Spring break in Paris? Sixteen Rangers say ‘Yes, please’

FLHS French group tours four cities on two-week excursion


Forest Lake High School French teachers Coleen Colton and Carrie Blohowiak took 16 students to four cities in France over spring break. (Photo submitted)
Forest Lake High School French teachers Coleen Colton and Carrie Blohowiak took 16 students to four cities in France over spring break. (Photo submitted)

This year’s spring break was especially memorable for 16 local teens. Forest Lake French teachers Coleen Colton and Carrie Blohowiak led a group of motivated French students on a two-week trip to Paris, Normandy, Brittany and Tours.

They climbed hundreds of steps, rode in subways, trains and buses, braved cold and rainy weather, and took in all the breathtaking sights they have been learning about ever since French I.

The time spent in Paris was packed with sightseeing and shopping. Thirteen of the students and one very fit teacher braved the 710 steps to the second level of the Eiffel Tower, the highest point the public is allowed to access by stairs. (Mrs. Colton accompanied the other three students by elevator!)

The group took in the marvels of the Louvre Museum, observed the grim bones in the Catacombs ossuary, and took in some sun on an unseasonably warm day at Montmartre, the highest point in the city. Perhaps the most impressive building visited was the Palace of Versailles, renowned for its excess in size and décor.

The first real train ride for many of the teens took them to Caen, a city devastated by bombing in WWII and which is home to the Caen Peace Memorial. The students were fascinated by the extensive collection of documents, artifacts, films, uniforms, and other items that detailed the history of the war. They were able to visit the American military cemetery at Colleville sur Mer, where they paid their respects to the more than 9,000 U.S. soldiers who died in Normandy.

We know all about snowstorms around here, but even hardy Minnesotans are glad to avoid five-foot snowdrifts when they can; The group escaped a record snowfall that hit just days after they left the region. Normandy received 17 inches of snow, an amount not seen since 1970! The lack of snow plows, snow tires, and even snow shovels paralyzed the area for several days, but happily, the Rangers had already visited the fascinating historical sites that Normandy and Brittany have to offer and had headed south to Tours, capital of the famous castle country of the Loire Valley.

While in Tours, each student spent six days with volunteer host families. The Forest Lake students had the opportunity to attend French high schools, or lycées. They also participated fully in family routines and events that included meals, birthday parties, sports practices, trips to the local markets, and even visits to many of the area’s castles. Although most of the students agreed that communication with the families could be challenging, they all noticed improvements in their speaking and comprehension skills.

This biennial trip has become a tradition at Forest Lake and is coordinated by Language and Friendship, a Bloomington company. Anyone interested in hosting a foreign student for a few weeks in the summer can contact Mrs. Colton or Ms. Blohowiak via the Forest Lake schools website.