By Raquel Florez ’16
In the interest of full disclosure, Raquel Florez attended the trip.
A smashing group of intrepid Hornets made the pond jump over spring break to Ireland, Scotland and England for ten days of history, culture and fun.
It was 7:20 in the morning in the city of Dublin when we first encountered Benito De Rosa, our tour guide, also known as Ben.
He welcomed us with a kind smile and asked, “Now, who needs the loo?”
On our way to the bus, signs filled our sight with words we could not decipher. They were in Gaelic, Ireland’s official language.
At the bus, we met our sturdy companion, Gavin. He was our bus driver, and we would become the first group to whom he provided this service. Most days he greeted us with a “good morning” and would later bid us adieu. He made our commutes worry free.
Although we did not know it yet, Ben and Gavin would grow fond in all of our hearts.
In Dublin, the sights of the city awed the students between yawns and naps on the bus.
“Traveling for a full day with no rest, and then a nonstop tour of Dublin was dreadful,” explained Sarah Epelman ’15, “but needless to say whenever I opened my eyes I felt an unexplainable sensation of relief.”
Dublin’s main attraction on day one was Trinity College, a prestigious Protestant college founded in 1592, whose cobbled stones guide the way to the Book of Kells. The book dates back to the ninth century, with pages made of vellum, a type of calfskin, it contains the early versions of the four gospels. Next up was The Old Library, a chamber that could only be imagined in movies; in fact it was the inspiration for the library in Star Wars 2 Attack of The Clones. The Library contains over 200,000 books within 118 feet.
Day two of the trip, Easter Sunday, we saw St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We were present in one of the sacred churches on one of the holiest days in the Protestant religion. The bells were chiming, the chorus was singing, the Guinness family attended, and we were there to witness this religious holiday. We then walked through Phoenix Park where Dublin’s flora and fauna came out in the sun to display the beauty of nature. The night ended on a memorable note of Irish Folk songs and dances exciting a crowd of tired teens.
Belfast was next. As we drove through the city we saw its controversial murals that depicted the different political opinions of the Irish. They left students perplexed and thoughtful about the struggles and separation within one nation.
Despite the hardships Belfast has faced their history goes beyond its civil war. The Titanic, the largest ocean liner ship of her time, was built in Belfast and proved to be a bittersweet experience. The exhibit we visited was filled with symbolic meaning. The benches outside the exhibit spelled “S.O.S” in Morse code, the building formed the shape of the star for The White Star Line, the company that owned the Titanic, and much more.
That night continued to surprise students. Those who decided to take on the streets encountered large fountains, which they proceeded to run through with a light hearted delight.
Belfast is also widely acknowledged for Giant’s Causeway, 40,000 square feet of interlocking columns that resulted from a volcanic eruption. It is also one of the many sites used in the taping of Game of Thrones. It was in these locations that nature unveiled itself and allowed the beauty of Belfast to come into full bloom.
Onward we went on the Stena Line Ferry to Scotland, birthplace of renowned poet Robert Burns and the setting of J.K Rowling’s famous Harry Potter series.
“I am personally a huge fan of Harry Potter, but I did not realize how real the set locations were,” said Emily Kaufman ’15.
The city of Edinburgh is divided between the old and the new. They share some architectural similarities, such as the esthetic of the buildings, however, small alleyways, cobble streets, and subterranean volts set Old Edinburgh apart.
These unique features made the Ghost walk more realistic as we walked through the alleys where men had been killed, and stepped beneath the places where men had been hung and whipped.
Taking us even farther back into history, we visited the Edinburgh Castle, built in the 12th century. For over 800 years it has stood strong upon a hill and has endured countless invasions from the English. The castle was always ready for an attack, with a drawbridge, and four gates that must be passed to reach the castle, very few ever made the capture. The royal jewels have been secured there since 1919.
“Everything was so ancient and so filled with history, if walls had ears we would probably be amazed by the truths no one knows,” said Kaufman.
After an overnight train ride where the rooms felt crammed and the ride not as smooth as most travelers had hoped, sightseeing of London began.
At Buckingham Palace we witnessed the commemorative changing of the royal guards; at The Parliament the sound of the wind was more audible than the place itself as we were the only tour excursion there. We rode the tube, their subway, passed by memorable stations such as Paddington Station and 9 and ¾ in Kings Cross Station. We walked down their SoHo and went on a Jack the Ripper Tour. Some students went to watch Wicked in “The West End”, the theatrical place to be, while other students went to see the Crown Jewels. Both nights were curfew free.
Finally, we packed our bags with our dirty cloths, the knick-knacks we bought on our free time around the city, and the homework we still had not finished.
“I had outlines to finish, and I had research to begin,” said Emma Hone ’16. “I was so grateful for that five hour flight, but I still didn’t finish most of my work, just talked about the trip with all my roommates.”
Yuliana Maria ’17 said,“I cannot wait until next year’s trip as long as our chaperones are just as kind.”
Mr. Lawrence Kolotkin, Mrs. Patricia Lazo, Ms. Fannie Daniels, Mr. Pieter Chicofsky, Mrs. Lynda Grabowski, and Mrs. Fern Bren were great chaperones. Thank you for putting this trip together and making it so memorable for us all. Thank you for taking care of us, laughing with us, and bringing us back home.
Next year’s trips are possibly Peru in February and the Swiss Alps in April. For more information, visit Mr. Kolotkin in room A217.