HEVERLEE, Belgium -- A torch-light march. Ravioli and meatball dinners. Rides in a funicular railway. A sing-a-long and a dress-up casino evening.
Those were some of the thing that made last week "mega-cool" for 24 sixth graders at the St. Lambertus school in a hotel in Saint-Luc, high in the Swiss Alps.
But the good times turned tragic Tuesday when their bus, which also carried kids from a second Belgian school, crashed inside a Swiss tunnel on its way home. Twenty-two youngsters and six adults died.
The dead included "teacher Frank," who set up a blog that had kept parents and schoolchildren who stayed home informed about all the fun.
Instead, on Wednesday parents were flown to Switzerland to find out whether their children were still alive. Sixteen were confirmed safe, but the fate of eight St. Lambertus students was unknown.
Nine days earlier, they had left for the holiday of their school lives in the snow-covered Alps of Switzerland, an annual highlight for St. Lambertus kids.
The week began flawlessly.
"This our first blog posting," wrote Frank Van Kerckhove, the teacher who set up the blog.
"The bus trip was very smooth. There was little traffic. We watched the movie Avatar (and) no one became car sick on the climb" into the Alps, he added.
In the days that followed, the youngsters posted about their vacation with the youthful excitement experienced by almost every 11- or 12-year-old away on a class trip.
"This afternoon we had soup and ravioli, very delicious," one girl wrote on March 6.
"The blog was incredible. It had so many great pictures," said Anne De Roo, who had three of her kids at the school. The fate of a daughter of her brother was now uncertain.
"He constantly gave us news about what happened, the sked of the day," she said of Van Kerckhove. His last words came down to 'we see you back soon,'" she said.
The kids would blog under his tutelage.
"Today was totally the best. The adventurous walk was tiring, but mega-cool," one girl wrote. "We won first prize for cleanest room. Tomorrow it's going to be colder. Byyyeeee!"
On March 10, another boy wrote: "Things are super here in Saint-Luc. The skiing, the weather, the food. It's not bad at all. Tomorrow I play in the Muppet Show. ... I have seen quite a few dogs. I'm now reading the book 'Why Dogs Have Wet Noses.' Very interesting! I miss you all."
Toward week's end, the postings revealed early signs of homesickness.
"Dear mama and papa. I like it here a lot, but I miss you. Love you. Kisses." And: "Hey, mama, papa ... It is super here and the sun shines the whole day. But I do miss you! XXX."
The posts came with scores of photos the youngsters made during their trip.
Outside St. Lambertus school in the town of Heverlee, parents spoke highly of Van Kerckhove. Teary-eyed, some recalled his last post, dated March 11 -- the eve of the return trip.
"Tomorrow will be a busy day and I do not know if I can write a blog posting," Van Kerckhove wrote. "But on Wednesday we'll be back, all of us."
School deacon Dirk De Gendt said Van Kerckhove was a much loved and able teacher.
"He'll be badly missed," De Gendt said. "The ski trips were an annual tradition."
On the school gate Wednesday, staff put up drawings made by students to honor the teacher. "I'll never forget you, Teacher Frank," one read. "You are the greatest ever!"
Robert Wielaard contributed reporting.