Big Ben at night going back to the hotel after Wicked
Big Ben at night going back to the hotel after Wicked
Miranda White

London with the Band: A Remembrance

The London trip is now over, and the band is already getting ready for our March concert. It was a trip that very few of us would have made otherwise. London is one of those places that you don’t normally visit. If you’re going on vacation you want to go somewhere warm or different. London is not what comes to mind when you think of a vacation hotspot. But it’s still a place rich with history and architecture and a unique opportunity for students to get to visit. And to get to perform there, especially in the New Year’s Day Parade was a once in a lifetime experience.

The Bus Ride

I was anxious for the flight, something I took relief in knowing was a thought that I wasn’t alone in. But the normal chaos when I arrived at school helped put some of that at ease. Checking in our suitcases and getting our standard lanyards before we all got onto the buses to drive down to the airport was nothing short of the usual blizzard of chaos and confusion, and that familiarness helped put me at ease.

There was a bit of chaos cramming everyone onto the buses to get to the airport, but as always we found a way. We got a police escort down to the airport. At first, everyone on my bus thought the bus in front of us was having a disco party or something because of the way it was lit up by the police lights. It was one of the highlights of the trip, and it was probably one of the first times that it really hit me that we were truly going to another country to represent our school and town.

The Flight & the Airports

Getting through TSA was an adventure. I ended up getting separated from all of my friends and had to go through alone. I ended up in a group with a lot of freshmen without any of the FOMs (Friend of Music Moms) and ended up staying behind at the TSA security checkpoint to make sure that they all got through all right.

Some of the bags got stuck so I had to wait forever to get mine back. A few of the freshmen got stuck and had to be searched so I made sure to stay until they all got through because I felt responsible for them as the only upperclassmen there.

Donovan Chylinski, Sayde White, and Arianna & Bella Conomacos posing with a cardboard cut-out of Wally the mascot of the Red Sox while waiting for their flight to London. (Arianna Conomacos)

Thankfully despite a few scars, everyone seemed to get through just fine. We were at the Boston Airport for about an hour, and it seemed to drag on forever until it was time to board. I forced all of them to take a picture with Wally on the way back to our terminal, after all, how can you not take a picture with Wally?!

The flight was pretty standard, but the airport in London was different. A lot of the stuff, like their passport checks, was automated. Instead of having a person check and stamp your passport, you would just place it on a scanner and have a camera take a picture of your face. However, my passport didn’t work on the scanner, and I had to go have a person look at it. It was a problem that a lot of people seemed to have.

I was disappointed when they didn’t stamp my passport since I had been excited about it. Maybe it was just because I was so exhausted, but the bus ride to the hotel was so surreal. I knew that I was quite literally in another country, and this was the first time in my life not being on American soil, but at the same time, everything seemed the same.

The Parade Route

After we got all of the cards we would need through the trip, like our dining and train card, and the whole band was assembled, we all got loaded onto the buses again and headed down to Piccadilly Square to walk through the parade route. We had an audio tour that we all downloaded so we could learn more about the historical locations on the parade route, but I had a lot of difficulty trying to line up what the audio was saying with our actual surroundings, especially because we had to stay constantly on the move.

Santa-themed Nutella hot-chocolates purchased from a stall in Trafalgar Square by Arianna Conomacos & Sayde White (Arianna Conomacos)

My favorite part of the guided tour was by far when we got to go explore Trafalgar Square. There was a huge market there with tons of different stalls. By the time we got there we all were starving, so my friend Sadie and I got these fancy Nutella hot chocolate things! There was also a stall that caught my attention that had these beautiful homemade journals for sale.

The only available bathrooms were the public bathrooms which you had to pay to use. All of the bathrooms on the trip were kind of gross, even the ones you had to pay to use. There was a lot of mold everywhere, even just in the regular places, and none of their bathroom stuff was automated so you just had to do everything manually.

I was kind of freaked out by the idea of having to manually flush a toilet or turn on a sink faucet in a public bathroom. It just seemed so gross. We were told that it was because London’s plumbing system was built for a much smaller population, so they couldn’t use automated systems like that because it would demand too much water.

After we finished the guided tour of the parade route, we all walked to go see Big Ben. It was crazy to see just how intricate the tower was. I never realized how much detail there was in it. However, by the time we got there, I was way too tired to do anything else, and everyone else seemed to share the same idea. At that point, we had been up for two days straight due to the time differences and most of us were wiped.

When we got back to the hotel, the dinner was kind of lame. I’ve always been a picky eater, but even foods I would normally love like pasta were just disappointing. None of it was really good, and I had been hyped up for it so it was kind of a letdown. The desserts though were incredible! One good thing about London is that their confectioneries were delicious.

A lot of the time the food there was actually kind of just generally sketchy, my pickiness aside, and everyone I knew kept getting sick from the food, and all of the meat outside of American chains we went to was boiled, which sent me for a mental loop. A lot of the time, food tasted very different than what I was expecting, like the sausage rolls. It sounded amazing in theory, like a mozzarella stick but with a sausage instead of cheese. But instead, it was just disgusting. The only foods where you got what you were expecting were baked goods, like bread and cupcakes.

Windsor Castle and Wicked

Sayde White and Arianna Conomacos taking a selfie together at Windsor Castle. (Arianna Conomacos)

Each bus got its own tour guide and our bus’s tour guide was Kevin. He was incredible throughout the trip. We learned so much information from him about all of the historical sites we visited. But he was really quiet, which was something that came up quite a bit. Whenever any of the staff was trying to communicate something with us, they were just too quiet to be overheard over the general buzz of the band. A lot of the time a member of the FOM would just have to speak up on their behalf to get whatever the message was across.

Windsor Castle was incredible. I just wish things were more open for us to take pictures and explore; a lot of the castle wasn’t open to the public. I had a lot of fun imagining the history behind it and pretending that we were surrounded by some kind of old Victorian nobles going through their everyday lives. The entire trip I wished that I had my journal with me because the only thing that I wanted to do was write. Wicked was amazing, and I enjoyed watching it. The play had some cool set pieces like this cool mechanical dragon that they had and it moved. Sadly though it did not breathe fire.

Concert Day

We started the next day with a panoramic tour where we got to stop at a ton of different places throughout London and take pictures. We got to see tons of old statues and Buckingham Palace.
One of the statues there that stuck out was a statue of Queen Victoria and the goddess Nike. A lot of the architecture and history was just fascinating, and everything there was so diverse in the style of its architecture.

That afternoon, we performed at St. Johns in Smith Square. It was so exciting to finally get to play all our concert pieces in London. After we finished playing we all got the chance to go see the other groups perform, one of which was a high school group like us, and the other a college.
The other groups played beautifully; it was great to get to see all of the different styles of music and conducting that each of their directors used.

Hampton Court

The band lining up to go see the crown jewels at London Tower (Arianna Conomacos)

The next day after the concert we got to visit what ended up being by far my favorite part of the entire trip, Hampton Court. I took a picture of almost every door in the entire place. There was a lot more that we could explore, and besides the church, which was still closed for the holidays, everything was open. We could also take pictures of almost anything that we wanted outside of some of the crowns and jewels they had on display there.

We got to go see all of the kitchens, where they used to store food and alcohol, as well as all of the bedrooms of the royal family who were inhabitants of that time. It was the home of King Henry the 8th and I spent an unhealthy amount of time making King Henry the 8th jokes and singing the song from Horrible Histories.

New Year’s Eve & The Parade

After we got back from Hampton Court, we went back to the hotel and we all got dolled up for the New Year’s Party. My friend Sayde and I ended up ditching it though and just going to our parents’ room (since they came on the trip) and spending the evening with them. The party was just a little too loud for us to be able to hold any conversation and there were too many lights. But New Year’s Eve was one of the best parts of the whole trip. We watched the London New Year’s Eve fireworks together on the TV and hung out.

The next day we had the parade. The parade was almost surreal. We had spent so much time preparing for it, that I couldn’t quite comprehend that we were marching in the parade until halfway through. I was honestly blown away by how amazing we looked in the footage. It almost made me feel silly for fretting the entire parade if our lines were straight and everyone was marching in step.

Three different flavors of mochi on a plate from a ramen shop in London (Arianna Conomacos)

Our abridged performance of the half-time show that we performed at the end of the parade was probably our best all year. I was so blown away by how everything looked when I got to see the recordings after the fact. The only real downside to the parade was the blisters as funny as that is. I thought I had blisters before, but I could barely walk after it and was exhausted after the late night before. A large portion of the parade was just dodging the donkey poop on the road.

We were hoping to go on a Harry Potter Tour afterward, but we ended up canceling it because everyone just needed some time to recover. We spent the rest of the day in the hotel just relaxing and recovering. I was really excited to go do the tour, but the second I found it was more than one mile long, I was quite happy to instead just spend the rest of the day with Sayde and our parents and getting dinner at this ramen shop.

Final Day & Return Home

The final day we were there we went on a boat cruise. I was super excited about the bout tour, and we got to learn a lot of cool facts from all of the tour guides.

It was surprisingly short for what I expected, but it was still really fun to do. After that, we went to the Tower of London. There wasn’t a lot to see besides the crown jewels, and the weather was terrible.
After we went through the Tower of London we went to the London Eye, and the entire streets were filled with broken umbrellas that people just abandoned there.

The view from the top of the London Eye (Arianna Conomacos)

The actual ride on the Eye was kind of scary. At one point, one of the doors or the emergency hatch blew open, and we had to pull it back shut. I don’t even know what happened myself, just that the winds got a hundred times louder and stuff started to blow around for a second before whatever opened got closed. We ended up finding out that the London Eye shut down shortly after we went because of the weather, so we were lucky to get on when we did.


After the London Eye, we went back to the hotel to start packing. I was so excited to be heading back home. I loved London, but there’s no better feeling than finally just being at home.

The first thing I noticed when I got off the plane was how different the air smelled, as weird as that is. The second I smelt it though, I knew I was back. It was great to just sleep in my own bed again. It was so nice just to be in my room again and get back into my normal routine.

Other Random Thoughts

My phone battery ended up getting fried when we were over there even with the adapter that we all brought. My phone was just too old to support the voltage that their power system is on and now the battery is toast. Thankfully I used the battery packs most of the time to charge it, so it still works. A lot of people who I talked to also had the same problem and it was kind of a bummer.

Arianna Conomacos sticking her head through a bush to look at the garden on the other side and to rest her head. (Arianna Conomacos)

A lot of people kept getting sick and it was worrying. I blame the food there as a lot of it was pretty sketchy, but of course, I’m no doctor. It seemed like it took a week after our return for everyone to return to school because of how many people fell ill. It put me on edge for a lot of the trip because I didn’t want to get sick too.

Everything was really expensive, and the money they gave us for food didn’t go very far. I had $200 in the bank when we got there and I only had $6 left when we returned, almost all of which went to pay for food. I ended up deciding not to buy many souvenirs because of how overpriced everything seemed for what the quality of it was and just got a journal, a cup, and a phonebooth-themed piggy bank.

But overall, it was a great trip, and one I won’t be forgetting any time soon. It was an incredible experience and opportunity to get to travel to a place that I never would have normally. It was incredibly satisfying getting to see all of our hard work pay off and seeing all the things we had practiced a thousand times come to fruition.

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About the Contributor
Arianna Conomacos
Arianna Conomacos, Opinions Editor
As Arianna Conomacos's first year on the editorial board, she is excited to help young beginning journalists and to help spread awareness on all the going ons of the school. Arianna has been a member of the Lancer Marching band since her freshmen year as a flute and piccolo player. She has been playing the flute for over a decade. She has been writing stories even before since she could write and can almost always be seen with a book. Known for her outspokenness in her opinions, you can almost always find her somewhere around school.

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