By Stephanie Patella '20
On Thursday, April 18th, over 20 students departed from JFK airport to embark on a trip of a lifetime. They spent a full week in Europe, experiencing the many magnificent sites, food and culture.
Over the course of these seven full days, Fontbonne students were accompanied by Mr. Petric, Mr. Surdyka, Ms. Pagan, Ms. Durso and tour guide Clelia. The group toured the most famous places in London and Paris, including Stonehenge, Buckingham Palace, and, of course, the Eiffel Tower.
I had the privilege of venturing out with this lovely group of people, and I can safely say that this has been a wonderful and eye-opening experience for all of us. This trip has enabled us to grow closer to one another and share an amazing adventure that we will remember forever.
After a six-hour flight to London, our group was able to explore the beautiful Kensington Gardens. Clelia brought us to the heart of the area, known as the King Albert Memorial. Clelia explained that King Albert, who was married to Queen Victoria, died in 1861. In memoriam of her husband, Queen Victoria wanted to dedicate a larger-than-life statue of King Albert so that he would always be with her in spirit.
Clelia enjoyed providing us with fun facts throughout the trip. She was also in charge of planning our daily agenda. Clelia would create a layout of fun activities, magnificent sites, shopping areas and, of course, places to eat! Each day, she allotted the group a substantial amount of free time to explore the fascinating surroundings. Clelia designated exact times where we all must join back together in our meeting spot. Although our group seemed to have gotten off to a rocky start as far as arriving promptly, we were able to shape up as the week progressed.
After a lax first day, time seemed to speed by faster than we knew. Our group spent two days exploring the beautiful sites of London. A few of my favorite spots were Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Stonehenge. Even though the tall gates of Buckingham Palace were closed, my friends and I were still able to take photos and imagine ourselves as part of the royal family. We were, on the other hand, able to tour St. Paul’s Cathedral. The architecture from the roof to the tiles was absolutely breathtaking.
On our final day in London, our group toured the sacred prehistoric monument, Stonehenge. Unbeknownst of its significant background, Clelia explained that the monument was built 5,000 years ago during the Bronze Age. She explained that Stonehenge was believed to be used as a burial ground but historians still wonder about its true purpose.
On Easter Sunday, our group took a five-hour ferry ride from London to France. Our first day in France was spent at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. This day had a serious emotional background as we learned about the landing operations of the Allied Powers at Normandy on June 6, 1944, during World War II. Countless lives were lost during this battle, but their lives are truly never forgotten. We walked around the cemetery overlooking the beach where the Allied Powers fought for their lives. Clelia explained that the trenches located on the beach were used as barriers for the Allies when the Germans were shooting at them from the top of the hill. Ms. Durso said that she truly enjoyed this part of the trip because she believes that she “witnessed a small piece of history” and now has a “stronger connection to American freedom even in another country.”
After this emotionally heavy day, we now come to my absolute favorite part of the trip… the Eiffel Tower! Our group was not only able to see its beautiful lights twinkle at night, but we were able to climb to the top of the tower to overlook the dazzling city of Paris. “Wow, finally,” Ms. Pagan exclaimed as we looked down from the top of the tower, “It felt like we were on top of the world.”
Our final two days can be summarized in these three words: perfume, biking, and macarons. Our last day in Paris was spent at the Musee Du Parfum Fragonard, also known as the Fragonard Perfume Museum. As teenage girls, we were obviously very excited to buy French perfumes, lotions, and soaps. However, we did find the roots of creating the scents of perfumes to be quite interesting. We learned that a small town in France, known as Grasse, is the world capital of perfume. In order to capture the scents to create the perfect perfume, people would hand pick certain flowers from Grasse and absorb the juices from the flowers into a machine. After hours and hours of machinery work, the juices would finally be shipped to other places for companies to use as their next perfume, lotion or soap product.
We closed out our trip with the beautiful Palace of Versailles. The structure and scenery were absolutely marvelous. We biked around the beautiful grassland area and along the small glimmering rivers. “This was definitely my favorite part of the trip,” sophomore Brynn Nelsen exclaimed. As a reward for our wonderful biking skills, Brynn, myself, and a few of our friends decided to treat ourselves to macarons from the most famous French bakery, Laduree.
After scarfing down the best ten macarons I have ever eaten, we took one final ride back to our hotel. On this ride back, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Clelia to ask her what she thought of our group and the entirety of our trip. She said that in the past few years working as a tour guide, she has never seen a group of people “so curious, enthusiastic, and sweet.” She believed that it was “so nice to witness such a tight group of people discovering the world beyond what they see every day.” Before our group parted ways with her, Clelia left us with this beautiful and heartfelt quote: “Travel pushes you past your limits but it makes you stronger and wiser.”
After dealing with a delayed, and eventually canceled, flight, it was obvious that our group was ready to return home. We were greeted by our family and friends at the airport and finally back in our own home. We are extremely thankful for the wonderful experience and hope to travel again soon!