Not everyone can vacation in Europe, but six Chantilly High students got to spend 12 days there, this summer, as part of a foreign-language, European tour program.
They visited France and Spain in mid-July and made lots of terrific memories. Most of the students were in the Spanish-language program and one was studying French.
The bilingual travelers were Melissa Karlick, Cristina Wilcox, Tory Wright, Jennifer Ulander, Meggie O'Connor and Lauren Kean, whose father, Chantilly High counselor Doug Kean, chaperoned. Before beginning their senior year in high school, they shared some of the highlights of their big adventure.
"Getting to walk around Paris and Biarritz in France was so much fun because we got to communicate with people in another language to order our food and ask for directions," said Wright. "Also, it was really interesting just learning about the lifestyle in Europe. I got to know some of my friends a lot better, too, because I lived with them for 12 days in a different country."
Even getting lost in Biarritz was neat, said Wilcox, because "even though we had no idea where we were, we got to see the entire town." She, too, was thrilled to try out her language skills on the natives. "The first day that we got to walk around Paris, we stopped at a boulangerie to get lunch," she said. "I was excited about my little, fruit salad just because I ordered it in French."
She also enjoyed a flamenco show in Barcelona. Said Wilcox: "The dancers moved their feet faster than I thought was humanly possible."
As for Karlick, her favorite part of the trip was the beach at Biarritz. "Lauren and I walked down there the first night," she said. "We got to watch the sun set onto the water, and it was gorgeous."
For Ulander, everything was new. "I had a really great time on the trip because I had never been out of the country before," she said. "It was cool to see all the places, in person, that I had seen or heard about — like the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower. I also really liked seeing a lot of historical places that were connected to things I had learned about."
Kean said the cities, such as Paris and Barcelona, had interesting architecture. And although the language barriers were difficult at times, after awhile, the girls picked up some phrases that they could use, over and over. They also had a rowboat adventure.
"At Chenanceau, a castle in the Loire Valley, we had a great time when we rented rowboats and paddled around the river surrounding the buildings and gardens," said Kean. "We ended up getting our oars stuck while trying to row under the arches of the bridge. The other people touring the castle waved and laughed at us, out the windows. I think they found us more entertaining than the sights."
O'Connor said the whole trip was "a blast, being able to go by ourselves; and we had a lot of free time to wander around and explore." She especially loved Paris — the shopping and the sights. "It was just so neat to be somewhere different."
While there, she bought a belly-button ring, shaped like a dragonfly, with a diamond chain. Said O'Connor: "I've gotten lots of compliments on it, and I love telling people I got it in Paris."
The girls spent their last day in Costa Brava, Spain; and even though it turned out to be cold and gray, they made the most of it. After all, there they were at a beach in Spain.
"We didn't want to waste our last day, so Lauren, Meggie, Doug and I all went into the water, and it was surprisingly warm," said Wilcox. "Then, later that night, at about 2 a.m., our whole group went for one last walk on the beach before we had to leave for the airport."
Kean said the only downside to the trip was being home for five days before some of their luggage arrived from France. But, considering all the fun-filled experiences the girls shared together, she said, "It was worth it."