New York Trip
I believe (and Google verified) it was Samuel Johnson who said, “when a man is tired of London; he is tired of life.” This quote was brought to mind when one of the students asked if we were tired of taking groups to New York. This misses the point. It is the difference in the group size and make up that makes each trip to New York the same, yet unique; same landmarks but different expressions of awe and wonder from the students.
Our trip began with the excited chatter of students as they boarded the bus to the airport, waved off by parents whose emotions range from jealousy to worry as their (all of a sudden grown up) children jet off across the Atlantic for the experience of their lifetime to date.
All set to leave Manchester Airport
A bizarre route took us through Amsterdam then saw us board the flight to JFK. It was one of those flights where you slept and watched a movie yet still only passed half an hour. Then through US immigration – people have won Mastermind having been asked fewer questions – eventually onto the coach to take us through the rush hour traffic to our hotel.
Having an extra day allowed us to spend the evening taking in the lights, sounds and many strange people of Times Square before heading to bed, around twenty hours after leaving Arnold layby.
Our first full day is always the busiest. Up early for breakfast. We had a catch up with restaurant manager, Carlos who is still basking in the glory of Argentina's World Cup win; always happy to see Maricourt students returning to his hotel. The best news from the hotel was the return of the waffle machine at breakfast after Covid restrictions last year.
It was then off to Grand Central Station to catch the subway to the Ellis Island Ferry. A choppy trip across the Hudson to the Statue of Liberty and the obligatory group photo. The Immigration Museum followed then lunch before we visited the 9/11 museum. As the years go by you realise that today’s students were not born when this happened and so more explaining and answering of questions is needed. As always, the museum provides a sobering reminder of the day, people and how the world has changed. Among the glamour of the city, it is important to the teachers who accompany the group that we are educators and in one of the more serious parts of the trip we try to ensure students understand the continued effects of that day.
Pictures: Statue of Liberty – 9/11 Museum – Brooklyn Bridge
The jet lag seems to hit the staff harder than the students. We offer early morning walks to see the city that never sleeps as it wakes up – again we were on our own, the students never seem to struggle with sleep!
The students were magnificent, entering into everything with enthusiasm. Their usual cool persona in school lost to the wonder of this magical city. This was never more so as we timed the visit to Brooklyn Bridge to perfection as the sun set in the distance. It is a privilege to blend into the background and watch as they take selfies, get Polaroids, drink in the atmosphere, and hug each other in sheer amazement at the fact they’re in such an iconic place.
A packed and blustery Empire State Building visit followed the next day. The west side basked in glorious sunshine while the east side wind was like a hurricane. A quick run round for photos whilst trying to spot landmarks. Then Macy’s for some shopping and free time until our evening meal at Bubba Gump Shrimps. Sunday saw us visit Central Park. A glorious day in terms of the weather – no snowball fights this year. Some of the students took the horse and carriage option while most walked along to the John Lennon Memorial part of the park. As we walked along 5th Avenue we stopped at St Patrick’s Cathedral where candles are lit and prayers offered for our Maricourt community.
You never know who you might bump into in New York, the staff proved this when we saw Matthew MacFadyen and Nicholas Braun from the hit show ‘Succession.’ Our chance to join the selfie brigade, even though one of the actors is 6’6”.
He really is that tall.
The early evening meant a visit to The Edge – no, not a description of where the staff were at this point, but a viewing platform built into the side of Hudson Yards building; a 100-storey high opportunity to soak in 360-degree views. It is a glass viewing platform with a glass floor in parts. Depending on your view of heights this was a fantastic experience, or the most ridiculous piece of engineering and you spent the whole time inside with your eyes shut. When we came back down to firm ground, it was off to Ellen’s Stardust Diner where budding actors and actresses sing whilst performing their waiting on duties. A real treat of a night.
Some time available the next day for final souvenir buying, packing of cases and waiting for the transfer back to the airport. It is a real privilege and a pleasure to be part of this trip, especially as the planning is left to other people (well done again, Miss Holden and Mr Daly). The chance to speak to students on a different level to the normal day to day; to listen to their plans, ideas, stories and share with them their excitement at the whole experience. However, you also realise that there is a huge gulf between us – missing the road crossing to record the Tik Tok, having them sing to me songs I have never heard of, taking three selfies of the same thing, and going back to the hotel for a lie down in the middle of the day.
Among the many highlights from this year include being able to celebrate Emily’s 18th, lunch at Best Bagel Coffee Shop, Lynn the tour guide, new nicknames (@mrdaly!), trying not to jaywalk, staff learning new photography skills (see below), bananas with waffles (?), and lots of others that will come to mind at odd times. Today’s moments really are tomorrow’s memories.
It’s so nice to have people from America and other countries stop you on the subway, in restaurants and in tourist areas. They are keen to find out where you’re from and what the students are up to. They are always complimentary about the students. They are a real credit whenever and wherever we take them.
The flight home seemed a lot easier, except for the heart-breaking moment we realised we were actually flying over Manchester to get to Amsterdam to wait for three hours to fly back to Manchester again.
Some of the students have been with each other since day one of Reception, and this is a tremendous way to finish this chapter of their lifelong friendship. Other students have spoken to people they wouldn’t otherwise. In all cases each gained memories, experiences, laughs, and moments that will stay with them for a lifetime. It’s now over to the planning phase for 2024 and the chance to make a whole new set of memories.