Ten Days in Europe: A Memory Making Field Trip With Stephen

Day 1: Its 8:30 pm on January 1, and we are on a plane headed to London. It seems strange to count this as Day 1 because it’s just travel, but I am excited and a little anxious. Excited, because Europe! Huzzah and other appropriate British expressions. Travel is fun! Anxious, because traveling with 30 kids and adults on various mass transits is disconcerting especially when I am used to traveling with Paul Carter, who handles all vacay logistics while the kids and I follow behind him like ducklings after their mother. I think I am either up for this or an excellent actor because no one has called me out. I guess they’ll let anyone take other people’s kids to Europe these days.

This is a cool opportunity for Stephen to see places he has only read about and he is genuinely excited for it. One of the reasons I wanted to come along was to watch him see all of this for the first time. That sounds stalker-ish, but if you’re a parent, you get it. Of course the other reason was to head off any international incidents, as Stephen was the child that set off Canadian security in Toronto when he attempted to smuggle a Nerf gun in his backpack across the border. That was 7 years ago and much has changed, but one never forgets security pulling your 8 year old out of line to search him for weapons. So off we go on our European Adventure. May we learn and experience amazing things and manage to avoid being locked up abroad.

There will be so many selfies because how else would you know we were there?

Day 2: We hit the ground running in London with little and no rest. I had a little and Stephen had none. The good news is that he managed to watch Deadpool 2, The Death of Stalin, and The Cloverfield Paradox overnight on the plane, so he was definitely “fresh.” The first thing that needs to be addressed is that in the United Kingdom, people speak with a British accent. I adore it. I mean, I quite adore it. It feels like I’m living in a BBC production. Every book I’ve ever read set in London feels very alive to me right now.

We walked over to St. Paul’s Cathedral where Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles in what my 9 year old self deemed the most romantic thing ever (which says everything about what tween girls understand of romantic relationships). We broke for lunch and as this is a trip of high school students we chose to dine at Pizza Express. Most of the boys ordered the American pizza, as you do when in England for the first time. I’m being cheeky (because I am very British right now) about the pizza, but honestly it is pretty cool watching these kids navigate so many things for the first time. Trips like this aren’t always just about history, architecture and culture. A lot of what we learn in new settings stretches us and teaches us things about ourselves we never realized.

After lunch we did more walking over the Thames and down by Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, over to Covent Garden, Leicester Square and on to Piccadilly Circus. So many cool things we’ve heard about, seen pictures of, and finally were able to experience. My biggest takeaway today is that London is an amazing mix of traditional and innovative. It’s a vibrant city and I rather enjoyed it.

The weather was chilly today and with all the walking and lack of sleep overnight I think we’ll all crash at the hotel, which is where we are headed now.

Our guide through this entire experience is Gareth, which is the most British name ever. It’s like the King James Version of Gary and you can’t argue the authority of that. Gareth is the father of two teens himself, so he kind of gets who his audience is. He is snarky and gives as good as he gets. He looks a bit like Gordon Ramsey with glasses, but has not cussed anyone out for mucking up the risotto.

I’ll keep you posted as we go if that changes.

My 9 year old self was up at 5:30 am to watch live a televised royal wedding in this church 38 years ago. I was more committed to that marriage than Prince Charles was.

Day 3: Gareth Gordon Ramsey is a world class sprinter in men’s dress shoes. We were up, breakfasted, train, tube, and meeting a tour guide to walk to Buckingham Palace in short order and that was the pace car for the race that was today. Buckingham Palace was very cool because it’s so iconic. We went from there to Westminster Abbey, Parliament (Big Ben is covered in scaffolding until 2021-so plan accordingly) and the statues in Parliament Square. We grabbed lunch near the Tower of London and had two hours to wander all through there. We did not see the Crown Jewels as that is not the jam of 15 year old boys, especially when the queue is an hour long. Stephen’s official response: NOPE. After the Tower we made a mad dash for the London Eye. I cannot emphasize how chaotically fast this was- so many people and so much sprint walking while slaloming around baby strollers, slow pedestrians, pick pockets, street corner evangelists, and assorted shady games of chance being operated on the actual sidewalk. We made it on the Eye which was a great opportunity for views and pictures, shout out to London for not raining on us these three days. The 30 minutes on the Eye was just enough time to catch our breath for the sprint/slalom back across the Bridge and to the tube which we rode to dinner. Dinner was followed by another tube ride to the Theater for “Wicked.” I know nothing about Theater but it was a fun show. Very clever. (I’ve picked up quite a few British colloquialisms these last 48 hours). From the Theater it was back on the tube and back to the train, where we now sit headed for our hotel, at 11:23 pm.

No red uniforms in winter, but those hats are everything we need them to be.
Westminster Abbey, Will and Kate were married here in a wedding I did not attend.
You don’t come all this way and not get a picture with a hero.
2021 on Big Ben’s facelift.

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