On a morning in March 9, when most people were still in bed, a handful of Academy students were assembled outside the American Airlines section of the Tampa International Airport. Despite the early hour, the roughly twenty-five students were abuzz with excitement. Greeted by the smiling faces of Ms. Maureen Kearney and Ms. Linda Ruescher, both seasoned travelers, the girls embarked on their Mini Course trip in competent hands.
After alternating between sleeping and chit-chatting on the long flight, the group finally arrived in the city of lights. What they saw did not disappoint them. In the area that surrounded their four- star hotel, they found a city that juxtaposed the modernity of a big city with the historical buildings of an ancient locale.
Guided by their lively Parisian tour guide, Miriam Wolfowitz, the girls eagerly devoured the sights as they made their first foray into the city. Within an hour of landing in the city, the group was already viewing such famous sights as the luxurious Hotel de Crillon and the location of France’s parliament. While they certainly enjoyed the famous sights, a trip to Paris would not have been complete without making a trip to the city’s most famous department store.
The Galeries Lafayette, a sprawling conglomeration of affordable street vendors and high-end designers, was a destination that the girls could not skip before moving on to more sedate landmarks. After intense shopping, the girls moved on to must-see stops including Versailles, the Louvre, the beaches of Normandy, and rustic chateaus.
At Versailles, the girls witnessed the splendor of the palace constructed by King Louis IV, dubbed the Sun King. As they walked through the Hall of Mirrors, they saw the gold-covered statues and dazzling chandeliers designed to reflect the power of the monarchy. The elaborate gardens, ornate bedrooms, and masterful paintings were all parts of the awe created by Versailles.
As no trip to Paris is complete without a visit to the Louvre, the students made a thorough inspection of that most famous of museums. In keeping with her role as a history teacher, Ms. Kearney instructed the girls to find a painting by da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, and other Renaissance painters. On their quest, the girls made sure to gaze on such famous works of art as the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo.
The trip to France also included a somber note in the visit to World War II landmarks. In addition to viewing a move titled The Price of Freedom, the girls visited the beaches of Normandy where battles were fought and paid their respects at the American cemetery.They also entered sacred religious sights like the cathedral of Notre Dame.
As their trip was winding down, the group hopped on the bus to make excursions to the countryside. They had come to see not only quaint villages but the ornate mansions of the French kings. Such fairytale castles as the Château de Chenonceau have now become French national landmarks that are open to tourists like the Academy girls.
When the whirlwind trip came to its inevitable end, the girls left with an arsenal of photos and happy memories. They had conquered the metro, tasted “real” crepes, and stood before dazzling works of art. If luck is on their side, they’ll certainly be back before long.