Less than a month ago, I returned stateside as an incredible journey came to a close. My sophomore year, I signed up to explore Europe. For two years I saved money, made packing lists, and counted down the days until departure. On June 22, 2011, the long awaited day arrived. I went through American Airlines’ security, checked my bag, and boarded the plane to London, alongside ten peers and four teachers. The adventure began.
That day was a blur, and before I knew it, we were landing at Heathrow Airport. My group of fifteen huddled as we unloaded off the plane, and headed to customs. The combination of sleep deprivation and excitement pumped adrenaline through our veins. We were officially crossing the English Border.
After making it through immigration and receiving the glorious stamp in our passports, we gathered our baggage and exited the terminal. Awaiting us was a tour director from EF Tours (the company we were traveling through, http://eftours.com). EF specializes in school related trips and we were about to begin our historical tour of World War II and the Western Front. We left the airport and loaded our bus, our coach as the English called it, and drove to our hotel, the Holiday Inn at Chesington.
My group from Oklahoma joined two other groups from Arkansas and Louisiana, and over the course of two weeks we visited five countries: England, France, Belgium, Germany and Austria. From London we went to Portsmouth, Caen, Ruen, Paris, Bastogne, Cologne, Berlin, Nuremburg, Munich, and Salzburg. We had a tour guide from EF who was with us every step of the way and we had a bus driver for each city. In certain cities we had an additional tour guide who was a local and took us through the main parts of their city.
Being as this was a historical trip, we visited countless memorials and museums, including London’s Churchill War Rooms, Normandy’s D Day Museum, the D Day Memorial, the Berlin Wall and the Nuremburg Museum. In addition to the historical sites, we squeezed in some tourist attractions such as the London Eye, the Thames River cruise, the Eiffel Tower, Omaha Beach, and Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. Can you say busy?
We returned home on July 5. It’s been three weeks and I still cannot digest all that I saw in that short two weeks. EF Tours did a wonderful job with the hotel and dinner reservations, and the sightseeing appointments. If you want a preplanned vacation EF is the way to go. Although I enjoyed my trip, made new friends and saw breathtaking sites, I would caution travelers about trips this specialized and jam-packed.
Since this trip was focused on WWII we missed opportunities to experience cliché tourist attractions at the price of history museums. For instance, my friends and I didn’t have the time to see the Globe Theatre, or pose on Abbey Road and we only saw Westminster Abbey through a bus window. Being on a tight schedule also eliminated the chance to relax and soak up a culture. Instead we went from one attraction to another.
Nonetheless, I experienced a trip of a lifetime and the missed sites are only to ensure that I return to Europe, which my friends and I already want to do. If you are interested in traveling Europe I recommend these sites:
- London’s Parliament House
- Normandy Beach
- Eiffel Tower
- Louvre – closed Tuesdays, learned the hard way
I encourage you to venture into the cities and bask in the culture over a hot espresso. Bon Voyage!
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