AAHA = Amicale Alexandrie Hier et Aujourd'hui : www.aaha.ch
GATHERINGS AND REUNIONS
- EGC - SHS
The Victoria College Association of North America
The English Girls' College & The Sacred Heart School
Russia, August 14th - 30th, 2007
Photo 1 : Moscow, St. Basil Cathedral In Red Square
Time waits for no man .......with every passing year
we have come to realize that our mobility is becoming a major factor in
determining a destination for our joint school reunion. Our
reunion this year was put together on somewhat of a last minute decision taken
by a contingent of Canadian E.G.C. and S.H.S. Together we
decided we would opt for a new 'format' and rather than a Beach Resort we
tackled the challenge of a cruise.
'Challenge' because of the sea-sickness factor. Playing it safe we, Despina Frangoudis-Rizopoulos and yours truly Nicole Biancardi-Francescutti put together a Russian River Cruise, sailing along the Neva River from St Petersburg to Moscow.
September our usual 'rendez-vous' date was changed to August due to the unpredictable weather and that contributed significantly to the drop in number of our regular participants whom we sure missed. However we welcomed the 'new blood', their presence was like a booster shot in the arm ! Nevertheless we were 16 participants who came from Egypt; U.K.; Greece: Switzerland; France; U.S.A. and Canada. Regrettably we had to turn down several late-comers who ignored the deadline date probably thinking : "Maalesh, bokra...." Then there were no more cabins available.
On August 14th the North American group flew with Czech Airlines to Russia via a four day stop-over visit in Prague where we met participants from Egypt and Greece. Together this was somewhat of an 'avant gout' of the fun we were to experience during our eleven day cruise in Russia. A lot is to be said about the beauty of Prague, history is to be found at every corner, a truly unique city. Our stay was marked by several memorable instances and regardless of the polyglots in the group we encountered a language barrier......none could speak Czech.
On August the 19th we flew to St Petersburg where we linked up with the rest of our group on the Viking Cruise ship 'The Lomonosov' which was to be our Hotel for the next 11 days. All participants were aware that the accommodation on board was not to be compared to that of ships sailing either the Caribbean or Mediterranean. Despite it all, the shared experience was great fun and a reminder of our youth i.e. camping days as Girl Guides or Boy Scouts !
It is said that : 'Man is an animal of habit', therefore in no time did we adapt and adopt to our new accommodation.
We had 3 days of sightseeing in St Petersburg. Our tour began with a first stop at the elegant Catherine's Palace in Pushkin built by Peter the Great and a striking example of Russian baroque architecture.There we viewed in all its glitter and splendor what is often referred to as the "Eighth Wonder of the World" the Amber Room. Then on to St Petersburg considered to be Russia's most beautiful city because its beauty lies in the harmonious blend of Russian and West European architecture. We visited the Peter and Paul Fortress ; the Peter and Paul Cathedral with its lovely golden spire , it is also the resting place of both Peter the Great and the last Romanov family. St Petersburg is an indescribable center of history and culture. We visited the Resurrection Church and St Isaac's Cathedral, though places of worship both are also museums and we were treated to an 'a cappela' church choir recital during our visit.
We enjoyed a morning at the magnificent Peterhof Palace also known as Peter the Great's "Versailles by the Sea" famed for its Grand Cascade made up of several waterfalls, fountains and numerous statues........just amazing! However no visit to
St Petersburg would be complete without a visit to the
Winter Palace transformed into one of the world's most splendid museums by Catherine the Great and better known as the Hermitage. We were in awe at the sight of all the undeniably unique art treasures housed in that one Palace. Although it can safely be said that the Hermitage was the highlight of our visit to St Petersburg , another 'must see' was an evening at the theatre where we attended a ballet representation of Tchaikovsky's 'Swan Lake'.
Sailing along 'The Waterways of the Czars' towards Moscow we made several stops. These were truly a photographer's treat because of the different picturesque scenery each town depicted. First in Kizhi one of the most ancient inhabited sites in Russia with its open-air architectural museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then came Goritzy a lovely pastoral region boasting the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery founded by St Cyril in 1397 and filled with beautiful icons and frescoes. Our next stop was Yaroslavl where according to legend was founded in the early 11th century. Our last stop before reaching Moscow was Uglich which houses wonderful architectural buildings and some of the most beautiful Russian churches and monasteries. Uglich we were told was the 'shopper's delight' and indeed it was. The Amber, the Garnet, the renowned 'Fabergé' eggs (imitations of course!!) and most of all the lovely handmade crafts all contributed to the 'shopper's delight'.
Over and above the sightseeing tours, it is worth mentioning that life aboard the 'Lomonosov' gave us time to get-together in the evenings and laugh the night away with good humour which made the envy of onlookers and we were nicknamed 'the lively bunch'! Several entertaining evenings were held on board while cruising the scenic Neva River also known as the 'Blue Route' . One afternoon we were served a 'Russian Tea' accompanied with all sorts of typical Russian desserts. Then we had an evening sampling both Caviar and Vodka.......lucky were those passengers who were able to regain their cabins unescorted !!
"Passenger's Entertainment Night" turned out to be memorable. Our 16 OVC members (Obviously Vivacious Contingent) group were most cooperative and entertained the passengers and crew with a 15mins. skit which turned out to be a howling success and 'le clou de la soirée'. Our enthusiasm was such that we volunteered to help other presentations who were short of characters. Putting it mildly there was not one dull moment on the 'Lomonosov'.
Cruising along the Moscow Canal we arrived in Moscow where we spent two very exciting days. Our sightseeing bus tour of the city of Mocow was amazing. The city of Moscow is booming with construction it will soon be able to compete with any European capital city. A ride on the famous Metro featured huge,elegant stations with a variety of art and sculpture. Then we went on a walking tour of Red Square with St Basil's Cathedral and its colourful onion domes. A visit to GUM, Russia's famous department store and the pastel-hued galleries of Russia's most chic shopping mall were very tempting but everything is so expensive that we were content with only window-shopping ! An evening of entertainment at the Circus was fun.....I guess the last time either of us had been to the circus was with our children and that was quite a few decades ago !!
Our visit to Moscow ended with a visit to the Kremlin, a walled city built as a fortification and surrounded by 18th century towers containing cathedrals, palaces, museums and the seat of government. Most impressive was touring the famous Armoury Museum. The treasures to be found therein are beyond expectations. Incredibly rich regalia, thrones veneered with carved ivory, covered with thin plates of gold and studded with diamonds. Then the spectacular crowns, vestments of the Czars, priceless silks and brocades encrusted with jewels and pearls......all these treasures are mind boggling.
Our visit of Moscow ended with another bus tour but this time it was Moscow by Night.........memorable!!
Back on the 'Lomonosov' a Farewell Dinner brought us all together with passengers we befriended .To our utter surprise we were asked repeatedly :"Where will you be holding your next reunion?" and when we inquired :"Why?" we got the same response every time :"Because we'd like to join you!".
Now, how's that for good publicity??
Keeping in line with our traditional survey for a destination to our 2008 reunion, it was agreed that we would meet in Tunisia for a two week stay at a Beach Resort in October 2008.
Stay tuned to our favourite website www.aaha.ch for more information.
Photo 2 : Official Group photo
Top Row, Standing, Left > to Right : Safinaz Habib-Daoud, Tahani Farag-Salib, Djehan Hussein, Linda Ichay-Stroun, Andréy the Great (the guide), Rose Sofer-Saleb, Jocelyne Assaf-Sargologo, Frances Jarvis, Johnny Aboulafia, Nicole Biancardi-Francescutti.
Bottom Row, Seated, Left > to Right : Drs Janice and André Bolaffi, Rosmira and Robert Mussawir, Despina and Jack Rizopoulos.
Photo 3 : Sightseeing in Prague
Background, Left > to Right : Jack Rizopoulos ; Djehan Hussein, Tahani Farag-Salib, Amina Hamada-Shaarawi, Jocelyne Assaf-Sargologo.
Foreground, Left > to Right : Rose Sofer-Saleh, Despina Frangoudis-Rizopoulos, Nicole Biancardi-Francescutti, Safinaz Habib-Daoud
Photo 4 : Prague, The Charles Bridge
From L > R : Despina Frangoudis-Rizopoulos, Nicole Biancardi-Francescutti, Jack Rizopoulos, Safinaz Nabih-Daoud, Elly Lagoudakis
Photo 5 : After Diner Chat
From L > R : Rose Fofer-Saleh, Despina Frangoudis-Rizopoulos, Nicole Biancardi-Francescutti, Jocelyne Assaf-Sargologo, Janice Bolaffi.
Photo 6 : Smile
From L > R : Djehan Hussein, Jack Rizopoulos, Despina Frangoudis-Rizopoulos, Safinaz Habib-Daoud
Last Name Maiden Name-First Name, Affiliation, Residence
Jocelyne Assaf-Sargologo S.H.S. U.S.A.
Nicole Biancardi-Francescutti S.H.S. Canada
Janice Bolaffi Guest U.S.A.
Andre Bolaffi V.C. U.S.A.
Tahani Farag-Salib Guest Egypt
Despina Frangoudis-Rizopoulos E.G.C. Canada
Jack Rizopoulos Guest Canada
Safinaz Habib-Daoud E.G.C. Egypt
Amina Hamada-Shaarawi E.G.C. Canada
Djehan Hussein V.C. Guest Egypt
Linda Ichay-Stroun S.H.S. C.H.
Francis Jarvis E.G.C. U.K.
Elly Lagoudakis E.G.C. Greece
Rosmira Mussawir Guest Spain
Robert Mussawir V.C. Spain
Rose Sofer-Saleh E.G.C. Canada
AAHA = Amicale Alexandrie Hier et Aujourd'hui : www.aaha.ch