This tour was an amazing experience with new and different activities every day. Not only did we visit the 'must sees' in Italy e.g. art and monuments in Florence, Pisa and Milan, but we also experienced the romance of Venice and the history in Rome.
New destinations were included on tour to discover more of this "bel paese" (beautiful country)! On our way to one of our favourite destinations, San Gimignano, we visited Civita di Bagnoregio, known as a dying town. This town was built upon a tufa rocky spur by the Etruscans in 600 BC. Unfortunately the town had to be vacated during the last century because of serious erosion that caused the outer edges of the city to collapse and crumble away. Only recently after major engineering projects secured this hilltop town did people feel safe enough to return to live there. What a sight to see, only the last wall of a dwelling remaining, standing at the edge of the cliff!
We spent two glorious days in golden sunshine on the Cinque Terre while visiting tiny fishing villages clinging to the rocks above clear blue water, swimming and hiking and, enjoying the superb views.
Another highlight of this tour was our visit to Maranello. We came here to see the Ferrari Museum but as a bonus we were able to watch the final match in the European Nations Cup on big screen on the town square - Italy playing Spain! Unfortunately Italy did not make it but nevertheless we celebrated by singing and dancing, even on stage, with our welcoming host country: Italia!
At the Ferrari Museum some had the time of their lives taking a spin in a bolt red, brand new Ferrari - "such a pity", I heard someone say, "that I do not have my driver's license yet!" Business was good in Maranello that day with kids spending their travel allowance on Ferrari gear!
From Lake Como our drive via the St. Gotthard Pass to Switzerland was like eye-candy. Snow covered mountain tops, shiny-white glaciers, greener than green meadows dotted with Swiss cows - hurray, for the producers of Swiss chocolate! In Grindelwald not even the rain could dampen our enthusiasm. The dear, little, old lady at the rodelbahn volunteered to sweep-dry the track after every new rain shower to give us all the opportunity to ride!
In Switzerland the fun never stopped. We travelled to the Top of Europe at 3545m, marveled at the corkscrew water shoots at Trummelbach, and attended a folk show in Lucerne. At the Rhine Falls we were steered through the gushing waters of the Rhine while attempting to reach the rock island at the foot of the falls.
We stayed in a variety of places: in stunning medieval monasteries, in a medieval castle's keep, posh hotels and youth hostels. We were also exposed to all kinds of very traditional food - who will forget the range of antipasto we dined on in Cernobbio and the Swiss cheese fondue of Lucerne?
We arrived back home with memories that will last a lifetime and the determination to start saving for a next adventure.
Stars and Stripes 2011
Arriving in New York City was an experience equal to no other. After almost 24 hours in transit an unexpected vibe of energy returned. Many were bursting with excitement, recognizing sights and sounds so familiar to all because of TV programmes and what we see in the movies.
From the word 'GO' we were on the GO! On arrival, there was no time for unpacking. We had to run, catch the metro and pray we'll not be locked out of the Broadway theatre and miss the performance of Stomp we have been looking forward to for so long! It was our lucky day... we were let in although a tad late: they knew we were coming all the way from AFRICA!
New York City, where we visited such a variety of sites, was a firm favourite of many. The art lovers saw magic unfold before their eyes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art while the Rambos amongst us, loved the USS Intrepid visit. Our visit to the UN headquarters was an eye-opener to many.
Ground Zero, Arlington Cemetery and our visit to Gettysburg made us all realize how precious peace and harmony is to Mankind especially after chatting to the Vietnam War veterans - all old men by now - who were assembling in Washington DC for a reunion. Many of them still grieving the personal loss most suffered in some way or another in the war.
Fortunately the variety of fun activities soon got everyone focused on the NOW - enjoying the Yankees baseball match attended at the Yankee Stadium, whitewater rafting on the Shenandoah River in West Virginia, our days in Disney World, and at Universal Studios as well as our free day on Cocoa Beach.
We had the privilege to be part of the excitement when we visited Cape Canaveral just a few days before the launching of Atlantis for it's very last space mission at NASA. It was the most amazing experience having lunch with a real life NASA astronaut.
Throughout the trip we were accommodated in super hotels and our meals were just the way the Americans do it: self-service-eat-as-much-as-you-like pizza in Orlando, a lunch stop at Cracker Barrel and Amish Fare in Intercourse just to mention a few.
On our return flight we tried to break all records by flying from Orlando to New York City to Cairo - where we spent the day - to Johannesburg: 60 hours in transit without a bed!
Arriving back home we once more realized that traveling, especially with one's peers, is one of the best ways to ever spend time.
Le Tour 2009
In Paris our guides had us follow the footsteps of Kings and Revolutionaries discovering not only the magic and fame of the regular tourist sites but also exploring the nooks and alleys only known to the Parisians.
Le Tour gave art fundies as well as novices the opportunity to discover a variety of art. Not only did we discover pre-historic art on the Lascaux cave's walls in the Dordogne, but we also had the opportunity in Spain to contemplate the absurd while being introduced to Dali's modern works of art. Our whirlwind tour of the Louvre took us via the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and many other famous paintings.
The opulence of the Palace of Versailles left us speechless. The beauty of the Notre Dame Cathedral with its flying buttresses was awesome and we felt surrounded by a million butterflies in the La Sainte Chapelle when the sun shone through the most beautiful stained glass windows ever. The unfinished, 'modern' Gothic cathedral of the famous architect Gaudi in Barcelona was so inspiring that one of our students announced that she would like to help finish the structure one day.
On Le Tour there was just never a dull moment. Our visit to Euro Disney was a day the students would never forget: testing each and every ride from It's a small World, to Space Mountain. In the Loire Valley we cycled while on the Costa Brava we spent a day on the beach the way the Spanish do, sea-kayaking, playing volleyball and just relaxing. Have you ever wished to live a pirate's life? Well, we had the opportunity to sail along the coast in an authentic, hand-crafted, wooden, pirate ship. We snorkeled in the aquamarine water of the Med and explored the caves on islands off shore. In Barcelona we saw the Tour de France cyclists at the end of a very long day's cycling.
After our visit to the D-Day Beaches and the American Cemetery as well as the day when we visited Oradour-sur-Glane, we had a very quiet group returning to the bus. These sites made a huge impression on each and everybody. There are no winners in war!
We stayed in very interesting accommodation from hotels to youth hostels - even one in a medieval building in a hill-top village. Our stay in an ancient monastery, declared a UNESCO world heritage site, was an awesome experience. It was easy to walk through the cloister imagining oneself what life was like so many centuries ago living here as a monk.
We had the opportunity to enjoy all kinds of cuisine from the usual Continental breakfast, to foie gras bought at a market. In Barcelona we were treated to the most magnificent paella. Unfortunately frogs legs were not in season and on the menu at the time. Some tour members only discovered this fact after imitating the sound and movements unique to these amphibian creatures when trying to order this delicacy. Fresh truffles had to make up for this disappointment.
On our way back to South Africa, we visited Cairo with all the excitement it has to offer and had our Farewell Supper on board a Nile River boat to celebrate 18 magnificent days away from home.
Prost Deutschland 2007
Prost Deutschland 2007 took us to Germany in June and July. Our first stop was Berlin. The 3 days spent in the 'Divided City' was an experience to remember for ever. We visited the largest Jewish Museum in Europe, felt what life would be like in a fully-functional atomic bunker and saw evidence of heroic escapes from East to West. The kids learnt how to criss-cross this huge city – 7 times larger than Paris – by U-Bahn. Our transport were as varied as the activities we were involved in: a 240 km per hour Intercity Express journey, a leisurely excursion on a Rhine Riverboat steamer , a chairlift ride up the vine covered slopes of the Rhine Valley, a Seilbahn ascent up the Zugspitze, the roaring 4x4's adventure in the scorching desert of Qatar. We crawled around in the dark depths of the dungeons at Burg Rheinfels, slept in medieval castles, kissed the monkey in Heidelberg, took a dip in the choppy water of the Bodensee, played in fresh, powder-soft snow on the Zugspitze, felt the suffering at Dachau, rafted in the glacier waters of the Berchtesgadenerland, sipped hot-chocolate where Hitler drank tea at his Kehlsteinhaus high up in the Bavarian Alps and shopped and shopped and shopped! After a funfilled and awesome 18 days we returned with bags loaded with all kinds of goodies: from cuckoo clocks, to caps and shirts to tons of delicious German chocolate. It was difficult to say our goodbyes since the Prost Deutschland group became like one BIG family!
Andiamo Italia 2006
Andiamo Italia 2006 was a similar experience as Vive la France in 2004 but of course with the difference that it was Italy we visited. To make it even more special, we had the privilege to be part of the Soccer World Cup Final - when Italy won. What a day!
In Italy we once more limited the hours travelling – travelling at the most 3-4 hours per day (many days we did not travel at all). This time we stayed in Youth Hostels instead of camping with a sleeper coach.
Andiamo Italia 2006 was an amazing experience with new and different activities every day. Not only did we visit the 'must sees' in Italy e.g. art and monuments in Florence, Pisa and Milan, the romance of Venice, the history in Rome but we also visited a piece of South African soil, bought with blood during World War II, where relatives of tour members were buried, World War I trenches high up in the mountains, a medieval castle where kids and adults alike could dress up in armour, and many other exciting places.
Because we design our tours as active excursions, we also went white water rafting in glacier water at the foot of the Alps – a highlight for many tour members.
And what will a trip to Europe be without snow? So we ascended by cable car to near 3 000m where we hiked in high mountain terrain, spending a night in one of the oldest mountain hotels in the Alps.
From the Alps we travelled our longest haul back to the Mediterranean where we spent 2 glorious days in golden sunshine while visiting tiny fishing villages clinging to the rocks above clear blue water, hiking the Via dell Amore.
On our return journey we visited Qatar where we slept in the desert under the stars. We swam in the Persian Gulf, dune bashed by 4x4 with our guides and experienced an evening cruise on a dhow.
Memories to last a lifetime!
Vive la France 2004
Vive la France 2004 extended this type of adventure described above to any active teenager – not only to hikers.
During the European Summer of 2004 we spent 17 glorious days travelling through France on a sleeper coach. This tour was a History, Art, Cultural and Adventure experience.
The logic behind an European Tour, visiting only one country at a time, is to have as much time as possible with 'feet on the ground', amongst local people, taking part in activities that one has little opportunity doing in South Africa and minimising the number of hours spent on a coach travelling through countryside where one would rather have visited.
On Vive la France we visited the saddest of sites e.g. World War I battlefields, cemetery and memorial, the only Nazi concentration camp on French soil, the D-Day beaches where our guide pointed out to us that even in high summer nobody plays on these beaches because ' who would ever want to play in a graveyard?' We also had lots of fun canoeing through the million years old natural arch at Pont d'Arc, swimming in the Mediterranean, cheering the knights on at a medieval jousting tournament, visiting a Rock Concert with 80 000 French youth and enjoying the beauty and art of Paris.
On our way back we had the wonderful opportunity to visit Cairo in Egypt where we went to see the pyramids, museums and many other fascinating sites.
Swiss Tour 2003
Swiss Tour 2003
In order to also accommodate learners from outside our school community, Swiss Tour 2003 was organised by TES Adventure Travel CC. We once again hiked in high mountain terrain. At Zermatt we visited the ice cave and at Jungfraujoch we skittled and tobogganed down the snowy slopes at breathtaking speed. We hiked across glaciers and spent a night at 4000m in a mountain hotel where many experienced their first snowfall and that in the middle of summer.
Swiss Tour 2001
Swiss Tour 2001 involved more day hiking from base camps. We backpacked on 2 occasions into the Alps staying over in mountain hotels below the Jungfrau and the Matterhorn. The team attended a Swiss folk show where they experienced alp horn music, yodelling, flag throwing and folk dancing. We visited the Trummelbach Falls as well as the Rhine Falls, relaxed on river boats and ferries, swam in the glacier water of alpine lakes, glissaded down snowy slopes, visited a castle and spent time in medieval villages.
Swiss Tour 1999
Swiss Tour '99 was a backpacking expedition in the Bernese Oberland, where we backpacked across mountain passes and through valleys, accumulating 6 000 metres of height over a 10 day period! The view from the top of the Schilthorn was absolutely stunning. The snow at high altitude of summer 1999 was extraordinary and glissading (bum sliding) gave us that extra mountain experience. We stayed in many different types of accommodation: from dorm rooms of hotels, high altitude mountain huts, youth hostels, cabins to even in a barn. And to get to the mountain huts, we of course had to hike, -at least some of the way!