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A short trip to London, Great Britain.

Monday 25th until Friday, September 29th, 2000.
As usual, all the students from the third class of the Havo level of the CSG Reggesteyn highschool went for a short trip to London. Our teachers of English (Ms. Westra), Geography (Mr. De Kruyf) and Mathematics (Mr. Heuver) were assigned as our guides during what would be my first trip to Great Britain. We left Rijssen very early that Monday and went to Calais (France) in order to catch the ferry to Dover (England). The boat trip was very cool, as it was an enormous ship and there were plenty of nice things to do on board. Standing at the bow, we could see the White Cliffs of Dover rising up out of the North Sea water. You can see a few photos of these cliffs in the Photo album. Once we arrived at Dover, we moved over to the left side of the road and went on to the picturesque city of Canterbury. We went on a sightseeing trip through this beautiful city and bought ourselves some wishcards and other goodies for our relatives at home. Afterwards we hit the road to London and arrived there in the evening. At night we stayed at the house of our host family, who often take care of students and tourists and provide them with the basic needs. That became quite an experience actually... We (Jasper, Henri, Bart and I) were picked up in a very small car driven by quite a fat woman. She seemed to be working nightshifts, so we seldom got to see her during our stay. The beds we had to sleep on were also not as comfortable as we had hoped for. We could feel the springs of the mattresses in our backs and we had to fold the thing that was supposed to be a pillow a couple of times to get it into a decent shape.
The next morning we had to get up early for breakfast. Breakfast consisted of some sort of sandwiches/toast with some milk or some orange lemonade. A detail worth mentioning: both the orange lemonade and the butter never saw the inside of a refridgerator and stood on the table untouched during the whole week. The lunches every day consisted of some sandwiches with vegetables (lettuce, tomatoes and stuff like that). Thank goodness that was something that the birds in the parks and the ducks in the river Thames really enjoyed.
The days we spent in the city center of London were marvelous. During our many up-tempo walks through the city we saw such things as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the changing of the guard, the Royal Albert Hall, Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, St. Paul's Cathedral and more. Each day we got subway tickets, which allowed us to travel quickly through the whole city. It worked very well, though we had to be concentrated to use very quick way of transportation. Luckily all went very well...
During one of these days we went to the Science Museum. We had to choose between this one and the British National Museum, but the latter seemed to be way less attractive to me. After hearing about the experiences of those who had been to the British National Museum, I knew I had made the right decision. The museum which I went to with only a couple of students (the majority went to the other one), was quite interesting. They had old steam driven machines, old mechanical calculators, scale models of Navy ships, aircrafts and even a full-size model of a McLaren Formula 1 car on display. The big con to this whole thing was that we had to write a report about it afterwards, so we were obliged to take notes, read those texts near the subjects, et cetera. After visiting the museum, we went to the St. Pauls Cathedral. It was an amazing experience to climb to the top of this big church. From here we had a spectacular view of London. You can see a photo of this impressive view in the Photo album.
Not much changed during our stay at the host family's house. On the first day we ate some rice for dinner, on the second day we had bakmi/noodles and on the third and last day we got the left overs from both days served up on our plates... When we got home after a busy day in the city, the owners' son took care of us, but we barely had contact with him. His parents were mostly active at night. For our reports we needed to do some sort of interview with at least one of the family members but even trying to arrange that was kinda useless so in the end we came up with the answers ourselves. To show the family in an even brighter ironic light: the bathroom was far from clean, so we decided not to take a shower there as no one dared to do so. In the main hall of the house stood a few oil drums, with unknown content. Unwashed laundry could be found all over the house and their backyard seemed to be a garbage dump for the whole neighbourhood. Okay, we only had to stay there during nights only, so it wasn't too bad in the end, but hearing the stories from other students who played games with their host families, watched television, had good food, et cetera, made us a bit jealous. Anyhow, these are the experiences that will last for a long time in our memories.
On another day we went to the Tower of London, a huge defensive building which exhibits the Crown Jewels of the British monarchy. We also had to complete a few exercises there, so there was no time to relax and take a good look at all of the old stuff in the semi-museum. Near the Tower of London is Great Britain's most famous bridge over the river Thames, the Tower Bridge. It was a very nice experience to walk over this enormous bridge.
The next day we went to the city of Windsor. It's located not far from London and it is famous because of the Windsor Castle and Eton College. We had some time off in this picturesque village, so we visited some typical small British shops and bought some candy and stuff like that. We just had a very nice time under the gentle sun of September.
On Thursday, the last day of our trip, we visited the well-known Covent Garden. This is an area where street artists perform and entertain the people. Covent Garden itself is a cosy shopping mall with several floors. Unfortunately most of us were already out of money, so we could do nothing but look around and drool over the items in the shop windows. Because there was a long night ahead of us, including the trip back to the Netherlands, we decided to go to a supermarket to buy some cheap crackers and drinks. After that, we rushed to McDonalds to get some Happy Meals. That was definitely way better than the dry rice and disgusting sandwiches we got from our host family. We actually got quite hungry after all these days... We spent the last night in a theater, where the musical 'Starlight Express', originally written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, was being performed. It was a very flashy and active musical but due to the loud noises and my lack of understanding English, I could barely follow the story.
When the musical was finished we got on our bus straight away and started our trip back to the Netherlands. We travelled mostly during the night, which allowed us to stay free from traffic jams and such. Plus we would arrive at a nice time in Rijssen. During the trip on the ferry we went outside on the deck where it was pretty stormy. Inside the ship it was all silent as most people were asleep. The whole trip went smoothly, and we made an early stop right on the Dutch/Belgium border near the city of Hazeldonk to stretch our legs. There the students could buy themselves breakfast and et cetera. The McDonalds on the other side of the highway was also open and of course a few students went there to get some French fries. After the stop it wasn't long before we arrived in Rijssen. Once we arrived at our school, we got out of the busses, collected our baggage and said goodbye to the others. After a full day and night without sleep, we were quite tired and rushed home to our beds to get some sleep.
Though the whole week flew by, we all had a lot of cool and a few less cool experiences. The next day I took my snapshot photocamera to a store to develop the photos. All the photos I took are in the Photo album. I added a short description to all of them. This was definitely a cool trip to London and if you're able to go there yourself, do so! I really hope to be able to go there again...