June 13th, 2011
Finally! The group is off and ready to embark on our long-anticipated Explorica tour around Europe! My three best friends and the rest of our thirty-person group can’t wait to hit the cultural hotspots of London, France, Switzerland, and Italy. With our cameras charged, we’re armed to fly on Continental Airlines for six hours from Newark, New Jersey to London!
England’s history is impossible to overlook, ranging from the multitude of majestic churches like Westminster, to the more modern Abbey Road for the Beetle fans among us. However, no matter how many stunning castles we toured like Hampton Court, I could not look past the debilitating fact that bathrooms seemed to not exist anywhere in London! Or at least not for free. Once, I had to begrudgingly hand over three dollars for a chance to use a very rare toilet. I miss “the land of the free” already!
Arriving in Paris via the Eurostar Chunnel, we are seeing unforgettable and luxurious sights while the quaint outskirts are picturesque models of France. We enjoyed a scenic boat ride of the city, a night climb up the dazzling Eiffel Tower, and an impressive visit to the Louvre. All of which I will remember forever, but not as much as the other sights I saw and experienced.
Poverty was evident along the streets as the homeless begged for money by displaying their missing limbs and their small, sleeping puppies. Maybe it’s my lack of experience in big cities, but it shocked me every time I saw such a heartbreaking and uncomfortable sight.
I had no pre-existing expectations for Switzerland, but I quickly fell in love when the snow-capped mountains came into view. This country is redefining beauty for me, and the farmland is such a pleasant change of scenery from the last two big cities. We stayed in a hotel up in the mountains and took the Pilatus-Bahn train further up to Mount Pilatus, peaking at seven times the height of the Eiffel Tower! I spent my last few franks on a yummy apfelstrudel while the boys of the group hiked in search of the Yeti. Swiss chocolate, fondue, watches, and army knives; there’s something for everyone in Lucerne.
Traveling through Italy has gone by so fast; I’ve hardly had time to reflect, but the experience has been inspiring. Does being a world traveler suddenly give me new insight to my life? In some ways maybe, but I can say that I feel more confident to head off to college next fall! As for right now, it’s bitter-sweet having to say Ciao! because I’m missing my family. But Italy’s exciting atmosphere makes me want to stay.
Our group was allotted more free time in this country to explore freely through the markets and small streets of Venice, Verona, Florence, Rome, and Pompeii. However, this also meant lots of opportunities to get lost in the maze of foreign streets. Believe me when I say we got lost many, many times. But along the way we saw our fair share of gypsies, vendors, ancient ruins, and gelato shops. I love the Colosseum the best, but Pompeii’s volcano and Rome’s remarkable ruins are hard to beat. I will surely miss Europe as I return back to my life in Avon, Ohio. I hope I get a chance to return!
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