April 18, 2014

The March Break was a highly anticipated week for 30 of Victoria Park’s students, who had signed themselves up for the trip of a lifetime: an excursion to Germany, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. While the purpose of the voyage was to give students a greater appreciation for Canada’s history, the opportunity to see some of the world’s most renowned and beautiful landmarks was a nice bonus .

The trip began in Brussels, Belgium, where the group arrived after a six-hour flight. They boarded a coach and headed immediately to their hotel in Paris, France, where they would spend the next two days. The first day in Paris was comprised of a visit to the artists’ square Montmartre, the Montparnasse tower, and a cruise down the famous Seine River.

On the second day, the students took a guided tour with their local tour guide Tierrie, who had a lot of intriguing stories to tell. They also visited the Champs Élysées, and the Arc of Triumph, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Palace of Versailles, where they learned about the royal family of France.  After dinner, the excited students engaged in a much awaited photo session in front of the Eiffel Tower. They then headed back to their hotel and had a good night’s sleep in preparation for their early wakeup call the next morning.

The group then took a tour bus to Normandy, where they visited the D-Day beaches and Juno Beach Centre. Many of the students were teary eyed as they came face-to-face with the events of World War One that they had learned about in history class.

On the fourth night of the Europe trip, the group, excited for what was in store, visited Ypres, Belgium where they took part in the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate. This was an especially important part of the trip for Victoria Park, for two students, Janeththa Rajendran and Daisy He were able to participate in the ceremony. They marched proudly with a wreath bearing the words “Victoria Park C.I. Remembers,” which was designed especially to commemorate the soldiers who were missing in World War One and whose graves are still unknown.

The group then proceeded to the Netherlands, taking a guided tour of the beautiful city of Amsterdam with their chic tour guide, Leray. They went to the Anne Frank House, learning more about the young girl’s experience during the Holocaust. This was, for some, a very personal visit, as the museum was designed so that each room told a part of Anne’s life story, capturing the human experience of World War Two. The group then headed to Holland, where they visited a farm owned by a “happy little man” who showed them how to hand-make cheese and fashion clogs.

After touring in the Netherlands, the group of teachers and students, who had begun to feel like a family, took a six hour train ride to Germany, where they saw the impact of World War Two. They visited the remains of the Berlin Wall, which had once divided the country into two, and saw the colourful and intelligent architecture of East Berlin. They also had the opportunity of visiting a Concentration Camp, which was a more sentimental part of the trip. It was very touching for some to walk in the place where so many people were tortured simply for being born the way that they were.

Sitting where they ate, seeing where they were executed and passing through the fields where they had toiled really opened up some of the students’ eyes to the reality of discrimination. It was a scary realization, but an important one.

On their last night in Germany, the group packed in preparation for the return flight home. Their voyage had come to an end, but the friendships and memories they had made would live on. A special thanks to Ms. Maize, Ms. Reid, Ms. Shank, Mr. Penny, and Mr. Vidrih for all their hard work and planning. Without these dedicated staff members, the trip would not have been possible!