Day 1: our first day. As we head back to our hotel at the end of what has been a long day we have a chance to reflect on the day so far and think about what lies ahead, what will we see? How will we cope with the food? What will the mud pools be like? Will it really make us all look 10 years younger? So many questions that we will hopefully have answered by the end of our trip on Sunday, but, as with all good stories we start at the beginning. For our GCSE Geography group it started with an early morning wake up call for everyone to set off from Abbey Grange at 3am, we made it on time to Manchester Airport and our journey had officially begun. Aside from slight delays at security (something about makeup and girls) everything went according plan, well for most, poor Michael Tobbell missed out on his early morning Burger King, but for most we were just happy to be on our way. Arriving at Catania airport 10:30 local time we found our coach and then set off for what will be our base until Sunday, a delightful hotel by the name of Hotel Solemar where the rooms were clean and tidy, with some fantastic sea views and a three course lunch ready to be served to a group of hungry travellers. Afterwards we had an hour to relax (or fall asleep in my case and nearly miss the departure time for our first stop) and then it was our first taste of Geography for the day. We boarded the coach again and set out for Giardini-Naxos, a small coastal settlement where we could have a look at the impact that tourism has had on the area, a big thanks to Mrs Elliott for delivering the tourism theory for today, I think everyone has left with a better understanding of the Butler Model now they have experienced it in the flesh. Time was set aside for the party to unwind and many chose to stroll along the beach and bask in the Mediterranean sunshine, the boys even found time for a spot of football which for year 11 it must have felt like a real treat and a final chance to try and ignore the stress of their impending exams. A night in the hotel awaits and I think a fair few of us will relish an early night to recharge our batteries for tomorrow’s adventures.
Name: Ross Foley Your account of the experience so far: The experience so far has been exciting and both terrifying because I haven’t been on a plane for about 8 years and the thought of going back on one was quite scary but other than the plane journey the rest of the experience has been really exciting because we get to explore a new place and experience different cultures than that of England. Overall I would say that this has been on of the most exciting yet terrifying days of my life and can’t wait to see what the rest of the trip has to offer.
Name: Zoë Cunliffe Your account of the experience: We started the day with a beautiful ride up to the bottom of Etna and then continued our journey by cable car and an extremely jolty but awesome 4×4 ride. We then followed a local guide to the side of the volcano where we were provided with loads of interesting facts about Etna and stunning views. The lava stays warm apparently for 20 years! After a long journey into Catania with only a short stop at the lava fields we went bowling and it’s safe to say that I am rubbish at it, but we all had a lot of fun. We are now on our way back to the hotel and are all looking forward to tea, a shower and tomorrow’s adventures!
Day 2: the trek to Etna As we woke on our first full day in Sicily it was clear that a good nights rest had done wonders for the group, although Will Waistell was looking particularly rough at breakfast after almost sleeping in. A continental breakfast was had by all before setting off on our journey to Mount Etna, a sight we had seen plenty of during our short visit and a place we were all eager to visit. It was safe to say that the views of the volcano at ground level are pretty awe inspiring, but to get up close to this wonder was a real treat for all of us, it is one that will stay with me for years to come. From a geography point of view it was a treat to get to see a feature we talk about so often in lessons first hand and for the students to be able to get a real idea of what a volcano looks like close up. The most common question was easily ‘why did some areas of the volcano not have snow on them?’. This was answered by our English speaking guide who informed us that a recent lava flow was still cooling down, as such snow would not settle on it. A cable car ride and 4×4 drive were to be the final steps of the journey and the views at the top did not disappoint anyone, there were plenty of pictures taken by everyone in what proved to be slightly chilly conditions but everyone still had fun. The journey back down the volcano was just as adventurous with the 4×4 drivers seemingly enjoying the chance to drive a little faster, a big thanks to all the year 11s for abandoning me on the cable car down, but the German couple I shared with were just as lovely, even if I did have no idea what they were talking about. After a short lunch break and time to buy a couple of souvenirs we headed to a lava field for a quick stop, this proved to be a good chance to see the path of lava from the 1992 eruption and see just how it can cut in to the countryside. The next part of the day involved a trip to the local 10 pin bowling centre and it was during this trip I was invited to join the “lad banter” at the back of the bus, I would definitely say they have an eclectic mix of music but a few gems were hidden in the mix. One game of bowling later it was clear that myself and Mr Clarke were the kings of the lanes with a few of the year 11s being truly shocking, naming no names of course!. The day overall has been a great experience, it was a pleasure to have so many students asking different questions about the volcano, the non-geography teachers amongst us, Mr and Mrs Clarke, were equally enthused by the sights of the day and have found the whole experience to be be a real treat. As for tomorrow, well it’s going to be an early start but the day should hopefully be just as rewarding, let’s see if everyone has their sea legs for the ferry trip.
Day 3: Vulcano and the mud pools If one word could sum up today then I think I would choose ‘Epic’, whilst Etna is the A-list movie volcano of the region Vulcano is certainly the B-list movie punching above its weight. As we arrived for a very early breakfast it was clear that a fair few of the party were not morning people and despite Mrs Elliott’s attempts on the coach to liven everyone up with a few revision questions the mood was certainly a tired one. The arrival at the ferry port and the chance for some of the boys to purchase brand new “man bags” from the local traders soon brought a bit of life in the group, this then spurred on a few more to invest in new head ware which I am sure they will cherish for many more future holidays. As we boarded our boat for the day, the Mistral, we soon realised we were in fact the only ones traveling on board, this meant we had a spare 200 seats for the journey and it gave the trip a real exclusive feel about it. The crew of the Mistral took us on a short tour of the islands where we saw some truly fantastic coastal features, Mrs Elliott’s reaction to array of stacks, arches and caves was a real highlight for everyone who saw it. It’s a good job we have plenty of pictures as I am sure she will be incorporating them in to future lessons. Upon arriving at Vulcano we met our guide, Manuel, who was an exceptionally well informed local who told us everything we wanted to know about the volcano we were visiting, as well as some extra details about the surrounding volcanic activity and other islands. This then started what will go in history as the “Epic” portion of the day. The trek to the top was a little gruelling for some but we all made it to the crater of the volcano and what a sight it was, I’ll get to the smell later. I think that whilst Etna yesterday had the spectacle of size and the A-list factor, many of us wanted to see more of a typical volcanic crater with gas being emitted and yellow sulphur stains on the side of the landscape, well this is what Vulcano offered! Everyone in the group was in awe of the sheer scope of the crater and that it lived up to everyone’s expectations of what a volcano should look like. From the size of the crater to the gaseous vents of sulphur (fumeroles) everyone had a fantastic time taking pictures, the one aspect no one will forget has the be the smell that was coming from these vents. Initially it was one of the most horrific smells I think I have come across and I was certainly not prepared for how intense it would be, the feeling on your chest was also unexpected so hopefully my pleuritic lungs will be ok over the coming days. After a while though I think we all became accustomed to the conditions and it wasn’t long until everyone was snapping away taking pictures in front of the vents and getting closer looks at the sulphur crystals which had formed. When we had finished we set off back down the volcano were many of the group then decided to enjoy the delights of the local mud pool. This was an experience, 30 students and 3 staff members lathered up in volcanic mud was a sight to be seen but I am assured that we will all be looking a lot longer younger and have healthier skin because of it. As I write this on the boat heading back I think most of us just feel a little grubby and smelly if I’m honest, maybe the effects will become more evident after a warm shower and some dinner. As trips go this has to be up there as one of the best, basking in temperatures of 27 degrees, swimming in mud baths, trekking up a volcano and a private boat. Yes that will do very nicely, roll on the next trip to Sicily!
Name: Vicki Your account of the experience: “A trek” that’s what the teachers told us but I didn’t believe how much of a trek it would actually be. As shocked as we were with the sheer size of the volcano we still ploughed through and made the gruelling climb to the top. But when we reached the summit and saw the views I realised that the trek was well worth it I had never seen something so breath taking. It was a once in a lifetime experience.
Name: Alex P Your account of the experience: Today was the best day. I didn’t think it could get better than climbing Etna but the little island of Vulcano surpassed all expectations! After a challenging trek along a very rocky & dusty path up the side of the volcano, we were rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding islands; well worth it! The rest of the day involved being chased by mountain goats, soaking in a mud bath and bathing in the baking sun.
Day 4: the view and free styling pizza. After the unexpected delights of yesterday there was certainly a buzz of excitement over the events of the day with many students still talking about the amazing views from the top of Vulcano yesterday. On a personal note I would have to say that the lasting impression from Vulcano was the lingering smell of sulphur that seems to have taken up residence in just about every pore on my body, you do get used to it after a while but I think I prefer the pictures I have taken to be honest as a reminder of my time there. After a slight lie in we set off for our first part of the day, a truly memorable talk about the coastal features at Giardini-Naxos by Mr Banks. It involved team teaching with Barney Bear but personally I don’t think he pulled his weight enough. This part of the day was only a short stop and it wasn’t long until we were setting off for our next destination, the Alcantara Gorge, this was a perfect opportunity for students to see some very distinctive landforms created by a volcanic eruption from 600,000 years ago. In all fairness it had a lot to live up to after Vulcano and it didn’t quite reach the dizzy heights of the previous day, it did however allow for students to take some impressive pictures and skim a few pebbles along the river.﷯ From here our next destination was the larger settlement of Taormina, this was what many of us thought of as traditional Sicily. Narrow streets, a bustling vibe and plenty of bars, shops and restaurants for tourists and locals alike. It was a great opportunity for students to see what Sicily really had to offer tourists for what many would consider a typical holiday experience. Our first stop in Taormina was the the local Roman Ampitheartre which initially did not fill most of us with excitement, what we weren’t prepared for was the view, and what a view! It was clear the Romans knew what they were doing when they built this as it was easily one of the most impressive views that any of us have ever seen. Mrs Elliott even had to take a seat for a moment to take it the beauty of Mount Etna rising above the sky line, that was only half way up the Ampitheatre as the view at the top was truly outstanding, being able to take in bays, seawalls, groynes, settlements and a volcano was mesmerising. We soaked in the experience and then moved on to allow the students some time to do a bit gift shopping, I will say that some parents are going to receive some nice little treats, others… Well you’ll be getting a present, as for whether or not you will use/display the present is up to you. Whilst the students were busy gift shopping the staff were free to hunt down somewhere for a bit of ice-cream, we found a cracking little cafe which served some of the best ice-cream we have ever had. The strangest choice went to Mr Clarke who opted for licorice flavour, odd is the best way to describe it, more traditional flavours were chosen by Mrs Clarke who went for triple chocolate and lemon flavour ice-creams. Our meal for the night was the ever traditional Italian dish of pizza, this also had a demonstration of how to make Sicilian pizza with a bit of audience participation. Joe Tharme and Lydia Wren did a great job of making the pizza dough, Georgia Mason and Ryan Amos both excelled at rolling out the dough in to a pizza bases but the real star event was throwing pizza dough in the air. I would like to thank pretty much every student in their nomination of me to do this, as it turns out I was a bit of a natural at doing it and managed to get the dough under each leg and around my back before throwing it in the air and catching it! When the food finally arrived we enjoyed a few slices each of a very tasty selection, Michael Tobbell again was not satisfied with the portion provided to him and was eager to get a bit more grub down the hatch. Setting off for the hotel on the last night after a long day everyone was reflecting on what has proved to be an extremely rewarding trip, I think everyone going would definitely tell students in future years that this is a trip well worth going on.
Day 5: the journey home As we departed the hotel on Sunday morning it seems that the sun has also decided that today would be a good day to leave Sicily and it is just in the odd gap through the clouds from where we can see it still shining through. I think with just about every summer holiday the sun can make or break the experience, for our trip in mid-April this was no different. We have been blessed with beautiful weather from the moment we stepped off the plane and there are some red faces to show for it. The chance to soak up a few rays was greatly received by some of the year 11 boys, Wiil Waistell leading the charge on that front, those of us with red faces are now experiencing the transition to a healthy glow, Lydia Wren being particularly pleased that her redness is easing a bit. Plenty of people lathered up in enough sun tan lotion to avoid catching any of the sun, although Vicki Richards had a moment of euphoria when she thought she had caught some sun on her face for the first time ever. This has since been dismissed as simply her being a little hot with red cheeks, I think she will have to wait for another summer holiday before she changes from a pasty white complexion. As our driver, who incidentally speaks no English (top marks to Mr Clarke who seems to have figured out how to communicate with him through a combination of broken Italian and hand gestures), takes us back to the airport we are again reminded of the experiences of our holiday. With Giardini-Naxos outside one window and Mount Etna looming out of the other I think we can all appreciate the Geography of what Sicily has to offer and are leaving the island as much more rounded geographers. For me the lasting impressions of the trip mostly involve the amazing views we have seen from the moment we arrived. Sicily is truly a fantastic place to go and one which everyone involved in this trip has been thankful for the opportunity to go on. I think a massive thank you should go out to all the students for being so well behaved and showing exactly why Abbey Grange has such a good reputation. For the staff that have been involved in going with them; Mrs Clarke, Mr Clarke and Mrs Elliott the work you have all done to help ensure this has been so successful has not gone unnoticed. A final thank you has to go out to the man who planned and organised the vast majority of this trip, Mr Simpson, whilst you haven’t been able to be with us for our adventure I hope that the way in which we embraced our time here has done you proud. I know every student has missed having you here and they are looking forward to seeing you when we are back at school tomorrow to share with you all the different experiences they have gained from the trip. From Mrs Clarke, Mrs Elliott, Mr Clarke and myself I would like to thank all the students who went for their amazing behaviour, they have been a credit to the school, and to all the parents for allowing us to take them away I am sure your sons and daughters feel extremely privileged. This is #sicilyaga signing off.
Student name: Isabelle Sands Your account of the experience: Overall the experience was very enjoyable, my favourite part of our trip was the 4×4 ride up mount Etna as it very exhilarating and different to anything I have done before! Student name: Matthew Johnson Your account of the experience: My experience of Sicily was a very enjoyable and interesting one, I especially enjoyed being on the island of Vulcano as being on top of the volcano and seeing in the fumes coming out of the actual chamber was a once in a lifetime opportunity which I am very grateful for. I also enjoyed the hot weather as we never get anything like that in England. Student name: Misha vK Your account of the experience: I really enjoyed this fantastic experience and my favourite part of the trip to Taormina where we saw an Ancient Greek theatre and went to a pizza restaurant. The beautiful view of Etna from the theatre was incredible as it was a wonderful day with a perfectly clear sky. Also getting to see how the traditional “pasta” (pizza base) was made was very interesting and the finished pizza was delicious. Student name: Joanna Tobbell When they asked me to do this blog, I thought..crikey how can I put this experience into words #taskandahalf. But let me begin. When I stepped off the plane into this pool of paradise I knew I was in for a treat; little did I know about the geography I was yet to experience. From the smouldering crater of Vulcano to the ice cream parlour down the road, Sicily offered me more endless joy and uninhibited happiness than I had packed my case for. I will be eternally grateful to the teachers for making this amazing trip happen and providing a great experience through the duration of the trip. Thank you. Thank you all. Student name: Matthew Scott Your account of the experience: On the last day, there was a lot to be done, all with the disappointing shadow of returning home looming over us. We were to go back to Giardini Naxos, descend into the Alcantara Gorge, and then in the afternoon we would have the chance to explore the streets of Taormina. After once again exploiting the wifi zones in Giardini, having learnt about the formation and maintenance of the picturesque bay, we had a tour of the Gorge led partially by a 3D gecko. We particularly enjoyed watching the tank that is Joseph being chased by a tiny dog. In the afternoon we first had a chance to rest in a spot of shade at the Greek Theatre, before immersing ourselves in the charming and vibrant streets of the town. Several ice creams later, we had the chance to see how Sicilian pizzas differed from those in Naples. After sampling some, the task of packing for the flight home did not damper our mood. However, I am not going to say that it was a once in a lifetime experience, as it would be great to go back there in the future.
"I am not going to say that it was a once in a lifetime experience, as it would be great to go back there in the future"
Abbey Multi Academy Trust, c/o Chapter House, Abbey Grange C of E Academy, Butcher Hill, Leeds, LS16 5EA Tel: 0113 275 7877 Fax: 0113 275 4794 info@abbeygrangeacademy.co.uk Company No.: 07705552