This February the Friends Academy Arts trip, chaperoned by Tracy Foster and Lisa Waldstein, traveled to Europe. David Hanna, Sabrina Ramkhelawan, Lucy Petropoulos, Lauren Egodigwe, Sierra Fisher, Cameron Hellerman, and I went on a week long tour of three European cities. We went from Milan, to Venice all the way to London. Over the course of a few short days we explored, forged new friendships, got lost countless times, immersed ourselves in diverse cultures, and most importantly, ate delicious food.
We flew out of JFK on the Friday that winter break started and headed for Milan. After a layover in Holland, where we passed the time with a photo scavenger hunt, and another excruciatingly long flight, we finally made it to Milan. The first thing we noticed when we stepped onto the Milanese streets was the omnipresent fashion that seemed present in every inch of the city. Everyone was impeccably dressed in the latest urban trends; whether it was a teenager rocking a pair of sick Nikes not yet released in the United States or an elderly woman casually strolling down the side walk in an elegant floor-length fur-coat: we had left the FA bubble of Ralph Lauren, J. Crew, and Vineyard Vines and stepped into a real-life fashion show in which every street was a runway. During our two days in Milan we saw Davinci’s Last Supper, climbed to the top of the magnificent Duomo, pounded the streets looking for gelato, and spent an eerie, but truly unique afternoon looking at the sculptures in the immense cemetery in the outlying region of the city.
After two days in Milan we hopped on a train and made our way to Venice. As we made our way off the rainy platform we were struck with a sight redolent to a Harry Potter film. Carnival was in full swing: the Venetians were adorned in masks and capes, there were concerts in the streets, and St. Peter’s square was buzzing with all kinds of costumes and food vendors selling everything from hot wine to crepes. The cities seemed like something out of a picturesque novel set in the 1600s and the fact that we were staying in a castle previously owned by the Venetian nobility only added to the allure. But with quaint, winding sidestreets and beautiful arcing bridges to explore, it’s no surprise that we didn’t spend much time in the hotel. We took advantage of every opportunity the chaperones gave us to explore the piazzas, cannals, and storefronts of the ancient city. On the last day, which happened to be the final and most celebrated day of Carnival, we made masks at a real workshop and wore them around when we went out to the festivities that night. After one of many amazing Italian dinners topped off with gelato and crepes we went on a spectacular gondala ride through the illuminated canals.
When our time in Venice came to a close, we kissed Italy good-bye and jetted over to Heathrow International Airport in London. During the day, we went sightseeing with our chaperones, visiting the London Eye, Camdon Market, and museums. We had even more freedom in London to go off on our own because speaking the native language made us a lot more comfortable; that meant that we had hours to explore hipster-havens. Places like Camdon Market, which were chalk-full of artwork, clothing stores, and souvenir stalls. At night, we went out to dinner and shows like Matilada. Over all, the shopping, sightseeing, eating, and play watching made for a really spectacular three days to wrap up our trip.
Landing in JFK after the long plane ride back was bittersweet because although it meant returning to our families, comfy beds, and homecooked meals, at the same time it meant saying good-bye to the friends and teachers who’d become our makeshift family. And even though the trip has long since ended, from time to time we stop in the hallways of FA or flip through albums on facebook to reminisce about the week we spent in “Euroswaggin’”.
By Michael Gamberdella ’12