Saturday, August 6, 2016

My Girl Scout Summer Part 2: Destination Trip to Europe

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By: Sabrina Y.

To be honest, this was the most anticipated summer program of my summer: a Girl Scout Destination trip to England through EF Tours. I never had the opportunity to go outside of the country before. In fact, it had always been a dream of mine, but I assumed it was a dream I would never be able to fulfill until I was much older. But this wasn’t just my first time going outside of the country, it was my older sister, Samantha’s, first time too and we were able to take this amazing trip together. So as you can tell, I was quite enthusiastic to begin this journey to Dublin, London, Wales, and Paris!

QUICK FACTS:

Favorite city: Paris

Favorite site visited:  Too hard of a question, there were so many places to enjoy in every city!

Most memorable moment:  Knowing that I made a friend (Eve!) on the first day, watching some crazy intense Irish Dancing, walking in London as the sun began to set, riding the metro in London for the first time, and driving into Paris for the first time, just to name a few

Funniest moment:  Trying to rap a Hamilton song on the riverboat tour of Paris after loosing my voice due to a cold

Takeaway for any Girl Scout who reads this: You are about to read a very detailed description of my travel to Europe through the Girl Scout Destination program. I hope this makes you excited to try something new and go on your own adventure!  Explore the world, broaden your horizons, and never be afraid to enjoy all the fantastic opportunities that Girl Scouts can offer and all the good things this world has to offer.

BOSTON

Before we left the country, all the girls who already didn’t live near the Boston area came to Boston and spent three days getting to know the city and each another. While we were in Boston we visited several historical sites, took a Duck Boat tour of the city, visited the EF Tour Headquarters of America. We also had a meet and greet with the chaperones as well as with our fellow Girl Scout group members. We shopped and ate at Quincy Market, explored the New England Aquarium and the Boston Museum of Science, and went to Harvard to learn about its rich and interesting history.  For me, two highlights from Boston time were getting to make a few new friends and getting to finally see Harvard University!

IRELAND

Our group, which at this point included 15 more Girl Scouts who lived near the Boston areatook an overnight seven-hour flight from Boston to Ireland.  While it was highly recommended to sleep on the flight since there would be a five-hour time difference once we arrived, it was hard to fall asleep knowing that my adventure was about to begin. And the T.V. screens attached to each seat with the multitude of free and current T.V. shows plus movies didn’t make sleeping any easier.
When we first arrived in Dublin we met our EF Tour Director, Cat who would be with us for the remainder of the trip. Then we all boarded the coach bus and stopped at Trinity College to visit the Book of Kells exhibit.  Afterwards, we went on a guided tour around the streets of Dublin led by, Cat. Then we were given five-hours to go off on our own in small groups to exchange our U.S. dollars into Euros, find a place to eat lunch and explore for our own the shops of Dublin.
We met as a group to eat at a local restaurant and then those who signed up for the Irish dancing show and lesson left for that activity as the remainder of the group left to go check in at the hotel.  As jetlagged as I was, I was still enthusiastic to go to the Irish Dancing show and lesson! This was probably my favorite thing in Ireland because I had an opportunity to watch people dance to traditional Irish music. I was able to see Irish dancing by a World Champion and a professional who currently are in a world-renowned Irish dance show.  We were also able to learn some basic moves for ourselves.  Even though we were all feeling tired, it was just fun to laugh our way through and enjoy the dance lessons.
The next two days in Dublin we spent time exploring the city on our own. I found this a great opportunity to do some souvenir shopping.  My friend and I also used this opportunity to take artsy photos of the city! We took a nice historic bus tour of the city and finally visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  The interior of this cathedral, especially the stained glass windows, was absolutely stunning.
It was sad to say goodbye to such a fun, relaxed, and charming city, but it was time to board the four hour ferry. Next stop: Wales.

WALES
The first place we went to in Wales was the city named llanfairpwllgwngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantyssiliogogogoch (This is not misspelled, real name of the city) to get our passports stamped to say that we went to the European city with the longest name.
Before I move on, I have to say that from the moment we started driving in Wales, I was in awe at the absolutely gorgeous landscapes. I can say that I instantly fell in love with this country because I’ve never seen such a large, lush, and peaceful landscape.

But moving on, our final stop in Wales was Beaumaris Castle, one of many castles in Wales built by King Edward I.  We had the chance to explore the inside of this antiquated, unfinished building.

We stopped at a hotel for the night, but in the morning we got up early to finish our trek to London. Our time in Wales was just for a night because we needed a stopover between Ireland and London.

LONDON
Before we arrived at London, we stopped by a few places in Stratford, England including Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. She was Shakespeare’s wife, not the well-known Hollywood actress.  We also went to Shakespeare’s birthplace.  As a writer and hopefully a future playwright, I gained a refreshing taste of inspiration knowing that I was in the house where a historic writer was born.
Later that day we finally arrived in England’s capital city! Our first stop in London was sightseeing and picture opportunities by Big Ben and the London Eye.  It was a surreal experience to be so close to these iconic landmarks.  It was pretty late in the day by the time we finished, so we headed to our hotel, excited for what the next day had to offer.
The next day we had a delightful tour of the city!  Our tour guide was hilarious and informative!  We stopped for photo ops by places such as St. Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace. What a great finale of the tour because we got to witness the Changing of the Guards Ceremony at Buckingham Palace!  It was like watching a parade performance mixed with a color guard ceremony!
The next day the people who signed up for the Windsor Castle trip spent the whole day exploring the inside of the castle.  For those of you who don’t know, Windsor Castle is in fact the castle where the current Queen of England lives.  It was exciting to journey through the florid, elegant castle!  We also saw some more Royal Guards and we got close enough to take a picture with one of the gentlemen on duty.

            That night those who signed up got the chance to go to West End to see a production of Wicked!  Being the theatre lover that I am, it has been on my bucket list to see a show on West End, so I am happy to have crossed that one off my list!
I was sad to say goodbye to London the next morning, but I had an overall satisfied feeling because I had the opportunity to do all that I had hoped to do while in that city.  So as I boarded the train, a bit groggily, I admit, for our last two days in Paris. I was greatly looking forward to seeing the famous city.

PARIS


I was unquestionably tired, and yet from the moment we started driving through the city of Paris, I was jolted awake.  \I tried to translate the signs and ads we passed by, even though the only other language I know is Spanish.  There was a different vibe in this city. Perhaps it was because it was livelier or because they spoke a different language and that made everything feel so much more foreign to me. Everything thing felt new and exciting.  To this day I’m not quite sure why I was immediately so attracted to this city, but there was just something about it that was so captivating.
Before I go on and tell you about our first stop in Paris, I should probably inform you that on that morning I woke up without a no voice due to a cold. I found it to be more humorous than anything else because I had to spend the next two days whispering French.
Back to our first stop in Paris, the Louvre: because we arrived slightly late, we had an especially tight schedule while visiting the Louvre. However, our group of five made the most of our time.  First, since this was going to be the only time for lunch, we stopped by a French McDonalds and it was interesting to see how the menu differed from the one in the U.S..  After lunch, we decided that we would only have enough time to see the Mona Lisa; we did get to see the art on our way to the Mona Lisa. We also saw all of the art that was on our way to the gift shop.

            After we met back up with our entire group, it was off to Notre Dame. Inside Notre Dame was absolutely exquisite!  I fell in love with the stained glass windows. Also, the peaceful atmosphere was very welcoming and relaxing.
Afterwards we went to dinner, and I know I haven’t really been mentioning dinner but let me just say that these next two days in Paris were food heaven.  My favorite food was on the first day when we had an appetizer that reminded me of flaky pastry bread and on the inside was melted cheese. It was the best cheese I’ve ever had in my life. I also enjoyed our second night’s dinner when we went to a pizza place that served freshly made pizza, but it was especially good because they replaced the marinara sauce with an oozing, decadent cheese sauce.
Aside from eating great food, we also got to take a beautiful boat tour of Paris on the Seine River. This is when we got our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. That same night we also went to the top of a 59-floor tower and were able to get the best view of Paris.
The next day was our last day in Paris, but we were just as busy as we were the previous day.  First we had a bus tour of Paris and we drove past several landmarks and we got the opportunity to stop by one of the best photo places of the Eiffel Tower. We also stopped by the Arch de Triumph, and we had an hour to find a place to eat.  Samantha, Eve, and I got to eat at an outdoor café (They were everywhere in Paris!) and we had a real, traditional crêpe.  I almost died from happiness because I’ve always wanted to eat a crêpe in France.
After the bus tour, those who signed up for it were left to spend the rest of the day at Versailles. This was probably one of my absolute favorite places on the trip. All of a sudden my AP European History textbook came to life as I stood at the entrance. The gates were golden and flashy and intricate. This palace, created by King Louis XIV during his reign, was filled with grandeur. I couldn’t stop staring at the portrait of King Louis XIV because I specifically remember analyzing that portrait in class.  Here it was, right before my eyes. I experienced the same feeling of awe as I walked into the Hall of Mirrors, the most famous room in Versailles. This was merely a picture to me before I came here. How incredible!
Afterwards we met the rest of the group at the pizza place I mentioned earlier.  Then after a little bit more souvenir shopping, it was sadly time to go to the hotel and pack our bags one last time.

BOSTON (again)
We arrived back in Boston where the girls who were in driving distance met their parents. Many girls cried as our journey came to an end. Luckily for me, my closest friends had not left yet and we all shared a hotel room together.  However, they had to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to leave for their flights.  Although my sister and I didn’t have to leave until closer to 8:00 a.m., I stayed awake with them until it was time to finally say goodbye.

GEORGIA (OUR HOME)
A few hours later Samantha and I safely arrived home with new memories, new stories to share, and a slightly deeper understanding of the large world we live in.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Thank you for joining me as I shared with you my unforgettable journey.  I greatly encourage any Girl Scout to consider taking part in a Girl Scout Destination.  I am now a strong advocate for this program through Girl Scouts, so if you have any questions about this trip or the Destinations program in general feel free to email me
(MAKE ME A HOT LINK TO SABRINA’S EMAIL). Sabrina@mygirlscoutproject.com
You can also learn more about Destinations here. (MAKE LIVE LINK TO THIS URL: http://forgirls.girlscouts.org/travel/)

Thank you to GSGATL, EF Tours, my parents, family and friends for providing me with this opportunity of a lifetime!






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