In the beginning of April of 2009, I was still in my freshman year at Vista High School. I was a member of the Vista Regimental Marching Band, and I was going to the United Kingdom with this group of kids I had just met. We were met at Heathrow Airport in London by our tour guide, Ela. She was a nice lady and informative, if she was paying attention. For example, on our drive back to London from Edinburgh, she told us about Hadrian’s Wall and built our excitement, to be fulfilled when we saw it. However, time passed and she eventually casually said over the announcement system, sorry, I was talking and got distracted, we missed it. Anyway, we first drove the seven-hour trip from London to Edinburgh on our double decker tour bus. The drive was beautiful as was Edinburgh; they were so full of green fields and beautiful architecture. In Edinburgh we stayed at a Holiday Inn right next to the Edinburgh Zoo, which of course provided us with some extra animal fun. We stayed there for a glorious three nights and visited much, like the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle. In between all that we played an outdoor concert in which our most prominent audience member was a little baby named David who really got into the music, and probably entertained the sparse crowd more than the musicians did. We also played a concert at the beautiful Grey Friars Church; the acoustics were absolutely amazing and the church was beautiful inside and out; I consider that our only really successful concert of the trip. After Edinburgh, we took the journey again back to London, where we stayed for six nights at the Hilton London Metropole Hotel. We did a lot of sightseeing, but it was almost all in the group setting, which really resisted where we could go based on individual preferences. We went to the London Eye, cruised to Greenwich and saw the Prime Meridian, saw Billy Elliot on the West End theatre Victoria Palace Theatre, and stopped at Piccadilly Circus to shop and what not. Of course, there was another small concert in a garden by the River Thames at which a few people on lunch breaks from nearby buildings came to watch us for a few moments. However, in terms of what I really wanted to do, all I had time to was go to Abbey Road and make a quick stop to the Natural History Museum with my mom. There was no time to go to the National Gallery or the Royal Botanical Gardens, or any other museums, which is one of my passions. The times for all our group tours was too strict; once my mom and I arrived to dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe late because we wanted to walk in Hyde Park before dinner, and we got in a bit of trouble with Ela for that mistake. Overall it was a fun time and it brought us band kids together, but the structuring of it and all the group tours could have been relaxed; it was a once in a lifetime experience for most of us, and we deserved more free time to do as we wanted.
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