A first trip abroad to England included a 6-hour flight and a terror scare!
London, England is a brilliant place for a first-time traveler and the ease of which you can move from place to place (not to mention a pretty non-existent language barrier) makes for a great time all around.
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“Spring Break 2004! Panama? Nah… England? Great! Shorts and no shirt weather! Oh wait… It’s cold there too?” And thus began an ignorant American’s first trip abroad and across the pond to jolly ol’ England. Now, it gets cold in Ohio. Especially northern Ohio and, thanks to about 3-4 feet of snow falling overnight, I didn’t even know if we could fly out of Cleveland let alone make it to the airport for our Transatlantic. Well let’s time-machine back real quick and see what we had outside my dorm:
In 2004 I was in my senior year of high school and after studying Chaucer for the year, my classmates and I were offered the opportunity to go on a week-long class trip to London. I jumped at the opportunity and shooting from a disposable, I was able to capture a few memories and thanks to the ‘new’ technology of getting a CD made with a digital copy of my photos, I’ve held them for the past 12 years. In fact, not only have I not looked at these photos in years but I even forgot they existed deep in the recesses of my external hard drive. I’ve never shared these photos with anyone so… no time like the present hey?
The Grand River Academy is an all-boys boarding school located in the small town of Austinburg, Ohio, just outside of Ashtabula and about an hours-drive north of Cleveland. We had good reports of flights being on time so off it was after the mandatory photo op. Our group numbered about 14, students and staff included. A 6-hour flight and the first time outside of the States for most of us, a poor night’s sleep couldn’t even support a quick snooze on the plane due to our excitement. Upon arrival, we hopped on a tour bus and took off for our whirlwind of a week. As an aside, I’m hopeless here chronologically.
The first stop (I’m going to write about, anyways) on our journey was the remarkable Stonehenge. I’ve written at length previously about how seeing Stonehenge for the first time had drastically changed my perception of the world and opened doors for me that were previously unreachable. I mean that in every sense of the phrase, as the prehistoric wonder means an enormous amount to me and my perception of actually leaving home and seeing these places that had previously only existed for me on the television and in textbooks. As corny as it may sound, the experience instilled in me a wanderlust that travels throughout the Middle East, Europe and Asia still hasn’t quenched.
You know, the funny thing about Stonehenge is that once you leave London, the rolling hills interspersed with the countryside of England feel a lot like Ohio. Green, agricultural both in crops and animals, quiet. And then you have it… standing desolately among farm after farm are about 20 massive stones reaching heights of over 20-feet (6m or so) tall. The sheer size of how large the stones are was just breath-taking. I didn’t expect that. In any case, you can click around the blog to read more about my visit to the famous site.
Bath, England, derives its clever name from the Great Roman Baths which sit in the center of the city. The 2nd-century spa of the Roman elite is heated, housed in a still-immaculate and stunning building and is a testament to Roman architecture and ability to conquer lands so very far away. A series of interconnected rooms with dry heat saunas and hot dipping pools are found throughout the millenniums-old facility. A quick visit here and you’ll see why the Romans loved baths the way Kanye loves Kanye.
As I previously mentioned, we studied Chaucer for the duration of our senior year and having a need for an education component to our trip we headed to classic theater for some lessons on the stage and an impromptu fashion show. Apparently there was a group of high school girls also on a school trip so we not only tried on British stage dress but ‘acted’ around in them. I embraced the experience, the girls took it a bit more seriously.
Anyways later in the week we did some proper traveling. As a ‘travel blog’, I’d be remiss without posting some photos of some of the excellent sites of London. The M-I6 Building (SIS Building if that’s your thing), older castles and cathedrals, etc.
The Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace is truly something to see. The guards, immaculately dressed and drilled to precision, perform their march to “bands playing stirring music.” One of London’s most popular attractions, it’s definitely worth the stop during any tour of London. Check out the dates & times of the Changing of the Guard Here.
The Dover Castle was perhaps on of my favorites and also worth spending an afternoon checking out. The sheer amount of history coupled with scenic views make it a terrific experience for all. Situated high above the White Cliffs of Dover, you can see why the castle is near-impregnable and the design and architecture make for an imposing sight.
The rest of our trip included site-seeing tours, a few nights of sneaking out to local pubs and nightclubs (loved that 18-years old drinking ago) and striking out with British girls easily 5-7 years our senior. Here’s the rest of my random snaps from the trip.
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