Teachers taking their pupils on school day trips to France often have an advantage over colleagues whose classes are going elsewhere: traditionally linked to creativity, imagination and romanticism, the western European country makes a point of living up to its reputation. It provides a huge number of attractions guaranteed to excite the imagination of school-aged children of both sexes.
A Wealth of Attractions to Explore
Most of these attractions are, of course, in the capital, Paris. This is where most of the more obvious monuments and tourist sites can be found, and groups visiting France often focus their attention on these tried-and-true locations, which can provide a mixture of enough educational value and interest to keep students engaged. However, bolder educators who choose to focus their school day trips to France on slightly less immediate locations will also find a wealth of lesser-known but no less fascinating sites to visit elsewhere in the country.
Chateau de Balleroy
A perfect example of this latter group is the Chateau de Balleroy (Balleroy Castle), a Renaissance-period building that houses a not immediately apparent surprise within its confines.
Located in the picturesque Calvados region, in the northern French region of Normandy, the Chateau de Balleroy is a worthwhile attraction in its own right. Built in the 17th century as a residence for Henry IV’s wine supplier, the palace took ten years to complete, and is one of the finest examples of Louis XIII architecture in existence. Its luxurious interior and beautifully planned gardens – ranked by specialists among the top 300 in the country – would be reason enough to justify a visit by groups on school day trips to France.
A Secret Surprise
However, the real factor distinguishing this palace from its counterparts, not only in France but the world over, is the ‘Easter Egg’ it contains, which can be discovered by anyone who visits. The interior of the Chateau houses a hot air balloon museum, which accurately documents the history of this fascinating means of transportation from its humble beginnings to the present day.
The Hot Air Balloon Museum
This association might, at first, seem random, but is rather easy to explain. In the 1970s, two decades after first receiving its status of National French Monument, the Chateau de Balleroy was purchased by Malcolm Forbes – a balloonist famous for having been the first to cross the United States, coast to coast, on board a contraption of this type. Forbes wasted no time in uniting its two passions, and just five years after the Chateau had been purchased, in 1975, the Hot Air Balloon museum was inaugurated. Over the following decades, it managed to generate enough interest to stay afloat, and schoolchildren on school day trips to France who enter the palace nowadays may well be pleasantly surprised when they find the surprise it hides within. Hot air balloons are fascinating, even to adults, and children are even more intrigued with the opportunity to learn about their history.
The Chateau de Balleroy, which closes seasonally but is open from April onwards, is an excellent addition to the itinerary of groups visiting France that wish to steer away from the large urban centres.