Well this time I went to a most interesting FAM trip. My goal is getting more and more international student tours to Europe. Europe is still the most attractive international destination for educational and performance tours. Most of us are coming from Europe, so feel where our ancestors came from.
Wens Travel, a tour operator based in Holland was hosting this trip. Wens Travel is in business since 1975 and a real expert in special interest travel and is offering tours al over Europe. Only 10% of their groups are going to Holland, so Europe is really their backyard and natural habitat.
What is of interest to North American students, regarding performing as well as educational tours? Italy, yes, intriguing, combination Hungary-Czech republic and ending the trip in Vienna, wow inspiring, or to London – Paris, the capitals of Europe with a stop at the Landing Beaches in Normandy – most meaningful.
Well London – Paris, to start with. Upon arrival in London a heartfelt welcome by our tour manager Almar, most experienced and dedicated to student groups. He showed us around the main can-not-be-missed highlights , but also showed us most interesting Churchill’s War rooms and Shakespeare Theatre. For the performing groups the Royal Academy of Music, what a lovely place to hold a festival and to the church at Covent Garden, where orchestras and choirs can perform in front of a captive audience. Of course we went to a musical, like all students do and we used the underground system. Once explained, it was easy and fast.
On to our next destination, Normandy in France. D Day, June 6th, 1944. Taking the challenging Chunnel from London to Calais. On to Bayeux, lovely French town with world famous tapestry of Mathilda. The wife of William the Conqueror depicting the Battle of Hastings, 1066! With an expert guide we continued to the impressive landing beaches of Omaha Beach, St. Mary-Eglise, the Paratrooper Museum, Bridge at Troarn, ending at the American Cemetery where we laid down flowers to pay our respects at the hundreds of crosses and stars of David for the deceased. How impressive will this be to our students. We will never forget this experience.
On to Paris, city of lights. Almar keeps up the spirit and on foot, by metro and by coach we discovered the city, ending with a romantic Seine boat trip after dinner, to see Paris illuminated. To sit down at a side walk terrace with the locals, have a tour behind the scenes at Opera Garnier, shop at Gallery Lafayette and eating late at night in a real Bistro, gets you in the French mood. Performance venues were inspected too. And YES you can march with your band underneath the Eiffel Tower, imagine the picture! Or give an intimate concert at the Church of St. Germain des Pres, Jardin du Luxembourg during lunchtime, during High Mass or recital with your choir in Notre Dame or have an exchange with a French choir, it is all possible.
Our time was limited, we missed Oxford, Versailles, Mont St. Michel, all big name attractions, but we were so pleased with the focus on these 3 destinations.
Packed with memories we returned to the USA. For sure we will share our enthusiasm for Europe, for these destinations – and many to follow! - and the comfort level we experienced with Wens Travel, with our music directors, teachers and students. Peak Performance Tours has a great partnership with Wens Travel.