European Grande Tour - Summer 2011 - My Family Travels

There are some experiences in life that leave no more impression than a paddle on the water; they happen, they end, and never again cross our mind. However, occasionally in life we have an experience that changes us forever – changes our outlook and who we are as person. These events stay with us forever, etched into our core being and become a part of who we are. I am lucky enough to have experienced the latter during my summer trip to Europe.

I was given the amazing opportunity to visit Italy, Austria, France, and England with a group of thirty-two other students and chaperones on an art history tour. This was the trip of a life time and it ended up exceeding my highest expectations. From the start, the tour sounded incredible and the more I found out, the more I felt compelled to go. I knew it was going to be a challenge: visiting a different continent with different languages and customs. I wouldn’t have my parents to turn to and I had only one small suitcase to last the seventeen days we were there.

I was eager to start my journey and I hardly slept a wink the night before we left, but before I knew it we were landing at the Leonardo da Vinci airport in Rome. We would ultimately travel to Rome, Florence, Mutters, Paris, and London by trains and buses. Each day the group would rise early, eat our breakfast (which was always fabulous, like all the food we ate in Europe) and be on our way. In the morning, our wonderful guide would take us to see the most spectacular sights and witness the genius of artists from centuries prior. We visited the Louvre in France, saw Big Ben in England, and stood below as The David towered above us in Italy. Every minute was unbelievable!  

The afternoons we had to ourselves to explore, get lost, and enjoy the European lifestyle. Although the first day was a challenge, as we adjusted to the different environment we became more comfortable and accustomed to our new surroundings. Soon we were navigating the narrow streets of Rome and finding our way around London’s Underground (some expeditions were more successful than others). At night, we would all meet up again to share our day’s stories at dinner.

The itinerary was perfect: just enough time in each place with just the right balance of freedom and guidance.

This experience taught me so much. My mind was opened to the diversity of the world. It opened my eyes to the new (to me) and beautiful cultures and people of Europe and I grew in confidence as a traveler. I was lucky enough to start off the trip with some of my best friends and even luckier to end the trip with many more. We shared times that none of us will ever forget.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get the chance to paraglide over the Alps or stand feet away from the Mona Lisa. It was a priceless experience that will always hold a special place in my heart and I will be evermore changed because of it. This was my first visit to Europe but I can guarantee it won’t be my last. I’ve been inspired and awestruck by the magnificence of my trip.

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