From French fries to France

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Vantage Travel Team August 3, 2017

Vantage summer intern shares thoughts on dream cruise

Each summer, Vantage welcomes over a dozen interns from the West End House Boys and Girls Club in Boston to learn new skills before most of them go off to college. Here, Oscar Torres shares his thoughts on his summer—and the trip that helped kick it off: West End House Boys and Girls Club in Normandy Some people have never been “across the pond.” I was at a loss for words and so excited that I had a chance to travel to France on the Vantage river cruise Normandy & D-day Beaches with twenty-one close friends of mine. I have been going to the West End House Boys and Girls Club for about ten years now — my brother Kevin and I called it our “home away from home” — we spent our days after school there and our summers there. We even got our first job there. One day I got a call from my mentor at the Club: Mark DaCruz. As we were talking he cuts me off mid-sentence by surprise and asked “Yo, do you want to go to France?”   West End House Boys and Girls Club in Normandy“France?” I said “I can barely afford French fries let alone go overseas to France!” He explained to me that Vantage Travel had blessed the West End House by offering to take several alumni on a trip to France and he wanted to know if I was in or out, and I told him I was all the way in.

It did not feel real, until I was actually in France taking pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower. That’s when it started to hit me that I was really in France. As a joke my friend Erick started saying “What are we... in France?” And that was our slogan the whole trip — this was our way of saying we couldn’t believe where we were. Most of us had never been on a kayak before, let alone a cruise boat, before we boarded the MS River Venture. West End House Boys and Girls Club in NormandyClaude Monet’s garden was mesmerizing. It was so vibrant and the flowers popped out, which made everything more colorful. While we walked around his house and saw his famous “Water lilies” pond, we learned about Monet — how he taught himself to paint in different lights and in a nontraditional way. It is fascinating to see someone try to be different and then get the recognition they deserve. Later, Beaux-Arts in Rouen, we saw a famous Monet Painting of the Rouen Cathedral and I was blown away and had to take a picture. As the days went by we became closer with the people on the boat, because we are in this as a team trying to make this trip memorable for everyone. The boat was so elegant that it made me feel important. The fine dining from Todor was exquisite (I highly recommend the salmon and duck, — I give them a 10). We would spend our afternoons traveling on the Venture, either playing games in the captain’s room, or enjoy the view from the top deck. Some days we would wake up early to catch the sunrise, and stay out during sunset to watch the boat gliding across the water.West End House Boys and Girls Club in Normandy

Everyone agreed they loved Honfleur. In fact my friend Quran made it his goal to live there one day. We also loved the D-Day beaches, where we witnessed a truly breathtaking memorial and tribute to Brave WWII veterans who fought here. It was an emotional day, and we all felt grateful for the sacrifices that were made back then. We filled our days doing everything we possibly could. We pedaled from Honfleur to Trouville and back. It was amazing to go from city to countryside, to city again. I had never done anything like that before and I would definitely do it again. We also went kayaking. At first I was afraid there was going to be crocodiles in the water. When someone explained to me that crocodiles don’t live in this part of the world, I said “What the… why wasn’t I informed before!?” The whole trip was a fascinating experience and I loved everything about it. This was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity and I am so happy I got to spend it with the people I grew up with.