Grade 10 student, Julia Xu, submitted the following report about her March Break trip to England and Iceland:
This March, a group of fellow Mentor College students had the singular opportunity to go on an international trip to England and Iceland. After a lengthy double flight, London was the first stop on this historical trip. Full of iconic sights such as Big Ben, and Buckingham palace as well as the London Eye, all of the classic destinations were explored and studied to great pleasure. Open to perusal, the grandiose National Gallery and British Museum were astonishing and rare collections of artifacts from around the world. Exhibitions on Ancient Greece, Mesopotamia, and the Sunflowers of Van Gogh were particularly notable sights amongst the vast architectural splendour. St. Paul’s Cathedral was a towering monument with pillars and columns adorned with intricate carvings that loomed from a different time above modern London traffic. Into the crypt below the surface and above winding steps to the observatory ledges above, every inch of this Anglican building is decorated with astounding myriad of mosaics and paintings. Westminster Abbey was another distinguished religious structure where we were able to pay respects to the Unknown Warrior. Both Warwick Castle and the Tower of London hosted impressive stonework that was only belied by petrifying stairs that seem specific to medieval Europe. More than a few individuals *cough* found the steep coils to be the worst marriage between exhaustion and terror.
Beyond the traditional architecture, there was also relevance placed on the cultural aspect of this trip – both traditional and modern. Sporting the only thatched roof in London, the thrice-rebuilt Globe Theatre is a replica of the original stage upon which Shakespeare’s works would have been performed. Lacking a roof, productions are held in the warmer months where spectators watch plays in the same place as their predecessors from countless previous centuries. In Stratford, we were also able to visit the Bard’s home as well as that of his wife, Anne Hathaway. Back in London, the Warner Brothers’ Studio was a highlight with many of the trip’s students – many of whom were avid “Potterheads.” Displays containing the original costumes and sets were a nostalgic journey for those that grew up with this series. Looking, however, towards the future, students were given a tour of Oxford’s Colleges and the remarkable history behind one of the world’s first universities.
After departing from England for the much more biting climate of Iceland, we arrived in a land of some of the most remarkable natural formations on the planet. Featured along with Big Ben on the trip jackets, the church Hallgrímskirkja is an unerringly distinct landmark in Reykjavik that silhouettes against the landscape with daunting imposition. Traveling all across Southern Iceland, the waterfalls and glaciers of this land were indescribable as they glinted under the Northern sun. We visited a very peculiar beach of black sand that contrasted sharply against the blinding snow that seemed to blanket this country. Caused by the frequent volcanic activity, this sand is a side effect of thermal workings that are also responsible for the Blue Lagoon. Luxuriating in its waters before the flight, the aquatic refuge was a perfect way to end this memorable trip.