Tuesday, 20 March 2018

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Our final day in London, England was...still cold!

We began the morning with a 3 hour guided sightseeing tour with our guide, Dan, who impressed us with his wealth of knowledge surrounding the history of the city. One of the highlights was our stop at Buckingham Palace where we took photos by the Victoria Memorial, visited the Canada Memorial at the nearby Green Park, and witnessed the Changing of the Guard.

After making another quick stop at St. Paul's Cathedral, we broke off for lunch before heading towards the London Eye. While the walk across the bridge was a chilly one, we were soon warmed by a thrilling 4D pre-show experience before entering the giant "Ferris wheel". We were all mesmerized by beautiful view of the city from at the top!

Our last major stop for our trip was to the Tower of London - the location of the Crown Jewels -  where we travelled in groups for self-guided tours throughout the castle. Though there was lots to see, many of us quickly made our way to the café to escape the snow that had begun to fall! Finally, we officially concluded our European adventures with a lively dinner at the original Hard Rock Café where we belted out the lyrics to major hits such as "Sweet Caroline," "Y.M.C.A.," and "Don't Stop Believin'."

Monday morning was a bittersweet one as we made our way to Heathrow Airport and said a fond farewell to our tour guide, Barrie. While the journey home was a long one, it gave us time to reflect on the unforgettable memories we made together as a group. On the final bus ride from Toronto, Mr. Buma shared some heartwarming closing thoughts, and we gave thanks to God for His guidance, protection, and faithfulness throughout the trip.

We've had an incredible time exploring this part of God's creation over the past twelve days. It has certainly been life-changing for many of the participants, and we thank you for journeying with us and praying for us along the way!

Saturday, 17 March 2018

"England Swings (Like a Pendulum Do)"

So far, we are experiencing a Charles Dickens' London! With the snow and cold, our arrival via the Eurostar was a frigid one. While in the King's Cross Station, we were able to see our breath in the air as we walked around searching for lunch. One student commented that she wished that she had her winter coat and snow pants! Though it was chilly, students hearts were warmed as they entered Platform 9 and 3/4 - the home of the Harry Potter store. One student was very excited about the gift shop and was able to pick up "some goodies."

After a brief ride on the "tube", we were excited to exit the station to see Big Ben, but we were promptly underwhelmed by the sight of scaffolding surrounding the entire tower. The next disappointment was being told that Westminster Abbey was closed for tours until Monday. However, our wonderful tour guide, Barrie, in a serendipitous conversation with a security guard was informed that an Evensong service would take place at 3 PM. Content that we would be able to see the abbey after all, we quickly found shelter in the nearby St. Stephen's Hall Cafe for some warm beverages.

Once inside the abbey, we settled into our seats for a 45 minute service of Bible readings, prayers, and songs. We had the privilege of hearing The Choir of Westminster Abbey sing throughout the service. This choir is comprised of nearly thirty boys and twelve men. Words from the Magnificat "My soul doth magnify the Lord: and my spirit rejoiceth in God my Saviour" rang out with great purity throughout the cathedral. We walked out of the church to the grand sound of the church organ and the ringing bells of Westminster Abbey.

Unfortunately for some of us, our 5:00 AM wake up time this morning conflicted with our ability to keep our eyes open throughout the service. Here are some student comments on the Westminster experience:

  • "I liked the music in the church; I paid more attention than my own church; the young boys’ high notes were super high."
  • "It was interesting to listen to; it’s very different than ours; really traditional."
  • "I fell asleep in the church; that was awkward."
  • "Westminster Abbey was cool because it was something we never experienced before, and the choir was good."

Once the service concluded, we were back out on the cold streets. With a little unplanned time prior to dinner, Barrie challenged the students to see how many could squeeze into an iconic red phone booth. Apparently, the record is 15 people, but we only managed to fit in 11. A student later commented that "fitting a copious amount of children in a small space is not very comfortable."

Our final stop of the day was at The Mad Hatter Hotel for a classic fish and chips supper. The fresh fish was covered with the chef's homemade batter, and the meal was topped off with a chocolate brownie cake with cream for dessert.

After a nearly hour long tube ride, we were happy to see the lighted sign for our hotel after a only 3 minute icy walk from the station. One parent commented that this one "is the nicest hotel we've been in yet!" So while we it was certainly a chilly day, as one student commented, "I have hopes for tomorrow!"

Friday, 16 March 2018

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Le monstre dans le métro

Today was a travelling day.

We headed towards Paris but made a very worthwhile stop at Rouen. Our destination there was the intricately detailed Notre-Dame cathedral. We marveled at the incredible Gothic architecture. We found the inside to be coldly ornate and expansive. We were impressed by the narrow, cobblestone streets as we made our way to the site where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake as a heretic in 1941. Opportunities for lunch were varied and plentiful and we witnessed some demonstrations in the street about low pension funding.

After lunch, we hopped on the bus and headed to Paris where we said "adieu" to our bus driver, Bachir. He grew attached to our group throughout the trip and said that he will miss us.

On our trip to the Eiffel Tower, we discovered that "the monster does live in the metro," as some may recall from grade 9 French. We clutched our purses and cameras, we held each others' hands, we looked left and right, forwards and backwards. We counted consistently. One student said that the experience "got you on your toes and got your adrenaline pumping." And then...we discovered that we were really pros at the metro and found ourselves at the Eiffel Tower. Ascending to the summit was an "uplifting" experience. Though it was rainy and windy, one student said that there were "some good bonding moments while we were all soaked." Upon our descent, we ran for cover as we saw "a wall of rain" approaching the tower.

We made our way through various subway stops to dinner at "Grains Nobles et Plus" in the Sorbonne neighbourhood. We were treated to a tasty meal of potatoes, sweet potatoes, and pulled pork, and finished with a dessert described by the students as "mango mush" and "an attempted crème bruleé" with a zest of lemon topped with strawberries. Unfortunately, our tour guide left his backpack at the Eiffel Tower, so we had to fend for ourselves in making our way back to the hotel. One student commented that "we missed Bachir because of our experiences [misadventures] on the subway." Another student was heard to say that "the subway was an adventure and that's okay because adventures make everything interesting."

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Our final day in London, England was...still cold! We began the morning with a 3 hour guided sightseeing tour with our guide, Dan, who imp...