
ECST is a fantastic accommodation centre for education, music and sports tours alike, and French language study groups can even take French lessons on site!
The western campus (‘Ouest’) boasts classrooms, seminar rooms and an amphitheatre, while the eastern campus has fantastic facilities for a number of sports, including basketball, volleyball, rugby and tennis.
In the town of Ozoir-la-Ferrière itself, there are plenty of options for evening activities, including a pizza parlour, cinema and bowling alley, all just a 10-minute walk from ECST Ouest and a 10-minute drive from ECST Est. Opposite the eastern campus there is a supermarket and small independent cinema.
Our final hotel audit of the day was at the Hotel Première Classe Saint Thibault des Vignes, which is conveniently just a 20-minute coach drive (traffic permitting) from Disneyland® Paris.
After refuelling at Planet Hollywood and some exploring of the Disney Village, we checked in to the Explorers Hotel – which is always a very popular choice with groups looking for a real ‘Disney’ experience.
Just a short shuttle ride from the parks, with themed rooms, free Wi-Fi, a mini aqua park, a continental breakfast buffet, a cinema and even a Disney store, this is a great accommodation choice for your school trip to Disneyland® Paris.
After filling up at the large continental breakfast buffet, we boarded the free shuttle bus (no. 54) from the Explorers Hotel to the Disney Village.
The shuttle bus is actually one reason why the Explorers Hotel is such an ideal base for groups visiting Disneyland® Paris by air or Eurostar, as its route begins and ends at the Marne-la-Vallée-Chessy RER station, which connects passengers via RER and TGV to both central Paris and Charles-de-Gaulle Airport respectively.
After an hour on the RER and a quick baggage drop at Gare du Nord, we headed off to visit Paris’ second-most famous tower, the Tour Montparnasse.
At 210m tall, the Tour Montparnasse is the second-tallest skyscraper in France (after the Tour First) and offers what are arguably the best views over Paris – greater even than those offered by the Eiffel Tower, as they include the famous landmark itself. Plus, the queues are much, much shorter at the Tour Montparnasse!
From both the 56th floor and the rooftop observation deck, visitors to the Tour Montparnasse can enjoy panoramic, 360 ° views across the whole of the city.
There’s also a lovely café and gift shop, as well as a number of relaxation areas, and the tour is flexible, with visit lengths to suit any itinerary!
Stomachs rumbling from the morning’s activities, we boarded the metro and headed to our reservation at Flunch in Beaubourg, just next door to the Centre Georges Pompidou.
With fast-food style ‘real food’ offered in combination with a self-service sides and vegetable buffet, we love to send our groups to Flunch, as it allows them to practise their French while enjoying a hearty meal!
After lunch, the four of us split into pairs to check out some of the visits we offer on our education and music tours.
Emma and Delphine spent the afternoon exploring some of Paris’ famous churches and gardens, in which we’re proud to have our groups perform.
Their first visit was to the famous Cathédrale de Notre Dame de Paris, in Paris’ first arrondissement. Here, only the very best choirs are invited to perform and typically do so during the week at 11am, or indeed during Saturday mass.
Emma and Delphine met with Monsieur Musnier, who showed them around the vast performance space of Notre Dame, as well as the choir organ and changing rooms.
To be given the opportunity to perform in one of the most prestigious cathedrals in the world is such an amazing experience and, weather-permitting, summer groups can even perform on the bandstand in the neighbouring Square Jean XXIII.
This is a small garden tucked neatly behind Notre Dame on the Île de la Cité and is usually full of locals out for a stroll or even enjoying their lunch.
Back on the ‘mainland’, on the Rive Droite (right bank), Delphine and Emma met with our contact at the Église de la Madeleine.
Located in the eighth arrondissement, opposite Place de la Concorde, La Madeleine is another prestigious church in which our music groups can have the opportunity to perform, with one hour concerts available daily at 16.00.
Romantic composer Gabriel Fauré was inspired by La Madeleine and it was here that he premiered the first version of his Requiem in 1888.
The same afternoon, further north in the city, Lynsey and myself visited Europe’s largest science museum, the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (the City of Science and Industry). The museum is located in the third largest park in Paris, the Parc de la Villette.
Welcoming up to five million people each year, the Cité des Sciences is a stimulating visit for science, maths, history and French students alike. It offers both permanent and temporary exhibitions on subjects related to physics, biology, archaeology, maths and geography.
While many installations and exhibits are accompanied by descriptions in French and English, there are still some installations that are in French only and might require a little extra guidance from a French-speaking teacher, but A-Level students should certainly find themselves confident enough to browse alone.
Aside from exhibitions, visitors to the Cité des Sciences can enjoy educational films in a number of different formats, including 3D and 4K, at the museum’s IMAX theatre, La Géode.
The Cité also boasts a newly refurbished planetarium which has recently become only the second such room in the world to be kitted out with 8K ultra high definition lasers, offering crystal clear and immersive 360° film and learning experiences.
We then headed over to the Musée du Louvre to check out the temporary location of the groups reception (it’s located at the Porte des Lions until further notice).
After dinner at Hippopotamus, another restaurant popular with our groups, we checked into the final hotel of our stay – the newly renovated Hotel Reseda (formerly the Hotel Misterbed Bagnolet).
Conveniently located at the very eastern end of line 3, just a 2-minute walk from the Gallieni station, this clean and modern hotel is easily accessible by metro, making it an ideal accommodation centre for groups visiting Paris by air or Eurostar.
Our departure day had finally rolled around and, while Emma and Delphine met with the Hotel Reseda management to update their audit, Lynsey and myself ventured into central Paris to visit Universcience’s second site, the Palais de la Découverte.
The Palais de la Découverte is housed within the Grand Palais, just off the Champs-Elyées. It features exhibitions and installations dedicated to maths, physics, astronomy, geology and the animal kingdom.
Visitors can also learn about Pythagoras and the solar system, and can even observe how ants and termites live and function under the same glass roof.
There are regular visits and seminars by industry professionals and academics for French-speaking visitors and, like its partner museum, the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, the Palais de la Découverte also houses a planetarium.
Also, like the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, there is some inconsistency with regards to the language of the signage, so visitors to the Palais de la Découverte would do well to have a French-speaker close by.
We’d packed a lot in to our four days in Paris and, although tired, we were sad to be leaving the stunning French capital. But it was time to head home, now better prepared than ever to advise you on the best options for your group in beautiful Paris!
Thinking about a school trip to Paris? Need some information or advice, or ready for a tailor-made quote? Contact us today – we’ll be delighted to help!