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Students spend April in Paris
A group from Flowery Branch High School takes in the sights of France during spring break
Flowery Branch High School students stand in front of the Sacre Coeur Basilica during their recent trip to Paris.


Gabrielle Durden, French teacher at Flowery Branch High School, talks about the spring break trip to France she took with 10 students.

FLOWERY BRANCH - Ten Flowery Branch High School students went to the beach all right - the French Riviera - on spring break.

The weather was more than a little cold, but hey, they got to see one of the world's most exotic spots.

"The water was extremely blue. I wanted to jump in, but it was freezing, so I couldn't," said Chelsea Johnson, 16, a 10th-grader.

The students visited France April 4-13 as part of David McGuffin's Exploring Europe and with their French teacher, Gabrielle Durden. They took in other famous sights such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre museum and Avenue des Champs-Elysée.

"At least a year ago, I had several students who were interested in going to France, so I decided to do a trip," Durden said.

"In my experience, it's very, very helpful for students to see different students, different cultures and different ways of life," she added. "I wanted to be a part of that."

The trip cost $2,475 per student, but the school got $1,000 from France-based Lafarge Aggregates & Concrete, which operates a rock quarry in Flowery Branch, to help offset expenses.

"The students have been working feverishly ... to earn the money to go," said Durden, who is in her fourth year teaching French at Flowery Branch High.

For fundraisers, they sold baked goods, doughnuts and hot chocolate.

"After being in French (class) for three years, I just thought it would probably be a really good idea to go," said Devon Reese, 16, an 11th-grader.

Several in the group were taking their first trip abroad, but that wasn't the case with their teacher.

"I studied in France for six months when I was in college, and then I went back there the summer before last to study," Durden said. "Other than that, I've gone on several vacations there."

So, the students had an experienced guide already in their group as they visited Paris and other cities such as Lyon and Nice.

"It was a very fun experience," Reese said. "It's very different from here. The buildings look almost fake, but they're not."

The trip was "better than what I expected, other than it being freezing," she added. "It was bigger than I expected."

Mackenzie Battista, 15, a 10th-grader, visited France with her family when she was 4. She has no memories of that trip - quite the opposite this time.

"I thought it would be good to go with my French teacher, so she could help us with understanding people," she said.

Carolina Lopera, 16, a 10th-grader, said, "Everything is about 10 times bigger than what I thought."

She particularly was impressed by the Palais de Papes, the papal residence during Medieval times.

"I'm Catholic and the pope is very important to me," Lopera said.

Durden said she enjoyed Nice the most.

"It was really, really pretty. The ocean there was beautiful," she said. "And it was a chance to see Italian-style architecture mixed with French-style architecture."

Johnson enjoyed that, as well.

"The houses were beautiful and (there were) leftover Roman ruins on top of the hills," she said.