From Zurich, to Bern, to Lucern, the Flying Jayhawks made their way through Switzerland and back during their week-long journey abroad.
Day 1 | Gateway to the Bernese Oberland
After arriving in Zurich, the group of Flying Jayhawks enjoyed a walking tour of Thun, learning about the gateway to the Bernese Oberland while walking below the picturesque Thun castle and along the Aare River.
The evening brought our entire travel party together for a reception at the hotel, followed by dinner on the banks of the Aare.
Day 2 | Oberhofen Castle
The Flying Jayhawks hopped on a ferry to tour the Oberhofen castle. The historic five-story castle has been preserved and now functions as a modern-day museum, offering a glimpse into the lives of the nobles and servants who once traversed the many halls and rooms of this lakefront property.
Nothing whets an appetite quite like storming the castle, so our flying Jayhawks set sail once again, this time destined for Spiez for a local lunch and an opportunity to freely explore the Spiez castle.
Day 3 | All aboard!
Trains, trains and more trains ruled the day as the jolly Jayhawks took to the rails and Brienz, Switzerland.
Following a quick ride on Switzerland’s public train system, the group of tireless travelers boarded a steam train for an hour climb up Brienzer Rothorn. Once atop the mountain, the view of low hanging clouds was impressive. Although our time atop the mountain was short, spirits remained high … although that may have been the altitude.
A stop along our descent at Planalp made for a delicious midday, authentic homemade mountain meal. Our day ended in Interlaken with Jayhawks free to explore the popular tourist city found between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.
Day 4 | Tour of Bern, Switzerland
Take us to your leaders! Or, at least to the buildings your leaders work in.
Having mastered the Swiss public rail transit, our flock of Hawks traveled east to Bern, the capital of Switzerland. Built around a crook in the Aare River, with its origins dating back to the 12th century, Bern Switzerland is home to more than 125,000 Swiss citizens.
Our walking tour included stops at the Parliament building, the Cathedral of Bern and the Zytglogge, a medieval tower built in the 13th century that has served as a guard tower, prison and now a clock tower.
Day 5 | Kandersteg to Oeschinen Lake
The mountain is calling, and I must go.
Mountaineering was the theme of the day as we traveled to the high-altitude resort village of Kandersteg. A quick and scenic gondola ride from Kandersteg further up the Alps led to Oeschinen Lake. This turquoise-colored lake is elevated over 5,000 feet in the Alps. The lake is filled through a series of mountain streams and it drains underground.
Day 6 | Tour of Lucerne
A morning full of rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of our Flying Jayhawks in Lucerne. Upon emerging from the train station and crossing the Reuss river, we looked upon the gothic towers of the Church of St. Leodegar, built between 1633 and 1639.
A quick jaunt took us to the Lion Monument, or the Lion of Lucerne. This beautiful relief carving was designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen and created by Lukas Ahorn in 1820. The monument stands as a tribute to the Swiss Guards massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris.
Our guided time in Lucerne culminated with a stroll across the landmark covered wooden Chapel Bridge, and a quick stop in the first large baroque church built in Switzerland, the Jesuit Church of Lucerne.
Day 7 | Muerren, Schilthorn and Gimmewald
All good things must come to an end, but this trip could not have ended in a more scenic location. Our final excursion took us once again high in the Swiss Alps, first to Lauterbrunnen, then on to Murren, a small mountain town of 300, with 1,200 beds for tourists.
After a leisurely stroll through this quaint and welcoming town, the Flying Jayhawks could once again board a gondola if they chose to climb even higher in the Alps with a 30-minute ride to Birg, then onto Schilthorn.
The Schilthorn is a summit in the Bernese Alps with an elevation over 9,700 feet. From this majestic summit, visitors can view Switzerland’s three largest mountains, the Jungfrau, Monch, and Eiger.
The Jungfrau registers as Europe’s highest point. Since 1969, the Schilthorn has also been known for its appearance in the James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. No trip to this summit is complete without a spin in the rotating restaurant and a trip through their 007 museum.
The Flying Jayhawks “Switzerland” trip took place July 31-August 8, 2019. The trip was hosted by Angie Storey, senior vice president of donor & member relations along with Dan Storey, photographer & videographer. View more photos from the trip; pictures may be downloaded for personal use. Find more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, or sign up for travel emails.
I recently was given the opportunity to host KU alumni on a Flying Jayhawks trip across Celtic Lands, visiting the ports of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France and England. The rich history and colorful culture of the Scottish highlands, Dublin, Great Britain and the French countryside would be enough to sell anyone on taking a European vacation with fellow Jayhawks, but the real treat came in the form of a front-row seat to history, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We would visit Normandy in the days leading up to the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and our guide would be none other than David Eisenhower Jr., grandson of President Dwight David Eisenhower, who commanded the D-Day invasion.
Historians agree that D-Day, June 6, 1944, was one of the most important events of the 20th century, and perhaps THE most significant day in American history. Coordinated under the command of native Kansan Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, the D-Day invasion (code named Overlord) was by far the largest organized military offensive in the history of modern warfare, an operation conducted on a massive scale.
Our tour group visited the sacred sites of Omaha Beach, Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument, Mulberry Harbor at Arromanches, Sainte-Mère-Église, Utah Beach, Angoville-au-Plain, and the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, among other historic sites. Before each stop on our memorable trip, we heard lectures from leading historians and guides, including Allen Packwood, director of the Churchill Archives Centre at Cambridge, and David Eisenhower.
During a special ceremony at the American Military Cemetery with our group, Eisenhower and his wife, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, the daughter of former president Richard Nixon, led us in honoring our veterans and fallen heroes. With global interest and world leaders–including President Trump and Queen Elizabeth–participating in D-Day commemoration ceremonies, our small, private ceremony was solemn and intimate. This was due largely to the humble and unassuming nature of Eisenhower’s personality. As he walked among thousands of tourists and veterans, few realized they were standing near the grandson of Ike, who liberated France and saved the free world.
For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace, they fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They yearn but for the end of battle. For their return to the haven of home. –Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States
From an inscription at the D-Day Museum at Pointe du Hoc.
Probably the most surprising moment of the trip was watching David Eisenhower quietly wait his turn to purchase a ticket to visit the D-Day museum at Sainte-Mère-Église. The French cashier had no idea who she was meeting that day–amid the chaos of the thousands of visitors descending upon the small village for the 75th anniversary of D-Day–and Eisenhower wasn’t about to tell her. No special “family-member-of-the-supreme-allied-commander” discount was available, and David Eisenhower wouldn’t want it. He dutifully bought his own ticket, and the unassuming man with the famous name walked in with the crowd. He was there to remember and learn, like the rest of us.
Speaking to our Flying Jayhawks in a special “D-Day plus 75” lecture, Eisenhower talked about how his grandfather didn’t openly share his reflections of D-Day when David was a young boy. Ike just didn’t talk about it much, at least to his grandson. As a result, David soaked up all he could, becoming one of the foremost experts on the subject of D-Day, much of which he chronicled in his award-winning book, Eisenhower at War, a New York Times best-seller and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history.
Eisenhower treated our travelers to his vast knowledge of D-Day by conveying both incredible details about the strategic and logistical activity involved in Operation Overlord and the broader, global implications of the victory. Through facts and figures and stories from the people who lived it, Eisenhower gave us a glimpse into the minds of the men who changed history, and the experience was riveting, humbling and profound. The resemblance David shares with his grandfather is unmistakable, most evident in his punchy and personable speaking style that commands interest and attention. One of our KU alumni travelers remarked, “I could listen to him tell stories all day.”
We conclude our Flying Jayhawks trip tomorrow in Portsmouth, where tens of thousands of allied soldiers assembled, preparing for the invasion. In discussing Portsmouth, Eisenhower relayed a poignant vignette about the Allied Naval Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Bertram Ramsay, who also had supervised the British withdrawal at Dunkirk in 1940. It was an emotional moment for Ramsay, Eisenhower shared, given that this was his return to the continent—to organize the vast armada preparing to launch.
“He asks his driver to pull over,” Eisenhower explained, “and he steps out and looks over the harbor at Portsmouth at all these extraordinary preparations being finalized at that moment, and he says to no one in particular: ‘It is tragic and ironic that the stage is being set for great sacrifice, but if out of it comes peace and happiness, who would have it otherwise?’”
KU Alumni’s own Joy Maxwell recent hosted a group of Flying Jayhawks on a trip through Spain, France and more. Enjoy the trip through the eyes of the host.
There’s something quite special about seeing places you’ve heard about your entire life alongside Jayhawks who share your passion for KU. Don’t ask me to name the best stop on the trip, because every destination on the Flying Jayhawks: Mediterranean Collage was amazing.
Our group of 30 Flying Jayhawk passengers came from all across the United States – Oregon, California, Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Florida, the KC area and beyond. Our first chance to meet each other came at the welcome reception as the Riviera set sail from Barcelona. Such a treat to swap travel stories and talk about what we looked forward to most in the week to come.
What a great spot to start. The island of Mallorca boasts history, charm and gorgeous countryside filled with olive and citrus trees. I would have loved to spend more time here. With so many incredible excursions to choose from, it’s hard to pick just one! We’ll definitely take time to experience the exquisite Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma on our next trip to Mallorca. Our experience at Els Calderers and the Castell de Bellver kept our group of Jayhawks busy exploring and taking in amazing weather that would last the duration of the trip. It was fun to “cheers” at end the day at the Captains Reception that evening!
• What to eat/drink: fresh fish
• What to buy: a ticket on the Soller Vintage Train Ride — our Flying Jayhawks passengers had great things to say about this excursion — or maybe a ticket to tour the Rafa Nadal Tennis Academy where you can drink and eat with a view of Rafael Nadal’s own center court.
• What to see: Els Calderers – the benefit of driving past the grandeur of the Cathedral was getting out into the Spanish countryside and getting to experience Els Calderers. We could have spent the whole day at this 1700s rural manor. It was charming and beautiful – the perfect location. Also be sure to put the Castell de Bellver on your list as it provides a breathtaking view of Palma.
Our time in Provence lived up to my every expectation. It’s easy to see why artists, including Van Gogh, looked no further than the rolling hills of Provence. The light when it meets the landscape is breathtaking. Our hours melted away as we experienced the fairytale charm of this part of the world. The Rock Chalk chant could be heard at the end of the day from the KU private reception.
• What to eat/drink: a warm baguette and chocolat chaud (hot chocolate)
• What to buy: more time, so much more time — a day is not close to enough in Provence
• What to see: Stop at the amazing hilltop city of Les Baux-de-Provence on your way to St Remy de Provence, and then allow yourself time to get lost in its charming streets before you follow the footsteps of Van Gogh to see the exact spots where he painted The Starry Night and Irises.
Monaco is flat-out splendid and glamorous. It’s easy to navigate and see in a day, and it’s fascinating to learn how such a tiny country has managed to survive and thrive. Don’t let your jaw drop when you see the luxe hairpin curves of the Grand Prix or when your guide tells you that the top two floors of the newest blue glass building sold for 300 million euro. This country is the second smallest in the world, but absolutely over the top.
• What to eat/drink: a cup of coffee at the Café de Paris
• What to buy: a small bag of patisseries to munch on as you stroll around the cliff-side gardens near Saint Nicholas Cathedral and oceanographic museum
• What to see: See it all in a day! That’s part of what makes this tiny country so incredible.
Arrive into Antibes, France and be prepared to open your eyes and see white-capped mountains above the blue of the Mediterranean. The best part? Getting back to the ship and seeing the KU flag perched above the deck. We put on our KU finest and met on the grand staircase for a photo followed by dinner at the end of our day.
• What to eat/drink: fresh fruit — the oranges and strawberries burst with flavor — buy as much as you can carry and treat yourself before you go through security at the airport — this beats airport food
• What to buy: the bottled up scents (lotions, soaps, perfumes) of the Cote d’Azur
• What to see: Walk through the open market and narrow bustling shop-filled streets of Cannes before you arrive onto the red carpet at the venue for the Cannes Film Festival.
Napoleon had it all wrong. I see little reason to leave the island of Corsica. The port of Ajaccio is gorgeous, and beautiful coastal lines give way to a mountainous island. Perfect for our group of Jayhawks, who all seemed to love the outdoors.
• What to eat/drink: the veal stew (trust me – it was to die for)
• What to buy: real estate (you won’t want to leave)
• What to see: It would be easy to stay put in Ajaccio, but do yourself a huge favor and see the Calanche of Piana and the Spelunca Gorges. What a gorgeous island.
Port of Liverno, Italy
Land in Liverno, and you have a hard decision to make. Our Flying Jayhawks spent time in the Tuscan countryside, strolling through Florence, holding up the leaning tower of Pisa and exploring the amazing coastal towns of Cinque Terre. We capped off our last night on board with karaoke in between bouts of packing to disembark.
• What to eat/drink: lemon drops (there is something next level about these)
• What to buy: just about anything in the quaint little shops that line the streets of Vernazza in Cinque Terre
• What to see: just the tip of the iceberg – you need two weeks to experience all there is to see in this region of Italy
Last stop meant farewell to our beautiful ship – the Riviera – and the amazing Flying Jayhawks passengers with whom we spent the week sightseeing. We had great weather on our trip and incredible dining aboard the Riviera. Now for a day in Roma!
• What to eat/drink: all the pizza and pasta you can absolutely manage plus ice cream regardless of how full you are
• What to buy: a ticket on the hop-on hop-off bus — SO WORTH IT
• What to see: the highlights of Rome (the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and Vatican City) are easy to visit with the convenience of a bus pass. Walk and eat your way through this city, and don’t leave until you absolutely must. Ciao!
If you are considering a Flying Jayhawks trip, an itinerary like the Mediterranean Collage would be a great way to get your feet wet. Our flock of Jayhawks got to see so much, enjoy remarkable cuisine, return to the comfort of their rooms every night and greet each other with “Rock Chalk” every morning. It’s such a fun way to see the world. What are you waiting for? Pack up your crimson and blue and set sail. Bon Voyage!
The Flying Jayhawks trip “Mediterranean Collage” took place April 25-May 3 2019. The trip was hosted by Joy Maxwell, director of legacy relations. View more photos from the trip; pictures may be downloaded for personal use. Find more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, or sign up for travel emails.
If you’re like me, your bucket list consists of many different places. After my most recent trip to Provence with Flying Jayhawks, I can share a few insights for travelers.
If you are a historian, artist and/or wine lover and Jayhawk, Provence should be your next adventure!
A staple in this area of France, wine appears to be in unlimited supply. Vineyards stretch for miles, can be found on hillsides (where some of the most valuable wines come from) and all along the Rhone River.
Châteaus sit on hilltops offering breathtaking views, long family history and of course, excellent wine. Our group of Jayhawks was lucky to begin our seven-day adventure with visits to two chateaus.
First stop: Château de Rully.
This castle has been kept in the same family since it was built in the 12th century!
Our private tour was led by Count de Ternay, a member of the family who owns the estate. After learning a little more about his family’s long history, our tour concluded with a welcomed wine tasting.
Second stop: Château de Montmelas en Beaujolais.
At another family-run chateau, we toured the grounds and learned of the family’s history, plus we got to enjoy a private piano concert. Of course, no tour is complete without a wine tasting!
Even though these were our only two major stops for wine tastings, we certainly got our fill of great wine for the remainder of the trip!
2. The Roman Empire’s best work
I didn’t imagine that my time in France would take us to so many Roman landmarks. After all it does makes sense—the Roman influence was very strong throughout Europe and many structures that were built in France are still standing today. But don’t be fooled, these Roman landmarks and cities have their own French flair.
For example, traditional Roman temples now sit alongside modern artwork:
The famous Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard is considered one of the most beautiful Roman constructions in the region:
Roman amphitheaters still stand but are now surrounded by French homes and businesses:
3. Picturesque countryside
The views are breathtaking, the churches are covered in intricate detail that tell Biblical stories, and the towns are patriotic. Provence offers all the best views, from atop the rolling hills and through the narrow streets.
But don’t take my word for it—see the Flying Jayhawks adventure for yourself!
The Flying Jayhawks trip “Springtime in Provence” was May 8-16, 2019. The trip was hosted by Crysta Moon, coordinator of marketing and business development. View more photos from the trip; pictures may be downloaded for personal use. Find more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, or sign up for travel emails.
We all began our journey to Brussels from different places across the country, excited for our week ahead exploring Belgium and the Netherlands. We had little idea what all was in store for the week. One thing was for sure, this group of Jayhawks would share memorable experiences together. We would come home with stories to share and pictures that couldn’t even begin to depict the beauty we would encounter. Let me share my adventure with you …
Day 2: Brussels, Belgium
After meeting up with a few of the Flying Jayhawks in Brussels we boarded a bus for a short excursion. In the downtown market square we walked past not one, not two, but what seemed like hundreds of chocolate shops, each unique in its own way. Chocolate Easter bunnies, chocolate eggs, chocolate covered bunnies, chocolate sculptures … every type of chocolate you could imagine!
The beautiful weather was perfect for walking the cobblestone streets and enjoying the architecture of the city. Next, we hopped back on the bus for the drive to Antwerp, where we would board the ship that we’d call home for the next seven nights.
Our group of 10 Jayhawks ventured out to meander through Antwerp’s quaint squares and cobblestone streets and see more medieval architecture. Our tour guide took us to the Great Market Square, past the Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady and then back to board the place we would be calling home. Once back on the ship, we all gathered for a delicious dinner, shared stories and connected with our new friends.
Day 3: Bruges, Belgium
We were excited for a full day visiting Bruges! The romantic city with an ambiance that has earned it the nickname, “Venice of the North.” The city is filled with tranquil canals, sturdy stone bridges and winding cobblestone streets.
I ventured to the De Halve Maan Brewery with fellow Jayhawks to learn about the strong tradition of brewing that dates to the 12th century. Belgium embraces its national drink and it definitely tastes better in Bruges! We climbed up a winding staircase (200 stairs in all) to take in the panoramic view of the city.
After the tour we had free time to explore the city and enjoyed lunch at a cafe along one of the canals. Jayhawks enjoyed some sunshine on the top deck as we began sailing down the river. For dinner we all met in the Panorama Lounge for the captain’s welcome reception, cocktails and a fantastic dinner.
Day 4: Veere, Netherlands
I couldn’t resist going out for a run along the river experiencing the Netherlands exactly how I had imagined it: Quiet little grass-lined paths surrounded by pastures of lazy sheep, a canal lined with boats and the fog slowly rising from the water. It was a picturesque morning.
After breakfast, some passengers embarked on the elective excursion to visit the Delta Works. The series of massive dams and storm surge barriers is an engineering masterpiece that protects the Netherlands: One-third of the nation’s landmass sits below sea level. In 1953, the North Sea waves wiped out part of the country.
For those who stayed aboard the ship, one of our AHI directors took us on a guided stroll through Veere, which included more cobblestone streets, quaint little shops and pop-up bakeries filled with samplings of fresh herring, too. Not everyone was brave enough to give it a try, but that left more for the rest of us. It was delicious! Our afternoon was split between more free time in the little village of Veere and setting sail back down the river towards Willemstad.
The evening was filled with an educational session about Dutch architecture, cocktails and another amazing dinner.
Day 5: Schoonhoven/Kampen
The excursion choices today included a trip to the Hague and Mauritshuis or the Royal Delft and porcelain factory. I chose to visit the Hague’s landmark buildings with several couples from my group. We saw the Binnenhof, which is home to the Dutch parliament. Plus, we saw the Peace Palace, which is the seat of the United Nations’ International Court of Justice.
Our stroll continued on the streets of Hague to the Mauritshuis, which houses works by Dutch and Flemish masters, most notably Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” We were all awed by the beauty of the works before us and could have spent hours viewing the art.
The evening included our very own cocktail reception! Jayhawks shared stories from their days on campus, favorite memories of Lawrence and a common love for our University. We had the staff doing the Rock Chalk chant, wearing Jayhawk stickers and learning just a small part of what makes the Jayhawks so special. (We may have even converted one Hokie, who was traveling alone and quickly became a part of our group.)
Day 6: Giethoorn
No one knew what this magical day would include. We boarded buses to the winsome little village of Giethoorn, which is free of cars and interlaced with footpaths and narrow canals.
The tiny wooden bridges, 18th-century farmhouses that lined the canals and the small-town Dutch life made it feel like a fairy tale. Despite the traffic jams along the canal, we enjoyed every minute we spent in this village.
The afternoon included a walking tour of Kampen and some free time to explore on our own. Since this was Easter Monday, many shops were closed, leaving the city quieter than usual. It was so fascinating to explore at a time when we felt more like a local than a tourist.
Once back on the ship, we set sail toward Amsterdam and enjoyed our dinner while sailing down the river to the most picturesque view of the North Sea.
Day 7: Amsterdam
We woke up in the morning to the lights of the city of Amsterdam. We were surrounded by other ships, filled with tourists excited to venture in to the capital of the Netherlands. After breakfast we ventured off the ship for a unique tour of Amsterdam. We saw a glimpse of the 60-plus miles of tree-lined canals that make this romantic city so unforgettable.
The afternoon was spent at leisure exploring Amsterdam. The streets were littered with bicycles and we were all warned: The bicycles will stop for no one! As one Jayhawk couple said upon their return, we all “cheated death” that afternoon! Amsterdam is filled with interesting neighborhoods and architectural gems: the Anne Frank House, the Tulip Museum, Rijksmuseum, Dutch Resistance Museum, the Floating Flower Market and much more!
We began the evening with a cocktail hour, stories to share from the day and much laughter among strangers that quickly became friends.
Day 8: Amsterdam – Kuekenhof Gardens
This 80-acre paradise included brightly colored tulips plus many other gorgeous blooms: hyacinths, orchids, hydrangeas, daffodils and many others. No picture could even begin to portray the magnificent beauty of the gardens or the fragrant smell. The masses of people that visit the garden each year are testament to its beauty.
Our last afternoon in the Netherlands came to an end and we all felt blessed to experience so many wonderful sites together. I enjoyed one more run along the canal-lined streets, visited Central Station and dodged a few bicycles along the way.
Our final night on the ship was a celebration of new friendships. The Netherlands is a small country overflowing with picturesque landscapes, amazing architecture, incredibly delicious cuisine, and the people are pretty amazing, too!
We enjoyed a week of unseasonably warm temperatures and not a single drop of rain! I’m certain it’s because we all packed our umbrellas, rain boots and rain coats. This trip once again reminded me of the power of the Jayhawk network. We boarded the ship as strangers and ended as friends who shared an amazing journey along the Dutch Waterways.
The Flying Jayhawks trip “Dutch Waterways” was April 17-25, 2019. The trip was hosted by Jodi Nachtigal, the Alumni Association’s controller. View more photos from the trip; pictures may be downloaded for personal use. Find more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, or sign up for travel emails.
Trust me, the Galápagos Islands need to be on your bucket list. They offer an experience unlike any other. During the Flying Jayhawks trip to the islands, we were told by our naturalist before leaving Quito, Ecuador: “No place on earth is like any other place. But the Galápagos are less like all the others.” She was absolutely right. Let me start at the beginning…
Day 1-2: Quito, Ecuador
Driving from the airport to Quito, Ecuador, I could tell from the lights across the hillsides that this was going to be a beautiful start to the trip. After a short night, we began our morning meeting and mingled with the rest of our group.
This Flying Jayhawks trip included 13 great folks from across the country—all on their first excursion to the Galápagos. Our first day was spent learning about the history and culture of Quito and South America. We explored historical sites and gorgeous downtown Quito, walking along the colorful paved streets and enjoying the sun.
We ventured to the official Quito market, tasting some of the fresh fruits and vegetables local to the area. Next we visited a local hat maker and learned about the origin of the Panama Hat—which was indeed Ecuador!
We had delicious meals, some free time to shop and then returned to our hotel for a gorgeous sunset and a reception.
Day 3: Baltra/Santa Cruz
Despite the wakeup call in the wee hours of the morning, the first day in the islands was worth it! First we flew from Quito to Baltra. Then we ventured by boat to Santa Cruz to see the infamous giant tortoises for which the islands are named: Galápagos.
We visited the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz and hiked through the island among hundreds of slow-moving, but fascinating, creatures! Hiking down the cool lava caves and tunnels we learned more about the climate and history of this island.
Lunch was at the home of a local family with food directly from their farm. After another bus ride and free time, it was time to embark our home for the bulk of the trip: the Yacht Isabella II. We met for a Captain’s welcome reception followed with delicious dinner on board.
Day 4: Floreana and Post Office Bay
Overnight we sailed away from Santa Cruz and the civilized islands while also sailing away from our connection to WiFi, email and the connection back home. Instead we moved into the most gorgeous, uninhabited, natural beauty among the South Pacific.
We woke up on Floreana Island and set out early on a panga ride to see the creatures of this area. Immediately, among the crystal clear waters (so magnificently colored in turquoise and sapphire), we saw hundreds of sea lions in the distance.
As we got closer to shore, the sea lions danced for us, and we saw the bright red crabs showing off on the dark rocks. We saw beautiful blue-footed boobies and bright red and green “Christmas Iguanas” sunning themselves. Our exploring continued when in the (not too far) distance, we saw a magnificent creature come out of the water and quickly back down—an Orca whale!
Our naturalists (also shocked and excited), chased down the whale and followed him around the ocean, watching him crest and return dozens of times—just yards from our panga! It was absolutely breathtaking and an experience of a lifetime. If the trip had ended right there, I think most of us would have said we got more than we bargained for!
And there was more!
We continued on to land to see the historic Old Post Office Bay, the site where ships would leave postcards and mail for the next ship to stop, pick up the mail, and deliver it to its destination if possible. That tradition continues now with thousands of visitors coming to leave their postcards, hoping that the next wave of tourists collects the mail and delivers it (ideally face to face) to its destination.
After the mail barrel, we snorkeled off the beach to swim with the sea turtles! They were beautiful creatures, and it was amazing to be floating above them.
We returned to ship for an incredible lunch al fresco on the top deck while the ship moved a bit around the island. The afternoon consisted of more snorkeling with unbelievable aquatic wildlife in Technicolor and face-to-face swimming with the sea lions! These playful creatures had no problem coming over to say hello to their new human friends!
After snorkeling, we had the evening to take a guided hike on the island, seeing sea turtles mating and the females coming to land to lay their eggs. We also ended the evening seeing the gorgeous pink flamingos glisten in the sunset.
An Orca whale, sea turtles, crabs, iguanas, blue footed boobies, sea lions nibbling at my fins while snorkeling, flamingos … you would think that is enough for the day, right? Oh no—there was more!
After an incredible dinner and debrief, the captain announced that sharks were behind the boat. As I walked up the stairs, I wondered, “Will I be able to see through the darkness? Will I look in the right direction? What if I miss the sharks?”
The moment I reached the top, I looked down to see hundreds of sharks, so crystal clear they seem to be glowing. It gave me goosebumps (and nearly brought me to tears wishing I could photograph and share this moment!). The naturalists explained that the sharks are following the wake and eating the fish off the back of the boat.
We watched for what seemed like hours as a “flying fish” scurried across the water while a group of sharks dashed to get it. A brave sea lion was willing to get in the fray and steal dinner from the sharks a few times. (Thankfully, the sea lions are so fast, they’re not in danger of becoming the sharks meal. Whew!)
Since we were on the top deck, our naturalists volunteered to lead a conversation on the stars with the clear night’s sky. They turned out the lights and millions of bright stars covered every inch of the sky. The naturalists pointed out constellations and told the stories of the astrological signs. It was a day for the ages.
Day 5: Espanola
We embarked on a hike through Espaneola, on the lava and boulder terrain, where we connected with the blue footed boobies and many other birds at all stages of life.
The beautiful terrain led us to the natural “blowholes” in the lava formations on the other side of the island. It was an incredible sight! We hiked among iguanas and stepped over baby seals sunning themselves. After lunch, more snorkeling (or an optional glass-bottom boat ride). I have to admit, I was a little more skittish to snorkel after last night’s display of sharks! I was so glad I went with another gorgeous display of wildlife and a sea lion playing with an octopus!
The evening consisted of kayaking and a white, sandy beach walk among the Gardner Bay sea lions. We also saw the humpback whale skeleton on the shore. It was an incredibly relaxing and peaceful way to end the day on this gorgeous island.
Day 6: San Cristobal
Our final full day on the island started out with another gorgeous hike. This one took us to new heights, and I felt like we were flying with the island birds! Although the hike was a bit more difficult, the views made it worth every step.
We saw new vegetation and more wildlife up-close and in-person. This is the only island where all of the three types of boobies are found together: red-footed boobies, blue-footed boobies, and Nazca boobies. We saw them dancing together in their mating rituals and learned more about the evolution of wildlife on the island.
After the hike, we had an opportunity to snorkel off the beach one final time. We returned to the ship for lunch followed by another adventure through rock formations and lava cutouts. This was the only day we experienced any real rain, and it was very light and manageable. In fact, it seemed fitting learning about Darwin’s exploration and seeing a glimpse of his view of the islands nearly a century before.
We hiked on the beach—this time barefoot in the rain—and the colors seemed to come alive through the drizzle.
As we got back on board, we witnessed the most magnificent sunset. We watched the sun drop near the blue water as we circled around key hole rock. The captain perfectly lined up the rock, the sun and the opening in the formation to give us a work of art. It was the perfect conclusion to this breathtaking excursion.
Day 7: San Cristobal and Guayaquil
It was finally time to disembark. It was bittersweet to be back on land, and we were welcomed there by the capital city of the islands. We learned a little more history but also had some by free time to purchase our Galápagos souvenirs before heading home.
After flying back to mainland Ecuador, we had a final night to explore Guayaquil, say our farewells and enjoy a traditional Ecuadorian meal.
What are you waiting for?
The trip was an incredible experience. The ship was quaint, 36-passenger boat, allowing us to make new friends of all ages. The food was incredible with many options at each meal. We had buffet style breakfast and lunch and a plated dinner each night. All of the meals and attire were casual and made you feel at home. The staff on the ship could not have been more friendly and personable.
And the naturalists! We had three on our trip, and they exceeded expectations in every way. The weather was as picture-perfect as you would imagine. Even for the “rainy season,” we had sunshine and mild temperatures every day with only an occasional, very light shower.
If the Galápagos Islands are not on your bucket list yet, you are missing out! It was an escape and an intimate look at nature like I’ve never had before. I came back feeling refreshed, amazed and wanting to do it all again.
The Flying Jayhawks trip “The Galápagos Islands” took place Jan. 23-30, 2018. The trip was hosted by Angie Storey, vice president of donor relations. View more photos from the trip; pictures may be downloaded for personal use. Find more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, or sign up for travel emails.
The Alumni Association’s very own Keon Stowers and Danny Woods hosted a fantastic group of Flying Jayhawks all the way to Egypt and back. Keon shares their adventures.
Our journey through history started at the acclaimed Egyptian Museum. This enormous facility was a relic in its own manner. The museum houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of Egyptian artifacts, spanning 5,000 years. Words simply cannot do this museum justice; it is beyond spectacular in every way. Artifacts that would be treasures in other museums are merely lining the walkway or lying to the side.
That night we got acquainted with our fellow Jayhawks at the welcome reception. After the reception we enjoyed a brisk walk through the busy Cairo streets to enjoy a traditional Lebanese dinner at the acclaimed Taboula Restaurant.
Sakkara, along with Memphis, served as one of Egypt’s first capitals. We visited the ancient Mastaba of Mereruka and the Pyramid Tomb of King Teti. The amount of detail in these reliefs in this tomb are fascinating. You will understand not just the life of Mereruka but also so much about Egyptian habits and day-to-day living, all via carvings on a wall. We were lucky enough to have a guide who could point out small details we might have missed. It was a great start to our journey through the immense burial site.
Sakkara is also home to the Step Pyramid of Djoser, considered to be the first pyramid of Egypt. We descended down the tunnel that leads to an ancient tomb, filled with colorful hieroglyphics and ancient carvings. This was definitely one of the highlights of the entire trip.
After a quick Egyptian lunch, we made our way to the ancient Pyramids of Giza. It was an amazing experience to visit the sole-surviving and oldest monument of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. After a steep climb inside the largest Pyramid, a small group of Flying Jayhawks sang the Rock Chalk chant—truly a once-in-a-lifetime Jayhawk experience.
After the Pyramids, we made a quick stop at the Solar Boat Museum to see a cedar vessel thought to be more than 4,500 years old.
One of my favorite days of the trip: the religious day. We had the chance to visit mosques, churches and temples of Islamic and Coptic Cairo. First stop was the Citadel, a beautiful, old mosque. After touring inside, we enjoyed a breathtaking view of Cairo and pyramids on the far horizon. It was a great start to what ended up being a memorable, educational day.
After touring the Citadel, we had a double dose of spectacular mosques to visit, which ended up being one of the highlights of the day. We visited the Mosque of Mohammed Ali, also known as the Alabaster Mosque, then continued to the grand Al-Rifai Mosque.
The day continued with delights like visiting Cairo’s most famous Coptic Christian church, the Hanging Church. After that, we had the unique opportunity to visit the Church of St. Sergius, which is believed to be built over the cave where Mary and Joseph once rested.
We ended the day with a delicious lunch at a nearby Egyptian restaurant. After our bellies were full, we embarked upon a wild shopping experience inside the Khan el Khalili bazaar, a traditional Egyptian market.
After an early morning checkout and flight to Luxor, we viewed the well-preserved artifacts of the Luxor museum, which displays monuments from various periods of ancient dynasties. It also contains a mummy for one of the famous kings of Egypt called Ahmous. After a quick lunch and siesta, we visited the spectacular Luxor, which was definitely a treat at night.
We bused through the city of Luxor to visit the breathtaking Valleys of the Kings and Queens. The tombs of the kings were truly magnificent. Carved from rock with beautiful wall art, the walls are full of vibrant colors, symbols and stories as if they were made yesterday.
The tomb of King Tut was by far one of the best. Then we made our way over to the Valley of the Queens, where we took in the spectacular views of Queen Nefertiti’s tomb and many more.
The Valleys were simply fantastic—one of the defining moments in the entire tour. No words, books or photographs will prepare you for this experience. It was truly a treat.
That evening we took an exclusive tour of the Chicago House in Luxor and learned about the mission to preserve Egypt’s ancient cultural heritage through documentation. We capped the day off with a delicious Egyptian dinner aboard the ship and enjoyed a traditional belly-dancing show.
The Temple of Karnak was without a doubt my favorite temple in Egypt. Boasting the biggest area , every single space was beautifully carved or engraved and has been masterfully restored. Standing inside the temple and looking up at the roof, or the tops of the pillars, it’s amazing to think how life would have been for the ancient Egyptians.
After lunch and a quick siesta, our group of flying Jayhawks gathered atop the cruise ship to take in the immaculate scenes of the Nile River and Esna Lock.
With a late start this morning, I enjoyed early views of the Nile River atop the cruise ship before heading to the Temple of Horus at Edfu. Traveling to the temple was quite the adventure, because we had to hop aboard a horse carriage and ride through the streets of Edfu—one of my favorite moments of the trip because I saw the true Egypt through the sights, sounds and smells of one its busiest cities. The temple itself is beautiful and well preserved. It was interesting to see the detailed architecture and the hieroglyphics, which remain surprisingly intact.
After a delicious dinner aboard the ship, we spent a good chunk of time picking the brain of our Egyptologist with questions about what we had learned so far. It was a great refresher at the midpoint of the trip.
We took a quick flight to Abu Simbel to see the colossal Great Temple of Ramses II and Temple of The Goddess Hathor. The Temple of Ramses ll is one of the most beautiful monuments in the world—an architectural miracle. It is a place that you should experience firsthand to realize the great artistic and historical splendor the ancient Egyptians embodied to build this colossal masterpiece.
We ended the night with a fantastic Egyptian dinner and farewell reception. At the reception Danny and I, along with most of our flying Jayhawks group, enjoyed wearing our galabayas while dancing to some traditional Egyptian tunes. It was the perfect finale to a wonderful Egyptian adventure.
We boarded a felucca boat and sailed to the island temple complex of Philae and the Aswan High Dam, where we saw the rising waters of the dam crashing up against the breathtaking complex of Philae. Later we visited a unique shop to learn about the ancient process of handcrafting papyrus.
Before making our last stop at the massive Russian Monument, we took in the immaculate views to the Aswan High Dam. This dam has been very important to Egypt because it has helped control the Nile’s annual flooding and has improved the nation’s power supply. After this tour, we headed back to Aswan for a quick flight back to Cairo to start our journey back to Kansas.
Travel day! Although this day was long and filled with travel and layovers, it gave me a chance to reflect on everything I had just experienced on our trip. At any moment throughout the day I would close my eyes for a few seconds and I swear I could quietly hear the hustle and bustle of Cairo: the constant traffic sounds, the beeping of horns.
The Legends of the Nile trip is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you get a chance to book this trip, don’t pass it up!
The Flying Jayhawks trip “Legends of the Nile” took place Jan. 29-Feb. 9, 2018. The trip was hosted by Keon Stowers, assistant director of student programs, and Danny Woods, assistant director of legacy and alumni programs. View more photos from the trip; pictures may be downloaded for personal use. Find more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, or sign up for travel emails.
Ten days, eight Mediterranean ports of call, 60+ Jayhawks and the most beautiful weather. Sounds like paradise, doesn’t it? It was.
Read on to learn a little more about each day of this itinerary from Jayhawk hosts Danielle Hoover and Debbi Johanning.
Day 1: Florence and Pisa
After our long travel day from Kansas to Rome, we boarded Oceania Cruises’ m.s. Nautica at the port of call, Civitavecchia. Our first port was Livorno, and I boarded a bus that took us to Florence and Pisa. The drive to Florence was a highlight in itself, with views of sweeping hills and vineyards of the Italian countryside. Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and I took a walking tour through the Historic Centre of Florence, which was named a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1982. We saw some of their most iconic sites, including The Duomo cathedral, the Gelleria degli Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio that spans the Arno River. The history and the architecture in this city was beyond gorgeous!
After a delicious lunch of pizza and wine, we took our bus to Pisa and I could not resist taking the iconic tourist picture: holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Day 2: Portofino/Genoa
Our next port was scheduled to be Portofino, a tender port, but with the possibility of some high tide issues, the captain decided to play it safe and we docked in Genoa instead. Our group excursion this day took me to the beautiful Italian coastline town of Camogli. This was probably my favorite moment of the entire trip. After touring Florence and Pisa for 11 hours the day before, arriving in this quaint fishing village was exactly what I needed. I felt like I was in a postcard! The views of the colorful cliffside houses along the Mediterranean sea was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
As I walked along the seaside promenade, school-aged boys were playing soccer, locals were sunbathing along the water and everyone was just enjoying the beautiful day. I joined some of our Flying Jayhawk guests at one of the local outdoor cafes and we enjoyed a glass of Italian wine. It was the Bella Vita!
Day 3: Èze, Nice, Monaco, and Monte Carlo
This was one of my favorite days because the scenery of the French coast was so beautiful and we were able to see so much of it. We started our day in Èze, France, which was first populated around 2000 BC. Perched on top of the cliff, it became known as the “eagles nest” because of the vast views across the coastline and the sea. The history behind this place was magnificent; the winding cobblestone streets and the views were breathtaking.
We then took a scenic drive to Nice and stopped for a picture with the view of the Bay of Angels. The local street market was in full swing, which made for wonderful people watching and shopping. Lunch with some our Jayhawk guests along the beach of the Bay of Angels was a highlight of the day!
We toured the cathedral of Monaco, the burial place of the royalty of Monaco, including Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. The famous couple was also married in the cathedral. A trip to Monaco wouldn’t be complete with seeing the world famous Formula One Grand Prix and the Monte Carlo Casino. And, we may have returned later that night to try our luck…
Day 4: Toulon/Aix-en-Provence
Aix-en-Provence is a beautiful city. It was a leisurely day and we enjoyed the city as the locals would. After a walking tour we saw the Cathedral Saint – Sauveur d’ Aix-en-Provence and the city center. Many locals were out shopping at the local market, which had so many fresh fruits and vegetables and beautiful flowers.
Another highlight of this day was our Jayhawk reception on board the ship. The Jayhawk guests were able to socialize and get to know one another better. This reception included the other university alumni associations on the ship, and our loyal fans started the “Rock Chalk” chant to show off school spirit. We were very proud!
Day 5: Barcelona
Barcelona is a large, beautiful and historical city. Some highlights were La Sagrada Familia (the Church of the Sacred Family), the cathedral begun by Gaudi that has been under construction for more than 100 years. It will not be completed until around 2030. I also loved Las Ramblas, a street in the center of the city that is full of locals and tourists. Endless amounts of tapas bars, restaurants, shopping and the large city market can be found here.
Day 6: Valencia
Our tour of Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city, was a combination of new and old. We started the day in the Old City with a walking tour of the vast Central Market; Lonja, the old silk exchange building; and the Cathedral, which is home to the “Holy Grail”. We also visited the most modern part of the city, the City of Arts and Science, to admire the largest cultural-educational complex in Europe.
Day 7: Mahón
We docked on the tiny Spanish island of Menorca for the day. I ventured to the ancient capital city of Ciutadella, which is perched on the western end of the island. We walked around the picturesque town with a guide to see some of the churches and palaces. Afterward, we had plenty of time to shop and explore the town on our own before heading back to Mahón, the current capital.
Our Jayhawk travelers gathered for a group photo and enjoyed dinner together that evening.
Day 8: Cruising the Mediterranean Sea
Today we flew the KU flag proudly on the upper deck of the Nautica! We had time to relax (and re-pack!) on the ship and enjoy the food, pool deck and other activities like bingo, shuffleboard and mini-golf. It was a perfect day to catch up with our fellow passengers! Or nap, if that’s your preference.
Day 9: Naples/Pompeii
The final day of the cruise included options to explore Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, or Capri. The excavated ruins of Pompeii are amazing to see in person. The city was buried in ash after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. It truly is a glimpse into a city frozen in time: plaster casts of victims were visible, along with other artifacts of life in ancient times.
If you’re looking for a way to experience as much of the Mediterranean coastline as possible, I highly recommend the Coastal Vignettes cruise. There are so many choices to make for daily excursions—you’ll want to do it all! It truly is one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever seen.
We were truly fortunate to travel with so many fantastic Jayhawks! And, fortunately, we experienced incredible weather the entire trip. In fact, we couldn’t have ordered better weather if we tried: mid 70s, no humidity, no wind, nothing but completely comfortable sunshine and beautiful blue skies.
The Flying Jayhawks trip “Coastal Vignettes” took place Oct. 16-27, 2018. The trip was hosted by Tegan Thornberry, director of membership, marketing and business development; Danielle Hoover, director of donor relations and Wichita programs; and Debbi Johanning, director of digital media. View more photos from the trip; pictures may be downloaded for personal use. Find more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, or sign up for travel emails.
For the latest Flying Jayhawks trip, a special guest joined us as the trip’s host. Enjoy the story of the trip through Glacial Alaska, as only former KU basketball player and “Survivor” contestant Scot Pollard could tell it.
I had been to Alaska before but it was just to play basketball. When coaches take you on trips they tend to just give you an hour or two of “local stuff” and the rest is practice, rest, and making sure you’re in your bed when you’re supposed to be! Needless to say I hadn’t REALLY experienced Alaska before.
I can definitely say I have now! Wow! All ten days on board and off of our Oceania cruise ship and in the different ports, our group of flying Jayhawks could not avoid the beautiful scenery even if we wanted to.
Stop 1: Ketchikan
Flying Jayhawks Dana and Sue Anderson “kidnapped” my family and took us on a private fishing boat. All six of us caught our first salmon and a couple of us caught more than one for a total of 10. We didn’t lose one fish which made our captain, Ray, very surprised. The highlight of this day, though, didn’t happen in the water. It happened ON IT. Our captain asked if I would whistle at one of the bald eagles overhead. One was flying away but fairly close as I gave it a really loud whistle. Our national bird and a symbol of our country did a 180 and headed back toward us as my son Ozzy threw a frozen bait herring in the air. The fish landed about 30 feet from our boat and this amazing bald eagle swooped down and grabbed that fish right in front of all of us!
Stop 2: Juneau
It’s the capital of Alaska don’t “Juneau!”? Dad jokes aside, it was really cool to go to a city only reachable by boat or plane. We had originally planned to zip line here, but someone (me!) was too heavy to go. So we scrambled and ended up doing a 12-person canoe trip in a lake which happens to have a glacier running into it.
Highlights: paddling up to about 300 yards away (for safety) from Mendenhall Glacier which was spectacular. Paddling near a waterfall called Nugget falls and getting sprayed just a little with 35 degree water.
Lowlights: Some people don’t paddle much or with everyone else, therefore making it harder to paddle across a two mile wide lake.
Did I mention the water was 35 degrees? Yeah it was cold on the lake despite the 65 degree day.
Stop 3: Haines
Bald eagles, bald eagles, and more bald eagles. Due to our encounter with the bald eagle on the fishing trip, we were a little spoiled but still enjoyed our float trip down the Chilkat River in the Eagle Preserve. We were lucky enough to share a raft with flying Jayhawks Virginia Crane and Joan Treece.
Our pilot was Dr. Scott Ramsey, and if you ever go on this adventure, make sure he’s your guide. Not only was he knowledgeable, but he was funny and put up with our incessant questions and quest for the perfect river rock to take as a souvenir. There are only about 2,500 residents in Haines, and most of them leave for the winter, so there isn’t a whole lot to do there besides fish. And there’s always fishing. If you get bored of fishing, there’s fishing there. They pride themselves on being “salmon snobs” there. There are certain types of salmon they just won’t eat. Here’s a hint: most of that type of salmon is what we eat in the lower 48 states.
Oh yeah, and we saw about 60 bald eagles!
At sea sailing up to Hubbard Glacier: we had to keep our distance from the glacier as it routinely “calves” ice bergs the size of ten story buildings! We didn’t see any that big, but there were several small ones during our visit. This glacier is about 76 miles long and growing! By 2025 it’s predicted that it will close off the bay we were in entirely.
This day was absolutely eye candy. The sky was perfectly blue the entire time, which we were told is rare in that area. The glacier sparkled in the sun, the icebergs we floated past were amazing. One even broke in half right in front of the ship, revealing its center which looked like gemstones. The ice is 400 years old, and has been compressed so much the air is mostly pushed out, which is why it has that color.
After getting an eyeful and filling our cameras memories with pictures, we sailed away to our next stop. The temperature was in the 70’s which meant that in the protected pool area in the top/middle of the ship it felt like 80’s. Of course a few of us got our swimsuits on and enjoyed the hot tub, sailing away from a glacier, in Alaska.
Not a bad day.
Stop 4: Icy Straight Point in Hoonah
This was my favorite stop. This island features tides that change up to 30 feet four times a day. When our ship docked at 7 a.m., we were able to walk the gangplank to the new dock to get to land. Within an hour, the tide dropped so much that the gangplank was unusable and guests had to board tenders (lifeboats) to get to shore until the tide returned later in the afternoon. We boarded a tram to take a ride through rainforest (yes, rainforest. The Tongass National Park in Alaska is the largest national forest in America. It is also Earths largest temperate rainforest. And my kids thought they were just on this cruise to have fun.) Our team stopped near the “beach” which was a rocky shoreline. We looked for rocks and chatted with the locals from our tram. Then we headed back to where we started for a show.
The natives here are the Tlingit tribe. They were natives of a different area across the bay, but according to their oral history they were pushed off of their native land by a glacier and had to settle here. The show was performed by high school aged descendants of the tribe, mostly full blooded members, and narrated by an elder member. Because they hold their history sacred, we were not allowed to video or take pictures of the show, which I thought was very special. They danced, we danced, we listened, and we enjoyed their wonderful history.
This place was also home to the world’s largest “ZipRider” which is a harness version of zip lining. Guess who wasn’t allowed to go again? Yep, the giant guy. Not only was I too heavy but the girl working it said it didn’t matter because I was too tall as well. Giant problems…
On our walk back to the ship we stopped to talk with our fellow Jayhawks who had settled down near the ocean with a pitcher of beer to muse about the show we had just witnessed. My son was skipping rocks into the ocean just ahead when three whales breached about 25 feet off shore right in front of him! We ran down, cameras in hand and got a picture of one of the whales flukes (tails). This shows how close to shore they were.
How were they this close, you ask? Many years ago glaciers carved deep trenches in this area. This made it so that just off shore the ocean floor can be as deep as 800 feet!
From learning about a culture I didn’t know existed to their land and its climate to whales popping up to say hello just a few feet away, yeah, definitely my favorite stop!
Stop 5: Sitka
Sitka was founded by Russians. Although my family was annoyed, other people at least tolerated the giant guy who wouldn’t stop talking with the bad Russian accent. We spent most of the day aboard a boat spotting whales, otters, sea lions, dolphins and yes, more bald eagles. Due to our earlier experiences with both the eagles and the whales, we were again a little spoiled on this trip.
Although it was nice, we wish we had spent the day in Sitka learning about the city and its history. We didn’t have enough time to do so after our trip due to needing to be back on the ship so our Sitka experience was limited.
As you might guess, I won best dressed at the Big 12 discussion panel.
The topics included the NCAA, the big 12, television and its impact on amateur athletics, as well as AAU and its effect on basketball specifically (I hate it). There were great points brought up and debates had.
Last stop: Victoria BC
We boarded a bus and got a wonderful tour of some highlights of Victoria on the way to the Burchart Gardens. The area used to be a rock quarry once upon a time and once the limestone was all taken out was abandoned. Well the Burcharts of the early 1900’s wouldn’t have that and created this: “The sunken garden”.
I never thought I would appreciate walking through several different gardens and so many flowers, but it smelled wonderful and the sun was shining (every day of this trip but one!), in fact I was wearing a tank top and shorts! On the way back our bus went through downtown and next to the bay which made us wish we had more time to spend in that beautiful city. Therefore, like Sitka, it will probably be a future stop for the Pollards.
It made a great last stop though and provided a great “frame” for our trip. (Sorry, one last dad joke).
If you haven’t considered a trip with the Flying Jayhawks, do so. If you have considered it, pull the trigger. You will not regret it. We had a blast getting to know our fellow alumni and experiencing the wonders and history of Alaska with them. Oceania cruise line is the best cruise line I’ve been on from the food to the service to the accommodations. A trip with perfect weather, venues, nature, and travel companions? Yes, sign me up again! Rock Chalk Jayhawk!
The Flying Jayhawks trip “Big 12 Glacial Alaska” took place July 13-23, 2018, and was hosted by Scot Pollard! View more photos from the trip; pictures may be downloaded for personal use. Find more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, or sign up for travel emails.
If I were to make a souvenir T-shirt for our Amalfi Coast trip, it would say “Mangia bene, ridi spesso, ama molto.” Translated, that means “Eat well, laugh often, love much.”
The love part was easy.
Well, to be clear, it was easy after 20 hours of traveling. The Hotel Raito is built into the hillside above the charming village of Vietri sul Mare. From my balcony I sat and stared at the village below with its red tile roofs and terraced groves of lemon trees. The Tyrrhenian Sea faded into the horizon while the Apennine Mountains loomed in the distance. I could have sat on that balcony for hours, but there was too much to see.
By day two, we were ready to travel by boat to Positano. Seeing the Amalfi Coast by boat is a must. There is no better way to take in the sweeping views of the villages cut into the cliffs above the sea. It’s hard to imagine the first settlers arriving and deciding it would be a great place to build. Seeing it now, it’s hard to imagine a more beautiful place to live.
Stepping off the boat in Positano was like stepping back in time. The cobblestone streets lead into the heart of the vertical city, painted in vibrant colors. Outdoor cafes line the coast and small shops selling linen clothing, handmade leather sandals, pottery and all things lemon, line the walkways. Trellises of wisteria cover the paths up the hill to provide a little shade for hiking up into the village.
The next day, we went to a farm that produces mozzarella di bufala. Yes, that is mozzarella cheese made with the milk from water buffalo. According to our travel director, it’s the only real mozzarella. The buffalo on the farm are pampered after milking-they actually line up waiting for their turn! After seeing the whole process, we sampled the final product. There’s no doubt it’s the freshest mozzarella di bufala I will ever have!
Down the road, we explored the ancient city of Paestum. It was built by the Greeks more than 2,500 years ago. The city has has three temples that are still very well preserved, as well as an amphitheater and many of the surrounding walls. We were also able to see many of the artifacts from the site in the accompanying museum.
Naples & Pompeii
After spending a day in the countryside, it was time to head into the city. We got a nickel tour of Naples and stopped to visit the Museo Archeologico Nazionale. The museum houses hundreds of marble statues and thousands of artifacts from Herculaneum and Pompeii. The mosaics preserved from Pompeii were some of the most impressive pieces.
Pre-trip, I was most excited to visit Pompeii and it did not disappoint. Pompeii is such an amazing archeological site. We strolled up and down the cobblestone streets, toured the homes and the Forum, learned so much of the history from our guide and saw the plaster casts of those who didn’t escape the eruption. It was such an unbelievably unique opportunity.
There was so much beauty among the ruins. From the well preserved paintings to the poppies that thrive in the volcanic soil. If I ever make it back, it will definitely be on my list to revisit.
Although Pompeii was fantastic, I think I enjoyed Herculaneum more. Although it’s a fraction of the size of Pompeii, it is better preserved due to the fact that it was destroyed more by pyroclastic flows than by falling ash. Standing in the streets of Herculaneum with Mount Vesuvius towering in the distance behind us made me feel as though I could see the Romans from 2000 years ago, going about their day with no idea of the fate that was about to befall them.
There isn’t much that can compare to the beauty of Capri. Yes, you can find the designer shops in Anacapri or sit at a café and people watch all day. But, if it were up to me, I would spend all my time in the water surrounding Capri. The crystal-clear blue green water juxtaposed against the sheer white cliffs is a sight to behold. The many grottoes, arches and at the time, hundreds, if not thousands, of migrating jellyfish, kept me entertained all day.
We spent our last full day in Italy visiting the mountain town of Ravello. It is an inspiration to all kinds of artists, writers and musicians and it’s easy to see why. It’s a great place to sit and get lost in your thoughts, with its sweeping views of the coast and mountainside, ornate gardens and a charming town square.
I’m sure you can imagine how easy it was to “eat well.”
(We were eating gelato nearly every day…twice on one day. But, I stuck with the fruit flavors so it was basically a health food.) We went to an amazing pizza restaurant in Naples called Mammina. We sat and talked while the wine flowed (and the pizza did, too). I don’t ever order a traditional Neapolitan pizza at home and I’m not sure that I ever can now.
We spent hours laughing around Italy.
Limoneto is another great restaurant in Vietri sul Mare. I had fresh fish, pasta, bread and wonderful company. A great part about traveling with the Flying Jayhawks is all of the people you meet-alumni who have a passion for traveling and a love for KU.
We had a wonderful travel director and a great group of Jayhawks. Visiting beautiful places and sharing so many good meals bonds people together.
I leave you with a quote from an Italian writer, Francesco Guicciardini, “Poiché non c’è null ache vale così tanto la pena di avere come gli amici, non perdere mai l’occasione di farne di nuovi.” It means, “Since there is nothing so well worth having as friends, never lose a chance to make them.” That is exactly what you do on a Flying Jayhawks trip, make friends, and I’m ready for my next opportunity.
The Flying Jayhawks trip “Amalfi Coast” took place April 17-25, 2018. The trip was hosted by Michelle Lang, director of alumni programs. View more photos from the trip; pictures may be downloaded for personal use. Find more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, or sign up for travel emails.