Thursday, February 25, 2016

Updated Days 7 & 8 - Final days in London!

Jackie Lake "Potter" at Platform 9 3/4 

We are back!  It's tough to believe that it's been almost a week since we finished the trip of a lifetime. Now that a crazy week back from vacation has settled down we have finished the blog. Enjoy! 

Here are Ashley's thoughts and loads of pictures I uploaded of our two amazing days in London

Day 7 Paris to London on the underwater Eurostar! 

We woke up super early to get to the Eurostar train, but unfortunately I slept right through my alarm and it took the teachers forty five minutes to wake us up. We packed, brushed our teeth and hair, dressed and rushed to breakfast. We all rolled our luggage through the station near our hotel around six in the morning. Being me, I tripped about six times, which is nothing new.  We got the the Eurostar, learned some facts about it (it's record speed is 334.7 km/ph), and most of us just listened to music for two hours while waiting for the kind woman say we had arrived in London. 

The Eurostar Train we took from Paris to London

After we all got off the train, we went straight to the 9 3/4 station that was in Harry Potter, the wait was about forty five minutes so most people just got lunch instead. We went to some of the London markets after that and I got a bracelet and a necklace and all of my other friends bought purses. Following that, we went to the London Eye. The ride was around 35 minutes and I got a nice time lapse video. We all took selfies at the top and many pictures of the view, especially Big Ben.

The students first had to watch a 4D video of the London Eye

The London Eye is a 443 foot giant ferris wheel along the River Thames in London. It was 32 pods where 10-15 people can go inside each one for a 35 minute complete rotation around.

The London Eye is the largest ferris wheel in Europe and the highest public viewing area in the Western Hemisphere. 

The pod behind us on the London Eye

Some of the girls calmly taking a picture in a pod 443 feet up 

The view of he London Eye Ferris Wheel from below

 More pictures of some of the girls in the London Eye with a great scene in the background. There is nothing you couldn't see in London from this high up!

We went to a few squares after that, like Piccadilly Circus Square. My friend really had to use the toilet so we spent most of that free time using a McDonalds bathroom that we weren't supposed to be in unless we bought something. After that square, we ventured through London's Chinatown and saw a lot of roasted duck. We had Korean food for dinner. I enjoyed it but quite a few didn't really care for it. 

Taking the "Tube" subway system in London. Very, very busy and very, very crowded. The chaperones and students did an excellent job staying together and getting from stop to stop on time.

Mrs. Nykiel and Mrs. McCann lead the tour through London's shopping district 

Najara and Kaitlyn taking a nice picture at a London phone booth

London's China town. Much bigger then the Chinatown districts in Boston and NYC 

Stopping to take a pic of the whole group at Leicester Square in London- part of the shopping district 

Lots of theatrical street art and entertainment going on in London's Trafalgar Square. It took me a while to figure out how this guy appeared to be levitating. 

A delicious Korean "Hot Pot" dinner in Chinatown

The chaperones enjoying some adult conversation for 30 minutes! 

Students enjoying their hot pots!

Students happy to be off their feet during dinner. We put in 12 miles on London Day #1

Somebody was shy of the camera in this one but you can't hide forever! 

Even though it was rainy, cold, and dark, we still went on our walking tour: Jack the Ripper Walk. My feet were killing me and I didn't smell too great, but nonetheless the tour guide made it fun and interesting. On the many train and bus rides to the hotel, someone with a pedometer announced we had walked over ten miles today. When we got to the hotel, my roommates and I didn't understand the odd light system (where you need a keycard to turn them on) and everyone was just so very ready to take a shower and sleep. Tomorrow there will definitely be more walking, and more buses, and likely more trains. Thankfully though, we should get a good nights sleep.

Very tight on the train to the Jack the Ripper Tour! 

Mine The Gap! That is what the train conductor says at each stop. There is a large gap in between the train and the landing area for getting off. Of the 2 billion riders that take the Tube each year there are around 1,000 Gap injuries! 

Our group is exhausted but happy on the Tube!

This is our tour director for the Jack the Ripper street tour. It was cold and rainy in London's southend where a century before Jack the Ripper (never caught) wreaked havoc and drove fear into the hearts of Londonites everywhere. The weather added to the excitement of the tour. 

I can't say enough about this guy. The students were glued to his story. He was certainly in character as a turn of the 19th century detective. Creepy but truly awesome. This guy was committed to what he does. 

The kids listened to his every word. What a story teller. We visited all the murder sites of Jack the Ripper and heard the complete story of this era.

More pictures of Trafalgar Square in London. These lions were made out of metal smelted down from the actual cannons used in World War I. 

Jennelle at Trafalgar Square

Some of the chaperones hanging out in Trafalgar Square

Lots of civil disobedience in these pictures. The guards who "guard" Trafalgar Square occasionally whistle at the hundreds of students taking pictures on the lions. 

Myself and Kaitlyn Kennedy taking a great selfie on the London Eye with Big Ben in the background 

Day 8: Our Final Day in London! Flying home tomorrow! 

We started the day by eating some really good breakfast at our hotel, and then onto a bus for our guided tour featuring Keith. We saw where David Bowie lived, Electric Avenue (yes from the song), where some of the new James Bond was filmed, and where Mary Poppins would have taken place. Keith explained that the clock tower in London is not called Big Ben. Big Ben is the bell inside the clock tower, and we proceeded to take more pictures. We also saw the Westminster Abby Church, which apparently took around 500 years to build. We saw princess Anna exit Buckingham Palace, and took a few photos of the famous guards with black hats. Keith also informed us that London is currently 600 sq miles, with 8.1 million people in populace. After we said goodbye to Keith, we went to the Camden Markets. I bought a few things for my family and had some nice pizza and a milkshake. The markets were never ending. There were literally hundreds of stores all in this one area. Our group gave our chaperone, Mr McCann, a "Mind The Gap" hat and magnet as a gift and kind of an inside joke about their public transportation in London. Did you know there was 1152 gap related injuries last year on that specific tube? Crazy, I know. We then went to dinner, had some nice chicken and mashed potatoes, served by a very attractive male waiter (no shame), and some very chocolatey brownies. When we got to the theater to see Wicked, Derek left us and told us that we will see him tomorrow morning. We were all very confident that Mrs McCann could get us back to our hotel safely. After waiting for a little bit, we saw the show and it was amazing. Their voices gave me chills and it was a well written plot. Also the guy who played the prince had major biceps and jawline, so I mean, that definitely didn't hurt. We finally got back to the hotel later and I have promised myself that I will eat three plates of food for breakfast tomorrow to prepare for the airports. Remember, mind the gap! 

Some of the girls at West Minster Abbey

The Flame- this statue was built as a reminder of the Great London fire which burned London the the ground in 1666

London Bridge

Riley, Richard, and Delaney on London Bridge 

Jennelle and Justin at West Minster Abbey 

Mrs. Nykiel and Caitlyn at Buckingham Palace. This was moments before Princess Anne was whisked away by her motorcade entourage. Pretty exciting! 

Grant, Delaney, and Mrs. McGrath at Buckingham Palace

A great group shot at Buckingham Palace 

After a long day of walking and tours we finished our day with a live show in London's historic theatre district watching "Wicked". It was incredible and the kids loved every minute of it. 

Considering all the historical sights and truly amazing places we visited over 8 days of this trip there really could not have been a better way to end it then relaxing and watching a great play with great performers in such a comfortable and beautiful venue. We got there early and took it all in. 

Our Final Meal together in London!

This was a cool little free museum of contemporary Art called the Marlborough that we thought would make a good picture for all our Marlborough students 

Isabelle Furbino and Mrs. Nykiel with their contemporary addition to this contemporary piece! 

Our final meal in London. Simple chicken breast, mashed with gravy, and peas. A nice meal before a long day of flying tomorrow. 

Thanks for taking the time to read our blog. Great job to Mrs. McCann and all the chaperones and students. What a trip! 

Thanks to the girls in my group for the thoughtful gifts. Remember to Mind the Gap!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Days 7 & 8 in London, England!

What an amazing two days we had in London. So many experiences and so many pictures to share!

However, both Ashley and I are going to push the blog until tomorrow. We are all exhausted and just got home from watching the musical Wicked live in London and taking 2 subways, a bus, and a short walk to the hotel.

We are flying out for home early tomorrow but will be blogging from the airport on our final two days and the list of things we did. Going home is bitter sweet but we jammed packed everything we could in 4 countries spead over 8 days.

Look for pictures and our blog on the following tomorrow:

Wednesday in London:

  • London Eye
  • Walking London tour through Chinatown
  • Trafalgar Square
  • Korean "Hot Pot" dinner
  • Jack the Ripper walk through west London (a dark and rainy night added to the experience)

Thursday in London:

  • West Minster Abbey
  • Big Ben
  • Parliament
  • Buckingham Palace (saw Princess Anne and her motorcade!)
  • Tower of London
  • London Bridge
  • shopping in Camden Town Market
  • Wicked Musical live in London

Till tomorrow!

Thanks for reading.

Mr. McCann and Ashley Valentine 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Day #6- Final Day in Paris

Our 2nd and last day in Paris. Here is what was on tap for Tuesday: 
  • Paris bus tour 
  • Paris Frangrance/Perfume Museum 
  • Montparnasse Tower Top of Paris tour (tallest skyscraper in Paris)
  • Notre Dame Cathedral 
Here are Ashley Valentine's thoughts on the day in bold italic: 

I woke up my friends so they could turn the alarm off, the bed was way too comfy, as was the shower. Breakfast wasn't as good as usual but edible. We loaded a coach bus driven by an expert driver named Mark (and yes, our route required an expert). We drove to the Arc de Triomphe to pick up our tour guide, Brian. His dad was from New York, which explained his name, but not his love for the Red Sox. He was amazing and talked in great detail about the history of so many sites in Paris. For example, he showed us the square where MarieAntoinette was decapitated, and how the building nearby had to transfer Mónet's paintings through their roof due to a miscalculation of their door size. He also went into detail about how Napoleon was crowned and some rules of gothic churches like Notre Dame (the back must be facing the west, and the front must face the east). 

The Arc de Triomphe.. Besides the history behind this Napoleonic structure there is an interesting fact that this crazy busy rotary has a rule that if anyone gets in an accident here it is automatically a 50/50 incident regardless of who is at fault. There is no way to prove who is in the wrong at this ridiculously busy and large rotary. 

Outside the Arc de Triomphe are stone engravings of all Napoleon's battlefied victories. 

After saying thank you and waving goodbye to Brian and Mark, we went to a perfume museum. After learning about the process of making concentrated perfume, and learning that it takes about one ton of raw materials for one liter of extract, we went to the Montparnasse Tower. 

Some of the samples at the Fragonard Perfume Museum in Paris. A guided tour of the perfume and cologne making process, samples, and plenty of shopping. About half the students bought perfumes and soaps handmade at the museum. 
Montparnasse is the tallest building in Western Europe, at a staggering 59 floors. We went to the very top to get a 360 view of all of Paris, and its placement is ideal (it is in the center of Paris). 

The Montparnasse building in Paris. The tallest and only skyscraper in Paris. The people of Paris were concerned about the effects of skyscrapers on the Paris skyline. While the building is certainly tall the attraction is the "lift" (elevator) to the top and the top of building viewing area. 

The view of the top of Montparsnesse of Notre Dame cathedral. 
View of the Eiffel Tower from Montparsnesse. 

Mrs. McCann and the overlooking the city of Paris from the Montparsnesse rooftop viewing area. 

We then took the metro to the Notre Dame Church. I didn't think Paris could get more beautiful, well I was wrong. This 851 year old church left me absolutely speechless. With its high ceilings, pillars, stained glass windows everywhere, and gargoyles surrounding, I took around sixty pictures of just this church. My friends and I hunched our backs for a funny picture, and ducked when about thirty pigeons flew over us at once (obviously afraid of their defecation). After finishing up at Notre Dame, we headed to a pub nearby and had a really very tasty and filling meal, finished off with some creme brúlee. We stood in a crazy crowded metro for a good thirty minutes and finally got to the hotel to sleep and wake up early tomorrow for London.

                Here's some of the 100's of amazing pictures the     
            students took inside Notre Dame Cathedral:

      The stonework, woodwork, and stained glass inside Notre Dame are incredible. 

Jillian lighting some candles inside Notre Dame. 

             Finally here are some additional pictures of just our walking tour and dinners from the day: 
Assabet left their mark on the Bridge of Locks.. A bridge lovers go to and throw the key into the river thus locking there love forever.

Mrs. Nykiel and Isabelle enjoying a coffee and cappuchino in a quaint French coffee house during a short free time breaks. 

Some students stopped for authentic French crepes on one of our walking tours. 

This guy takes his nutella and banana desserts very seriously. Two students said these were to die for. 

Our dinner entree at a nice French restaurant just outside the city. Savory beef meat with a type of au gratin potatoes. 

Creme brulee for dessert. 

Some students enjoying their creme brulee. 

Another great but long day in the books. Completed another 8 miles on foot today. Our last night and day in Paris and as Ashley mentioned above certainly a memorable one.

Wake-up time at 5:30am tomorrow and heading to London via the underwater subway system.
Another big day planned:

  • Trafalgar Plaza in London
  • the London Eye (carousel ride) 
  • Jack the Ripper tour
Till tomorrow. Thanks for reading!