Recapping the Western Europe Trip and Previewing Next Year

Recapping the Western Europe Trip and Previewing Next Year

For students attending Cardinal Gibbons, it can be easy to overlook or completely miss some of our school’s travel opportunities. The Quebec, Italy, and Japan trips are just a few examples of the excursions offered at our school, and each one provides opportunities for participants to experience another part of our planet. 

Also included on this list is the Western Europe trip, which takes place each year during mid-winter break. Originated in 2013 by AP U.S. History teacher Mr. Blanton, the Western Europe trip has become a staple in our school community, even to the point where students and teachers alike have described it as “the Gibbons trip.” It has grown from as little as 15 students in its first year to now having about 35-40. 



Because of its long-running history, the trip has transformed over the past decade and is always improved upon through the feedback Blanton and the other chaperones receive from students. Each year the location of the excursion switches between two different regions of Western Europe. Multiple alumni who attended this trip in past years have gone on to study abroad or work abroad in some of the same countries that they visited. 

The trip comes with a cost of approximately $5,000 per person, but it covers the living arrangement, plane ticket, and most meals.  

This past school year, from Feb. 15-25, Western Europe travelers journeyed almost 4,000 miles west to the countries of Great Britain and France. 

Not only does the excursion provide an in-depth educational experience for the students through historical sightseeing and cultural exposure, but it also offers a self-searching aspect that helps the students learn who they are and how they fit into this huge world. 

Despite the trip always taking place during the mid-winter break to not interfere with class time, participants still have to miss at least one day of classes to account for travel time. Taking off from the Raleigh-Durham airport, the group landed in London, England where the first two full days and three nights of the trip took place. 



In London, the group explored the city’s vast metropolitan aspects and experienced many great sights like Big Ben, the Tower of London, and Buckingham Palace. Expanding on the cultural experience of the trip, the group also watched the West End production of Les Miserables at the Sondheim Theatre, where many other famous musicals have been showcased.

After their three days in the UK, the next stop was the Normandy region in Northern France. There, the group explored different French medieval castles followed by numerous historical locations relating to World War II, specifically, the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944. Traveling to Omaha Beach was an eye-opening moment for many students; standing exactly where the Allied Forces fought to retake France. Throughout the memorial, there were a multitude of cemeteries for all the soldiers who died fighting, where many of those graves held the bodies of young men who were not much older than most of the students. 

After their extensive time in the Normandy region, the last three days of the trip were in the city of love: Paris, France, where the travelers experienced abundant sightseeing opportunities like the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre. Students were also able to attend a French cooking class. 

Junior Matthew Owens took part in this past year’s trip and had nothing but praise for the experience and how the trip was handled. He wanted to give it a try because he heard from those who went on it in the past that it was an amazing trip. After going to all the interest meetings leading up to the excursion, his excitement grew.

Owen’s favorite part of the trip was when the group went to Omaha Beach. However, he was the most impacted by his time in Paris. 

“I enjoyed how the city looked and how I was able to experience a different culture from the one here in the United States,” Owens said. “Even though there are a lot of similarities between America and France there were still things that were very culturally different that stood out to me.” 

Overall, the trip gave Owens many memorable experiences that he is grateful for. He does recommend however to those who are planning to go on the trip in the future that they do not bring an extensive amount of personal baggage with them because the trip does involve a lot of moving around and it will be hard to carry everything from location to location. There are stores close to where the students will be staying and if you need things like extra clothes or hygiene products you can always purchase them at any time.



Looking ahead to the 2024-2025 school year, Blanton has just as an exciting itinerary planned for the Western Europe trip.

As previously stated, each year the trip flips between different regions in Western Europe. This upcoming trip will take place across Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria. It will start in Germany and the group will stay two nights in the capital city of Berlin followed by one night in Dresden. After that, they will travel right over the border of Germany into the Czech Republic where they will spend two nights in Prague. Shortly after, the group will travel right back over the border to Southern Germany where they will spend their longest period in Munich for four nights. The trip will end in Austria with a day excursion to Salzburg. 

In Berlin, a lot of what the students learn in their History and English classes will become relevant because they will experience many different WWII and Cold War historical components in the capital city of Germany. The cultural element will be seen in places like Prague and Munich where they will travel to numerous locations focusing on the country’s society and lifestyle. In Munich, for example, the group will visit the headquarters of BMW and Allianz stadium where the Bayern Munich Football Club plays, because both the production of cars and soccer are huge in Germany. 

Unfortunately, the 2024-2025 school year registration has already closed and the roster is full. But, if you have any questions about the trip or want to sign up for the following year, contact Blanton. Rising seniors receive one-day priority for registration. 

For those planning on joining the trip for the 2025-2026 school year, Blanton advises that you come to the informational meetings as soon as he starts advertising them either on GNN or posters throughout the school.

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About the Contributor
Blair Mitchell
Blair Mitchell, Reporter
Hey, my name is Blair Mitchell. I am a Junior and this is my first year working with the Gibbons Globe. As a freelance sports reporter for the Chatham News and Record, I have been involved in writing and journalism for quite some time and it has always been an interest of mine. I am excited to help share stories about our Gibbons community this year.