A group of Flying Jayhawks embarked on the Baltic & Scandinavian Treasures cruise August 22 to September 2, 2017. The 10-day adventure across Eastern Europe included time in eight countries for the 24 Flying Jayhawks on the trip. Nick Kallail, assistant vice president of alumni and network programs, hosted the trip and provided us with his account of the journey.
Many from our travel group met each other at Chicago O’Hare before the long flight to Copenhagen: The crimson and blue gear helped our travelers pick each other out! Our time in Copenhagen was limited to a short bus ride to the ship for embarkment, but we got a glimpse of the city and enjoyed a nice Jayhawk welcome reception at the Horizons Lounge.
The Flying Jayhawks departed early from our port in Warnemünde for tours in Berlin and the historic city of Rostock. Highlights in Rostock included the Rostock Astronomical Clock located at St. Mary’s Church and a river cruise back to the ship.
Guests were greeted to Lithuania with a traditional folk-style band right on the port. The excursion included a stop at the Palanga Amber Museum, where our host shared that the mansion where the museum is housed once belonged to her ancestor – the Countess. A brewery stop provided the opportunity to sample Lithuanian beer and snacks (pig ears, anyone?), while shopping at a nearby market closed our stay.
The stop in Latvia’s capital city of Riga was brief on a quiet Sunday morning, but those on the “Charming Riga” excursion toured some of the nearby sights, including St. Peter’s church. A flute player in the town square cleverly serenaded the many cruise tour groups with a rendition of the Titanic theme song, “My Heart Will Go On.” An evening happy hour provided the Flying Jayhawks an opportunity to relax and meet our fellow travelers.
Monday morning in Helsinki started with a stop at Senate Square and the striking Helsinki Cathedral. After viewing the Sibelius Monument and the Temppeliaukio Church, many travelers took the opportunity to enjoy some free time. They checked out Market Square and watched various street musicians perform.
St. Petersburg, Russia
We spent Tuesday through Thursday in the cultural capital of Russia. The Yusupov Palace and Canal Cruise took several Flying Jayhawks to the site of Rasputin’s assassination. This was followed by a boat ride through some of St. Petersburg’s many canals to the Neva River. Viewing sites included Peter and Paul Fortress, Saint Isaac’s Square, and the Church of the Savior on Blood. Wednesday included the evening opportunity to visit either the ballet or an evening of Russian song and dance. Thursday included a visit to the Hermitage Museum, capped with a Flying Jayhawk family photo and dinner in the main dining room.
Our stop in Tallinn happened to fall on the first day of school, so local schoolchildren in their traditional first day dress colliding with camera-wielding tourists made for some funny encounters. The tour around Old Town included learning quite a bit about the history of this historically well-defended city, incredible panoramic views, and visits to local shopping and restaurants.
Our Baltic voyage concluded on Saturday morning in Stockholm where we said goodbye to the Oceania Marina. Those who stayed in Stockholm before flying home saw the Stockholm Palace and found Swedish Meatballs in Gamla Stan.
Watch the slideshow below to see more pictures from the trip, or view the photos on Flickr. You can download photos for personal use. For more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, visit our website.
The Flying Jayhawks’ latest group of travelers took a cruise to experience the history of the Mediterranean. From October 7 to October 17, the 10-day adventure across Italy, France and Spain brought the Flying Jayhawks to 11 historical cities to experience their sights, sounds and culture. Danny Woods, assistant director of legacy and alumni programs, hosted the trip and shared his story of the trip.
We arrived in Rome to the best good news-bad news situation that could have possibly happened. The bad news: The ship wasn’t ready. The good news: The ship wasn’t ready. This could only mean one thing: a guided bus and walking tour of one of the most historically prominent cities in the world. The first stop was the elegant St. Paul’s Basilica. As we walked through the hallowed halls, we were transported into the pages of a Dan Brown novel. We spent the afternoon with a full drive around The Colosseum.
As we arrived at the ship it looked like a line to enter Allen Fieldhouse because of all the crimson and blue. However, no one in this line was entering the famed cathedral of basketball. Instead, this line of 44 Jayhawk faithful was geared up to board Oceania’s MS Riviera. The night was capped with a welcome reception where everyone officially met.
We arrived in the Port of Livorno and guests had the option to tour Florence, Pisa or Tuscany. Many of the guests traveled to the the picturesque landscapes of Cinque Terre. The excursion included views of the terraced cliffside homes that overlook the sea. We were able to explore three of the five villages.
Adventures in Italy continued as we arrived in Portofino. Upon entering this fishing village, you are greeted with views of vibrant colors that adorn the buildings lining the port. We were welcomed by local waiters offering an assortment of wines. An evening happy hour provided the Flying Jayhawks an opportunity to relax and get to know our fellow travelers.
The favored vacation spot of celebrities like Jay-z and Beyonce, Saint-Tropez, France, welcomed the flying Jayhawks with its very best! Jayhawks were able to chose between many day trips, including the walking tour Highlights of Saint-Tropez and the Peninsula of Hilltop villages. After the excursions Jayhawks had ample free time to explore the city that used to be a military stronghold.
Our first stop in Spain felt like we were walking through the set of Game of Thrones. Palamos felt like a town that has not changed in centuries. As you looked down you saw cobble stone streets, buildings covered with vinery and flags hanging over the streets strung between buildings.
Barcelona, or as it pronounced, “Barthelona”, did not disappoint. Most of the excursions included some aspect of the notable architecture that is seen throughout the city. This city epitomized the culture and energy of the Catalonian region of Spain. The buildings looked like something out of Alice in Wonderland. The pictures that the Flying Jayhawks took don’t even do the city justice. When the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família came into view jaws dropped. Although construction of Sagrada Família started in 1882, the massive structure will not be completed until 2026. When we arrived back on the ship, a private reception was waiting for the KU travelers.
The Flying Jayhawks indulged in some of the best food the planet has to offer, paella. The traditional rice dish was created and perfected in Valencia. After fighting off the food coma we were able to zag our way through the streets and markets of Valencia, the third largest in Spain. The city was truly the intersection of urban contemporary and historic rustic.
Although short, our trip to Palma de Mallorca was incredible. Many of the Jayhawks took this day as a day of leisure while others took time to explore nearby underground caves. We may or may not have gotten in a little trouble for yelling Rock Chalk just to hear it echo in the cave.
Our last full on the trip. We arrived in Marseille, one of the largest ports in all of France. Many Jayhawks decided to take a journey to the home of Vincent van Gogh. (Now when I say home, I actually mean the mental institution he lived in!) As we returned to the ship it was group photo time!
The cruise director told us “You don’t gotta go home, but you sure can’t stay here.” As I disembarked and reminisced on the the trip I realized that over the last 10 days I met and got to spend time with so many great Jayhawks! I heard a thousand stories of KU past and present, ate some of the best food of my life and got to see locations that I couldn’t believe were real. Here’s to the next one!
Watch the slideshow below to see more pictures from the trip, or view the photos on Flickr. You can download photos for personal use. For more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, visit our website.
A group of Jayhawks from across the U.S. took on the “Great Journey Through Europe“, an eleven-day trip from June 15-25. Included in the group was Tegan Thornberry, director of membership and business development. Here’s her account of the cross-country trip.
Day 1 & 2
We arrived in Geneva, Switzerland and enjoyed a scenic transfer to Zermatt. The afternoon was spent settling into the Hotel Alex and meeting everyone at our first group dinner. The next day was open for us to explore at our leisure and take the Gornergrat Bahn railway up to view the Matterhorn. We lucked out with a beautiful clear view of the peaks of the Swiss Alps and the Matterhorn. Some of our more adventurous passengers even hiked down from one of the last rail stops back to town.
Off to Lucerne! We loaded up to Andermatt on the Glacial Express, the slowest high-speed train i’ve ever seen. A quick lunch break at the Hotel Drei Konig before loading on the buses to check into the beautiful Hotel Schweizerhof in Lucerne. For dinner, a group of KanBraska (we combined with the group from the Nebraska Alumni Association frequently) enjoyed a traditional Swiss fondue outing.
The 14th century wooden Chapel Bridge highlighted today during our morning walking tour of Lucerne. Armed with two sets of Gondolas, we reached our next stop: the top of Mt. Pilatus. We enjoyed a three-course lunch with a view and some free time to explore before heading back down the mountain via the world’s steepest cogwheel railway.
We continued our trip to Basel to board our Rhine River cruise, but not before a scenic stop in Bern at the botanical gardens high above the city. Lunch was at the Kornhaus Keller Restaurant followed by a walking tour of Bern. It was a hot day for sure, but it was an interesting city and the number of fountains with potable water came in handy: not a given in Europe!
This morning at breakfast, we were surprised by a ransom note. Some of our cutout Jayhawks had gone missing! They were being held captive by one of our Nebraska neighbors, but which one? We continued our day with a walking tour in Strasbourg, France. That evening we had a number of Jayhawks living aboard join us on the ship for a reception. We had three alumni who attended graduate school at KU: g’68, g’90, and g’08 graduates. The hours flew by sharing stories of our time on the Hill. I’m not sure which group enjoyed it more, the Flying Jayhawks travelers, or the Jayhawks living in Germany! We love being able to connect Jayhawks around the world.
Today was all about a city tour of the Heidelberg and its landmark castle. The fortress is 700 years old, sits 70 meters above the Neckar river, and houses the biggest wine barrel in the world. At night, we set sail to Rudesheim. Before our day ended, we got our Jayhawks returned to us along with another note! It would take me a couple of more days to figure out who exactly was behind the capture.
All aboard the Winzerexpress! We loaded up on two trains and went through town and through the vineyard, ending at the tasting cellar. Prost! It was an entertaining demonstration by the Vineyard owner. As fun as the vineyard was, we had to get to Koblenz for a tour. Much of the city was closed off for a charity race that day with over 7,000 runners. We still enjoyed the walking tour and took advantage of some free time before sailing to Cologne.
Day 9 marked our last day on the ship. Our stops included a walking tour of Cologne, and small group visit to its famous Cathedral. This evening we gathered for the Captain’s Farewell reception and dinner. On this last day, we found out the culprit behind the hostage Jayhawks was a sweet woman from Nebraska named Nancy. She celebrated her 80th birthday on the trip and was the last person I would guess to be behind the mischief.
A number of our passengers participated in the Amsterdam extension, but it was time for me to head home and back to work. It was a great journey full of laughs with great Jayhawks. Thanks to all who came, and I hope you can join us on our next adventure!
—Tegan Thornberry, or “Traveling Tegs” as she’s affectionately known around the office, serves as director of membership and business development and hosted the Flying Jayhawks trip “Timeless Treasures.” She also brings cookies to the office every Tuesday. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the new 2018 schedule, visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks.
The nine-day “Trade Routes of Coastal Iberia” Flying Jayhawks trip showcased the coastal jewels of the Iberian Peninsula between Barcelona, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal. John Wilson shared his memories and photos of the trip.
Those of us on the pre-cruise extension enjoyed Barcelona, where we explored the Gothic Quarter and visited Sagrada Familia Basilica, originally designed by Gaudi and still under construction. The following day we traveled to the Codorniu vineyard, a leading producer of Spanish cava (sparkling wine). We drove up Montserrat Mountain to take in the scenery and visited the Benedictine abbey with its venerated Black Madonna.
We then returned to Barcelona, boarded our ship, Le Lyrial, and sailed overnight to Mallorca. The Flying Jayhawks got together for a fine welcome dinner.
The next day dawned clear and bright on the sunny island of Mallorca. We first traveled to the stunning west coast, and then to the picturesque village of Valldemossa, where we toured the former Carthusian monastery and enjoyed a brief Chopin recital. In the afternoon we visited the Bellver Castle and the Palma Cathedral, one of tallest in the world.
We awoke the next morning in Valencia, Spain’s third largest city. Our tour included the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences as well as a sampling of horchata, a local beverage. That evening, we enjoyed a Flying Jayhawks cocktail reception and dinner.
The next day we journeyed inland to Granada to explore the world famous Alhambra Palace, originally established by the Moors and conquered by the Spanish in 1492. Highlights included the Court of the Myrtles and the Generalife Gardens.
Sunday found us in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. We toured the Rock, including Europa Point, St. Michael’s Cave, and the Great Siege Tunnels. We also got up close and personal with the resident Barbary Apes. We sailed at twilight through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Atlantic Ocean.
Our KU flag was flying proudly the next morning as Le Lyrial cruised up the Guadalquivir River into Seville. We had a full day visiting the Plaza de Espana, the Jewish Quarter, the Seville Cathedral, and the Alcazar.
Our next stop was Portimao, Portugal. We visited the Castle of Silves, the Algarve Coast, and the port city of Lagos. That evening, en route to Lisbon, the Flying Jayhawks enjoyed a festive farewell dinner.
Those of us on the post-cruise extension enjoyed a day trip to the Portuguese royal palaces of Queluz and Sintra, returning to Lisbon via the coastal resort of Cascais. The next day our tour of Lisbon included stops at the National Coach Museum and the Jeronimos Monastery. We then had time to explore central Lisbon on our own.
The two-week “Grand Danube Passage” journey featured eight countries and 13 towns, with a mix of land and river travel. Tegan Thormberry, assistant director of membership and business development, shares more about the trip in our latest Flying Jayhawks post.
When building the Flying Jayhawks schedule, there is usually a Danube River cruise on it. The trips offer interesting itineraries and get rave reviews. This year, I was fortunate to be able to experience it myself, and it did not disappoint: eight countries in 14 days with a mix of land travel and cruising the Danube River.
Czech Republic: We spent the first three nights in Prague, and our time in the city included visits to the Prague Castle, the Old Town Square, Clock Tower, Charles Bridge, and the Jewish Quarter, along with plenty of time for independent exploration. One day we made our way to the Dancing House designed by Frank Gehry. A fun dessert we saw on every block is called a trdelnik: it consists of dough roasted over hot coals, then covered in sugar. Eat it plain or fill it with a choice of toppings; I enjoyed it with gelato.
Germany: During the bus ride from Prague to Passau, we listened to an interesting talk given by one of our AHI travel directors. She grew up in Germany and gave a detailed account of her experience, the impact of communism and the economy afterward. Passau is a picturesque town with cobblestones painted in Jayhawk colors leading to local shops. We visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral, where we could see some of the mason’s marks on the stonework of the church.
Austria: Cities on our itinerary included Melk, Durnstein and Vienna. We were some of the first visitors of the day to the Melk’s Benedictine abbey. The baroque design and artifacts inside were impressive. We spent the afternoon on a walking tour of Durnstein with a stop at the magnificent Stiftskirche. We visited Vienna on a beautiful sunny day and enjoyed a walking tour in the morning and free time in the afternoon. A few of us went to the Sacher hotel for a lunch of goulash and the famous Sacher-torte for dessert! In the evening we had a nice get-together with the group and the ship captain stopped by to say hello.
Slovakia: In Bratislava, passengers had a choice of excursions. We learned about the Velvet Revolution and the end of communism in Czechoslovakia that lead to the split into two countries. A walking tour ended at a local café to sample local beers along with a delicious biscuit that is a cross between a biscuit and pretzel roll filled with bacon. It was the perfect pairing to go along with the beer.
Hungary: We toured Budapest, Pecs and Paprika. In Budapest the majority of our group chose the Living Local excursion, which began with a guided tour of the Great Market hall and ended with a sampling of strudel and palinka. The market was filled with cured meats, goose liver, palinka, and paprika! Before our strudel sampling, market staff demonstrated how the dough is stretched over a table and then rolled to get all the amazing layers. We primarily toured the Pest side of the city. I went out in the afternoon to see Buda up on the hill with amazing views of the Parliament building.
Serbia: The group enjoyed a tour of Belgrade and visited the fortress in Karadordev Park and the massive St. Sava cathedral. That evening we were treated to a local folk show on the ship.
Romania: We cruised through the Iron Gate Gorge and saw the rock sculpture of Decebalus. After a scenic drive to Orsova, we took in a live organ concert at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. John Lennon and Nadia Comaneci are depicted in scenes of the Stations of the Cross by the artist Gabriel Popa.
Bulgaria: In Vidin we disembarked the ship and took a quick rainy tour before transferring to Sofia. Along the way we stopped and had lunch at the Rocks restaurant and enjoyed the stunning views of the Belogradchik Rocks. As we continued on to Sofia, we drove past fields of sunflowers that reminded me of home. Our last full day in Sofia was spent checking out ancient ruins, St. George Rotunda, and the Cathedral of St. Alexander of Neva. The farewell dinner was held at a local restaurant high on the hill with traditional Bulgarian food and a folk show.
It was such an educational trip and an amazing way to see and experience different cultures with a group of Jayhawks. I couldn’t have asked for better company. I can’t wait for my next Traveling Tegs adventure!
—Tegan Thornberry, or “Traveling Tegs” as she’s affectionately known around the office, serves as assistant director of membership and co-hosted the Flying Jayhawks trip to the Grand Danube Passage in August. She also brings cookies every Tuesday. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the 2017 schedule, visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks.
The nine-day “Changing Tides of History: Cruising the Baltic Sea” journey took 23 eager Flying Jayhawks, including Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and her husband Shade, to fascinating cities and historic sites in six countries. The cruise also featured interesting talks from historical and political figures of the region including Lech Walsea, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former Polish President; and Sergei Khrushchev, distinguished author and scholar and son of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Brad Eland, vice president of alumni and student programs, shared the memories of his trip.
The group arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark for an afternoon to meet our fellow travelers, stretch our legs from the long flight(s), and try to adjust to our new time zone. The weather was cool and cloudy, a big change from the Kansas heat and humidity that is normal in June! Several Jayhawks set off on foot to explore the city and see Copenhagen’s modern rail station in the heart of the city and Tivoli Gardens, which opened in 1843 and is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world.
After a stroll through Copenhagen, it was time to board our floating home for the next 10 days, Le Boreal.
The city of Visby is on the small island of Gotland in the middle of the Baltic Sea and has been controlled by several countries over time. It is currently part of Sweden, but feels nothing like the bustling mainland that we visited later in the trip. Visby is a charming little town featuring a 13th-century rock wall with original gates, towers, churches and warehouses from medieval times. The museum even featured a grave with remains that are more than 9,000 years old. It truly felt like stepping back in time.
That evening we enjoyed the Captain’s Welcome Reception on board the ship and were able to meet a good majority of our fellow passengers traveling with several schools from across the country. We even played nice with alumni from fellow basketball powerhouse Duke University.
After a night of sailing on the Baltic Sea, we arrived in the port city of Gdansk, Poland. The architecture was stunning and highlighted by the city’s restored mansions that served as the homes for the aristocracy in the 14th century. Our group was also treated to a demonstration about how amber is harvested and made into precious jewelry, and we were tested on how to spot the difference between fake and real samples. It proved to be a hard distinction but a valuable lesson for the shoppers in our group.
Former Polish President Lech Walesa was one of the founders of the solidarity movement, along with Polish workers who established the first independent trade union in Eastern Europe which was a key factor in winning the Polish struggle against Communism. His speech to our travelers left us all inspired by his leadership, vision, and passion for making his country and the entire Eastern European region better.
Our fourth day of the trip was spent entirely at sea. The sunny skies and smooth sailing made for an ideal time to enjoy the sun deck on the ship with a good book or get to know fellow passengers better over a meal or coffee. It also provided our feet a respite from all of the walking we had done.
The city of Tallin, Estonia, was one that most of us on the trip had not heard of before, but it ended up being one that most of us will never forget. It blew us all away with its charming architecture and unique history. Tallin’s medieval town hall is the only intact Gothic-style hall in Northern Europe. The fantastic weather that day with sunshine and clear skies certainly left an impression on us as we enjoyed some fantastic views from high points over the entire city.
Halfway through the trip, we awoke in St. Petersburg, Russia, which was founded in 1703 by Peter the Great. While Russians view Moscow as a very “natural” city with winding roads built in the heart of the country and into the natural landscape, St. Petersburg is their “engineered” city that was built completely from scratch on swampland to provide Russia with a key port to the Baltic Sea. The city is laid out in a perfect grid and was designed to be much more western and serve as a gateway to Europe.
Our day began at the incredible State Hermitage Museum, which was originally a czarist palace of Catherine the Great. This museum is so large and its collection so vast, it would take months or even years to see everything they have that highlights Russian history, art and culture. From there we saw the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood and St. Isaac’s Cathedral, which featured the famous dome and spire architecture that Russia is known for.
That evening, we were treated to a Russian folklore show at a local art center that included dancing, singing and comedy (with a smidge of vodka mixed in).
Our second day in St. Petersburg was highlighted by a visit to another of Catherine the Great’s palaces featuring the Amber Room with walls composed entirely of decorative amber. It is considered the Eighth Wonder of the World. The city has nearly 50 palaces and the opulence of the czars was truly unbelievable. You started to take the amount of gold for granted, by the end!
Our evening featured a fascinating lecture from Sergei Khrushchev, who talked about his family’s major role in Russian history as well as his views on current events in the region from his perspective while living and working in America. He had a front row seat to history and a very unique viewpoint as someone who clearly loves Russia, but has spent much of his later life in America. We all walked away with a new outlook on how Russian people view the world and current events.
The Russian people, particularly those who work in the tourism industry, blew us away with their kindness and humor. They were legitimately excited to welcome us to their country and showcase their history and culture, which made the trip that much more fun.
Our ship’s approach into Helsinki was certainly a sight to behold as we all were easily able to discern why the city has won so many recent awards for design in an urban environment. The city had an incredible modern feel to it all while we were visiting some of the city’s historic sites. A major highlight for our group was a visit to the Church of the Rock, which was impressively built directly into natural bedrock.
The final day of our trip landed us in Stockholm, Sweden. We had a light rain to deal with on our last day in Europe, but no one seemed to mind as we had a city tour by bus on the schedule. Stockholm proved to again have its own unique flair for architecture and design. This part of the world certainly has made its mark on that front melding the modern with all of the history they have as well. That, along with the “white nights” we experienced during summer in the Baltic Region, will certainly be unforgettable. Thankfully our ship was well prepared with blackout shades—we were far enough north that we only had 3-4 hours of darkness per night.
As the 23 Flying Jayhawks departed for home or for more European adventures without the group, everyone was thankful for what we had experienced and eager for the next trip with fellow Jayhawks.
—Brad Eland, vice president of alumni and student programs, hosted the Flying Jayhawks trip “Changing Tides of History: Cruising the Baltic Sea” from June 15-24, 2016. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the 2017 schedule, visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks.
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. Jean Kerich, ’60, shared her memories and photos of the trip.
It’s no mystery why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle. That description becomes immediately obvious the moment you sight land. The landscape featured the green hills, more often than not squared off by ancient rock fences, but also spectacular cliffs and barren rock expanses. During our ‘Celtic Lands’ Flying Jayhawks trip we were treated with ample opportunity to enjoy all of Ireland’s beautiful scenery as well as many other uniquely Irish experiences.
For example, we had a taste of mead, one of the oldest alcoholic drinks known to man. Meade is made from honey and water via fermented yeast. We also sampled Irish whisky and Guinness (perhaps more than just a taste!)
We had a look at castles, extraordinary manor houses, churches and thatched roof huts. We enjoyed a pair of Irish dancers (who provided a lesson for two of the younger members of our group), a whistling cook, and a demonstration of sheep herding by two unbelievably clever dogs.
Our tour guides taught us about the ecology of the island, the history, the politics, and the origins along with the uses and gathering techniques of peat, a type of vegetation natural to the area. There was talk (and a brief lesson) of hurling, one of the national sports of Ireland, and of rugby and horse racing. We traveled impossibly narrow roads while our extremely knowledgeable bus driver and tour guide gave us the lessons of the land. Additionally, the food, the accommodations and the other passengers in the group were all excellent! This was truly an unforgettable trip.
Read a diary of the Celtic Lands trip by Heather Hawkins, j’06, and see more pictures from the group’s adventures. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the 2017 schedule, visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks.
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.
The Flying Jayhawks trip to Belgium and Holland began with a wonderful tour of Brussels. Although it was rainy, we were able to see the beauty of a city that had been through so much in the weeks leading up to our arrival. After a few hours in Brussels, we boarded the bus to Antwerp where we settled on the ship. The ship cruised from Antwerp to Middleburg/Bruges where we had three options for tours: Belgian beer, Belgian chocolate or a cultural tour of Bruges. A handful of our passengers took the Belgian Beer tour, where we learned that no other country on earth produces more beers than Belgium: around seven hundred and counting! There are strong, dark brews from a handful of Trappist monasteries, light wheat beers perfect for a hot summer’s day, fruit beers bottled and corked like champagne, and unusual concoctions that date back to medieval times. Every good Belgian bar has a beer menu, some with several hundred beers and the glasses specific to each one!
Next, we traveled along the Zeeland coast to the artificial island of Neeltje Jans and its Delta Expo. We learned about the Delta Works, a series of massive dams and storm surge barriers, conceived after the 1953 North Seal flood and built over a period of 30 years. The 65 enormous gates can be slammed shut on the North Sea when power storms strike—an engineering masterpiece that now protects the third of the landmass of the Netherlands that sits below sea level. We were able to explore the Expo, which illustrates the delicate balance of the Netherland’s relationship with the ever-encroaching sea.
Over the next few days, our Flying Jayhawks explored Delft, known for hand painted porcelain, and The Hague, considered the most worldly and elegant town in the Netherlands. While in The Hague, passengers visited the Mauritshuis, a recently renovated storied museum that is home to Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. The tour also included a stop at the Peace Palace. Kampen was a beautiful village laced with footpaths and narrow canals traversed by wooden and arched bridges. The whimsical car-free village of Giethoorn seems to have materialized out of a fairy tale. We toured the four miles of picturesque canals by boat in the town that has been nicknamed “Venice of the North.” Cars have never been allowed in the town itself, so everything is very pristine and clean. The only way you can get around the town is by canal boat or bike.
Everyone boarded the ship and we made our way to Amsterdam. We docked late at night, so many passengers were up early to start exploring! We boarded an open-air canal boat and toured the canals of Amsterdam. Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is the center of the country’s culture and commerce. Named after the city’s origin as a dam in the river Amstel, today Amsterdam is known the world over for its more than 60 miles of tree-lined canals and waterways that make this romantic city truly unforgettable. The three main canals were dug during the Golden Age of the 17th century, and that central area is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. While on the canal tour, we learned that during morning rush hour, there are more bikes then cars on the road (1.75 million) and 84% of the population own one or more bikes! Around 2,000 of those bikes somehow end up in the canals each year. Passengers had the rest of the day at leisure and many took the time to go inside the Rijksmuseum, one of Holland’s most famous museums and home to Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” and other treasures. Passengers also visited the Anne Frank Museum as well as her childhood home.
On our last day, we journeyed through Dutch flower fields to the renowned Keukenhof Gardens, an 80-acre paradise of tulips, hyacinths and other beautiful flowers. Keukenhof is webbed with more than nine miles of foothpaths, and the grounds also feature Europe’s largest fountain, a vast sculpture garden and a 700-tree labyrinth. We were able to walk the grounds with an expert guide and learn the story of these magnificent gardens. The gardens are open for only eight weeks out of the year and over 1.1 million people visit within that time.
We ended the trip with a graduation ceremony and farewell reception and dinner. It was a truly unforgettable trip!
—Kelsey Hill, assistant director of Kansas City and Wichita programs, hosted the Flying Jayhawks trip “Waterways and Canals of Holland and Belgium” from April 28-May 6. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the 2017 schedule, visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks.
A group of Jayhawks embarked on a cruise that begain in Lisbon, Portugal and ended in Bordeaux, France. On board the ship we enjoyed a series of culinary presentations by Kristine Kidd, former editor of Bon Appétit magazine and author of numerous cookbooks. Her presentations included topics such as butter, salt, and chocolate; sustainable seafood; jamón; cheese; and olive oil. The tastings were my favorite part of her presentations; they inspired me to start cooking more. We made stops along the way to the Stock Exchange and the Igreja de Sao Francisco church in Oporto, Portugal before traveling to Spain.
Santiago de Compostela, or the way of Saint James, was our first stop in Spain. It was interesting to see the current restoration of the church and also watch the pilgrims with their packs making their journey along the path. Our last stop in Spain was my favorite: we visited Bilbao to tour the Guggenheim Museum and the Basque Country. The Guggenheim did not disappoint— the Frank Gehry design is credited with reviving commerce and tourism in Bilbao. I enjoyed the digital installation at the museum with the sentiments of love and hate which could be viewed from different directions, and of course the Andy Warhol display.
To end our visit, we enjoyed a culinary experience at the Restaurant Aspaldiko, which was housed in an old 16th-century farm house. We were greeted with wine and the peacocks that were living on the property and then sat down to a meal of traditional hot and cold pintxos (tapas), local desserts and Spanish wines. Our group of Jayhawks had a good time learning from the chef about the local ingredients and how the pintxos were prepared.
The last country on our trip was France. We started with a full day visiting three towns: Saint Jean de Luz, Biarritz, and Bayonne. More of the Basque region, but this time in France. Biarritz was a beautiful seaside resort. We enjoyed free time in Bayonne. I’m not much of a chocolate fan, but I experienced hot chocolate at Chocolat Cazenave that was founded in 1854. It was quite the treat!
The next day we stopped in Saint Martin de Re and then headed on to La Rochelle for the afternoon. I enjoyed lunch with the Millers at an outdoor café, and the table next to us ordered an elaborate boat of seafood (it was served in a small wooden boat and intricately decorated food presentation). We ended our trip in Bordeaux. It was a rainy day for our walking tour, but our passengers were good sports. Many took time to dry off and regroup back on the ship before venturing back out to Bordeaux for some independent exploration. It was a good trip, with a great group of Jayhawks. It was a different take on travel by experiencing it through local cuisine.
I loved meeting new Jayhawks and experiencing new corners of the world. I hope to travel with our passengers again.
Until next time,
—Tegan Thornberry, assistant director of membership and business development, hosted the Flying Jayhawks trip “European Coastal Civilizations” from April 16-24. For more information about the Flying Jayhawks program, including the 2017 schedule, visit www.kualumni.org/flyingjayhawks.