by McKenna Williams and Amalia Mairet, Grade 10
Imagine this: Germany
You’ve arrived in Europe. It’s reached the evening hours. You can’t feel the breeze outside from your seat on the Lufthansa flight, tray table up and seat in the upright position, but you can imagine what it’ll feel like once you’ve stepped into the breezeway! The level of excitement upon touchdown on each new tarmac in each new city can’t quite be matched.
We began in Eisenach, Germany, a little town a couple of hours out of Frankfurt. It was about 8 am when we arrived. We were lucky enough to repeat the day with the time difference, although we were, I couldn’t even say jet-lagged, out-of-sorts. Despite the exciting first steps out the arrival gate, we moved onto the bus and checked out into a nap that lasted until Mr. Butterfield came over the loudspeaker. Nap time was over! Cobblestone streets were waiting to be explored.
We tried our very best to combat the tiredness that overcame us, so we put on our rain jackets and marched down the hill from Hotel Haus Hainstein and split up to have coffee, pastries and falafel. Our first learning experience in Germany was realizing that, in fact, English is not spoken very much in this small town! Thankfully though, we avoided accidentally ordering 53 falafels, and sat down for a lovely lunch while learning some phrases from trusty Duolingo. We were later given the opportunity to meet and work alongside a school group for an afternoon towards the end of our time in Eisenach. The band, strings, and vocal ensemble worked together to perform “Sanctus,” a Latin hymn, in the church right beside Haus Hainstein. In addition to taking home some fun memories from our few days there, we learned valuable lessons in the real world where we worked with new people, navigated a language barrier and made new friends.
Now imagine this: England
You’re sitting in your seat on British Airways, searching through the clouds out your window for a glimpse of the British Isles. As you exit the cloud cover, England shakes into view. You grip the plastic armrests of your seat and muster excitement to overtake your fear of turbulence. After a descent into Heathrow Airport, we were greeted by a two-hour long line for EU customs. We left the airport on a bus, napping against the windows and listening to the ever-present rain outside. After settling into our hotel, we explored Winchester in the mist of evening and found the best Indian food we had ever had.
The next morning, we woke up early for a proper English breakfast and an expedition to Avebury and Glastonbury. We were greeted by fields so green and skies so blue that we were certain this was where the photo that was McKenna’s middle school screensaver was taken. The boys climbed Spirit Rocks and rolled down massive hills, and we reveled in the view and the lovely weather. We ate blackcurrant and clotted cream ice cream and found a real English telephone box, much to our excitement. We once again boarded the bus and listened to the history of the Glastonbury Tor. Upon arriving, we ate proper English pasties and began our walk up to the Tor. The wind was so strong that we held hands with the smaller members of the group to keep them from being blown off the path. We took a team photo in front of the incredible view and had an impromptu performance of “Santa Lucia” in the tower. To top off a practically perfect day, our way home, we just happened to pass Stonehenge!
The next morning, we arrived at The American School in Switzerland (TASIS) England bright and early to perform in their morning assembly. We then went to Hampton Court Palace, where we wandered through the hallways and had a tea party in the gardens. Next, we drove to our hotel in London and got dressed up to see a performance of the musical Come From Away. We walked along the Thames and marveled at London’s architecture as we passed Big Ben, the Parliament and Trafalgar Square. We found dinner at a “noodle lab” called wagamama in SoHo, and watched the show, which was fantastic and made us very proud to be Canadian.
The next day we explored London in groups on foot, and just happened to see the Queen at Buckingham Palace! We got lunch at Harrods, ate banana cake at Prêt, watched some very convincing sales pitches at Hamleys, and strolled down Carnaby Street. That night, we had the best burgers and milkshakes in all of London at Shake Shack before realizing that we had met at the wrong theatre and would have to make it across London in the 20 minutes before our next show started! The six of us cabbed across the city and made it to the theatre just in time to see Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. England was beautiful and full of life, and we were all sad to leave the red-brick houses and busy streets, but excited to reach our next destination.
And finally imagine this: Italy
McKenna’s Grade 8 vacation project was planned to take on Rome, and if she could mark the days we spent there as a project, it would have an “Exceeding Expectations,” and a 4 on the 4-point-scale. With a full itinerary for each day, there was never a dull moment in the city. We had arrived around supper time, so our first task after settling into the Romoli Hotel was to go out and find some food. The area we were staying in had many little bistros, jazz clubs and diners, so there was never a shortage of fun spots to sit down and share a meal with our friends.
Behind our hotel, there was a wide-open park that got sun all the way until sunset, so on nights where we were free to get our own dinner we’d have picnics. Fresh fruit stands were on every block in Rome, so we’d stock up on oranges, strawberries and pineapple and munch away until sunset. This is one of the closest-held memories of the entire trip. Having the freedom to organize our own meals and manage our own time was very important for us, and we learned a lot from it. We did much, much more than bumbling around in the evenings though. We visited the Vatican, Pompeii, the Colosseum and some amazing museums. Visiting all these historical sites was breathtaking, having a connection to history we’ve only ever read about in books was life-changing.
“Something else that I noticed once I had gotten home
is that I had also grown in myself; my confidence changed,
and I felt like a whole new person, ready for anything!”
– McKenna Williams
In the big picture, our perspective on the vast world we live in has not changed, per se, but rather evolved. After travelling to some very dense cities, we all got the chance to observe different languages, cultures and norms. Europe has a very distinct and beautiful culture regarding architecture and art which we had never experienced before. All in all, we miss the trip and the people dearly, but can say that a Double-Double sure did hit the spot once we’d arrived home.