West End House Goes to France

Thanks to the incredible generosity of Vantage Deluxe World Travel founded by long-time supporters Hank and Tricia Lewis, 22 West End House high school and college students are exploring France on board a river cruise from Conflans to Normandy from May 19 – May 27. These deserving youth, accompanied by West End House staff Kristin Rhuda and Mark DaCruz, earned this unique opportunity through their academic standing, commitment to West End House programs, and their longevity with the Club (members for at least 5 years). All those selected have also exhibited strong West End House values, including a positive attitude, kindness to others, and a dedication to our mission. As part of the trip, each young person is keeping a journal during the trip. See their reflections and art below.

Using only a GoPro HERO 4, talented West End House alumna Jasmine Quiñones filmed and edited this video tribute.

Itinerary at a Glance

May 20: Embark on MS River Venture
May 21: Vernon
May 22: Les Andelys
May 23: Honfleur
May 24: Explore D-Day Landing Beaches
May 25: Rouen
May 26: Conflans
May 27: Disembark ship, return to Boston


Youth Journals

Boarding the flight to France I was so excited, but I had a pit in my stomach because I have never been on a plane before… never mind across an entire ocean! I didn’t get any sleep. My mind was racing all night on the plane because I couldn’t believe I was going to the France. Landing at Charles de Gaulle airport is when it finally hit me. Paris is my dream city because of the history and the culture. We saw the world famous Eiffel Tower and the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Our wonderful tour guide Sebastian made us feel very welcome – he even bought us all Eiffel Tower key-chains! The euros in France compared to U.S dollars was a new experience. The money here is so colorful. Although I was disappointed that I couldn’t find a soccer jersey, I was not disappointed by my first time in Paris.” — Cole

Painting of Monet’s garden by Sienna.

“When visiting Monet’s Garden, I realize how often I take my surroundings for granted. Monet was able to create art simply by taking in his surroundings. Our guide Christian from Belgium helped us to understand impressionism through an activity. He told us to look at a tree quickly and then close our eyes. The image that was left in our mind is essentially what Monet used to create his masterpieces. Visiting the gardens served as a reminder of how beautiful and inspiring nature is. I found myself walking through the garden and looking at the water lilies, amazed at the landscape around me.” — Meyling 

“I was nervous when I first walked on board the MS River Venture. This was a completely new adventure and there were many travelers on board who I didn’t know. Little by little, we met many of them and began to share stories. We sat with them at breakfast and lunch or up on top of the boat. We listened to each others’ experiences and I really enjoyed learning about their lives and their jobs. One gentleman I met was a retired mechanical engineer and he has been on many river cruises. He told me about his trips to Boston and he listened to our stories from the West End House — how we are Peer Leaders and getting ready to go to college. He was so happy that we had this opportunity and encouraged us to make the best of it.” — Ruby

“After we came back from Monet’s garden, we had the opportunity to explore the town, Vernon. Our first stop was a humongous church that was built in the 12th century. As we continued on our walk, we discovered that many of the shops were closed because it was a Sunday. We did, however, get some slushies from a place called “La Mie Caline.” The blue raspberry flavor was a hit among our crew! In addition to seeing the shops, a few of us had the opportunity to meet some young French kids. They did not speak English, so we were able to practice our French with them. We stumbled on a few words, but the boys were good sports and we enjoyed each other’s company! We also had the chance to play basketball and bike around the town. My good friend and fellow traveller, Damani Carter, got a flat tire while biking, so Kristin had to wheel his bike back to the cruise ship. Despite the flat tire, we enjoyed the beautiful sight of the Seine River at sunset and had another great day!” — Kevin 

see more photos & journals