Thursday 7th June.
All slept very well last night and all made it down to another beautiful breakfast. Whilst eating, a Dutch gentleman came over to speak to our kids and congratulate them on their behaviour and manners, even telling them that the Irish children are the future! This was a really proud moment for us as a school and really allowed us to appreciate just how great our/your children really are!
We then met our driver Koen and set off on the road to Cologne full of anticipation about the animals we were going to see at the zoo.
The drive was comfortable until Mrs Dawson finally discovered the microphone on the bus. Needless to say there was drama and singing to keep the children entertained. Eventually, Mr Lawther got the mic and took over giving the children a talk about the history of Cologne Cathedral.
Once in Cologne we headed straight for the Cathedral - what an impressive building! The children found out that this was one of the only buildings in Cologne not to be bombed during the 1000 bomber raids of WW2 because the RAF used it as a navigation point to plot their attacks. After a whistle stop tour, (spending a long time in a cathedral with 36 children is never a good idea) we headed for the sightseeing bus to take us to the zoo but not before a stop to Starbucks! Who ever thought a Starbucks would excite the children so much - definitely a highlight for many. It was more Frappuccinos and iced teas all round. Miss McMaster is now a convert and had her 2nd Frappuccino of the week she insisted Mr Lawther forsake his usual builders tea and try this new experience. He wasn’t that impressed suffering what the children explained was brain freeze and declared he would be continuing with his traditional route tomorrow. You cannot teach an old dog new tricks. The children are a much more sophisticated bunch!
As we arrived at the zoo, the weather was looking fantastic with clear skies and sunshine - the excitement level was raised. You would think the first thing the children would want to do was visit the many animals, but no. Money definitely seems to burn a hole in some of your children's pockets! No sooner had Mr Lawther given them their pocket money than the children were heading straight for the gift shops. We saw many animals including hippos, penguins, giraffes and even got to see a baby elephant - Mr Beckett was trying to sneak one home as a present! However, the highlight had to be the baboons - what a fascinating spectacle that was! Again they didn't cease to amaze or disgust us, let's just say it was lucky that the children had had "the talk" before they went to Holland - some of you may have a little more explaining to do!
From here we headed to see the large cats before going to the gorilla house. Again we were treated to seeing a little baby gorilla - he really was just like the teddies in the gift shop! We then headed to see the bears, meerkats and finally the flamingos! Sadly for Mrs Anderson this wasn't the last animal she met as the children had discovered her fear of snakes, somehow! Let's just say she was glad that she was in the Girl Guides and was always well prepared! Every child had an absolutely brilliant day and really made the most of their time in Cologne.
As always, dinner was gourmet standard and all the children were well fed and watered (A bit like the Sea-lions!). It was then straight out again to the bowling arena. This really is an action packed trip and this has not gone unnoticed by Mrs Dawson with her accusing Mr Beckett of torture and driving her to exhaustion!
Once the shoes were sorted the bowling began and it was all fun at the start. However, after around 15 minutes it became very competitive. You would probably thought that this was to do with the scoring in bowling, but this was not the case! What is it with children and vending machines? The bowling balls were left and there was a mass scramble to get their sweets and treats bought! The children were all fantastic and had some great moves both with and without the bowling balls. Some very interesting celebrations and names to go with these! They danced, they ate and they also bowled a little with every child having a ball!
Another fantastic day had by all, including the adults. It really has been a pleasure to have this group away with us this year - a true credit to their families! One last big day of fun tomorrow before our journey home. Enjoy the photographs.
Wednesday 6th June
Another early start this morning. After a lovely breakfast we headed off to Phantasialand for a fun filled day of adventure. On the journey Mr Lawther gave the children an educational talk about a very special factory in Germany that has the job of creating clouds. The children were all fascinated and couldn’t wait to ‘google’ it when they got home. The weather was looking amazing and our very own sun worshippers Mrs Anderson and Mrs Dawson were very excited.
When we arrived Mr Beckett headed for the tickets whilst the rest of the children got a drink and a snack. The children were chomping at the bit to get into the park and once the barrier was raised poor Mr Lawther and the attendants were nearly run over!
Once inside, we headed straight for the Runaway Train. However, on the way the children were distracted by the swings and once on these there was no doubt that Towerview had arrived! A full ride load of children in their white polo shirts screaming and chanting as they were whizzed around! Then it was off to the Runaway Train. This had been classed as a 'ride for everyone' and therefore all the children braved it. On closer inspection, and by the looks on some of the children's faces by the end, this may need to be upgraded next year!
After that the children got grouped together and we headed off happily. Mr Beckett, Miss McMaster and Mrs Anderson led the "A" team to the scariest rides and the rest of the staff headed for the more leisurely rides.
For the A group up first was the 'Tower of Terror' then the 'Taron', - the fastest multi-launch roller-coaster in the world!! The children were all very brave and couldn't wait to get on it. Mrs Anderson on the other hand was very concerned about them and seemed to be almost trying to convince any child she spoke to to not try it she was even offering to wait at the exit with them - so thoughtful!!
Whilst the A group were doing this the other children had some fun of their own and headed for Raik. They seemed to really enjoy this ride and five goes later, yes FIVE, they finally decided to give Mr Lawther and Mrs Dawson a break. The children just loved the thrills, going both forwards and backwards - who would've guessed they were in a B group!!
After this we all met up together to have a go on the log flumes. Obviously as the children had pushed themselves they were now much braver! Despite having one of the biggest drops for a log flume in Europe, all the children attempted it and loved it. Mr Beckett‘s head was turned with children asking over and over, can we go again!
Next it was lunch, well at least food. The children had been given €15 to get something to eat with and maybe a wee treat! However, this treat soon turned into a feast for many of them. We had candy apples, candy floss, slush puppies, metre long sweets and even chocolate crepes - just look at some of the pictures!!
Once fully fed and watered we went to take on some more of the rides Phantasialand had to offer. We went on 'Fear and Force' and ‘Au chocolatier'. ‘Au chocolatier’ has always been a competitive battle for the staff as scores are given out. Mr Beckett thought he had it in the bag this year until Miss Master smashed all records and produced the best score to date! The other teachers are convince that this is all down to her experience with dairy farming.
We then even had time to sample the log flumes and swings for a second time much to the delight of Mrs Anderson as the logs have always been her favourite! The children all had a ball and gave their everything with many conquering their fears!
Finally it was time to head back to the bus, but not before another junk stop to get some strawberries covered in chocolate, this time however, it was not the children but Mrs Dawson!
On the journey home the children were exhausted and many fell asleep - the excitement had been too much for many of them, including the teachers. This was a fantastic trip and the children really pushed themselves to get the most out of their experience. A day that they will remember and talk about for many, many years to come.
The evening was much quieter as the children settled down to an ice cream and some fun outside in the evening sun before heading off to bed after another very busy day!
All tucked up in bed now, ready for another exciting day in Cologne tomorrow. The children continue to be full of fun and excitement and really are having a blast! Again be very proud of them, a super group! Until tomorrow, enjoy the photos.
Tuesay 5th June
Finally all tucked up in bed after another fantastic day!! The children had obviously been tired after travelling yesterday as for the first time ever not one child was up, changed and ready before 8am. The sun was beginning to shine and we could tell that this was going to be a great day!
Breakfast was a real treat! We had eggs, toast, cereal, fruit salads, you name it the kids ate it! However, one item was out of bounds - bacon! Mrs Dawson was stamping her authority and made the kids wait until she had her rashers before the boys and girls were allowed near it! Our first activity was to show the children around the quiet, continental town of Valkenburg. Needless to say it didn't stay like this for long as 36 children were let loose on the local gift shops! You're all very lucky parents, some of the presents bought today really will sit proudly on your mantlepiece!!
From Valkenburg it was onto a very picturesque Drielandenpunt! Once we arrived we had our lunch in the park before heading to the maze. Usually this trip takes around 20minutes to allow all the children to go into the maze and find their way to the exit, however this year this was not the case!! 45 minutes later and still no sign of all 36 children, so reinforcements of Mr Lawther, Miss McMaster and Mrs Anderson were sent in!! Even with Mr Lawther directing from above, we couldn't get the children out. It was only when they finally appeared soaking wet from the maze fountains that we realised they had been having alfresco showers - maybe they thought the maze was the swimming pool!
Once on the bus it was off to Mosaqua swimming pool. As they entered the building the excitement was palpable! Due to our superb relationship with the staff, our school had been asked to represent the leisure centre in a photo shoot for theIr website. It didn’t take much encouragement to get our kids in front of the camera, sliding down slides and playing with the beach ball. The only disappointed face was Mrs Dawson as she couldn’t understand why the photographer didn’t want any snaps of her in her new sun glasses! Many faced their fears and met new challenges. Miss McMaster has been a great addition to the team encouraging the children to scale heights, ride rapids and has been an expert in teaching the kids how to dodge the life guards! 2 hours of pure fun and enjoyment and not a whistle was heard! The children continue to be a real credit to both yourselves and Towerview!
Dinner was beautiful, the kids couldn't believe that it was another three course meal!! After dinner we headed to lazer tag in the caves. Everyone was very excited, including Mr Beckett. Our children are always very mannerly and polite, however, once they had that laser pack on them they changed!! Innocent girls became ferocious assassins and as for the boys, I think fortnite just came to life! Needless to say it was a very competitive game with the children finding all sorts of hiding places and picking off their targets!!! 30 minutes of endless action and it seemed a much slower and longer walk back to the hotel.
Once back at the hotel the children had some time to relax in the gardens. It’s lovely to see the bonding and friendships that have been formed over their time at Towerview. We really have become a close knit community. #timeofourlives
Everything has been so easy going and stress free - let’s hope this continues. A big day ahead tomorrow at Phantasialand. Prepare yourselves for all the pictures of the kids and their healthy snacks!
Monday 4th June
Greetings from Holland!! All arrived safely and in bed HOPEFULLY sleeping.
What a great first day it has been! After an early start we arrived up at the international airport to some VIP treatment. Mrs Flanagan had rang up ahead of us and used her power of baking to blag us some preferential treatment. The children were whizzed through check in without even having to queue. People stopped to take notice as Mrs Dawson aka Barbra Striesland strolled straight through wearing her fancy new sun glasses - she had arrived! Luckily enough for Mrs Anderson, the bags didn't even get weighed. A big thank you to Mrs Flanagan and Ian Walker from Swissport, we really were treated like royalty, it's amazing what a chocolate cake can get you!
Once through security the children were let loose on the shops. Most children went and did the sensible thing by buying a drink and some snacks for the plane. However, some of the others with a more discerning palette took this as an opportunity to head straight for their morning Frappuccino - Miss McMaster wasn’t even sure what this was (Starbucks hasn’t reached Magherafelt yet!). These children are very sophisticated!
The plane journey was fantastic without any issues or ear aches. The children were all very well behaved and were even able to work out our complex seating arrange that allowed them to sit beside their friends. It only felt like we had just got up in the air and it was time to get our seatbelts on again and get ready to land. All the pupils were a credit to Towerview and we were very proud of every one of them, even getting a special mention from members of the public and the air hostesses for there exemplary behaviour.
We arrived in Schipol and headed straight for the passport control. This was very busy. However, believe it or not they seem to be allowed to smile in Holland. We even had a security man playing pranks on the children! Mr Lawther seemed impressed with the efficiency of the lady police officer and seemed to want to even stay behind for a chat. I am pleased to report that all the baggage arrived safely - although not all children seemed to recognise their own bags and it was only after a second trip around the belt that one child realised that the bag with the distinctive ice cream label on it was theirs!
The coach met us at the terminal and we met our bus driver Eugene, he is lovely and speaks very good English, thank goodness, as Mr Beckett's Dutch isn’t great - you’d think he ‘d try and learn a little after all these years! The weather is great and the sun is shinning, let's hope it stays like this - Mrs Anderson is expecting to top up her tan!!
The children were great travellers! Who ever invented apps and iPads deserves a medal. The drive was relatively long but filled with some great historic and cultural lessons by Dawson Travel Solutions. We really are in for a treat this year!
When we arrived at the hotel we had some time to settle into our rooms. However, this was short lived because within the first 5 minutes we had 6 children locked out of their dorm and another room needing their safe cut open to get their key out! This was all fixed very quickly; Mr Lawther seems to have a knack for that sort of thing! Needless to say there is a now a €5 fine in place - Mr Beckett already owes €10!
In the evening we were all very well fed and watered at the restaurant. Every child was up more than once and seemed to take naturally to the all you can eat policy, especially when it came to dessert!
After dinner we had a lovely walk around the town to show the children and Miss McMaster, the sights of Valkenburg. We returned to the hotel to find the party in full swing with the hotel guests. The children just became part of the entertainment and fitted right in.
A super day had by all, what a great start to our trip! Another big day planned tomorrow with the first of our organised activities. Every child is having a ball.