For years, I wanted to travel to Europe and play my French horn. So last year, when my band director invited me to travel with the Arizona Ambassadors of Music to seven countries over sixteen days, I was ecstatic. After pleading with my parents, they decided to let me go. The trip started with three days of music rehearsal, because we would be playing nine concerts. At these rehearsals, I met the band I would be playing with, the choir I would be singing with, and grew painfully excited for the journey ahead.
Saturday, June 21, I threw my suitcase into the car and drove off to the airport. After a quick stop at Starbucks, I boarded the plane with my new friends. We first flew to Minneapolis for an eight hour layover, which we filled by riding the moving sidewalks and people watching. Next was the eight hour flight to London. Choose the person you sit next to wisely, if you have a choice. My seat assignment was random – I sat between the bathroom and a creeper who laid his head on my shoulder and informed me that the scent of my Carmex turned him on.
When we finally landed in London, we got our passports checked, gathered our luggage, went through customs, then boarded our coach. First stop: Windsor. The views out the bus window were spectacular – everything was green opposed to the Arizona brown. When we got outside, we also noticed the slight chill in the air, which was a shock to our bodies that are typically prepared for 115° summer weather.
That night we walked around London and absorbed the sights, sounds, and smells of our new surroundings. We ate dinner at our hotel, Thistle City Barbican, and after a struggle to get into our hotel room due to the faulty key card, fell asleep.
The next day, we took a guided tour of the city in our coaches. We stopped at the Tower of London for a few hours where we viewed the crown jewels and some torture devices. There were a variety of other sights we saw that day, including Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, and Westminster Cathedral. After the tour, we enjoyed the musical, Wicked, at the Apollo Victoria Theatre.
Our last day in London was a musical adventure. In the morning, the chamber and concert choirs sang in Wesley’s Chapel. We were astounded by the resonance and history of this famous building. After lunch at the Victoria Embankment Gardens, we played our first band concert for an eager audience. A few old men even got up and danced to some of our songs – a sight we never see at home.
Still excited from our successful concert, we spend the rest of the night sightseeing: watching a session of Parliament, touring Westminster Abbey, and riding the London Eye.
Unwillingly, we left England the next morning and rode the P & O Ferry to France. Paris was a lot dirtier than I expected; the first sight I saw was a little boy peeing on the sidewalk. In France, we visited Luxembourg Gardens for our band concert, St. Severin Church for our choir concert, Notre Dame Cathedral, and a Bateaux Mouches cruise on the River Seine. The next day we visited the Eiffel Tower. Taking the stairs was a wonderful choice; the views were absolutely spectacular. Later we were stunned by an unforgettable trip to the Louvre.
We also traveled to Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy, and Germany but there is unfortunately not enough room for them in this essay.
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