Dazzled by the fireworks and celebrating of Bastille Day from a café table in France, Hahnville High School teachers and students simply marveled over the excitement of a day that made an indelible mark in their time.
For HHS librarian Holley Johnson, who chaperoned them for the first time on this summer tour based on culture and lifestyle interspersed with some literary passion, it was wonderfully real. Five HHS teachers and students Tori Mato and Destiny Walker took the tour along with five other schools from Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Oklahoma.
“To see them experience a different culture is a totally different experience,” Johnson said. “When they finally realize things are different – so different from their home – it was so rewarding for me so I would like to do it again.”
In her ninth year at HHS, Johnson’s love for literary works runs deep so the trip certainly appealed to her, as well.
“I always think that children, if they have the means, should see life outside south Louisiana,” she said. “Its so different than what they’re used to here. They hear the cool accents. The people are so friendly and everything looks so old and idyllic. I think they both fell in love with Scotland immediately. It definitely set the tone for the trip.”
Student Tori Mato agreed.
“My Scotland, England and Paris trip will always be one of my most memorable and greatest experiences of my life,” Mato said. “It was amazing to finally see all the landmarks and cities that I was just used to seeing in pictures.”
Their trip began in Glascow, Scotland, only a week after England’s “Brexit” vote. The Scots didn’t support the move, which had heated up their support for seceding from Great Britain.
They drove to Edinburgh, where they stayed two nights. They saw Edinburgh Castle, saw the Ceilidh feast and dance with bagpipe music and tasted Haggis, a savory pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs).
They saw legendary relics, including Scotland’s Stone of Scone or Coronation Stone used for centuries in the coronation of its monarchs and later those of England and the Kingdom of Great Britain.
“It’s stuff you just can’t understand or wrap your mind around until you see them,” Johnson said.
From Scotland, they crossed into Great Britain, stopping in a few towns along the way.
“It was so pretty – so green and lush,” she said of the landscape.
Their first was in Yorkshire and then onto the city of York where they saw York Minster, the largest gothic cathedral in northern Europe. The next day, they went to Warwick Castle, a medieval castle developed from an original built by William the Conqueror but more like Disneyland today with demonstrations like using catapults by people in costumes, she said.
“It’s a destination place for Europeans and very family friendly, too,” Johnson said.
They went to one of her favorite places, Stratford-upon-Avon, a medieval market town in England’s West Midlands and the 16th Century birthplace of William Shakespeare. Johnson also was thrilled to see his wife Anne Hathaway’s childhood home. They also had a classic British tea.
“I loved it,” she said. “It was beautiful.”
In Oxford, they visited New College where they filmed some of the Harry Potter movies, which Johnson readily recognized as a fan.
“I lost my mind there,” Johnson said. “I’m an English teacher at heart.”
They ate at the Eagle & Child pub, which is the legendary meeting place of the Inklings writers’ group that included J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
London was the next destination and they took an excursion to Windsor Castle, one of Queen Elizabeth’s residences. Of course, the tour included the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Tower of London.
Next stop was Paris, which naturally included the Eifel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe and they ended the trip experiencing Bastille Day from a café’ outside Notre Dame with cheese plates and cappuccinos.
“You can read about it, but being there is a whole new thing,” Johnson said of what they did this summer.