Al Prosser's Trip to France with Valley HS String Orchestra and A Capella Choir

For Spring break 2009, the Valley High School (from West Des Moines, Iowa) combined String Orchestra and A Capella Choir went on a tour of France including some places in Normandy and Paris. This page documents some observations and photos by one of the chaperons, Al Prosser, and his daughter Ariel.


It was near the end of the school year in May 2008 when we heard about the plans for a trip for the Valley high School Orchestra to France in Spring Break 2009. The school orchestra goes somewhere in the country every so often, and occasionally goes out of country. We were lucky that this trip went to France, when I speak French and my daughter was already learning it. We had to make down payments in May, and made payments over the time until early this year. I saved a small amount by volunteering to be a chaperone and Ariel sold a lot of coffee an pizza to help a little. We still had to make big sacrifices to come up with the amount. I know that other parents stretched to send their young people on this trip, and I suspect that some of them did not get more than a half an hour description of the 8 days and thousands of dollars trip.

These pages are an attempt to provide a little more information, visually as well as verbally. I view this trip as really a sampler. We visited so many places so quickly that it was impossible to fully appreciate everything about everyplace. I took a lot of pictures, over 700, and they are time stamped, so with schedules, pictures, references to maps and notes I have tried to reconstruct my impressions of the trip. It was not unusual for us to spend an hour or two visiting some place that could easily justify a few days, so this is not the place to learn everything about Paris and Normandy. My aim is to convey some of the feeling of being there. I encourage everyone who went to write up their own record while they still can.

We were split into three groups for the trips to France and back, and a different three for the bus tours. In France, there was an attempt to mix the orchestra and choir students. We stayed with the same tour guides while there. I was in group 1 for the flights, and bus 3 in France. I think every group had slightly different combinations of experiences, and every person would have their own perspective.

I am so glad I took a digital camera! I wish I had taken more notes and remembered to take more pictures of the food. The Sunday and Monday tours in Paris were particularly busy, and those pages will have the most information and pictures.

Table of Contents

If you care more about pictures, click on the picture of the day or the date in the Table of Contents. If you want to read the descriptions, click on the reference to thumbnail versions. The thumbnails are displayed 1/25 the size. See Note below.

Notes on layout: All the main pages have two versions, one with pictures about 360 pixels high, and a thumbnail version with pictures 72 pixels high. Most pictures on the daily have a higher resolution version available if you click the picture. Most of these are 1080 pixels high, and varying widths. Many of the pictures from Paris are higher so that they can be zoomed in. There are higher resolution versions (3072x2304) of any pictures available on request. Most pictures were taken with a Cannon PowerShot A570 IS. I have added a couple pictures from other sources and scanned some maps and concert programs.

There is a naming convention for the pictures if you want to download them. Most pictures have “fr_03_dd_IMG_nnnnxxx.JPG” where dd is the day of the month, nnnn is the picture sequence number assigned by the camera and xxx is a variable suffix indicating proportion and scale. The values for xxx are:

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