Here's a copy of my journal. I've cut some insignificant stuff out so only where and when we went will be in it.
Day 1, Thursday, July 5, 2001
The day finally came to leave on the Celtic Discovery. Our group met at the airport at 3:00, checked in our luggage, and said goodbye to our families. We boarded the plane around 5:15 pm and were soon in the air on our way to London-Gatwick Airport. Total, it was a 6 1/2 hour flight. The food wasn't great and it was almost impossible to slepp, but the movies were good and the time went by quickly. We flew right through the night so by the time we arrived at the airport, it was the next day.
Day 2, Friday, July 6, 2001
With about 10 minutes of sleep, I proceeded with my group to the baggage claim to collect the luggage. Nothing was missing which was definitely a plus. We continued through customs and met our delegation manager, Ben. Ben was not our actual delegation manager. Our real manager, Caroline, had gotten sick and was going to meet us in a few days. After meeting Ben, we dragged our luggage to the coach and loaded it on. We were driven to our first photo stop, the John F. Kennedy Memorial. The memorial was placed on 3 acres of American soil so it was like we'd never left the U.S. (sort of). We got our last taste of American land and were back on the road, heading for Windsor Castle. We were early so we walked to the local town of Eton. There we saw the country's oldest post box from the rule of Queen Victoria. We walked back to Windsor and started our tour of Windsor Castle. The tour was self-guided so we could go wherever we wanted to for as long as we wanted to. We saw the armories, the many rooms of the castle, and go to experience the "Changing of the Guard" ceremony. We stayed in Windsor for a lunch of chicken and vegetables in the "dungeons" of one of the restaurants. We left Windsor for London and what we thought was rest but only long enough to take a shower at our hotel and get changed. We then drove to the banks of the Thames River to begin our boat tour. From the boat, we saw many things although we couldn't hear the guy over the loud speaker. We also got some great pictures of Parliament and the London Eye. We then headed back to our hotel for dinner. We ended the day with Ben walking us to the Globe Theater. There was a show going on so we couldn't go in but we got pictures from the outside. Room checks were at ten and I could finally catch up ojn some missed sleep.
Day 3, Saturday, July 7
We started our day at 7:45 when we had breakfast at our hotel. Following breakfast, we boarded the coach and met our tour guide, Prudence or Prudie. She accompanied us on a coach tour and pointed out many historical sites around London. We made a stop at several places including Westminster Abbey and shops near Parliament. We got on the coach again and drove to one of London's most famous sites, The Tower of London. We visited the many buildings that make up the "tower" and caught a glimpse of the amazing Crown Jewels. We also got to see the site fo the scaffold where two of King Henry VIII's wives were beheaded. Also on the tour were the ravens of the tower. Legend says that if the ravens leave the tower, the kingdom will fall. The ravens' wings are clipped to prevent them from leaving (just in case). After the tour and a visit to the giftshop, our group got on the bus and started the two hour drive to Portsmouth which to us meant sleep. We arrived a little early so we took a detour past the coast. Our driver stopped and we had time to look around the stores and walk along the windy beach. Along the tideline was a long line of crab parts which was kinda nasty but we found some cool shells closer to the water. We drove back to Baffins' Pond and met our English homestay families. I stayed with Darren and Tracy Hill and their two daughters, Tilly (5) and Shelby (3). The family was very nice although the girls were a little too energetic. Also staying with the Hills was Greg. We arrived at their home, had dinner, and talked about many things. Later that night, we met a kid from France, Vincent, who was staying with the Hills as an exchange student. Eventually, everyone drifted off to bed but I didn't fall asleep until around 1:30 in the morning.
Day 4, Sunday, July 8
The Hills gave us permission to sleep in and we took full advantage of the offer, waking up at 11:30. We got dressed and went downstairs to join the family and eat breakfast. The day passed pretty uneventfully. Greg and I watched tv and played cards for hours. We decided to go for a walk around the pond but returned in 20 minutes for dinner. Dinner was good but I liked dessert the most. It was Yorkshire Pudding with applesauce on it. Some other delegates from our group lived close by so we walked around with them for a while. We met their "parents" and introduced them to ours. When we returned home, the family was getting ready for bed so we joined them. My family was really nice but they just sat at home all day. I was looking forward to spending the next day with my group.
Day 5, Monday, July 9
Today, more than anything, was a shopping day. Our homestay family gave us lunch and then drove us to the train station before taking the girls to school. We joined the rest of our group and rode the train to Chichester, we also saw the memorial to home. It was the coolest McDonald's we'd ever seen and we were sure to take pictures. There were 4 streets in Chichester so it was almost impossible to get lost. We returned to the middle of the town to meet our group and celebrate Eileen's birthday. We left Chichester and rode the train back to Portsmouth. We ended up in a shopping center with a bowlling alley and restaurant. Some friends and I went bowling but only played one game. The rest of our group walked around the shops. After a while, we rode back to the original train station and were picked up by our family. Greg and I rode back to the house for dinner and then watched some tv. While we were sitting around, some of the others in our group stopped by and we walked around Portsmouth with them. We returned around 9:30, showered, and went to bed around 11 o'clock.
Day 6, Tuesday, July 10
Today, we got up early again. We met our group at the City Museum and then took a walk to the sea. We learned many things about Portsmouth and had about an hour of freetime. We then walked to the mayor's residence and met the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth. The "lord" was really a woman. We were given drinks and talked with her and her sister as if we were old friends. We made sure to get a group picture with her but her assistant was probably ready to kill us afterwards. We went through about 30 cameras and he took every picture. As we were leaving, the mayor gave us pens and little fuzzy creatures that said "I've met the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth". Upon leaving the mayor's, we headed for the port to tour the H.M.S. Victory. We took a stooping tour of the ship and then had some time to buy souvenirs. I say stooping because the ceilings were about 5 feet high. Our homestay families picked us up and we returned to the house for tea, which doesn't involve tea at all. There was a big surprise for us at dinner, more potatoes! Potatoes had been present in some form at every meal since leaving America. I decided to stay home tonight which was a bad idea. I was bored out of my mind!
Day 7, Wednesday, July 11
Today we left our homestays for Wales. I left my thank you note and gift on my bed and walked with my "family" to the bus. I boarded and waved goodbye as we pulled away from the curb. On our way to Wales, we stopped at the world famous Stonehenge. It was raining and cold while we were there and I had no umbrealla so I took some pictures and ran into the giftshop. We continued on our road trip to the Roman city of Bath. We toured the natural hotspring museum for about an hour but were soon on the bus again. We crossed the new bridge to Wales and were soon in Cardiff. When we got their, we found our hotel. It was the father of all hotels. It was a 5-star Hilton and was awesome. We had dinner which did involve potatoes and then walked around Cardiff for a while. All of the stores were closed so we returned to the hotel and sat in the lobby and talked until roomchecks.
Day 8, Thursday, July 12
Today started at 7 o'clock. We got our luggage together and took it to an empty room of the hotel. We left it there while we walked around Cardiff. We had about 45 minutes of freetime, in which I emailed my family and friends, before we were allowed to enter Cardiff Castle. We toured the grounds and then entered the actual castle. Here we viewed the many themes of the castle and learned how it came to be in the possession of Cardiff. We returned to the hotel to get our luggage and drove to the Museum of Welsch Life for lunch. The museum was almost entirely outside and showed buildings as they looked many years ago. Most were similar to buildings built in the English colonies. We got back on the coach and headed to Swansea, Wales. From there we got on the ferry and headed to Ireland. We were in our rooms by 10 but I don't think we fell asleep until 12. The beds were comfortable though so I actually slept well.
Day 9, Friday, July 13
Our group was supposed to receive a wake-up call at 6:15 but one never came so we got up 15 minutes before we had to meet. My cabin was on time but very tired. We got off the ferry and had our passports stamped in Cork, Ireland. We met our new coach driver, Paddy, and our new tour guide, Brid, and headed for Blarney Castle. The line up to the Blarney Stone was very long and in some places very dangerous, but I finally made it and kissed the legendary stone. I then received the "gift of gab", not that I needed it. After our group had kissed the stone, we drove to Millstreet Country Park for lunch, an open bus tour, and a movie. We then drove to our hotel and received an awesome surprise. There was a banner up, welcoming People to People, and the hotel was all ours. The rooms were more like little apartments which was very cool. We got situated in our rooms and then went outside to play football A.K.A. soccer before dinner. After dinner, we walked to the stable by our hotel to watch a small equestrian show. At the show, we watched a horse, Daisy, jumping hurdles. The owner told us she was good enough to be in the Olympics. The man then said that if Miguel could jump as high as she did, he could have $100. All Miguel got was a face full of dirt. After the show, we had two more hours of freetime and then returned to our rooms for bed.
Day 10, Saturday, July 14
Of all the days of our trip, I think I liked today the most. We started off in Kerry Co. at the Lakes of Killarney. We took a boat tour which lasted for about an hour. Rachel and I were in the front of the boat facing the back, so we couldn't see what was coming up or hear what the guide was saying. At the very end of the ride, it started to rain and soon turned into a downpour. Everyone else in the boat got soaked while Rachel and I huddled under an umbrella laughing. Rain that hard doesn't usually last long and this proved true as it soon stopped. We pulled onto the shore and our boat tour came to an end. We had a warm lunch of soup and sandwiches and then continued our day with a jaunty car ride through the Gap of Dunloe. The ride through the mountains was so cool. The views were breathtaking and the people hiking along the way were very friendly. Our journey ended at a jaunty car stop where we said goodbye to Maggie, our horse, and boarded the coach. We returned to the hotel and played some football. Lori thought she broke her toe but she was OK. We ate dinner and then joined some very talented girls in a performance of Irish dancing and music. Afterwards, we went to our rooms and sat around until roomchecks at 11.
Day 11, Sunday, July 15
Today began with a drive to a church close to our hotel. Some people in the group went to mass while the rest sat on the bus. The service was only 30 minutes and we were soon on the 2 hour trip to Bunratty Castle. The tour of the actual castle was very short but a sort of village was set up and we spent our time walking around it. We had lunch across the street from the castle. Lambstew was served and it was much better than I expected. In fact, it was delicious. After lunch, we got on the coach for 3 hours and drove to Dublin. On the way, Paddy told us many things about Ireland but I was so tired that I just put on my headphones and fell asleep. We arrived in Dublin early so we played soccer while we waited for our "families". My family, the Mooneys, lived right across the street so Greg, Josh, and I got there quickly. I went up to my room to pack until dinner. By the time we had eaten, it was late, so I showered and went to bed for the night.
Day 12, Monday, July 16
Because we lived so close to the bus stop, we didn't have to get up until 8 o'clock which was nice. Paddy first drove us to Dublinia where we learned about the founding of Dublin and its history. We made a quick run up the tower for a great view of Dublin and then went to Christ Church Cathedral right next door. We walked around on a self-guided tour, even through the crypt. From the cathedral, we drove to the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) Museum to learn about the history of gaelic sports: football, handball, and hurling. The museum had interactive exhibits where we could test our skills at hurling and football, how high we could jump, and our balance. We ate the lunches our homestay families had packed and then went on the Zozimus Experience which showed us many historic buildings around Dublin. After this, we returned to our homestays for dinner. We were given permission to walk around so we met some other kids from our group in the local park. Three of the kids brought there "sister" and we all played football. We returned to our house around 9 o'clock and watched tv for the remainder of the night.
Day 13, Tuesday, July 17
Today, in my opinion, was a boring day. We got up at 8 and drove to Peatland World which translates to Bog Central. Exciting, huh? Here we learned about the history, importance, and uses of bogs. It was really hard to walk in the bog because every step you took, you would sink about an inch in water coming through the peat. We had lunch in the "cafe" which was just a building with tables. After lunch, we walked to the Peat Museum where we learned about life in and on the bogs. After Peatland, we drove to the Grand Canal, and took a barge through the locks. We finally convinced our tour guide to stop at a mall to let us pick up Irish souvenirs because we had hardly done any shopping in Ireland. After about a half hour of shopping, we went "home". Josh, Greg, and I had chicken curie for dinner which was spicy, but good. Our homestay mom insisted we go to bed early to get as much sleep as possible and she heard no complaints from us.
Day 14, Wednesday, July 18
We got up at 7:45 today and packed up all our stuff preparing to leave our homestay. Again, I left my gift on the bed and then walked downstairs to say goodbye to my family. The family was very nice which made leaving difficult. We loaded onto the coach and headed for the ferry port. I personally don't get seasick but a lot of people in my group did so those of us who weren't were running errands for them. We finally arrived on land and were soon on the coach. Because the weather had been bad, the ferry was late so now we couldn't go to Llanfairpwllgwyngllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. We arrived at our hostel on time for dinner, but then had nothing to do. We sat around the lobby until roomchecks at 11.
Day 15, Thursday, July 19
Today didn't start until 9. Hallelujah! We walked down the street from our hotel to the "Beatles Story". We walked around the exhibit which featured the forming and breaking up of the group. We stopped at the gift shop and then walked around Liverpool for a while. When we finally got bored of walking around, we stopped at our meeting place early. Nobody else was around although we weren't completely alone. Pidgeons were everywhere so Donna decided it would be fun to chase them. One of the pidgeons had red-eyes and we dared her to touch it which she did. After that, the pidgeons seemed to be chasing us so we ran inside the Maritime Museum. At the museum, we saw all the things customs officers do and what they've confiscated. We also had lunch here. We saw all kinds of ships and how they were designed. We all met in the lobby to go to Chester. We were supposed to go yesterday, but due to the ferry delay, we couldn't. Our bus driver, Richard, took time off to take us. After a little shopping spree, we returned to the youth hostel for dinner. We spent the evening in the hostel until roomcheck. The hostel had a computer so I took time to email home. After about 1/2 hour online, I went to bed.
Day 16, Friday, July 20
Today, we got up at 7:30 for breakfast. Afterwards, we got on the coach and drove 2 1/2 hours to a supermarket. We split into groups and picked up all kinds of things for a picnic. We then drove a while more to Fountains Abbey. We had our picnic lunch and then went on a tour of the Abbey. It was actually more interesting than I thought it would be even if it did require a lot of walking. Once again, we got on the coach and drove to our hotel in York. We went to bed a little earlier than usual to get ready for out drive to Birmingham.
Day 17, Saturday, July 21
We got up at 7 and boarded the coach for a drive to downtown York. We looked at the cathedral, York Minster, and then went on a 2 hour walking tour. Our tour guide, Richard, told us many things about York. We learned about the walls around the city and how York has never fallen to enemies. We also learned how the streets got their names and a little translation. Streets are gates, gates are bars, bars are pubs. We finished the tour around 12:30 and had lunch at the Black Swan. The drive to Birmingham followed--3 1/2 hours. I slept most of the way. We arrived at our hotel, the Hilton Metropole, and had 2 hours till dinner. We ate and then had freetime until roomcheck at 11.
Day 18, Sunday, July 22
Today, we got up at 9 to drive to Warwick Castle. A sort of renaissance festival was set up so we had a chance to see what kinds of things went on in the past. Our group met for lunch and then went to watch the jousting tournament. It was VERY lame and VERY fake. Again, we got on the coach and drove to Stratford-Upon-Avon. We walked to the site of Shakespeare's birth but I think I took a wrong turn because it went straight from birth to death. I couldn't turn back so some people in my group got together to walk around the town. Again, we got to bed earlier than usual to prepare for a day in Oxford.
Day 19, Monday, July 23
We went to Oxford today. We took the coach which took some time and after about 30 minutes of freetime, met our tour guide, Sarah. She took us around Oxford to show us the many famous sites including the Boldeian Library, the Bridge of Sighs, and the many colleges that make up the university. She also told us how Oxford went from being an "ox ford" to a world renowned university town. After our tour, we got on the coach again, and returned to London. We were scheduled to go to the theater so we had to dress up but it wasn't too bad. We had dinner at Planet Hollywood and beef was finally what was for dinner. After dinner, we went to see "Blood Brothers" at a local theater. The musical was very good although kind of sad. We got back to our hotel at 11:30 and were all ready for bed.
Day 20, Tuesday, July 24
Oh depressing day, our last full day overseas. Our first stop was at Westminster Abbey but the tour was a separate price and I didn't have any money to get in. Our group then walked to a council building and listened to Sir Andrew Bowden of the House of Commons. His speech was about the importance of the friendship between the US and the UK. I thought he was really interesting and found his information made a lot of sense. Our group then went to Kensington Palace. I walked through it pretty quickly and then walked around London with friends. That evening we rode on the London Eye--the world's largest ferris wheel. I got some really cool panoramic shots from the wheel. We returned to the hotel in sort of a quiet mood. This was our last night together so already we were saying our goodbyes. Roomchecks weren't until 11:30 but I was in my room early starting to pack for the morning.
Day 21, Wednesday, July 25
I didn't write in my journal for this day. It was our last. We packed our stuff on the coach and were at the airport by noon. We said goodbye to Caroline and boarded our plane. The flight home was an hour longer than the one coming to the UK but it went fairly fast. After getting off the plane and through customs, I had to face the metal detector again. It was catching my keys but once I was through, I saw my family waiting for me. I walked out to them and gave out hugs. All feelings of wanting to stay in the UK left me. I just wanted to be home for a while with my family. Overall, I loved the trip and would definitely do it again. I'll never forget everything that I learned or the experiences I had.