After a pretty uneventful flight – which is exactly what we want! – the group arrived in London. We encountered the longest Customs line I have ever seen in my life, but there is power in the red Vimy jackets and we were able to fast track through. The Customs agent we had was incredibly nice and funny, and made the whole process smooth for us. I never mind clearing Customs in the UK because of their personable officers!
We got all of our bags which is also good news, and made our way out to the bus loading area. It was kind of a game of “Where’s Waldo?” looking for the person who could call our bus up for us, but we eventually found him, the bus came, and we made good time in our trek to Harrow School.
We were met very enthusiastically by Alice and Nicholas and our BVP UK Coordinator, Gabriela, who showed us to our rooms and helped us get settled – i.e. we had enough time to throw bags on the beds – before going down for lunch. We ate on the school grounds and enjoyed the atmosphere, then Tubed it down to Westminster Palace.
The tour at Westminster was done by audio guide this year so everyone could set their own pace. We had some photo ops, then the weary Canadians and the not-weary UK and French participants headed back to the school for supper, followed by a tour of some of the rooms.
Highlights of the tour included the oldest classroom in the school, the Fourth Floor Room, maybe better known by most people today as the Charms classroom from Harry Potter. (The first movie, anyway). After admiring the 200-year old graffiti carved into the walls, we were able to get into The Speech Room. This is where the Harroians still gather weekly for an assembly. This is also the room where Sir Winston Churchill – a former student – gave a speech which then inspired him to write his “we will never never never give in” speech. It was very fitting, then, that Luca was able to give his presentation on Churchill in that room. I was excited to see the room, too, because in the five years I’ve been part of this program, we have never been able to get into it.
Our final stop on the tour was the War Memorial building, which really helped set the tone for what this whole experience is about. Josanna gave her presentation on David Lloyd-George upstairs in one of the memorial classrooms, we debriefed on the rules (yeah, I know, but it has to be done!) and then it was back to the rooms for showers and bed. You will notice that the promised participant input is missing tonight … they are all sound asleep and this will hopefully allow them to be able to post tomorrow night when we get back from a busy day in London!
All systems here are go, we’ve had a great first day, the kids are already gelling really well, and I think this is going to be another fantastic group to work with!
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