Geography Half Term Trip to Switzerland

By Immi Sandhu, Year 13

In the October half term, around 40 year 10, 11 and 13 students went on a geography trip to Switzerland for 4 days.

We excitedly arrived at Heathrow for 4:30am on Monday and after a quick breakfast and a somewhat speedy walk to the gates, we were well on our way to Geneva. Despite the interesting weather, we met our coach driver, Claude, and began our journey to Montreux. When we arrived, we saw beautiful gardens, an array of sculptures and the scenic landscape of Lake Geneva. We had a quick lunch and walk around the town, before travelling to the Lavey Les Bains which had outdoor and indoor thermal pools, massage jets, underwater currents and Jacuzzis. Feeling maybe a bit too relaxed, we wearily walked back to the coach and arrived at our hotel. We ate a delicious buffet dinner and played some games before unpacking and heading off to bed after a long day.

Tuesday began with an early, but brighter, start at the hotel, before heading off to our first activity of the day, going up the Berneuse cable cars. Looking out of the windows we saw incredible views with snow-covered mountains in the distance and lots of vegetation zonation (thanks Dr Pearce). When we reached the top, we were amazed by the landscape surrounding us and the glacial features. We did have some bizarre encounters, one with a giant chair that seemed to be popular in Switzerland (it was definitely taller than all of us) and a model (some say dinosaur) skeleton as seen in the corner of the photo. After a few photoshoots, we made our way back down the cable car and headed off across the border to Chamonix and the Mer de Glace (see photo). The Mer de Glace, translated to ‘Sea of Ice’, is the largest glacier in France, reaching 7km long and 200m deep, but is facing the effects of climate change and global warming.

It was an amazing experience to see just how big the glacier was, as well as experiencing the climate of this altitude and how that effected the ecosystem here. We then returned to the hotel but not before offering several renditions of the sound of music songs on the journey back.

Wednesday was the day of food, food and more food.

Firstly, we headed off to Bex Salt Mines, the origins of the Sel des Alpes. We had a very enthusiastic tour guide, Natalie, who was well educated about these mines, having been working there for over 20 years! We had an audio-visual presentation about the history of the mines and what they’re used for today, as well as a train ride deeper into the mines, which proved temperamental on the way out when half of the group got stuck! We walked around the sites and saw salt growing off the walls and ceiling, as well as having the chance to excavate some ourselves. We ended the tour with a tasting of the best salted caramel fudge we have ever had, as well as a trip to the shop there.

The second place we visited was the Maison du Gruyere, a traditional cheese factory in Switzerland which produces around 48 wheels of Gruyere daily. Not only did we have an audio guide from Cherry the cow, but we were given three different aged cheeses to try (which definitely had an acquired taste). After the tour, we made our way to the last destination of the day, and potentially the most anticipated, the Cailler chocolate factory. From the origins of the cocoa beans to the first Cailler chocolate creations, we had an informative and interactive tour which resembled the visuals of an escape room, including sound effects and moving figures on the wall. There were endless numbers of samples to taste, ranging from raspberry-flavoured chocolate to ones with a caramel centre and even some with popping candy! With a massive sugar high, we visited the shop and bought infinite numbers of flavoured chocolates. Some people (Miss Munro-Hall, Mrs Duns, Anouska and I) tried to take advantage of the ‘buy a box and pay 5 francs’, filling the boxes strategically with as much chocolate as possible. For our last night, Mr Livings organised a huge quiz, ranging from questions about the trip, chocolate anagrams, as well as giving points depending on the teams’ name! The teachers team came close but, to their dismay,  were trumped by one of the student teams.

For our last day, we packed our bags and had our last breakfast at the hotel before visiting the United Nations. On our tour, we were told about the history of the UN, as well as what each room was used for and the UN’s role in making global decisions. The building inside had murals on the walls, sculptures and items donated by member states, as well as extravagant ceiling designs (the one in the photo is representative of the ocean). It was a great privilege to see inside this organisation and learn how each council works. To finish of the trip, we visited Geneva’s Old Town and made our way to the airport to get on our flight to Heathrow.

This trip wouldn’t have been possible without Mr Livings who organised the trip, as well as Mrs Duns, Miss Munro-Hall and Dr Pearce for coming with us.

We would like to thank them for listening to our questionable singing on the coach, playing card games with us, and answering our weird but wonderful questions. The trip was certainly memorable, and we all had the chance to apply knowledge we had from lessons to real life

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