Teacher testimonial: Simon Lemieux

I have run previous trips to Russia but not for at least 10 years and have recently run many history and politics trips myself, which has worked for closer European countries and the US. But there was no way that would work with Russia!

I wanted a tour company that would not only offer us a competitive price but just as importantly, have specialist knowledge of running school trips to a fascinating and complex country. A colleague from a neighbouring school recommended TCBC and it is not a decision we regretted. We were extremely well looked after from start to finish. Navigating the long and somewhat complicated visa application process for Russia is not any for any British travellers, but I really appreciated the way TCBC managed the process and the visa agents were excellent. Planning our itinerary, I really felt that TCBC listened to us, offered suggestions and, most importantly, delivered exactly as promised. We requested an additional day, and suggested a less visited site, Lenin’s dacha, which was accommodated without any fuss and made for a really worthwhile excursion. What I appreciated about TCBC, is that they are large and well-established enough to have proper support and back up, but small enough to deliver a really personal service and a high level of customer care.

The guides were excellent, contrasting but both had an excellent rapport with the students. Vital to an enjoyable trip. Friendly coach drivers and modern coaches also helped with the smooth running and safety of the trip. Hotels were carefully chosen and well located, TCBC offer a choice based on budget, we opted for the standard level and were very pleased. Food was largely buffet style, so no students went hungry!

The pupils, many of whom were studying Russian History at either A Level or IGCSE, really appreciated the opportunity to see the sites where ‘History was made’ whether that was the Winter Palace in St Petersburg or Stalin’s bunkers – we visited two! There were also the unexpected quirky bonuses such as seeing a high powered North Korean delegation being shown around the Kremlin Armoury when we were there, or the opportunity for one of our group who is a good pianist, to play for us in an opulent room in a St Petersburg palace as we enjoyed a final night dinner after watching a folklore show.

Our itinerary was extremely well managed, with plenty to do, but also enough carefully managed free time for pupils to explore and shop safely. I can honestly say we were not disappointed with any aspect of the trip, and I am sure we will be back. Many thanks TCBC for a trip that was truly memorable for all the right reasons. Running a school trip is never undemanding, but with TCBC I always felt we were in very safe and competent hands which is especially important in a less familiar and perhaps more challenging country in terms of culture, politics and language. I strongly recommend TCBC to any school trip leaders, whether novice or more experienced.

Written by Simon Lemieux, Senior Teacher, Head of History and Politics and veteran of at least 40 residential school History trips
The Portsmouth Grammar School