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England vacation brings about an epiphany of gratitude

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[/media-credit] Senior Nick Fontes traveled to England over Christmas break to take in a English football game and many of the top sites.
Over Christmas break I had the awesome opportunity to travel to England with my family to spend Christmas and New Years with my relatives whom are fortunate enough to call that magnificent country their home. My aunt and uncle moved to England this past spring and wanted to spend the holidays with their relatives that they have not been able to see in a while; my family happily obliged to go.

My journey began when my father and I traveled to London on the 22nd of Dec., eager to meet up with my mother and two sisters who had all arrived the week earlier. I was extremely excited to visit England and observe the sights and culture that the country offers up readily to wanting travelers.

Upon arrival, my first couple of days were spent mostly at my aunt and uncle’s house, reconnecting with family and celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas, respectively. Even while simply staying at home the first couple of days, I was able to absorb small parts of the British culture, the most notable being driving on the opposite side of the road, eating a grilled goose for Christmas dinner (as is the custom in Britain) and listening to the accented talk of the locals I met.

After those days of resting, reconnecting and feasting were done, I went on my first cultural foray into the city of London, which came in the form of going to a professional soccer game. I was quite thrilled about this as I am an avid soccer fan and was pumped to see some of the greatest players in the world masterfully play my favorite sport.

The game was Chelsea vs. West Ham, two clubs that were part of the Barclays Premiere League (the top football league in England and possibly the world) and two teams that were rivals and hated each other. The atmosphere was incredible beyond my imagination.

I have heard rumors that soccer fans are the craziest sports fans in the world, and these rumors were more than confirmed during my experience at Chelsea’s stadium. Throughout the game the sea of blue Chelsea supporters and the small section of West Ham supporters duked it out in a chanting insult match that was almost as entertaining to listen to as the actual game was to watch.

Throughout my experience I was also able to try many of the foods that England is famous for such as bangers and mash, meat pies, fish and chips, crisps, goose, and a popular stadium food, bacon buns. The pinnacle of my culinary experience, however, was when our whole family dressed up and went to a very fancy, very British, afternoon tea. While the food was very satisfying, I felt that a lot of it was pretty bland, as the British tend to not add salt on their food. — Senior Nick Fontes

Expletive laced chants, jeers, and songs about every Chelsea player and coach were exulted from the small but boisterous crowd of West Ham supporters, followed by more toned down, but still resounding cheers from the winning Chelsea side. This was truly an awesome event and one that was made just as memorable by the hooligans in the stands as the superstars on the pitch.

The very next day, I had the opportunity to go to another extremely anticipated sporting event, the likes of which I have never been to before: a rugby match. Though I understand very little the intricacies of the sport, I was excited nonetheless to witness the brutal game that was one of England’s most popular pastimes.

The atmosphere here was a lot more friendly and jovial than that of the soccer match the day before. The stadium in which the match was held was sold out and 82,000 fans attended, which is more than the average NFL game here in the U.S.

While I did not really understand what was going on at all times, this did not stop me from thoroughly enjoying myself. At the rugby game, I felt like I was truly experiencing something unique to British culture, an event I would not find anywhere else in the world.

The next couple of days, my family made several forays into London itself to see the landmarks and sights that made the city so unique. We were able to see or tour the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and my personal favorite, The Winston Churchill War Rooms. While seeing all of the landmarks that London is known for was incredible, I specifically enjoyed this less known attraction because I am a history buff and through this I was able to learn about one of WWII’s greatest heroes.

Throughout my experience I was also able to try many of the foods that England is famous for such as bangers and mash, meat pies, fish and chips, crisps, goose, and a popular stadium food, bacon buns. The pinnacle of my culinary experience, however, was when our whole family dressed up and went to a very fancy, very British, afternoon tea. While the food was very satisfying, I felt that a lot of it was pretty bland, as the British tend to not add salt on their food.

The final thing of renown that I did in the U.K. was tour the Warner Brothers Studio where they filmed all 8 Harry Potter movies. I have been a fan of this film franchise since I read the first book when I was 12 years old, so this experience was very eye-opening and, pardon the irony, magical.

At the studios I witnessed all of the behind the scenes action that explained how they brought the fantastical world of Harry Potter to life. I was able to walk through the actual sets and look at the actual props and costumes used in the films. Seeing how enormous of an undertaking this was by the filmmakers gave me a new and deeper appreciation for the film that I had already loved.

For me the coolest part of this was being able to witness the prolific use of green screen and after effects that I was naive to beforehand. Seeing how detailed and arduous the process of creating 8 movies basically a computer blew my mind. Advanced rigs, mechanics, and movie magic, created the monsters, flying, and landscape so iconic to the films.

After this my time in England came to an end. Sadly we bid farewell to my aunt and uncle and proceeded to the airport for our way home. Or so we thought.

Our travel home was completely thrown off track when on our flight from London to Dallas, a fellow passenger suffered an appendix burst. We were diverted to the nearest airport so that the man and his family could get off and get medical attention. The main buzzkill was that this airport that we diverted to was actually a naval base in Iceland that we were forced to stay at for four hours.

Once we were finally off the ground we could not fly all the way to Dallas so the airline decided that we would land at John F. Kennedy airport in New York City, and then after getting a new crew, we would continue to Dallas. This massive delay would cause us to miss our connecting flight in Dallas and ended up adding another 16 hours of travel. Luckily we arrived home safe and sound and miraculously, with our bags not lost in the kerfuffle.

I loved going to England and I believe that the trip not only allowed me to experience new things, but also opened up my horizons and changed my perspective on living in America and, more specifically, Fresno. The more countries I go to, the more I realize how special we are in America to have all of the blessings that we do.

This writer can be reached via Twitter: @NickFontes1.

For more opinions, read the Jan. 12 article, COLUMN: Causes, consequences of terrorist attack.

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