Andrea Garcia is a sophomore business and equine science major from sunny Miami, Florida who loves to travel the map. This was her second trip with Woods Around the World, after having traveled with Woods Around the World to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
What was one of your favorite moments from the trip?
One of my very favorite moments was when Denise and I went to The Elephant House in Edinburgh, Scotland for lunch and got to go back in time to when J.K. Rowling sat in the exact same place and wrote the books that shaped my childhood and even into my adult life. Growing up, the Harry Potter books were my passage way into a new world filled with magic and adventure and taught me so much about good, evil, love, hate and everything in between. This bunch of typed words changed my life and being in the place where it all started was incredible.
The moment that made this my absolute favorite memory was when I stepped into the small bathroom in the restaurant. Every inch of the walls was covered in writing from Harry Potter fans thanking J.K. Rowling for her incredible and unbelievable imagination and telling her how much of an impact her magic had on them. Some of my favorite ones were “Thanks for saving so many lives”, “Thanks for helping me believe in magic” and my personal favorite that brought tears to my eyes, “It was almost like having friends.” She impacted so many lives and it was incredibly touching to see literally every inch of the walls covered in writings like these.
Which site(s) did you enjoy seeing the most? Why?
My favorite site was in London where we got to see Tower Bridge, The London Eye and Big Ben at night. I remember watching the TV in summer of 2012 and seeing Tower Bridge with the Olympic Rings hanging from the top and being so excited knowing that I would be going there and when I finally did get to see it in person, it was really fun and exciting for me. We saw it first during the day but it was completely different at night and was really enchanting to see all of the lights illuminating them.
Of course, there were an array of gorgeous cathedrals, castles and palaces that were amazing to see and to admire their age, imagining what they were like in their prime and what types of ceremonies and people had walked through them before us so many years ago. The entire trip was like a journey back in time and I loved every site that we went to, I just chose the Tower Bridge and Big Ben because of how excited I got to finally be at the place I had dreamed about and seen so many times in books and on the television. It was a great feeling to finally be there and get the realization that we were indeed in London, England!
What did you do with your free time in any of the cities we visited?
For my free time in Edinburgh, I went with a few friends and walked the Royal Mile, stopping along the way to do a bit of shopping, dining and enjoying some of Scotland’s finest. It was a great time and just on that Royal Mile, I found such an abundance of rich Scottish culture. We often veered off of the path to go down a few closes (small alleyways open to the public), which led to various gardens, courtyards, shops and homes. This is where I tried haggis for the first time, which was surprisingly delicious! Also, this is where Denise and I sampled some of best in food and drink that Scotland has to offer.
What was one cross-cultural experience you had on the trip where you knew you were definitely in a different country? (strange foods, uncomfortable experience, language barrier, an observed difference)
Where I definitely knew that I was in another country was in Dublin, Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day. The reason being, when six of us decided to catch a cab into the city, we met so many awesome people from all over the world and a few times, we didn’t speak the same language and had to communicate through “universal sign language” using odd hand movements and facial expressions to get our message across. I met a few Germans, Swiss and Swedish guys who didn’t speak much or any English but we still were still able to have a good time and dance even if we weren’t 100% certain of what the other was saying!
What did you gain by traveling with Woods Around the World in 2013? What did you learn?
I gained a lot, from new friends to experiencing new cultures. It was great getting to know how people lived in these countries and even though I enjoy reading and learning about different cultures, nothing is better than experiencing it first-hand. This was my first time in all three of these countries so it was definitely new territory and I loved enjoying it with my friends.
Woods Around the World and EF tours together are a great team in creating trips that are both highly educational and also a great deal of fun. They spend half of the day teaching us as a group and walking us through the history and sites that must be toured while in these countries, but then also give us most of each afternoon and evening to explore on our own. I am a very curious traveler and really love to dive into each new culture whole-heartedly, so being able to go off on my own and find my own adventures was really nice and a definite seller for me. I was really impressed with how much I learned from the tour guides and how helpful they were in ensuring that we all had the best trip possible. I already can’t wait for the next WATW trip to Turkey and Greece next year!