Wednesday, April 22, 2015

To Greece and Italy for Experiential Learning Week

Joey Jackson

During all the different classes of Experiential Learning Week, 28 students and 3 chaperones were on the trip of a lifetime. Leaving on March 19th at 4 o'clock in the morning for a flight at 7 to Toronto the group of Matthew Halton students and their teachers started their drive to Calgary airport.

Greece and Italy, here we come!

The first flight went off without a hitch with no delays - a smooth flight.

The layover and departure from Toronto to what was supposed to be Frankfurt Germany was a little more complicated. Strikes by Lufthansa airlines ground crew forced the Halton group to reschedule with a new airline and fly straight to Rome. We did leave on the 8 ½ hour flight on time but there was a slight problem checking in and getting our tickets. Because of the change of airlines half of the group weren't able to get our new tickets and we had to sit in Pearson airport check-in for two hours.

Once everything was sorted out we were on our way on a direct flight to Rome.

We landed in Rome around one in the afternoon while it was raining, but that didn't stop us from pushing on and making our first stop just outside of Rome. The Town of Ladispoli is an hour drive from Rome, just off the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, and has the best coffee that we had the entire trip, which was disappointing because it was only in the first 3 hours after landing in Italy. After spending some free time in Ladispoli we left to check into our hotel on the outskirts of Rome. The group checked in and after unpacking and changing, most of the boys from the group went down to the front lawn to play a game of soccer against a french tour group who were also in the hotel.  We don't mean to brag, but we ended up winning 3-2, (they were also only 14).

Day two of the trip was one of the most confusing days of the experience. We started our day by heading out to the Vatican, where we were able to skip the line that would take hours and hours to get to the front of. Our tour guide who took us through the entire museum taught us everything you need to know about Michelangelo and all of his paintings, We saw the Sistine Chapel, where you aren't allowed to talk, take picture or videos. We left the chapel then headed into Saint Peters Basilica, one of the biggest churches in the world.

After our long tour of the Vatican city and museum it was lunch and almost everyone headed straight toward the nearest pizza place for the first taste of pizza on the whole trip. After lunch we split up from the other few people in our tour group and our guide and we decided to brave the city of Rome on our own and head to the catacombs for a tour. We took buses, subways and walked a fair distance to end up at the catacombs for a rather quick tour before they closed down for the day, the complication of the day came after our tour and when we tried meeting up with the rest of the group for dinner. We waited for the bus at a stop it wasn't going to make, then ran up the road to a different stop, and after that didn't look promising we traveled a little further up the road but in the end trekking all the way back to our original stop after getting some help from a local. We thought that the bus would take us back to the metro station but after it only took us about halfway to the restaurant we ended up walking for an hour and singing some songs to help pass the time.

Inside the Colosseum
Our Second day in Rome wasn't as hectic but way more crowded as we headed to the Colosseum and the Spanish Steps. The day started very rainy and it didn't look like it was going to let up anytime soon but after we got into the Colosseum the rain stopped and we could continue with the rest of the tour. We saw the massive ruins of the Roman forum and Pantheon, then we headed out the the Spanish steps where we had 4 hours to explore the area on our own. While walking to the Spanish Steps we were caught in the middle of Rome's biggest marathon, which forced us to take a few detours and to hope across the road between runners. We finally made it to the Spanish Steps, where the most expensive retail shops in the world are. Throughout the entire time we were near the steps the most expensive thing spotted was a necklace that was worth over 1 million euros.

When we finally left the city of Rome we drove toward Mount Vesuvius and the town of Naples, where the ruins of Pompeii are located. Touring through Pompeii we were able to see things that were perfectly preserved in ash from the volcano, we saw people preserved at the moment of death, houses, pottery and many other things. After Naples and Pompeii we left on a short ferry ride to go to the island of Capri. Capri is one of the most beautiful places and most expensive places to live in Italy, completely surrounded by sea and huge cliffs there are very few places to actually get on to the island and after docking you need to take a cable car to get anywhere else on the island.

After a boat tour around the island and a tour on the island we left on the ferry again to go to the city of Sorrento. We didn't get to spend enough time in Sorrento but we did manage to see a woodworking shop and the main plaza, the hotel was a different story. The hotel was on the side of the cliff face and right over top of the bay, which we could see from a lot of the rooms' balconies, or if you were unlucky your view was of a brick wall. Sorrento was the last place we stayed in Italy before we left to go on our night ferry to Greece.

Not to much happened on the ferry but during our ride it did get choppy and we had to sail through a massive storm. We arrived in a port town in Greece called Patras where we departed and got on a bus to leave for the village of Delphi, which is on the side of a mountain and home of the Oracle.

I think that Delphi was the favorite stop most of the group, not only for the spectacular view but it had a lot of other things to offer. The locals were extremely friendly, the food was very good, it had one of the best hotels, and we had the chance to go to a disco later at night where we met another EF tour group. We met a shop owner that dressed half of the group with clothes from his shop so we would look Greek enough for the disco.  He was also was nice enough to give our entire class discounts for bringing so many kids to the store. We went to the Disco at about 10 at night and didn't leave until about one in the morning, which wasn't the best idea, because we had one of the earliest wake up calls on the trip.  Before going to bed for the night  Teigan Lissel and I had the chance to meet some of the hardest working people on the trip, who happened to be the cooks of our favorite meal from the trip. The next morning we traveled a few minutes up the road to the Temple of Apollo where the Oracle would sit and give advice. There was a museum and cafe near the Temple where some students made new friends in the many cats that apparently live there.

Oracle cat
We left the temple and started our long bus ride to Athens, which ate up about 4 hours. When we did make it to Athens we boarded the cruise ship where we would be spending the next 3 days traveling around from island to island. The first stop we made was on the most well known island in Greece, Mykonos where we were allowed to go whereever in the 3 or 4 hours we had to sight see and take pictures, while some people stuck to the tourist paths and major areas the group that I was with, which was  Matthew Duncan and Teigan Lissel, and myself, almost immediately got lost and ended up finding the best kebabs in the world.

The second day of the Cruise we showed up in Turkey for our only stop there, the coastline city of Kusadasi,  We landed early enough that the massive bazaar wasn't really opening yet, but after looking around for an hour or two we were able to experience the loud and crowded bazaar. Leter we stopped at the island of Patmos, one of the smallest islands that still had a town on it.   You could walk from one side of the island to the other in under half an hour. We had a few hours to look around so a few of us decided to break away from the tourists again and look around the island.  This seemed like a good idea, but just because it was a smaller island doesn't mean we couldn't get lost. We walked around the more rural area of the island and found a way to get back to the more local part of the town, but we did have to make some important stops first, like to the park where we spent some time on a teeter totter, then one of the most important stops of the trip, the waffle restaurant.

Our last day of the cruise was spent on two of the most famous islands in Greece and the world.  The first stop was the island of Crete, which is one of the bigger islands in the Mediterranean, and where a few people took the opportunity to swim in the sea. The last stop on the cruise was on the island of Santorini, which is famous for its white wash buildings with blue dome roofs. Some of the group bought tickets for a tour of the island so we could see some of the views and building a little closer, but what we didn't know was that we were going to be traveling to the top of a mountain on the coast. After getting a panoramic view of the area we headed to the village where the famous architecture is, we took our pictures and looked around then headed back to the boat so we could start traveling back to Athens and go home.

On our last day of the trip we took a more relaxed tour of the city on a bus tour. We made a few stops at the most famous places in the city like at the Acropolis and the Parthenon.  We had a full tour of the Parthenon, where we learned about the history of the monument and temple, but it was probably the most crowded place that we went to on the entire trip. Before heading to the hotel for the last night of the trip we spent a few hours exploring the city on our own.  We went to a few different shops, a fish market, and had a taste of gyros, but before we knew it we had to go back to the hotel. We weren't expecting the rooms that we would be spending the least amount of time in to be the nicest possible rooms we had the entire trip. The class checked in and we decided to head back to a beach we saw earlier so that we could swim in the Mediterranean before we left.  It was a good last day.

The official last day of the trip, which was really just traveling, started way too early at 2:00 in the morning so that we would be early enough for our flight to Frankfurt. There was a few complications in the airport but we got on our flight. The Frankfurt flight was the only bad flight we had on the trip because we had to land in Germany in the middle of a huge thunder storm, but the pilots actually set the plane down for  one of the smoothest landings of the trip. The flight from Frankfurt to Toronto ended up being the longest flight of the trip because of the four hour delay on top of the nine hour flight we had already, but once we were in the air we had no more problems. Once we landed in Toronto we had to add more problems to our list when we missed our flight to Calgary and were rebooked for a later flight.  The problem was at first they could only book 15 out of the 30 total people from our group on the flight and the rest would have to wait until the next day to get back to Calgary, but after some shuffling around everyone made it on and we flew back home to Calgary.

Where in the world is Matthew Duncan?

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