By Stefanie Jackson – This summer, a group of Arcadia Middle School students had the experience of a lifetime – traveling overseas – with the help of English teacher Jennifer Lewis.
The kids “had a blast” visiting Paris and London in spite of scorching heat and huge crowds, Lewis said.
Lewis had never traveled abroad before, much less with a dozen middle schoolers in tow, but she was impressed with the maturity the students showed from the planning stage all the way through the last day of the trip.
A colleague recommended an educational touring company and Lewis took it from there. In November 2017, she had her first meeting with parents interested in allowing their kids on the trip. They had more than a year of preparation ahead of them.
An illness in Lewis’ family prevented her from arranging a group fundraiser, but the determined students found other ways of scraping together the funds, from saving birthday money to doing chores and odd jobs. The touring company also offered payment plans.
In England, the students took the Eurostar high-speed railway to London, speeding through a tunnel under the English Channel – the “chunnel.”
At Kings Cross railway station, they saw the entrance to the magical Platform 9 3/4 from the Harry Potter novels.
The group visited Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, although no one caught a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth, who was in Scotland.
Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St. George’s Chapel, and Tower Bridge (not to be confused with nearby London Bridge) were among the sights seen.
At the Tower of London, the kids saw live ravens and were fascinated by the historic prison and torture chambers.
In Paris, the students saw the Eiffel Tower and visited the Louvre, where they saw the Mona Lisa and got “lost” exploring the museum for three or four hours.
At the Palace of Versailles, the dwelling of one of France’s most famous monarchs, Louis XIV, they were awed by the hall of mirrors and garden.
The students took a boat tour of the River Seine and tasted crepes for the first time.
They had the rare experience of visiting Notre Dame Cathedral about a month after it burned.
The kids were proud of themselves for surviving the heat in Paris on its hottest day on record – 114.6 degrees.
And Lewis was proud of the students for their exceptional behavior – no complaining or arguing, even when things didn’t go as planned.
She was pleased “seeing the whole group come together” on their adventure.
“I would totally do that again.”