One of the reasons I have been MIA from the blog this year is because I had taken 24 students overseas to 6 countries and 9 cities around Europe for three weeks with two other teachers.

Our first stop was London, where we got the opportunity to visit many museums and tourist hotspots such as the Natural History Museum, Buckingham Palace, the British Museum, the Tate Modern, the Victoria and Albert Museum and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre where we participated in a Romeo and Juliet workshop run by one of the actors at the Globe! We also visited the Warner Bros Studios where we spent three hours on the set of Harry Potter and marvelled at the costumes, special effects, models and props from the film series. In the evenings, we got the opportunity to see Matilda and Once the Musical on the West End. Many Whovians were particularly excited at the chance to meet Arthur Darvill after Once The Musical as we got his autograph, a photo and a little dance with the talented actor/musician!

Next stop was Amsterdam where we headed straight to the beautiful Keukenhof Gardens and had a delightful bike ride near a clog factory and windmill. The next day, some students went to Delft to see how the beautiful Royal Delft pottery is made while others when to Nemo, the Science Centre in Amsterdam, and a tour of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam. In the afternoon, we all met up at the Rijkmuseum for some more art culture. On our last day at Amsterdam, we went on  boat cruise along the canals before visiting the sombre Anne Frank’s House.

That night we caught an overnight train to Munich which was an exciting experience! When we arrived in Munich, we got given a tour of the centre of town and tasted the local delicacy of a “schmalznudel” for breakfast! We then went on a tour of the Olympia stadium where there was a Sparta Challenge event and we watched participants jump over a fire to the finish line! After the stadium tour, we found ourselves at BMW World, looking at the latest auto-technology at BMW! In the afternoon, we visited the Nymphenburg castle and its hunting house. In the afternoon, some students went to the Pinakothek museums to immerse themselves with the art galleries on offer in Munich while others relaxed in a community park and played various games like hacky sack and leapfrog! On our last day of Munich, we visited Dachau, which was the first concentration camp that was used as a model for others during World War II. It was a sobering experience seeing the conditions and learning about the treatment of those detained.

Our next stop was Salzburg in Austria, where we went on a Sound of Music tour, visiting the key film locations from the movie and re-enacting some of the most memorable scenes! We also visited Mozart’s birthplace and the incredible Hohensalzburg Castle, which was built 937 years ago!

Before we knew it, we said “so long, farewell” to Austria and departed for an Italian adventure starting with a day in Verona, checking out ‘Juliet’s balcony’ on our way to La Spezia. We had a relaxing day in Cinque Terre, visiting the five colourful villages along the coastline andwe watched the gorgeous sun set against the backdrop of a picturesque endless sea. Soon, we were off again, this time to Florence! No visit to Florence is complete without a visit to the Duomo and the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s magnificent David sculpture made out of marble! Being Easter, it was only appropriate to have an Easter Egg Hunt at the Boboli Gardens! On our last day in Florence, some students went to Pisa and took creative photographs with the Leaning Tower, while others stayed in Florence and watched the amazing fireworks display to celebrate Easter Sunday! That afternoon, we boarded our flight to our last European destination – PARIS! The flight was particularly special to one of the students, who celebrated her 16th birthday that day by joining the pilots in the cockpit for the landing into Paris! I was lucky to accompany her to the cockpit and meet the pilots since I was the one who sneakily informed them of her birthday.

Despite only having only two full days in Paris, we managed to squeeze in a visit to the Lourve, shopping along Champs Elysee and seeing the Arc De Triomphe, going up the Eiffel Tower, exploring MontMarte and Sacre-Coeur, a river cruise along the Seine, a tour of the Palace of Versailles, a Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, a visit to Notre Dame and sought refuge from the rain at Shakespeare & Co, where many students fell in love with the books and the ambience of the shop (which one of our musical prodigy students contributed to with his piano solo upstairs!).

It’s quite amazing to reflect back on all the things we saw and did in only just three weeks!

To help us remember, I had set up a Facebook page: www.facebook.com/DCEurotrip2014 to share our experiences with friends, families and the community.

I also made videos during the trip so that families could see that their children were doing well and were having a ball! We got a lot of positive feedback from the families when we got back about the constant photo and video updates!

The videos can be found here (for some unknown reason, a few of them can only be viewed on a desktop or laptop):

CANBERRA-SYD-LONDON: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAtWB0Jc2vk

AMSTERDAM-MUNICH: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjsDnm6BpGM

SALZBURG-LA SPEZIA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZF2ST0Ko7g

CINQUE TERRE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qt4EwpxUc7E

FLORENCE-PARIS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlCANWpqeLM

The trip took place on the last week of Term 1 and most of the Easter school holidays, so I only had 3 days at home before Term 2 started again. When talking to friends and even colleagues about the trip (before and after), they say something about how it’s a holiday for me and the other teachers and how good we had it.

I suppose the term ‘holiday’ mean different things to different people.

A ‘holiday’ doesn’t usually involve being away from family and friends, and instead be responsible for 24 teenagers for three weeks halfway around the world. Did I enjoy myself? Yes. Did I feel fortunate to be a part of the trip? Of course. Although it wasn’t really anything to do with fortune or luck – my colleagues and I had been planning this excursion for over a year with many late nights, mountains of paperwork, playing waiting games with travel services, negotiating prices and maintaining regular communication with students and their families. We were not just teachers – we were accountants, travel agents, tour guides, nurses, counsellors, security guards, photographers, public relations officers, event managers, researchers and many other roles. 

Was it worth it? Absolutely! I loved seeing the students’ eyes widen with awe and disbelief at each museum, palace and gallery, watching new friendships being formed, and making links between what they had learnt in classrooms to what is now right in front of them. The joy I felt wasn’t so much from knowing that I was in a beautiful foreign country, but from watching these students absorb everything around them.

That’s the magic I want to capture and take back to the classroom. 

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