Saturday 11 February 2017 – Saturday 18 February 2017
In the early hours of Saturday 11 February, fifteen Year 13 students met to travel to Heathrow Airport to start our American adventure. In the week that followed, the group visited two cities, travelled through six states and walked nearly 55 miles.
Shortly after arriving in the Big Apple on Saturday 11 February, we set off to Central Park to take in the sights on a beautifully sunny afternoon. A walk through the park took us past Belvedere Castle and the lake, and on to Strawberry Fields and the Dakota building where John Lennon was shot in 1980. We then walked past Bethesda Terrace and Fountain before exiting the park on Fifth Avenue. After a stroll down Fifth Avenue we visited the beautiful Grand Central Station before heading to dinner. Our first evening in New York finished with us going up the Empire State Building and seeing the spectacular skyline of the city after dark; a remarkable moment to begin our trip.
On Sunday 12 February, we navigated the New York Subway to travel to Battery Park, from where we caught the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. Seeing the statue close up was an amazing sight and the view of the Manhattan skyline from the ferry was equally spectacular. From Liberty Island we then travelled to Ellis Island, where between 1892 and 1924 over 12 million immigrants passed through America's most famous gateway. Visiting the atmospheric Registration Room, where immigrants lined up to have their documents checked, was a particular highlight. Returning to the city from Ellis Island, we then visited Wall Street, home to the New York Stock Exchange and site of the 1929 Wall Street Crash. The group then continued to the 9/11 memorial site, pausing to visit the two massive reflecting pools. For dinner we visited a 1950s style diner on Broadway, having an authentic theatre experience from our singing waitstaff!
The morning of Monday 13 February started with an interesting walking tour of Harlem from our guide, Ted. Ted guided us through Columbia University, to the Riverside Church where Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke and finally to the Apollo Theatre which has seen stars such as The Jackson 5, Ella Fitzgerald and Stevie Wonder perform on stage. We continued our Civil Rights theme in the afternoon when we had the pleasure of meeting Mark Levy. Mark attended the March on Washington in 1963, where Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in front of the Lincoln Memorial, and was also a volunteer in the Freedom Summer of 1964 where he and his wife moved to Mississippi to work in Freedom Schools and participate in the black voter registration program. Mark's insight to the Civil Rights movement was fascinating and insightful. Our final night in New York was spent having dinner in Times Square, with some shopping time afterwards to pick up some souvenirs.
On the morning of Tuesday 14 February we departed New York for Washington, DC. The coach journey gave us time to have a little rest before visiting the White House on our arrival on Tuesday afternoon. Most of the group were surprised at how small the White House is up close. There was increased security around the White House due to the visit of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. We went for a short stroll around DC, passing the Trump Hotel and Lafayette Square, before visiting the National Portrait Gallery. The gallery's collection of presidential portraits was particularly interesting, as was the exhibition on the Struggle for Civil Rights.
We spent the morning of Wednesday 15 February with our guide, Eric. Eric guided us to the main sights of DC - the impressive Washington Monument, the World War 2 memorial, the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, the Memorial to the War in Korea and the amazing Lincoln Memorial. Each memorial was so different and it was interesting to discuss the meaning and purpose of such memorials being built. Eric then walked us to Arlington Cemetery, the largest US Military Cemetery in the States. Containing over 400,000 service members and their families, the 624-acre grounds contain the dead from every war the US has fought in since the Revolution. We visited the Women in Military Service for America memorial, and the memorial to the Kennedy family, including the eternal flame for President John F Kennedy. At midday we watched the changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a moving and unforgettable sight. Eric exited the cemetery past the Iwo Jima Memorial, an impressive bronze statue dedicated to the War in the Pacific. After lunch in Rosslyn we visited the Holocaust Museum, the Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. After walking nearly 11 miles, we then headed back to our hotel to freshen up before dinner at a restaurant called Busboys and Poets, a Langston Hughes themed restaurant. Following dinner a few of the group attended the open-mike poetry slam in the restaurant which was a unique experience.
Having completed the memorials of DC on Wednesday, Thursday 16 February was all about the government side of DC. We toured the Capitol in the morning, taking in the amazing architecture and statues lining the halls of the building. From the Capitol we walked through to the Library of Congress, the world's largest library with 29 million books, stopping to look at the beautiful entrance hall and reading room. A short stroll then took us to the National Archives building where we had a real 'wow' moment, seeing the three big documents of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In the afternoon we then headed to the Pentagon, the headquarters of the US Department of Defence, for a guided tour. Our guide took us to the Hall of Heroes the Medal of Honor, as well as the Pentagon Memorial to victims of 9/11 Flight 77 which crashed into the west side of the building. Our final dinner in DC was spent at Ben's Chili Bowl, a DC institution in which Barak Obama, amongst others, has eaten dinner.
Friday 17 February was unfortunately our last day in DC, a city which all the group thoroughly enjoyed. We visited the White House Visitors Centre in the morning before heading to the Museum of American History. Artefacts at the museum included the lunch counter from the 1960 Greensboro sit-ins, the radio used by FDR and a collection of dresses from each First Lady. Our final visit of the week was the Ford's Theater, where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on 14 April 1865. It was remarkable to see the box Lincoln and his wife were sitting in when he was shot, and the house across the road he subsequently died in the following morning. From Ford's Theater we completed some last-minute souvenir shopping before heading to Dulles Airport for our overnight flight back to Heathrow Airport.
Thank you to all students who came on the trip for a really unforgettable week away - we hope that the trip brought alive for you many of the places and events we have read about in class and hope that you have made memories that will last with you for a lifetime. Many thanks to Ms Hill for accompanying the trip and being fantastic company whilst we were away. Finally, thanks to Miss Duncan, Mr Wishart and Mr Newman for driving the group to and from Heathrow Airport.
Mrs C Wager
Assistant Headteacher – KS3