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My EF plus 30 day adventure in Western Europe or traveling with teenagers can be a different experience especially when they're not yours, by Baldworth

My EF plus 30 day adventure in Western Europe or traveling with teenagers can be a different experience especially when they're not yours, by Baldworth

Aug 1st, 2006, 07:53 AM
  #41  
 
Join Date: May 2005
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Baldworth,

My wife and I take students to Europe every 2 years. We allow a lot less drinking on our trip than was on yours, but we do try to take them to the Hofbrau Haus one evening (and control them closely). The past few trips the management would throw out any American kid under 18 and they checked ID's. Did your group get bothered about the kids under 18? Of course this is just their rule because the German beer drinking age is 16.
gforaker is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 09:55 AM
  #42  
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No, there was no check at all and we had two kids who were only 14 and one of them looked his age. He was allowed to drink all over the place without any restriction. Remember, my group started at 19 and went up to 25 with one who almost drank nothing at all. The kids drinking were part of the 50 altogether. If I took kids to Europe I wouldn't take anyone below 17 and the drinking would have to be under my supervision, not go anywhere and do whatever. This is a saga of pretty good kids overall who were allowed in some cases to run free, and in other cases as you will see were very manipulative as a learned skill, with the parent telling the group leader that her kids (on the phone)were responsible, well behaved kids who knew how to be adults. I put up with some ridiculous behavior but 99% of it came from outside my group.

Baldworth
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Aug 1st, 2006, 11:02 AM
  #43  
 
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I am, quite frankly, shocked that anyone in any type of group would let 14 year old kids drink!! Even 16!!
michelleNYC is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 11:10 AM
  #44  
 
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I think that Baldworth means that the students in his/her direct care were a bit older, but in the EF group at large, there were younger students. This would really not be at his discretion to control.

It is a tricky situation bringing teens to Europe, where options to drink can be available. I received quite a few comments on this board about the fact that with my school group, students sign a contract stating they are not allowed to drink during our trips.

I guess everyone has a different opinion on this...

katya_NY is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 11:33 AM
  #45  
 
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The whole idea of forbidden fruit is often behind the excess. French young people are drinking less and less alcohol because it is considered a thing that old people do. However, France is very repressive about cannabis and French high school students are the biggest consumers in Europe.
kerouac is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 12:09 PM
  #46  
 
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I just came back from two EF trips myself. We encountered a few of the same "problems" Baldworth. It's funny to see someone else also having to deal with teenagers' curiosity about drinking. Before we leave on our trips I get the parents to sign an agreement to allow their kids a "cultural experience" in case we visit the Hofbrauhaus or an Italian vineyard. I target kids I know pretty well and also try to include as many parents as possible. For the most part we are kept so busy that there isn't much time for such nonsense.

Most of the few negative experiences I've had with EF was when my groups were smaller than 25 people and we were thus grouped with other students from elsewhere. Now I try to schedule trips where I know I can generate enough interest to lure 25 or more people into my group. Then we get our own bus and can work with the Tour Director to customize what we see and do.

Baldworth's story about the scramble for front seats is all too familiar. We once had a wicked argument with another group leader who was ticked-off because we were "hogging" the front seats. My feeling was that if my group was industrious enough to get up early, eat breakfast, bring out their bags and get on the bus first, they deserved to sit wherever they wanted.

My wife, much more accomodating than me, suggested an alternating day schedule. The next morning the other group could get on the bus first and pick seats. And guess where they decided to sit the next day? That's righ, in the back where they could sleep or listen to their Walkmen and Ipods in privacy.

Personally, I love these EF trips. Like Baldworth I can't afford to take trips to Europe each summer on my salary. By putting together these large groups and pinching pennies ten months a year I can now afford to see and do things I could only dream about before. I've read a few posts on this website where people bitched about lousy food and crummy hotels, but I find the accomodations to be improving every year I go. My tour directors have been nothing short of fantastic and really give the kids a chance to interact with a "real European". Our group had a great time razzing our German tour director during the World Cup. We couldn't have cared less about who won but we loved to give him a hard time. Not only did he keep us informed about what sites we were seeing and anecdotes about life in Europe but he regaled us each day with wacky stories from his own wacky life.

EF is the cheapest way for most students and their families to enjoy a European vacation. I don't see anything wrong with introducing as many kids as possible to another way of life. When they graduate then get rich maybe they'll come back to Europe on their own or on an expensive Perrillo or Trafalgar tour. If just one of them comes up to me a few years down the road and says "Thanks for turning me on to travel" I will feel like I accomplished something good.
Zeus is offline  
Aug 1st, 2006, 06:50 PM
  #47  
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Thank you Zeus. I couldn't have said it better myself. I will probably never be able to get 25 or more together but I'll keep doing something with what I have and take my chances with the others. If I take kids that I don't know very well I'll have some sort of agreement to be signed spelling out the drinking arrangements and limitations. I had one kid who drank too much occasionally but was never out of control. I really wouldn't have had a problem with the amount of drinking except that the young ones shouldn't have even been there and one kid was a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde and we didn't know it just yet.

I went back to work today and so the rest of this trip report will come as I can get it done. I apologize if it takes me awhile. I got all of my pictures organized so if you really want to see for yourself what we did email me at [email protected] and I'll send you the link. Don't ask if you are not really interested. I'll get the report done as I can.

Baldworth
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Aug 2nd, 2006, 04:01 AM
  #48  
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Day 11 -

Leaving Venice which was a favorite in many ways for several in our party and headed for Rome. I consider Venice to be a very unreal place as it mainly exists now as a tourist attraction with very few people actually living there. It is a lovely monument to the past and I enjoy its history but you have to be aware that if the tourism stopped it would fold up and wither away. Someday I'll have to go and stay at least one night overnight in Venice itself and try to see if it really does feel different after all of the day trippers and cruise shippers have gone for the day. Rome, on the other hand, is in my opinion a very vibrant city that is very alive. It may be dirty in places and look like it is crumbling in other places but you can feel the heartbeat as you wander its streets and discover its many fountains and sights. I had expected to like Rome for its history and found two years ago that it captured my heart in many other ways. But, enough about that. I have a story to tell and this is the most outrageous chapter if not the most interesting.

The early morning risers were on hand waiting for a chance to jump on the bus and reserve seats in the front away from the rising temperatures in the rear of the bus. The heat and humidity of Venice had let everyone know they were facing worse temps as we headed south. I thought the other chaperone in my party was going to melt away at times as she was not equipped for the heat and often looked very pale as she fanned herself when it wasn't even hot yet. The choice seats in locations where you could stretch out a little were also taken by certain teenagers that rushed from breakfast to follow the bus driver with packed cary-ons in hand. Our TD, Jonny, had suggested a seat rotation when we had left Holland that seemed a little silly at the time but was now becoming almost a necessity if the air conditioning system was not going to work any better than it had been. Geoff the driver had spent the day while we were in Venice cleaning the vents and seeing if he could improve the air output in the back of the bus but had only improved the situation a little. It was obviously not his fault.

One sight amazed those of us who were awake as we left Venice and traveled through Northen Italy, fields of sunflowers. Sometimes there would be a small patch of an acre or so and sometimes there would be ten to fifteen acres devoted to sunflowers in various stages of growth but mostly at full height and brilliance. They were beautiful and most of the bus missed it as they had been out the previous night dancing and were now trying to make up for lack of sleep as usual. Some had even slept in the hall as they were locked out of their rooms by those who didn't go and went to bed much earlier. It is a fairly long drive from Venice to Rome made longer by the ride in a hot bus but also shorter by the wonderful stops every two hours in those wonderful Italian travel stops. Nowhere in any other country have I found anything to compete with the size and variety of things available in an Italian travel stop. The good ones have a full selection of cheeses, meats, wines and liquors, books and magazines, every kind of snack food imaginable including many American brands, batteries, made to order sandwiches and pasta, you name it and they probably have it and most of it is fresh. It just makes the time spent traveling more pleasant when you have that to look forward to along the way. We made good time and actually got to Rome about 4:00, ahead of schedule.

We departed from the bus and decided to visit a church that is not far from the main train station in Rome that also doubles as the center of the two metro lines that run underneath. It was a fairly short walk through numerous old sights to an interesting church that we hda visited two years before fo the same reason. The train station was to be our meeting point for the next two days for some meals and other things. After the church we walked to a familiar place for dinner, the same one we had eaten at two years before and one that I was looking forward to. I had asked before the tour if we were going to have a repeat of one of the best experiences in Italy, being sung to in Italian in a restaurant. As it turns out this was the night. It was hot in the room but we ordered a caraffe of wine and watched as a little guy with a guitar began to enter the room and sing every cheesy, recognizable song that most Americans usually equate with Italy. I don't know if they had passed along the word that I was expecting something like this but everytime the guy looked at me he began to laugh out loud, in the middle of his songs! He was too much and we laughed along with him as he went through Thats Amore, O Solo Mio, Volare, Funiculi' Funicula', and Arrivederci Roma. Of course we tipped him well and took pictures with him but I still don't know if he saw me coming or something else just struck him or what but he laughed right through most of his set. It was great.

We wandered a little after dinner and then boarded the bus to find our hotel. This was no easy task. Our hotel, Hotel Villa San Guisto, was in the suburbs beyond the end of the metro line and not easy at all to find. Our bus driver turned around at least five times while looking for the place and in the process totally messed up any chance I might have had at knowing exactly where we were by sight. All that I knew at this point was that we had gone beyond the Vatican and traveled down a main street for about ten minuts before going in circles and confusing everything. When we did arrive it was good to see that we actually had some air conditioning in the rooms and they were comfortable if not cool. WE broke out the wine and sat up sipping as long as things were moving, trying to outlast the kids who needed to get some sleep and stop trying to see how long they could stay up each night. There was nowhere to go an not much to do but clean up and shower off the dust and dirt accumulated on our trip southward in Italia. The next day would prove to be one of the best and worst on the trip or at least a day of extremes.

Baldworth
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Aug 2nd, 2006, 04:09 AM
  #49  
 
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Great trip report - this is like a russian novel! Please do not leave us hanging!
petitepois is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2006, 09:14 AM
  #50  
 
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I am glad you had a fun tour. It sounds like you know how to roll with the blows and not let minor problems on the trip get you down, that's the sign of a good traveller. Lucky for you that you weren't in charge of the trip and the kids.

As someone who has taken and chaperoned about a dozen of these trips over the years with my wife, I do have some comments about EF Tours and about controlling student drinking, but I'll hold off for a while. I'm waiting to hear how the rest of the tour went.
gforaker is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2006, 06:19 PM
  #51  
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ttt Hopefully more tomorrow.

Baldworth
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Aug 5th, 2006, 06:04 AM
  #52  
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Day 12 - Friday June 30 Rome, Italy

Very good breakfast at the hotel. Italian coffee is usually excellent and we needed an early start in order to get into the Vatican before the line got too long. We were in line by 7:45 and received our "Whisper" headsets shortly thereafter. This was a great innovation for city guides and tour groups because our guide could speak in a normal voice and we could hear him easily. Our guide "Maximillian" also informed us to keep our line together so that no one could cut in and break in line. This was tried several times by individuals and groups but we kept them out. It can be very annoying when you have been standing in line for 30 minutes or an hour and someone sneaks in. Max began his habit of asking questions about the Vatican as a way of informing the group and making them think but wouldn't let me answer as he quickly learned that I knew most of the answers. He began to call me "Professori", which I thought was special but came to find out just means teacher. It was hot in much of tVatican except for particular rooms that house objects that must stay cool so they are sealed and air conditioned. There is an entire hallway filled with nothing but maps of the then known world and another filled with sculptures. We didn't get to visit the courtyard where the giant pine cone stands as well as Michealangelo's moses and other excellent statues but I had done this before and no one else seems to know.Max asked me if we needed to see the Raphael room because it was so hot and I knew that it was not only my favorite but what several people had expressed interest in so it was a must, no matter the heat. The School of Athens, if you have never seen it is an amazing work that depicts most of the great thinkers of the ancient greek world but uses faces of then known artists such as Da Vinci, Michealangelo, Raphael, Pope Julius, and others. Some of those depicted are Socrates, Plato, Euclid, and Aristotle. It is my personal favorite fresco.

I'll get to the Sistine Chapel and the rest of the day later. Family calls, sorry.

Baldworth
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Aug 5th, 2006, 12:32 PM
  #53  
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OK, back to finish day 12 I hope.

We finally made it to the Sistine Chapel which is as far as I am concerned one of the wonders of the world. It is an amazing sight and becomes even more amazing the more you know about it. Over the last year I read "Michealangelo and the Pope's Celing" which added a lot of detail and historical perspective to the work. I much prefer Raphael as a person but Michealangelo was clearly a cut above everyone else and even Raphael realized it and added him to "The School of Athens" almost as an afterthought. If you ever get the chance, see it.

After the Vatican and lunch we went to the Coliseum, another wonder, and heard from Max about Rome's recycling project or the way that the travertine stone was stolen and reused in many different places, usually to build churches, until the Coliseum was named a sacred place by one of the popes and then considered off limits. After the Cliseum we wanted to see the mouth of truth so we got our map and took off on our own. From there and a line of Japanese tourists we went to find the Pantheon, another wonder since it is in the best shape of any almost 2,000 year old building I am aware of. The light itself is amazing coming as it does from the oculus or hole in the ceiling. We took a gelato break which reminds me, always get gelato in Italy from a vendor that only sells gelato whenever possible. Ours was fantastic and revitalized us for our trip to Piazza Navona and the Four Rivers Fountain. Thgis was something I had wanted to see ever since we returned two years ago. The piazza is huge and actually has two fountains but the Four Rivers is the best. Next to Trevi it is the most spectacular fountain in Rome IMHO. From there it was time to double back towards the Victor Emmanuel II monument or "The Wedding Cake" as the Italians referred to it when it was built. Next to the building are Michealangelo's steps leading to a raised area with a statue of Marcus Aurelius and other statues. S almost ran in front of a bus crossing the street and for a split second I thought I was going to have to compose a letter to her mother explaining how she had become the newest hood ornament on one of Rome's city buses. We all made it across the road and to the statue. After we even met the bus before it picked up evryone else and got the front seats for the ride to the restuarant, a first. Dinner was Pizza Margerita and very good. We informed the TD that we were not going back to the hotel but would be staying in the city to see it at night. That morning I had gotten what I thought were explicit directions on how to get to the hotel from the end of the subway line. More on that later. We left the main group, without N who was tired and wanted to go back to the hotel and sleep, and went out in search of Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo, and in general a feel of Rome at night. Each of our stops was spectacular and we went at our leisure snacking along the way as we wished. Our pictures are great, especially of Trevi. By the time we got to Piazza del Popolo it didn't even matter that much that it was being redone and was mostly covered with tarp[s looking like the features. Next stop, the subway and then home.

Big problem! The metro was closed due to the World Cup. Did I mention the World Cup? It was down to the round of 8 and Italy won their match while we were wandering around Rome that night. The city was now celebrating and we were trying to figure out which bus would take us to the spot where the metro ended. I was confused and got us on the wrong bus to begin with. S figured out the direction and we got on the correct bus and out to the site. We then had to figure out the next bus, there were now three instead of two,and we realized at some point that we were missing a key piece of information, the name of the stop. The buses didn't match up very well with the info we were given and we had many discussions about which one and where to as this one was only phase two and wouldn't take us to the hotel. We finally got on a bus, rode six stops as we had been told, and got off. We didn't have a clue as to where we were. We walked the entire length of a street with the echoes of revelry in the background. It had sunk in that Italy was going to the semi finals of the WC and it was beginning to show. We emerged from our street in front of a Gelateria and S and I went inside. In her first year of college textbook Italian she attmpted to ask where we were and where our hotel was. They spoke almost no English. WE spent the next 45 minutes trying to communicate with as many as 25 different people in and out of the Gelateria as they recruited different ones to help them find out about cabs, directions, and where our hotel actually was. These people couldn't have been nicer. They had several cell phones working and kept coming up with the same answers; all of the cabs were tied up and would be for at least another hour and no one knew where our hotel was. We were stuck.

Life calls again. I'll be back in awhile to finish the night's adventure.

Baldworth
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Aug 5th, 2006, 01:02 PM
  #54  
 
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LOL baldworth...you are a good sport and a fantastic traveller!! I do hope you will find time to give us the rest of the saga as to "how we finally got to our hotel, whereever it was"!
LoveItaly is offline  
Aug 5th, 2006, 03:04 PM
  #55  
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OK, so day 12 continues.

We were lost in a suburb of Rome called Moska ( I still don't know exactly where it is)and we have been there for about 40 minutes and communicated back and forth with S's very limited college Italian and some English by one of the teenagers who take turns talking to us and screaming at every car that goes by honking its horn and waving a full size Italian flag. The city is alive with celebration and we just want to get back to our hotel. The guy who I believe owned or at least ran the Gelateria with his sister finally says in decent English, "...I know where!" he appeared to have figured out where our hotel was and was offering to take us there in two shifts because he had a small car and there was only the backseat to fit us in. By this time and with all of the effort that was being put into finding us a way back, I felt like we knew these people well enough to trust them for a ride. We split into two groups, L and R and ST in the first and me and S in the second also putting an adult in each group. They piled into the back of his economy car and left. Twenty minutes later he was back and ready to take us as well. With many goodbyes and thank yous in both languages we got into the back of the car and headed to the Hotel San Guisto. We attampted some conversation but he kept saying "My English not so good" and we kept mostly quiet. When we arrived I thanked him vehemently and tried to give him 20 euro for the ride and all of the help that he and his sister had been but he refused and told us thank you for the good time. It was just one of those experiences that you could never plan and wouldn't ask for unless you knew the outcome in advance but wouldn't take anything for once it is over. It was truly a human thing. Several Italians helped us out because they were nice people and they perceived us to be the same. Across languages and cultures we communicated an some level and all felt better afterward. Whew!

We got back and expected to walk in and not only be well received but have the story of the night to tell. How wrong can you be? N met us at the gate and began immediately to tell us about the events that had unfolded while we were wandering around Rome and lost.

Sorry, life calls again. Be back in a little while.

Baldworth
baldworth is offline  
Aug 5th, 2006, 03:13 PM
  #56  
 
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Oh my...the "plot" is thickening!!!! Can't wait to hear the rest. Isn't serendipity wonderful!!!! People everywhere can be just great.
crefloors is online now  
Aug 5th, 2006, 03:26 PM
  #57  
 
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Ah baldworth, why I love the people in Italy. I can imagine the wonderful help you received..and although Italians always overwhelm me with their kindness and I am not shocked that Italians got you and your group to your hotel.

Now for the next istallment of this drama..please, don't make us wait until tomorrow, lol.
LoveItaly is offline  
Aug 5th, 2006, 03:52 PM
  #58  
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I'm back. Cleaned out a few gutters while my middle daughter mowed the backyard.

Where were we? Oh yeah, we got back with anticipation of telling a great story of being lost in the city and being saved by the owners of the Gelateria and ... no one cares. The hotel is in turmoil because someone has broken a toilet in one of the rooms and the manager is raving about payment and everyone who is staying in that room is denying any knowledge. The TD has had enough and gone to bed to let the group leaders handle the situation, one of the students, BE, remember him, has gone off at the mouth calling another group leader everything and anything and telling him repeatedly to F off with HIS group leader sitting next to him defending him. The whole place had gone crazy and I thought nothing could top this. Wrong! About 1:00 two Italian guys show up at the gate to "visit" one of the California girls who they had met during the day. The girl, who is 16 and is joined by our trip drama queen who always seems to be in the middle of evrything problematic wants to let the guys in and expects me to believe that her group leader has told her it was OK!

Deep breath! She actually expected me to believe that! The hotel manager has asked me to help out because I am still up and the only other group leader is too busy defending the ranting BE to be of any help. The guys don't want to listen to me but finally leave when four of us all go to the gate and tell them the police will be called if they don't leave immediatly. I feel as if I have helped out the manager which could help the whole damage situation when everthing is reconciled in the morning. I only found out about BE going off on B when I got to my room and accidently woke B up. One of my students, B, was in the room with the broken toilet and it had to be paid for, 50 euros. The next morning I loaned N the cash and BE's group leader paid for his with whatever arrangement for later I'll never know. The manager was in a better mood and we actually sat at two tables for breakfast (ours was full). I helped Geoff load the bags on the bus and we put this episode behind us. My group had some great memories of being lost and found in Rome after a night spent seeing how different a city can be at night and some serious turmoil was building between some of the others on the tour. I hope that I included everything. It was one of the craziest days of my life and most of the zany part hadn't even started until 11:00 pm!

Baldworth
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Aug 5th, 2006, 04:21 PM
  #59  
 
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Holey moley!!!!!!!! Some of those kids needed more time on the naughty mat years ago!!!!! I wouldn't have been able to deal with that. I would have smacked somebody up the side of the head. You are a patient person, yes indeed.
crefloors is online now  
Aug 5th, 2006, 04:32 PM
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You and me both crefloors!! Good grief baldworth, are you going to do one of these EF tours again?

You must have been exhausted the next day..I sure would have been.

I have come to conclusion that if I were a young woman today I would not have a baby..I just couldn't put up with the attitudes a lot of our young people have today although I know there is some great young people. But with my luck...nope, I wouldn't make it as a mother in today's world, lol.

Is there more to your trip report baldworth? I do admire you and how you handled all of the problems.
LoveItaly is offline  

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