Day 16: A Gouda Day in Amsterdam

How’s that for a cheesy title? We got to live life like a local this morning. After a long and somewhat arduous commute into the city we picked up our daily tour guide Larae who gave us a lovely bus tour around Amsterdam. She explained much of the rich history of the city. Part of our tour was a pit stop at a local cheese producer named Role who also sold clogs. Role was like a Dutch version of Hugh Jackman who has had way too much coffee. Our next stop was the Rembrandt windmill for a group photo. The most moving and emotional piece of the day was our visit to the Anne Frank Museum. Unfortunately we weren’t permitted to take photos inside the museum, but the students took their time and really soaked in the spirit of the exhibit. Today was jam packed as we also managed to fit in a river cruise through Amsterdam’s canals. Dinner tonight was a delicious chicken chili and brownie for dessert. Alarms tonight will be going off at 2:45 AM as we have an extra early ride out to the airport.

IMG_2158 IMG_2161 IMG_2164 IMG_2165 IMG_2170 IMG_2175 IMG_2177 IMG_2178 IMG_2183 IMG_2184 IMG_2186 IMG_2189 IMG_2191 IMG_2194 IMG_2200 IMG_2206 IMG_2210 IMG_2215 IMG_2219 IMG_2222 IMG_2229

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Day 15: Gogh-ing to Amsterdam

The rain on the road from Cologne to Amsterdam thankfully did not last. By the time we arrived in the canalled city the rain had stopped and it was a beautiful afternoon for exploring the backstreets. Sigi took us on a brief walking tour of the more touristy districts of downtown before we broke for lunch. In the afternoon, students had an opportunity to explore on their own. Some took the chance to head over to the Van Gogh museum. Everyone agrees that this is one of our most interesting and exciting stops yet! With groups heading in different directions to explore, it was tough to get photos of everyone… so students were encouraged this evening to submit their own photos for part of the blog. Unfortunately we only got a handful of submissions! For dinner we celebrated yet another birthday – this time it was Rozhin’s turn to be sung to! After dinner we piled on to the bus and drove out to our lodging for the night. We tuck ourselves in tonight about an hour outside of Amsterdam in a suburban hotel. Tomorrow is our final day of the tour, so we’re up at 6am to make the most of our final day.

IMG_2111 IMG_2119 IMG_2121IMG_1253 IMG_3108 IMG_3122 IMG_6335 IMG_6344 IMG_9572IMG_2128 IMG_2132 IMG_2136 IMG_2138 IMG_2139 IMG_2126IMG_2140 IMG_2146 IMG_2150 IMG_2153 IMG_2156

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 14: Cocoa de Cologne

This morning we woke to the tragic news of bombings in Brussels. Our original itinerary had us traveling there, but the prudent decision was made in December to alter our course after the bombings that had happened that month in Paris and Brussels. Today our itinerary had us exploring Cologne – the home of cologne perfume, and of a most delicious chocolate museum. We began our day with a guided walking tour around the part of the city surrounding the cathedral. Our group split into 2 smaller groups to better facilitate the tour. We saw a number of sites and learned about the Roman history buried beneath Cologne’s streets. We even saw an ongoing archaeological dig still happening close to the town hall. Lunch gave the students some free time to find a space on their own to eat, and we met back again in the afternoon to head over to the chocolate museum. Inside this sumptuous building we learned about the history of chocolate, the origins of the cocoa plant, how chocolate is made and, of course, got to taste a lot of chocolate! Many students even paid to have a custom made chocolate bar created for them on site. It took about 45 minutes to create and the students got to pick exactly what would go into the bar. In the evening we had dinner in the center of town. After dinner our former Handsworth exchange student Maxine finally had to say good-bye to our group. Tonight we have an early room-check as we are also up early tomorrow to head to our final destination – Amsterdam!

IMG_2051 IMG_2053 IMG_2058 IMG_2063 IMG_2069 IMG_2071 IMG_2073 IMG_2075 IMG_2077 IMG_2078 IMG_2081 IMG_2084 IMG_2086 IMG_2088 IMG_2089 IMG_2092 IMG_2093 IMG_2094 IMG_2099 IMG_2101 IMG_2106 IMG_2108

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 13: A Touch of Cologne

Cologne, pronounced ‘kooln’ in German, was our final stop of the day. But it took another long winding day of bussing to get here. From Heidelberg we set out northward towards Rüdesheim, stopping along the way at the Niederwalddenkmal monument and its enormous statue of Germania, commemorating the German victory over France in the Franco-Prussian war. From the top of the monument we could see down the Rhine river valley which we would follow throughout the day from Rüdesheim to Koblenz. All along the river valley there was tiny castle after tiny castle. Arriving in Koblenz, we took a photo at the William I monument before seeking out some lunch. And after one last leg of driving today we’ve finally arrived in Cologne. The enormous cathedral makes an easy focal point from which to explore the city. Our usual routine of dinner in town and then retiring to the hotel to relax at a decent hour continues. Tonight we were joined by a recent Handsworth exchange student, Maxi, who spend some time catching up with Olivia and other students. Tomorrow we get to look at little more closely at the city we’ve just arrived in and take a break from riding the bus.

IMG_1992 IMG_1997 IMG_1999 IMG_2003 IMG_2012 IMG_2013 IMG_2015 IMG_2017 IMG_2023 IMG_2025FullSizeRender-2FullSizeRender-1IMG_2028 IMG_2034 IMG_2039 IMG_2043 IMG_2045IMG_2046

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 12: Sunday Funday!

The road from Lucerne was foggy this morning. We had a lot of ground to cover today between Switzerland and our final destination outside of Heidelberg. Our first stop was the largest waterfall in Europe by volume, Rhine Falls. Next we stopped for lunch in Germany’s Black Forest where we saw how cuckoo clocks, a local specialty, are made. We also got to see the world’s largest cuckoo clock, which was built right into the side of the building. Late in the afternoon we arrived in Heidelberg and immediately headed up the funicular railway to Heidelberg Castle. At the top Ziggy took us on a tour of the castle, which included a climb to the top of the world’s largest wine keg! We also got to take a ‘class photo’ of sorts with a professional photographer at the castle. The highlight of the day, however, had to be dinner. There happened to be a piano sitting in the corner of the restaurant, and after a stranger went up and played a single tune, it was open mic time for the students. Ava and Aiden took turns playing Billy Joel, Queen, Adele and other artists while everyone else sung along. What a spectacular way to end the night!

IMG_1913 IMG_1916 IMG_1919 IMG_1926 IMG_1927 IMG_1936 IMG_1940 IMG_1947IMG_1950 IMG_1952 IMG_1954 IMG_9482IMG_1956 IMG_1963 IMG_1965 IMG_0730IMG_1967 IMG_1971 IMG_1975 IMG_1980 IMG_1982

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 11: Conquering Pilatus

Today we let down our ‘Swiss guard’ and enjoyed a sunny day in beautiful Lucerne, Switzerland. Stop number one off of the bus was a monument dedicated to the 800 fallen Swiss Soldiers who died during the French Revolution. It was a giant stone lion carved out of a rock-side over a pond. Students threw coins over their shoulders into the pond for good luck. As we rolled through town on our bus, Ziggy, our tour director, pointed out Mount Pilatus which we were to ascend later in the day. We walked across what had been at one point the oldest covered foot-bridge in all of Europe. Unfortunately it had been badly burnt by an errant cigarette butt in early 90s and what people walk across now is largely a reconstruction. We meandered through the morning markets and then divided up to explore during lunchtime. Some students opted to enjoy a local favourite – cheese fondue. After lunch we headed over towards the highest peak, Mount Pilatus. On the way over, Ziggy regaled us with tales of William Tell, the local folklore hero and expert archer. From the base of the mountain it took 40 minutes and 2 separate gondolas, one mini 4-person gondola, and another giant 45-person gondola, to reach the summit at 7,000 feet. At the top, the views were absolutely breathtaking. A stunning 360-degree view was possible from the peak, with treacherously beautiful cliff drops from all sides. We couldn’t stop taking photos! Back at the hotel we had a delicious dinner, and tonight we unwind again around the hotel before getting up extra early tomorrow as we have to cover a lot of ground!

IMG_1828 IMG_1829IMG_1834IMG_1840IMG_1844 IMG_1847IMG_1851IMG_1859 IMG_1857IMG_1863IMG_1864 IMG_1869 IMG_1875IMG_1878 IMG_1880 IMG_1883IMG_1887 IMG_1890 IMG_1892 IMG_1897 IMG_1899 IMG_1908

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 10: Borders Through Bavaria

Today was a long day of travel. We went from Germany, through Austria on to Liechtenstein and finally ended in Switzerland. In the morning we had one last opportunity to explore Munich by foot. We first stopped by the English Gardens where a few surfers were also up early to catch some river waves. In the main town of Munich students bought some final souvenirs and saw the last sights, including going up St. Peter’s tower over Marienplatz. Back on the bus we headed west, stopping briefly in the capital town of Liechtenstein, Vaduz. A small collection of shops lined the street beneath the town castle, but the highlight of this pit-stop for the girls was the cute boy who worked at the tourist centre.  He put the Liechtenstein stamp in a number of passports, and left a stamp on a few hearts too! From there we headed west through the picturesque rolling hills of Switzerland. Tonight we are staying in a small town just outside of Lucern.  Dinner was salad, pasta with mince, applesauce, and cake for dessert. We’ve noticed in the grocery stores that Switzerland has certainly lived up to its reputation of being an expensive country! Tonight we unwind with walks around the town and games of cards in the lobby. Tomorrow we explore Lucerne.IMG_1787

IMG_1789 IMG_1795 IMG_1797 IMG_1801IMG_1798 IMG_1799 IMG_1809IMG_1810IMG_9409IMG_1813IMG_9399 IMG_9403IMG_1818 IMG_1819 IMG_1820 IMG_1821

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment