Posted on Jul 5, 2016 in News
The eight-night “Celtic Lands” Flying Jayhawks voyage took passengers to historic sites in France, Ireland and Scotland. Dwight David Eisenhower II, grandson of General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower hosted several educational talks aboard the ship. Heather Hawkins kept this diary of the journey.
The Celtic Lands trip was such a wonderful time with some amazing Jayhawks! I love seeing Jayhawks from all over the U.S. become instant friends—that Jayhawk connection is pretty fantastic.
We landed in Paris and took a short bus ride to Honfleur, France. What a beautiful little city! There was a gorgeous wooden church with so much character. We were able to explore a bit and even found time to stop for our first macaroons of the trip (there would be plenty more of the next ten days!) After an afternoon of exploring we were off to the beautiful Le Boreal.
We enjoyed a welcome dinner that evening with all our Flying Jayhawks. It was clear from that very first dinner that we were going to have an amazing time!
Day 2 brought us to Caen, France. To say I wasn’t prepared for the intensity and emotion that would come from being on the beaches of Normandy would be a huge understatement. It was so powerful to see the indentations in the ground from the bombs, the bunkers where German soldiers were posted and the incredible steepness of the cliff right off the beach. We were able to walk on the beach. What hallowed ground!
After we left the beaches of Normandy, we headed for the American Cemetery. The cemetery is maintained by the American government and it was pretty breathtaking. David Eisenhower read testimonies from our fellow passengers about their loved ones that fought in World War II during an incredibly moving ceremony.
The captain’s welcome reception capped off a very emotional day.
This was our lone day at sea. David Eisenhower gave a few wonderful talks. It was the perfect day to rest up before our next stop!
Dublin, Ireland, was all kinds of wonderful! The morning started with a bus tour of Ireland and then off to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. Trinity College was gorgeous! We toured their spectacular library, which looked as though it was taken out of the movie Beauty and the Beast. The reader in me could have sat in there for hours and hours!
We had a free afternoon to explore Dublin. The energy of the city was so contagious! Live music around every corner, fun and interesting shops and tons and tons of pubs— it’d be a crime not to have a proper pint of Guinness when in Dublin so we made sure check that off our to-do list.
Our Sunday was spent in Holyhead, Wales, at the Bodnant Gardens. The Gardens were huge and so peaceful. Lots of photo opportunities at this place.
That afternoon we visited Caernarfon Castle. We climbed to the very top and snapped a few selfies—pretty fitting to have the Jayhawk at the peak of a castle! Interesting fact we learned about the steep spiral staircases of towers: they were built so that those guarding the tower could easily swing their swords downward. Anyone trying to storm the castle and come up the stairs would swing their sword right into solid stone!
The Isle of Iona in Scotland was our next stop. We spent the morning on a tour of the Iona Abbey. The four iconic high crosses were striking. The “road to the dead” was a path that lead us to the burial spot of many ancient kings and clan chiefs. Every spot of the island seemed to have a calming peace.
Tuesday was the day of castles. We visited both Dunvegan Castle and the Eilean Donon Castle. The amount of stone it took to build these majestic castles is pretty mindblowing!
The evening we hosted our Jayhawk reception before dinner. I’ve got to be honest, it was pretty clear during that reception that our group was most fun group on the ship – without question! We took the opoprtunity to sing the alma mater and do the Rock Chalk chant on the deck of the ship!
The last day of our trip started with some excitement. Shortly after we departed the Le Boreal via the tender boat a heavy fog enveloped us. The tender driver did a great job guiding us to land, but it was a pretty exhilarating way to start the morning.
The Jacobite steam train (Hogwarts Express) took us to Fort Williams. We were able to snap some great photos of the famous bridge in the Harry Potter movies. The scenic train ride had ample opportunities for great photo opportunities! No chance to snooze on that trek!
We ended the day with short excursions to Oban and Glencoe. Both cities had a lot of characgter and were wonderful spots to wonder around and pop from shop to shop! The Captain’s Farewell Reception was the perfect way to end our adventures in the Celtic lands. Glasses of champagne and loads of laughs wrapped up this journey with the best Jayhawks around!
—Heather Hawkins, executive assistant to the president and donor relations coordinator, hosted the Flying Jayhawks trip “Celtic Lands” from May 16-25, along with Tegan Thornberry, assistant director of membership and business development. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the 2017 schedule, visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks.
Watch our slideshow below to see more pictures from this trip, or view them on Flickr.