London, Paris, Barcelona 2017
In June of 2017, twenty-four of us left for Western Europe. We started our tour in London, then continued to Paris, and finished in Barcelona. Our team had taken students to London and Paris before, but it was our first time to Spain. My colleague ran this tour, and I guided him along the way. Something we decided to do before we left on tour was spend more time educating the students on the cities we were visiting. There were three teachers going, so we each of us took one of the three cities. Starting in February, we had the students come once a month to talk a little about the history of the city and what we were going to see. I presented on the city of Barcelona (click to see presentation). I have written about London and Paris before on previous trip pages, so I will just add a couple of captions for those cities, but I will spend more time on Barcelona, since this was our first student trip there.
London is a wonderful city, especially as a first city abroad for new travelers. Without a language barrier, students feel more at ease with traveling there. I have always liked the Samuel Johnson quote, "...when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."
The Tower of London (as seen in the left picture) is a must see and almost always on the EF itinerary. Built in 1066 by William the Conqueror, parts of the tower has been a defense fort, a palace, and a prison. It was the sight of famous executions, royal families and even a zoo. Today it hosts the "new" crown jewels (created in 1661 after the previous crown jewels were destroyed by Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell.)
Above on the left is the building the house the English Crown Jewels. Viewing is included in the price of a ticket (around 24 pounds), and it is always exciting for the students to see them. The British are known for their pageantry, and seeing these will not disappoint. In the above right is a photo of the famous Traitor's Gate, where prisoners would pass from the Thames River to the Tower. Although Ann Boleyn (King Henry VIII's 2nd wife) is rumored to have come through through here before her execution, it was definitely the passage used by Sir Thomas Moore before his execution.
Above on the left is from the Changing of the Guards Ceremony (remember, the English love their pageantry) in front Buckingham Palace. It happens daily during the summer months at around 11 AM. I would check their schedule before you visit . It is fun to watch, but it lasts 45 minutes, and it can get very crowded. In the above right photo is the famous Trafalgar Square. It seems like many things are called Waterloo and Trafalgar (they beat Napoleon at each location) in England; the famous National Gallery is in the square and is free to enter. In England many of the museums are free, which is a welcome change to many attractions in the United States.
Paris is one of my favorite cities. I have had the pleasure of going to Paris a few times with EF, but each time I am continually amazed by their venues. Whether you shop at an art stand along the Seine River, visit one of their many museums that house some of the the greatest art the world has to offer, or you stop for a quick coffee and sandwich and people watch, Paris has something for everyone. Paris is alive; it is a living breathing organism; and it is a lot of fun just walking around the city and taking it all in. I have done previous write ups on Paris (you can go here or here for more detailed information).
Both pictures above are from the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was created in the late 1100's, and today is considered one of the most famous cathedrals in world. It was one of the first buildings in their architectural design to use flying buttresses. It has beautiful stain glass windows, and it has finely detailed sculptures all around the building. I decided to wait in line to take the long spiral staircase to the top. The wait in line take anywhere from 30 minutes to an 1 hour, and you walk at your own pace to the top.s0 minutes + and cost 1o euro, but the views are spectacular (see picture above on the right)
As I am a teacher of European history, I feel like a visit to Versailles is a must see. It is always a mandatory option for my students, and they are never disappointed. To see this vast palace created by the "Sun God" King Louis XIV really brings history alive for teachers and students alike. The obligatory AP European History group picture in the Hall of Mirrors (see above on the left) is always a keepsake for me. It is almost a full day there since often the tour group will get broken into two smaller tour groups. While your touring in Versailles the other part of your your group will get to see the spectacular gardens and fountains (see picture above on the right), and then your groups will switch.
Barcelona is a very different city from both London and Paris. It much more spread out; it is right along the water (although they have man made beaches); and it has a huge influence from architect Antoine Gaudi. I think for some of our students Barcelona was there favorite city, because it was so unique and less crowded than London and Paris. We are from San Diego, and the kids love the beach. Going to the water was a highlight, and this coupled with the language made them feel more at home. The combination of beaches, parks and shopping was a perfect end of to our Europeans tour.
Above on the left is a picture from Ciutadella Park, one of the stops on our bike tour. The park is 70 acres in total and was constructed in 1714. In the picture above on the right, we made a stop at the beach. We got to see the beautiful scenery and learn about the transformation of the landscape. Biking in a big city like Barcelona is a great way to see the city on a more intimate level. The bus tour is nice, but being able to quickly maneuver on bike allows you to go to places that aren't accessible by bus. The bike tour is an optional, but it is well worth it!
Both pictures are from Park Guell, the heavily Gaudi influenced park on the hill overlooking the city center and beach. Originally created to be a rich safe-haven from the busy city life, it failed, since the rich people from Barcelona wanted to be seen by the masses. Only one rich family bought a plot and built a house (which is still being used by the family today). The parks serves as a fantastic tourist attraction. As you tour the park, you learn about the vision for the neighborhood, and you can admire much of Gaudi's handywork.
Picture Credit: Top Lists Tips
Above on the left is an aerial view of Las Ramblas, and on the right is our group walking on the street. The major street which goes throughout the city center. Surrounded by Plain Trees, it has restaurants, shopping and plenty of people watching.