UC students making new friends in Europe
Posted: Friday, June 26, 2009 9:12 pm
By GLENDA H. CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
New friends — from around the world.
That’s just another benefit the eight students from Union City High School who are on a free 12-day tour of Europe are enjoying.
When one of those students — Will Arnold — called home Thursday afternoon (Union City time and late evening Italian time), he mentioned making the acquaintance of a couple of New Zealand fellow travelers on the Cosmos tour company bus that is moving the Union City group, including chaperones Jacob and Emily Cross, on the loop from London to Paris through five other European nations.
The anonymous provider of the free trip for the UCHS Class of 2010 students and vice principal Cross and his wife had hoped for such opportunities for the group as they moved from Belgium to Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France on the official portion of the tour. The party of 10 left Union City a week ago today about noon and grabbed a supper-time flight from Memphis to Minneapolis-St. Paul. From there, they boarded a larger flight vessel and crossed the Atlantic, landing about noon (British time) Saturday in London, where they made their own plans for exploring London’s capital city over the weekend and then joined the Cosmos tour bright and early Monday morning. Travel One in Union City worked with a volunteer group of interested adults to plan the tour, which is officially sponsored by Union City Rotary Club.
The pace has been fast and furious and has included a barge crossing from England to Calais, France; a Rhine River cruise with castle vistas on every hand; and, on Thursday, a gondola ride through Venice, Italy.
There are also some extended periods on the tour bus, rolling through the European countryside with their Dutch tour guide, Joost, when the group of young people has time to chat with their fellow travelers from around the English-speaking world. The New Zealanders are a part of that group. “They talk kind of funny, but they are really cool,” Arnold reported to his mother, Leslee.
Arnold noted that the gondola ride was not exactly smooth sailing — rough water rocked the boat — but it was fun. The group also took in St. Mark’s Square (known in Italy as Piazza San Marco and the principal square in Venice. According to Wikipedia, “The Piazza originated in the ninth century as a small area in front of the original St. Mark’s Basilica. It was enlarged to its present size and shape in 1177, when the Rio Batario, which had bounded it to the west, and a dock, which had isolated the Doge’s Palace from the square, were filled in. The rearrangement was for the meeting of Pope Alexander III and the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. The Piazza has always been seen as the centre of Venice. It was the location of all the important offices of the Venetian state and has been the seat of the archbishopric since the 19th century. It was also the focus for many of Venice’s festivals. It is one of the few great urban spaces in a Europe where human voices prevail over the sounds of motorized traffic, which is confined to Venice’s waterways.”)
By the time the group, which includes Arnold and the Crosses, plus Whitney Smith, Chambry Callicott, Katey Crews, Kayla Eason, Paige Fisher, Katelyn Ray and Andrew Speed, made their nightly phone call to the “calling tree” set up prior to their leaving home, they had already dined at the Venice hotel, had paid outrageous prices for soft drinks and had discovered that rest rooms in the Italian city were anything but free.
Arnold said his mom could tell the other parents that the weather was perfect and the group was still excited, but — from his personal point of view — nothing else they had experienced compared to the weekend in London.
The nightly calls are made on a cell phone provided free of charge, with minutes for reporting home thrown in, by CELLPAGE in Fulton. To keep those expenses to a minimum and to utilize as much time as possible for enjoying the trip, the students make only a single call each day. Information is also shared with the folks at home, as circumstances permit with access to Internet cafés, by e-mail.
“Will said they get to sleep-in Friday because the bus doesn’t leave until an hour later than usual, Mrs. Arnold reported. The “crack of dawn” rising, dressing, packing, breakfasting, bus-boarding routine has been another adjustment for the students who were just beginning to enjoy the at-home luxury of sleeping late during summer vacation; but it is one they have made with a minimum of fuss each day.
Today’s itinerary includes more travel through Italy and a crossover into Switzerland, where the group will bed down for the evening in Lake Lucerne. Each day adds to the tales they will have to tell, the photos they will have to share, the good times they will have to recall and the bonds they will build with each other and their fellow travelers as they relive their unforgettable experiences.
They will be returning home through the Memphis airport Tuesday evening.
Published in The Messenger 6.26.09