Holyoke High Traverses The British Isles

Journey with the HHS British Isle tour group (through reporter Josie Moriarty) as they travel around Europe!

Starting in Ireland and ending in Paris, a group of Holyoke High juniors and seniors spent April vacation seeing the sights of the British Isles (and France)!

Note: The Herald wants to thank chaperones Jose Vega and Nadezhda Erofeyev for the contributions of their photos!  

Over the past April vacation, many Holyoke High juniors and seniors traveled across the sea to tour the British Isles.

The first stop on the trip? The scenic streets of Dublin!

Led by Mrs. Vega, Holyoke’s French teacher, the students were lucky enough to travel to five major cities: Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh, London, and Paris. The group of 45 was guided along this trip by an Englishman named Trevor, had many extra tour guides for specific city tours, and most importantly were driven through these places by an abundance of bus drivers, the fan favorite being Frank, a hilarious Irishman who drove the group around Ireland.


After a long seven hour flight it was great to get to move around and see the city. After stopping at a port where everyone was given time to find food, the group went to the center of Dublin where they took a walking tour of the city. Since most were running on approximately two hours of sleep, this wasn’t a favorite part of the trip, but nonetheless it was interesting and gave everyone a chance to get a feel for the geography of the city and to see some cool sites such as the Post Office, Fleet Street, known for it’s bars and many bachelor/bachelorette parties (everyone was warned by Trevor to avoid this part of town at all costs on weekend nights), and Trinity College where the group got to see the Book of Kells.

On the second day in Dublin they began the day with a bus tour of the city. A highlight of this tour was stopping at a park where a herd of deer lived. The deer were very tame and many of us were even able to feed them ice cream (which we learned later we weren’t supposed to do). After the tour everyone was allowed free time for the rest of the day, allowing the students to do go off on their own and explore the city of Dublin.


Yarijel Melendez ’17 and Kiara Nazario ’17 pose in front of the beautiful Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.

After a long coach ride up to Belfast, the students got to wake up a bit by stepping out of the coach to observe Queens College which led to a series of photos in front of a Gallieo statue inside the school building. Afterwards, the group had a bus tour of Belfast where they got to see various sites about the city; the Titanic museum (which they toured later in the day), murals that lay all around the city and conveyed political figures and angry messages about the unrest between Protestants and Catholics, and they even drove by the studio where many of the indoor scenes in Game of Thrones are shot. As mentioned earlier, the group later got to actually go inside and tour the titanic museum. The second day in Belfast was dedicated to traveling about Northern Ireland. The group began the day with a quick hike where they got a panoramic view of the city. Many complained while walking up the hill, myself included, however the sight was incredible.

After the hike the group all loaded onto the coach and made their way to the Giants Causeway. It was freezing outside and the wind was blowing hard, but that didn’t stop anyone from exploring the great depths of the Giants Causeway, the beautiful ruins of an ancient volcanic eruption. There are columns of rocks all about it and fields of bright green grass and it is surrounded by the ocean. It is a sight like no other. Later the group went all the way to Londonderry or simply, Derry, UK. They took of short walking tour of the city where they saw various cathedrals and old buildings, and a lot of graffiti (most of the graffiti had something to do with the IRA and its ideals).


The next morning everyone had to say goodbye to the bus driver Frank, and hop on a ferry over to Scotland. Most dreaded the ferry ride, however it proved to be (more or less) a painless way to spend a few hours considering the amount of activities and comfortable chairs it had. The very first stop the group had while in Scotland was to Robert Burns’ cottage/museum. Robert Burns was a poet and lyricist, most known for writing Auld Lang Syne. Following this, the group journeyed over to Edinburgh where they were given time to walk around the city center and shop. After a more or less relaxing day everyone walked over to Dirty Dick’s bar where we ate dinner and made our way to our hotel for the night.

The group got an authentic tour of Edinburgh by an enthusiastic local who didn’t pull any punches!

The next day began with a bus tour of the city which ended in the group going up to the Edinburgh Castle. The Castle was fascinating with its many cannons lined up around it, it’s dungeon, it’s rooms filled with art and commemorations of soldiers, and most importantly, it’s incredible medieval-like structure. After walking around and checking out the castle, the group was awarded with free time to see whatever they wanted in Edinburgh. Many used their time to see various Harry Potter attractions such as The Elephant House where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter, the graveyard where she drew inspiration for names for characters, specifically Tom Riddle and McGonnagall. After breaking everyone met up for lunch and then had to go board the train to London, England. Although it was a long train ride, the students made the most of it by playing a large game of Heads Up on a students iPad.



Holyoke High students got the best view of London around from atop the famous London Eye.

The first day in London began with a rather early start with breakfast being at 7:00 am, however the group had much to do in a short time. The very first thing everyone did was learn how to use the tube, London’s underground railway system. The first stop was Waterloo, home to Westminster Abbey/ Big Ben, and the London Eye. Everyone took photos and wandered around the area before walking over to Trafalgar Square. There were many sites to be seen in this particular area, for instance the National Gallery, beautiful fountains, and many street performers. In this instance the kind of street performing the group experienced was a woman drawing a detailed picture of Queen Elizabeth in chalk for her 90th birthday and a couple of men dressed as floating Yodas. Immediately following this, the group rushed over to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guards. On the walk after to go find lunch, everyone was in for a surprise when the group ran into coach Lastowski at a nearby park, proving that it really is a small world. Following lunch the group embarked on yet another bus tour. The group saw loads of attractions within a very limited amount of time. They visited a Shakespeare company store, Millennium Bridge (another Harry Potter attraction as this bridge was used at the beginning of the sixth movie), the Rosetta Stone, and finally they saw London’s theatre district where they went to a market to have free time. The first day in London ended with the group walking to Kings Cross station to see Platform 9 3/4, yet another Harry Potter attraction. By the time the group returned to the hotel everyone’s feet had practically fallen off. A student on the trip calculated the number of footsteps they had walked that day and it totaled out to twelve miles.

The second day in London was much more laid back. It began with about half the group going back down to Waterloo to ride the London Eye. Although many were frightened of how great its height was, everyone enjoyed the ride. Afterward everyone walked down to Piccadilly Circus, London’s Time Square. This is where everyone was told to meet up in several hours for dinner, and was given plenty of free time to do whatever activities they wanted. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t ideal for this type of situation but everyone found something to do anyway whether it be to walk around and shop, to go see a movie, or to go to a museum. Everyone was in good spirits when meeting up again at dinner time.


The next morning began with an early start and a train ride from Kings Cross into Paris. As routine, the first thing the group did was go on a bus tour of the city. Just about every site to see in Paris was seen on this tour. From the Arc de Triumph and exterior of the Louvre, to the Eiffel Tower. The group got to stop towards the end of the tour at the Eiffel Tower to observe and take pictures with it, and even witness a promposal between two staff members of The Herald.

Everyone got a short break to stop at the hotel and quickly freshen up before strolling around Paris. The group witnessed many street performers all around Paris, artwork being sold on the street, various churches and cathedrals, and many cute little shops. When night time approached the group got to return to the Eiffel Tower to actually climb it (or take the elevator which everyone did considering the cold weather). Brianne Ramirez, ’17  was especially fond of the Eiffel Tower at night. “You can see the Eiffel Tower in pictures online but it will never compare to seeing it all lit up at night in person.”

A prom-posal in front of the Eiffel Tower.
A prom-posal in front of the Eiffel Tower.

The final day in Paris and on the trip was dedicated to Notre Dame and the Louvre. The day began with everyone taking the subway to Notre Dame. Inside and out the cathedral was beautiful. The students were able to get in with no problem and even got to witness a mass going on. After everyone went inside and say the cathedral, the group took a walk over to the Louvre, home to the Mona Lisa and many other famous works of art. Once everyone was settled and in the building without any problems, the students were allowed free time to roam around the Louvre or walk around the area and find other activities to do. Everyone on the trip at least went and saw the Mona Lisa. Manon Nadeau, ’17 had an opinion of the work of art. “It was definitely cool to see in person but it was not nearly the best thing in the Louvre. Out of all the amazing pieces of art there it’s surprising that the Mona Lisa is most famous!”

Later in the day everyone met up again and ate their final meal in Europe together. The next day everyone got up early, and boarded a plane to go home. It was a very successful trip, and hopefully Holyoke High will continue to take trips through EF Tours for many years to come!