My name is Kaitlin Sweeney and I had the opportunity to travel to Europe with a group of Marist students and faculty for ten days of my spring break. I’ve always loved to travel with my family, but this would be my first trip overseas without them, so I was both nervous and excited. However, I knew from the moment I learned of the trip that it was something I wanted to participate in and it proved afterwards to be an experience that I would never forget. We arrived in London on our first day, where we met our tour manager, Larry, who spent the entire trip with us and went above and beyond to make sure we had the best trip possible. In London, we visited places such as the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, and Covent Garden, and also had the opportunity to try some of the local food, such as bangers and mash and fish and chips. After saying goodbye to London, we visited Stonehenge before catching a ferry to France, where we would spend the duration of our trip.
The next morning we traveled to Normandy, France and while we have all had the opportunity to learn about World War II and D-Day in our classrooms, it was not until I was given the chilling experience of standing on the edge of the cliffs of Omaha Beach and paying my respects to the numerous graves at the Normandy American Cemetery that I truly understood the sacrifice made by those brave men that June morning. After this, we traveled to Saint-Malo, a port city in the northwest of France, where we had the opportunity to explore the town and eat some of the local cuisine, such as duck (my favorite meal of the trip). From here, we traveled to Mont Saint-Michel, an abbey constructed in 706 on an island off the coast of France filled with deep history and beauty. The next day we traveled to the Loire Valley, where we explored sites such as the home of Leonardo Da Vinci and the Châtetau de Chenonceau before traveling to our final destination of Paris. There is nothing quite as memorable as viewing the art, such as the Mona Lisa, housed in the Louvre or eating a macaron from Ladurée on Avenue des Champs-Élysées with the Arc de Triomphe in the distance. From watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night from a boat on the Seine River to lighting a prayer candle in Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris was so much more than I could have ever imagined.
Saying goodbye was difficult, but I know that this trip and the people I met through it will always hold a special place in my heart and I wouldn’t change anything about it. Marist has provided me with some of the greatest experiences of my life and I am blessed to add something like this to that list. Traveling has opened my eyes to opportunities and experiences I never could have dreamed of and this trip helped deepen my passion for it and my desire to continue it in the future. I hope that one day everyone gets to experience something like this and make amazing memories and friends like I had ability to do through this experience.
Pictured is the group from the top of the Mont Saint-Michel Abbey, which is on an island off the coast of Normandy, France.