11th grade school trip: Brighton 2018
Our 1.010km trip was scheduled to begin at 7.30pm on Sunday – or rather, we were to meet at the “Blaue Schule” at 7.30pm so that our long bus ride could begin at 8 o´clock. Sure enough, everybody was on time, and we set off on our trip. Our first destination would be Dunkirk, from where we would take an early ferry to Dover. Of course, we made a few stops along the way for bathroom/snack breaks and we also had a driver change where we met Sven, who would be accompanying us for the next six days. Despite the teacher´s well-intended advice to sleep as much as possible, the excitement for the upcoming trip kept most of us awake until late at night.
After a night of driving (or rather, being driven), our disheveled group was ordered to leave the bus for a random inspection of ourselves and the vehicle by the border officers and we promptly missed our ferry – lucky for us, they leave every hour, so by 8.15am, we were standing on deck, watching the coast of France grow smaller and smaller in the distance. Since the bus ride hadn´t been that restful for a lot of people, most of us spent the crossing dozing by one of the big windows, waking up occasionally to watch the waves. By 10.30am, we had safely arrived in Dover and could continue our journey, making one stop in Canterbury to visit the cathedral. The over 1.000-year-old building is to the Anglicists what St. Peter´s cathedral in Rome is to Catholics, impressing to this day with its beautiful architecture and gardens as well as its fascinating history. After independently looking at the building in small groups, we had a little time left to explore the gorgeous little town of Canterbury before meeting up at the bus to continue our journey to Brighton. Two hours later, we first drove into the coastal city. It is quite a young, upbeat place with many different attractions: Brighton Beach, the small amusement park located on Pleasure Pier, a big shopping Centre, and a lot of night-time activities like bars and nightclubs. This wide selection makes Brighton a popular location for vacationers of all demographics, from bachelor parties to families. Smart Brighton Beach Hotel is five minutes from both the beach and the city centre. The inside is kept very simple to the point of barely being functional, and the underwhelming rooms invited us to spend as little time as possible there – we opted to explore Brighton instead. A definite advantage of this hotel was that it forced us to spend most of our time outside instead of rotting away in our rooms. We arranged to meet up at the hotel for an evening walk at 6pm – before that, we split up into groups and scouted the city independently. After the walk, those who had not yet eaten got a quick dinner and then most of us went to sleep early, still tired from the bus ride but excited for the next day after a promising start to the week.
The first full day of our trip was not to be spent in Brighton. Instead, we left for London in our bus at around 7.30am to make the two-hour trip to the UK´s capitol in time for the boat tour we had booked that would show us the 8-million-city from the Thames and drop us off near the tower of London. After crossing London Bridge, we only had a short walk left to get to Shakespeare´s Globe Theatre – technically not located in the city of London, but Greater London. Having arrived, we enjoyed a short, but very informative tour of the historical theatre and finished just in time to watch a hundred military planes fly over the city in celebration of the British air force´s 100th anniversary. After that, we were free to explore the city before meeting back up near the London Eye at 6pm to drive back to Brighton. Planned activities finished with our return, so the greater majority spent the rest of the evening getting dinner, shopping in the Lanes, visiting Pleasure Pier or relaxing at the beach.
Like the first, the activities of the second day would be taking place outside of Brighton. Later in the morning than the day before, we drove to Beachy Head on the south coast of England, where the highest chalk cliffs of the country are located, measuring up to 168m high. To properly enjoy the gorgeous views and beautiful nature, we set off on a 12 km hike across the Seven Sisters, a hill chain that goes all along the coast. The weather was warm, but the sun wasn´t as aggressive as we had been fearing – perfect weather for outdoor activities. Tired but happy, we reached the parking lot where our trusty bus driver Sven was already parked, awaiting our return from the four-hour hike. But the excitement didn´t end there – once returned to Brighton, the world championship game of England vs. Croatia was about to begin, and most of us wanted to watch it. Small groups went to different public viewings to experience the atmosphere of the city and the game; while the locals were disappointed with the outcome, most of us supported Croatia – with varying degrees of passion ranging from secretly cheering them on to wearing a huge flag around one´s shoulders all day long. Having returned to the hotel, everybody crashed after a long day of excitement.
Thursday was the contrast programme to Monday – instead of being in a huge, modern city, we visited Scotney Castle near Kent. It is a traditional English country house with a huge park surrounding it. The park features a landscape that is intentionally kept looking as unkempt and natural as possible, meant to have a picturesque, romantic atmosphere. The cherry on top is the ruin of original Scotney Castle – it was abandoned in the 1830´s in favour of the house we visited, which is built strategically on a hill to overlook the gardens and ruin. The nobility who owned it continued living in the new house until the 1970´s before selling it to the National Trust Programme. Walking around the house, this creates an interesting contrast of old architecture and furniture that was inherited from earlier members of the family and newer rooms that were made over by the last family living there, clearly in the style of the seventies. On our way back, we made three stops: the first was Camber Sands, a beach famous for its dunes and finer, less rocky sand as opposed to a lot of gravel beaches. Our second stop was Rye, a beautiful little town most known for Mermaid Street, a road framed by adorable old houses, one prettier than the other. We also made a short stop at a large grocery store to buy food and mini grills for our evening plans. As this was our last night in Brighton, we had decided to spend it together at the beach having a barbecue. Sven was invited as well, and we all had a wonderful evening and stayed and talked at the beach until well into the night.
Friday, being the last day, was bittersweet. We spent the first half looking at Brighton´s Royal Pavilion, a building that we had noticed on the first day due to its Indian-inspired style of architecture. The inside was just as different from the rest of the town as the outside, having been furnished entirely in the Chinese style. The Royal Pavilion was, after all, not built as a necessity, but as a seaside residence for Prince George of Wales in 1815. He was very interested in design and architecture and treated the building more as an artistic outlet than a residence only. Having finished the tour, we were left to spend the afternoon freely one last time before getting into the bus and leaving for Germany around 6pm. Our ferry left from Dover at midnight, and by 11am the next day we were back in Bamberg and back to regular life after an unforgettable last school trip.