Sunday, May 24, 2015

Another Year, Another Adventure

It's that time of year again...People to People travel season!

This summer I'm fortunate enough to be traveling with a small group of local junior high and high school students out of the Burbank area. We will be "blending" with a larger delegation from the Pennsylvania area. Unfotunately, we won't get to meet our other cohorts until we are already abroad. 

This summer I'm traveling on an itinerary to Greece and Italy, rightfully titled "Modern and Ancient Civilizations." The last time I was in Greece was back in December 2010/January 2011 for a winter study abroad program through my university. Well, that didn't exactly go as planned - by the third day, I was hospitalized in a Greek hospital in Crete. Talk about an experience of a lifetime. 

I travelled to Italy back in March 2014 with my mom - so I am excited to go back. I absolutely loved my time there! 

We'll be gone for about 20 days - starting our program in Greece and ending in Rome, Italy. 

During our last program, I tried in earnest to update the blog every day but we were inundated with so many activities each day (and I was often too tired when we retreated back to our hotel room each evening) that it was difficult to keep up.

However, I will try again this summer. Hopefully, I do a better job than I had previously. 

Until then - buongiorno!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Our European adventure continues...

We started Day 6 with a trip to the Louvre Museum. The delegates were able to split into smaller groups with a leader and explore those exhibition halls that interested them the most. Many of our students chose to visit the Mona Lisa, Venus di Milo, Winged Victory, and the Last Summer depiction. After exploring the museum, the students earned some free shopping time in the Louvre carousel before lunch time. 

That afternoon we found ourselves at the top of the world - at the Eiffel Tower! Lines were short and we made it up to the viewing platform in remarkable time. The delegates were greeted with a 360 degree view of Paris - a view of a lifetime! This was what many of our delegates were waiting for since embarking on the trip.

Day 7 brought us to Versailles! Again, delegates were split up into smaller groups and had the opportunity to explore the grounds with a leader. Last year on program, my group explored Marie Antoinette's children's apartments...and not much else because if the time constraints. This year, I was able to explore Marie and Louie's apartments and bedrooms, along with the famed Hall of Mirrors. The delegates also got a chance to view the palatial grounds and see the gardens. 

After Versailles and lunch, we headed to our coach and picked up our French guide for our afternoon bus tour. Our guide took us around the city and brought our tour to an end at Montmartre. After a long day of walking, our delegates were challenged to climb the 300 some steps up to the Sacre Coeur and artists' quarter at the top of the hill.  We made it to the top though! Our delegates had the opportunity to explore the Basilica and walk around in small groups and shop. 

The next day signified the end of our time in France. (As much as I love the great places we visited, I was happy to leave the Parisians behind...and our hotel!) We were then off to Belgium! We arrived in the town of Ypres and visited the In Flanders Museum and learned how World War I ravaged the town of Ypres and how Belgium fought in WWI. 

After our visit to the museum, we split into two smaller groups and received an introduction to Belgian chocolate making and Belgian waffle recipes! (I'm pretty sure the students had their fill of both before the afternoon was over!)

When were full on chocolate, waffles, and gelato, we loaded back onto the bus and were off to Bruges! Once we were arrived, we were herded onto three waiting carriages and had a wonderful horse-drawn carriage around the city center. The locals were all too excited to say hello to our delegates as we paraded around the city.

Day 9 brought our journey into the Netherlands and The Hague. We started our day with a bicycling tour through a 17th century Dutch heritage windmill park. We rode for a bit before stopping for a picnic lunch and a game of soccer with some Dutch locals. The delegates loved puttingall their energy to good use!

After our bike ride, we headed back to the city and to the Peace Palace. We didn't make it inside, though, because - as we found out that day - it is closed on Sundays. However, the delegates still enjoyed viewing the establishment from the front gates and took plenty of pictures with their new friends!

Stay tuned for the next installment of our adventure...

Monday, July 21, 2014

European Heritage - Part I

My apologies that this first blog post on program is coming a week into our 20 day program. We have been up and running since we left LA and KS! 

After arriving in London on Day 2, we met our delegation manager, Matias. (He is the one who keeps us on schedule and facilitates the many actives and opportunities we have on this program.) We boarded our coach bus and were off to the London Eye! The delegates loved getting a bird's eye view of Central London - it was a great way to get them excited about our time in London.

Day 3 found us with a tour guide and getting an introduction to the beautiful city. We visited St. Paul's Cathedral (it's free-standing dome is the second largest in the world, only second to the St. Peter's in the Vatican). We then raced to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. The delegates were fascinated with the ceremonious tradition. We had a lunch of fish and chips (when in London!) and then had the UNIQUE opportunity of meeting with Patrick Nichols, an ex-MP  (Member of Parliament). 

After our meeting with Patrick, delegates welcomed some free time in Covent Garden for some shopping before we headed to London's West End for our musical, "War Horse." (It is definitely a must-see if you're in London or when to comes to the States - absolutely breathtaking and moving performance about WWII!)

We started Day 4 with a visit to the Tower of London and got to see a myriad of treasures, including the Crown Jewels! The kids were pretty excited/grossed out/surprised about the torture devices they used during the time of King Henry VIII and his predecessors! The Tower of London still keeps ravens on the grounds today...clipped wings and all!

After the Tower we took a short bus ride out to the "country" and visited Hampton Court - King Henry VIII's summer home. Like many of the former royal houses we have been visiting, Hampton Court was beautifully landscaped, large enough to house several dozen families, and shrouded with a veil of opulence. 

After roaming the grounds of Hampton Court, we set boarded our overnight ferry to France. The delegates were tired but excited to be on an overnight ferry - the first for many of them! Though we were late to bed and early to rise the next day, it's safe to say very few of them got the recommended amount of sleep that night. 

We welcomed Day 5 in Caen, France and headed to the American Cemetery in Normandy. We were privileged to be able to have a very special ceremony at the cemetery and then had the opportunity to explore the grounds. It was a very moving experience. 

Our delegates then explored Omaha Beach and got to collect a vile of sand from the beach to take home. They really enjoyed that. After a picnic lunch, we explored the Memorial Museum. The students learned about the atrocities of WWII from both German and Allied Forces perspectives. 

Stay tuned for the next part of our adventure...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

6 Days and Counting!

Hi, all!

I hope that everyone had a safe but fun Fourth of July weekend. We are now entering the final days before departure!

Here are some last minute tips to remember:

  • MEETING TIME: We will be meeting at the Delta terminal (Terminal 5) no later than 8:30am on Saturday, July 12th. I will be there at 8:15am.PLEASE DO NOT BE LATE. I've been informed that security lines at LAX are particularly long on Saturday mornings and we want to have time for you to say your goodbyes to your family and get your luggage checked in. Please see me upon arrival; I will be helping all delegates get checked in properly.
  • TRAVEL ATTIRE: As we discussed at our Bon Voyage party, you need to be dressed in your travel uniform on Saturday, July 12th. That is - your burgundy People to People polo shirt, P2P lanyard and name badge, and LONG khaki pants. If you show up in anything other than this, you will be asked to change immediately and will not be able to proceed until you are in uniform. DO NOT FORGET YOUR LANYARD - this is THE most important accessory you will wear.
  • BAGGAGE: Delegates are allowed ONE checked bag, one carry-on (duffle bag or backpack), and one "personal item" (purse, jacket, etc.). As I mentioned at our Bon Voyage party, try to bring a personal item that can be condensed into your carry-on, if needed. Do not bring a carry-on suitcase please. Please adhere to the airline's baggage restrictions and dimensions for luggage. You can find information about it here: mentioned before, checked bags cannot be over 50 lbs. in weight. This is something to consider - especially at the tail-end of the trip. Your child will be responsible for paying any overweight baggage fees if their baggage is over 50 lbs. when we come back on the 31st. If they do not have the money, they will have to discard items from their suitcase at the airport. Therefore, it is extremely important to remember not to overpack or - if you are planning on bringing back souvenirs that might add weight to your checked bag - save room for them when initially packing.
  • LEADER CELL PHONE: I received word today that I will not be receiving a leader cell phone - the other two leaders will have the designated cell phones for our group. As soon as I receive those numbers, I will forward it on to you. For now, please take note of my cell phone number. While we are traveling, you may call my international cell if there are any emergencies. My international cell number is 562-387-6921If I do not immediately pick up, please do not worry - leave a message and I will return your call as soon as I can. 
  • COMMUNICATION WHILE ON PROGRAM: As noted, our primary mode of communication will be the Facebook page. If you have not yet joined, please do so immediately. Here's the link: For my Burbank area delegates, we will also be utilizing the Call-Em-All service but please note that you may not receive phone calls every day. At least one parent of every delegate is signed up for this service. If you did not receive a pre-recorded call from me this afternoon, please email me an additional number and I can put multiple numbers for each family. If your cell phone has access to text messaging, please join our Call-Em-All text service by texting P2PTexts to 292929. PLEASE DO THIS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE - I would like to test the text messaging service but I need parents to sign up by following these instructions. If you need to get a hold of me immediately regarding an emergency, please call my international cell. Please do NOT call my cell to talk to your child; you may talk to them through their individual cell phones, iPads, etc. at the designated times. Also note that Wifi may be spotty in some of the areas we are traveling to. Your delegate will get in touch with you at their earliest convenience and remain in touch with you as the Wifi network allows. As noted on our itinerary, Wifi is free at some hotels and charged at others. If your delegate plans to utilize the Wifi at hotels that charge, please make sure they bring money to do so (the fee should be no more than 2-3 Euros per night). 
  • SPECIAL ATTIRE: Please remember to pack at least ONE "dress up" outfit for our night at the theater. For girls, this means nice slacks, dresses, or skirts. For boys, slacks and a button-up, collared shirt. While you don't need dress shoes, you may want to bring shoes that you will feel comfortable wearing to dinner and the theater.
Should you have any questions whatsoever about packing, baggage, etc. please feel free to contact me via email or cell phone. I'm here to help!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

19 Days Out!

We are quickly approaching our program departure date - only 19 days left until we leave LA for the England!

I don't think it's really sunk in that I will be leaving for three weeks yet. I have yet to pack and haven't started shopping for my "travel essentials" yet. I hope I'm not too far behind!

For those who haven't checked out our awesome itinerary yet, here's a copy of what the leaders have received so far. Take a minute to check out the PDF - it details accommodations and hotel information, Wifi capabilities and when we are in each country.

I've noticed that some of the hotels do not offer Wifi capabilities - please make sure to note this and keep in mind if you are trying to contact your delegate. Please make sure that you check our Facebook page for updates and posts!

Stay tuned and check my blog for regular updates! Only 19 days and counting!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The adventure begins

Hello, friends!

I decided to start another blog specifically for my adventures and activities with People to People Student Ambassadors - the organization that I volunteer and travel with during the summer.

I've worked with People to People for the last two years after my BTSA support provider recommended the program to me, after hearing about my love of all things travel related. At the time, I was looking for opportunities to travel and work with students (two of my passions!)

People to People is an organization that offers elementary, middle, and high school students unique trips abroad and domestically that are designed to increase global awareness and readiness for success during a two- or three-week program.

The organization hires teachers that work with students over the course of an eight to nine month period, preparing and training them for the programs they will embark on over the summer. Although the teachers are not paid, we get the opportunity to travel on these two- or three-week programs during the summer - and for a travel junky like me, that is often compensation enough.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to work with a group of elementary school students (5th and 6th graders) and we traveled to England and France on the Tale of Two Cities itinerary.

This year, I again have the opportunity to travel with a great group of students to Europe for 21 days on the European Heritage program. We will be traveling to England, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Netherlands - and I'm so excited!

Stay tuned for my adventures…