Europe. When I was informed that my school had an opportunity to go to such a telltale destination, I nearly died. To taste gelato and admire the art in Italy, to relax in Switzerland and explore the Eiffel Tower in Paris – it was like a dream come true. To do it with my classmates would be like traveling with my second family – none of us would forget this.
We departed from the airport, ready for adventure. Upon landing in Rome, we visited the Trevi Fountain, saw the Pantheon, the Piazza Navona, and passed the Colosseum. The Hotel La Meridienne was peaceful after a long day of walking and jet lag.
The second day we toured the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Palazzo Venezia. We saw the Vatican Museum and exited through the Sistine Chapel, coming to St. Peter's Basilica and surrounding square. The winding streets of Rome were captivating, but it was unfortunately time to move on.
We stopped in Assisi and saw the most beautiful church: St. Francis. I'm not Catholic, but it was still marvelous. Then we were on the bus to Florence. We arrived at the Hotel Prati and then set out to explore the town of Montecatini.
In Florence, the Duomo, the bell tower, and the Baptistery towered above other edifices. In the Piazza della Signoria stood a Statue of David replica. We walked the Ponte Vecchio, then ascended the winding staircases of the bell tower. Florence was truly enchanting.
We stopped in Pisa and saw the Leaning Tower, and in Switzerland, the San Gottardo tunnel traffic was halted completely. Instead of the 15-minute tunnel, we took the pass overtop the mountain. Right outside of Lucerne we stayed in the Seehotel Wilerbad, with a magnificent view of the lake and mountains.
Lucerne is relaxed and picturesque. We saw the Lion Monument, then walked the covered wooden bridge. We took a cogwheel railway up Mount Pilatus, and cable cars and gondolas down the other side. At the Swiss Folklore Event at the Stadtkeller Restaurant that evening, we enjoyed Swiss Cheese Fondue and a delicious dinner, all while listening to yodeling, alphorns, and accordions.
We drove from morning until afternoon, crossing into France. Paris was surprisingly hot, especially on the metro. We had dinner and then went to bed after a long day of driving.
The next day we boarded the metro to the Eiffel Tower, and you could spot famous landmarks such as Les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Seine River flowing just below the tower. We met the rest of the group at the bottom and took the bus to the Arc and the Palace of Versailles.
Day two was exhausting. We toured the Latin Quarter, then the Notre Dame Cathedral. Next up was the Louvre Museum. After trooping through this maze of artifacts, we hiked three kilometers to dinner. We took a Seine River cruise at dusk, and the Eiffel Tower sparkled with hundreds of strobe lights. The action-packed last day in Paris was one to remember, as was the entire trip.
The good times shared with my second family are priceless. I gained some worldly knowledge in my travels abroad, which lends me a greater understanding of people, our nation, and the globe. Being exposed to other cultures, languages, cuisine, and values, I better realize how I fit into the grand scheme, and I know that there is something more than what I have now. Sometimes Europe didn't meet the standards I had constructed in my head, but it made up for those in other, sometimes unexpected, ways.
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