26 Oct The trip of a lifetime
The group began by visiting the Salisbury Plains in Wiltshire County, England, at Stonehenge, the first of seven wonders. “The transportation system employees were striking, so we had to sprint several miles to get to our tour on time. We were literally running across London,” said Jade.
While in London, the group also visited the Tower of London, where the crown jewels are held, and Big Ben.
According to Natalie, a highlight was the beautiful sounds that came from the men’s choir at Westminster Abbey, and the unique experience of watching a play in Shakespeare’s rebuilt theatre, The New Globe.
The group then traveled through Heathrow Airport to Rome, and rode a train to Florence. Pisa was the location of the next world wonder, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The bell tower upon which Galileo studied gravity with its worn out steps was a big hit for the students.
“Because the tower leans,” said Megan, “the steps are worn out on different sides as you go up, and the acoustics of the tower are made perfectly, so if you sing three notes, the echo completes the octave.”
“I just remember sitting at our little table, and thinking ‘Wow, I’m eating lunch by the Leaning Tower of Pisa,’” added Kane.
During their stay in Florence, the group had the opportunity to attend a wine tasting at one of the top companies in the world, Chianti.
“The Tuscan countryside is even more beautiful than all the pictures you’ve ever seen,” said Megan.
After the Leaning Tower, it was time to head back to Rome for the third world wonder, the Colosseum. In addition, the group visited Vatican City where they were able to see exquisite art and experience hundreds of years of history.
“When Jade went to retrieve our reserved tickets from the Swiss Guard, they saluted him just to have fun. The guards were so cool with their colorful uniforms and all the history they represent,” said Natalie. “I remember this because I’ll never let Jade live it down.”
Egypt and the Great Pyramids were the next stop on the travel experience. The group had the opportunity to ride camels and explore the inner structure of the pyramids. In addition, Natalie and Megan experienced a special treat when they visited an oriental carpet store, where they were allowed to participate in weaving one of the luxurious carpets.
According to the group, Giza offered an unforgettable dining experience with magnificent scenery. The group dined on the Nile River in a boat, enjoying “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” playing in the background. Dining in their hotel restaurant on other nights proved to be as enjoyable, with a perfect view of the nightly light shows on the Great Pyramids.
“The next place we went was probably my favorite because it was so beautiful,” said Natalie. “Istanbul, Turkey, is just so colorful.”
Istanbul holds world wonder No. 5, the Hagia Sophia, a Muslim mosque turned into a museum. Previously a Greek Orthodox church and now a Muslim mosque, the Hagia Sophia is the only place in the world where Christian and Muslim symbols are found together.
“You could see where they chipped off the ceiling to reveal Mary and Baby Jesus right next to the Arabic writing and symbols,” explained Megan.
The group was able to enjoy breakfast atop their hotel each morning with the view of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque in the background.
Following the short stay in Istanbul, the group moved on to the sixth world wonder, the Taj Mahal in India.
“The Taj Mahal was breathtaking, but the amazing thing was the amount of vendors lined up on the streets walking up to the building. There were all kinds of little shops,” said Megan.
“The neatest thing about the Muslim countries was the prayer call, and learning firsthand about Islam and its history,” added Jade.
In addition to the Taj Mahal, the group went to Old Delhi. “I remember this massive amount of people crowding around us when we were getting on the rickshaw ride. Old Delhi is very poor, so they don’t really ever see any tourists there. You could tell they were intrigued by our presence,” said Kane.
Photographs from the trip reveal that Jade really enjoyed the Indian culture. One photo in particular shows him about to eat a huge spoonful of a green substance that seems to have the same consistency as pond scum. “It was really sweet and super delicious. It tasted something like applesauce. We all cleaned our plates of it,” said Jade.
Another photo revealed that Jade was able to help a snake charmer hold a cobra. “I started at his tail and worked my way up to inches away from its head. When it tried to strike at the snake charmer, I let go and backed up,” explained Jade.
The final stop of the trip was the seventh world wonder, the Great Wall of China. “If you want a good workout, climb the steps of the Wall of China,” said Megan.
While in China, the students toured numerous temples and gardens.
The UCA students returned to the United States 40 days after their journey began, having experienced the seven wonders and a “trip of a lifetime.”