Although already a little while ago it is still worth mentioning that a lot of our 4th-year BEC & CAE students spent a week in London just before the Xmas holiday.
After an initially good start from De Beuk at 7.45 in the morning we hit traffic almost immediately on the motorway and that didn’t really change en route to Calais. We missed the ferry we had been booked on, which meant, in its turn, that our visit to Canterbury had to be shortened a little so as to make our way to our hostel for this week in London: Wombats, just round the corner from the Tower of London. A short walk to Tower Bridge after dinner ascertained the good food being digested better before all of us were off to bed for a good night’s sleep.
While the BEC group headed for the All England Lawn and Tennis Club in Wimbledon to be enlightened on the business side of this annual tennis tournament, the CAE group went to St Paul’s Cathedral in order to meet up with their guides for the Shakespeare and Dickens’ London Walk. In spite of the fact that our students’ knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays and poems is less than that of their English peers the guides did manage to both educate and entertain them to some extent on the importance of these two authors.
In Wimbledon our students were told about the very special set-up of the tennis event known all over the world. And without giving too much away we now know that the grass at Centre Court comes from Holland, that the same grass is only used for the two weeks a year that Wimbledon lasts, that they sell about £22m tickets for those two weeks, that there is a very ingenious (‘debentures’) system of raising the necessary money for the whole event, that they sell about 38,000 kilos of strawberries in those two weeks, that there are 83 restaurants then, that the cheapest way to get in is to join the queue on the day in order to purchase a £26 ticket, and so on.
After the lunch break for both groups, our BEC students made their way to the Bank of England, where, as some would say, the most exciting thing is the 13-kilo gold bar that can be lifted but not taken anywhere.
Meanwhile, the CAE group met at the Victoria and Albert Museum to work on an Art assignment. Already struck by the beauty of the exterior of the building itself, enormous cultural treasures were found inside. Once through the doorway a temporary exhibition about fashion throughout the ages could not be avoided even if one had wanted to do so.
Having had dinner in two different restaurants again, with Yasmin proudly showing off her prized mini-pineapple and Niels showing his appreciation for English (pizza!) cuisine, …… everyone made their way to Hyde Park, which, at this time of year, has been transformed into a veritable Winter Wonderland, a cross between the Volendam Fair, the Efteling theme park and Amsterdam on King’s Day!
On the Wednesday the whole group had the same programme. Once again (story of our life this week) traffic was a bit of a spoilsport and we ended up arriving at Wembley Stadium a little late for our guided tour there. Split into three groups we were all told everything that makes Wembley Stadium such a special place (as they do in every stadium everywhere around the world) , we were shown round the dressing rooms (where they have hair-driers so the players can make themselves smart before the match starts and vaults for all the players to place their valuables in while they’re out on the pitch), we were seated in the Royal Box (where no-one ever has to pay anything for a ticket as you can only be invited there) and we were allowed to sit in the press room with a chosen few to play the (small) part of winning and or losing coaches! Business-wise it was eye-opening to hear that it sometimes took a team of employees a whole night to transform the stadium from a concert venue into a Premier League pitch for next day’s match.
After Wembley, the whole group was off to Windsor Castle. A bit of a wait in line was in store for us as there had been an administrative hiccup but our very competent group leader, Ms Veerman, talked her way out of it and our way into the grounds. After a security check that was more rigorous than the ones you normally have to undergo at any international airport, we were given an audio-tour that would allow every one of us to explore the grounds on their own pace.
And did that Castle hide wonderful things from the outside world! Once inside the State Apartments the route consisted of one after the other ostentatiously filled room full of works of art, antique furniture, lush carpets, sophistically decorated ceilings, and so on.
After that, back to the centre of London by (our own) bus for a little spare time, a communal dinner and … the Jack the Ripper walk. Once again, London Walk guides took us along into the back alleys of London’s East End to tell us the story of Jack the Ripper. If you ever want to see some students turn pale and slightly nauseous – this is the walk to go on. We won’t go into any details here but those that were there will testify to the fact that what happened in those days was gruesome. Needless to say some students had a bit of a restless night after that. Whether that was due to the walk or other things we shall leave undisclosed.
After our bus driver had informed us about a hold-up on the route to our hostel and a subsequent wait, all the luggage was once again placed on board (making perfectly clear why hard-shell suitcases are really not a good idea!), our two groups went their own way.
For the BEC group this meant another tube ride to the Design Museum. While one half of the group had a look round the museum while working on an Art assignment, the others had a workshop called ‘Stranger by Design’. Weird-looking objects were displayed, analysed and commented on while the staff member tried to encourage students to air their opinions on what they saw and thought.
Then, after that, it was time for the last educational element of this trip for the BEC group: the Financial (or Square Mile) Walk in the financial district of London, with all its high-rise banking and insurance companies.
After the last dinner together upstairs in the Pizza Hut Piccadilly Circus students were expected to meet again at the Lyric Theatre for the final part of the programme, the musical Thriller, telling the story of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.
The CAE group ended this year’s trip with a visit to the Crystal, a sort of building-of-the-future set up by the Siemens company to prove that a building can be (almost) completely self-sustained as far as energy is concerned.
Having ‘consumed’ the basic concepts required to save the world from ourselves, a cable ride across the river Thames was next on the itinerary, with a boat trip at the end of it. Having disembarked, everyone found their way to a lunch spot, had a little bit of spare time left and were then expected to meet at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (or rather: a replica of it) to be shown round the place itself and to follow a drama workshop after that.
Dinner was at Planet Hollywood with the name of our school on screen, with Father Christmas paying us a visit (the lengths we go to to make these trips unforgettable experiences for our students!) and with food for 61 plates served in no time – it’s good to see places well-organised.
And then it was time to join the BEC group again for the final part of the programma, the musical Thriller (carefully hand-picked for our students from the large number of possible high-quality performances in London’s West End).
Once both groups has been reunited and having enjoyed the musical, we all found our way to Haymarket where our driver Danny was already waiting for us. And from there everything went so smoothly that we were able to get onto an earlier ferry than the one we had booked so that we did indeed arrive back at De Beuk two hours earlier than envisaged.