Trust me, the Galápagos Islands need to be on your bucket list. It’s an experience not quite like any other. During the Flying Jayhawks trip to the The Galápagos 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 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!
But alas, 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.
KU Alumni’s very own Keon Stowers and Danny Woods hosted a fantastic group of Flying Jayhawks all the way to Egypt and back.
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 laying 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, which is considered to be the first pyramid of Egypt. We were able to descend 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 had a breathtaking view of Cairo and pyramids on the far horizon. It was a great start to what ended up being a great, 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 check-out and flight to Luxor, we were toured and view the well-preserved artifacts of the Luxor museum. This was a great museum because it displayed the different monuments from various periods of ancient dynasties. It also contained a mummy for one of the famous kings of Egypt called Ahmous. This was a great start to our journey through the city of Luxor. After a quick lunch and siesta, we visited the spectacular Luxor, which was definitely a treat at night.
We bussed 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.
After a quick bus ride to the pier, we boarded the cruise ship and enjoyed a delicious lunch.
That evening we had the opportunity to take an exclusive tour of the Chicago House in Luxor. It was a cool experience learning about their mission to preserve Egypt’s ancient cultural heritage through documentation. We capped the day off with a delicious Egyptian-style 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 of temple, 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, and the amazing feat of having roofs, as well as windows.
After a delicious lunch aboard the ship 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. We ended the night with a delicious Egyptian style mean aboard the ship.
With a late start this morning, I enjoyed morning views of the Nile River atop the cruise before heading to the Temple of Horus at Edfu. Traveling to the Temple was quite the adventure, as we had to hop aboard a horse carriage ride and trek through the streets of Edfu to get to the actual temple. This was one of my favorite moments of the trip because I saw the true, raw underbelly of 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 how detailed the architecture was and how intact the hieroglyphics are.
We ended the night with a delicious dinner aboard the ship and spent a good chunk of time picking the brain of our Egyptologist with questions on what we had learned so far. It was a great refresher at the mid-point of the trip.
After breakfast that morning, 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 not a place to be seen, but 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 capped of the night once again with a fantastic Egyptian-style 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 way to cap off a wonderful Egyptian adventure.
After breakfast we boarded a felucca boat and sailed to the island temple complex of Philae and the Aswan High Dam. Here we were able to see the rising waters of the High Dam crashing up against the breathtaking complex of Philae. After leaving the complex, we visited a unique shop to learn about the ancient process of handcrafting papyrus.
Before taking 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 as 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 long, but much needed trip 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 second and I swear I could quietly hear the hustle and bustle of Cairo: the constant traffic sounds, the beeping of horns.
The sights, sounds and smells of Egypt was still so vibrant in my mind although I was already heading back to across the world. 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 let it pass you 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.
I always knew it was great to be a Jayhawk, but after spending a week with 13 fellow Jayhawks in Ireland I realized just how lucky I am be a part of such a great community. Together we rode on a charter bus across the west coast of Ireland, endured the spontaneous rain showers, enjoyed a cup of Irish coffee, laughed with Joe as he told his jokes and appreciated the rich Irish history we were lucky enough to experience. It was a Wild Atlantic journey that we will never forget.
Westport, a beautiful town in County Mayo, quickly became our temporary home away from home. It didn’t take long to see why Westport had been voted the “best place to live in Ireland.” It’s a picturesque town with streets lined with local shops, restaurants and pubs; stone bridges that cross over the Carrowbeg River; and a rich culture in the surrounding landscape and people. The town has something for everyone, and it provided the perfect setting for us to come home to after excursions throughout the day.
Wild Atlantic Way via charter bus
We spent a great deal of time together aboard our charter bus in the trusty hands of our driver, Joe. He was always prepared with a lesson for the day, witty jokes to help pass the time and an occasional song. It’s safe to say Joe was never short on information.
As we rode from place to place we enjoyed the beautiful green sceneries while learning about Irish history, culture, economy, folk tales and more.
This immense mountain is the first thing you see as you enter Westport, and it’s one of my favorite sights and stories from this whole journey. Croagh Patrick is a holy mountain, named in honor of Ireland’s patron saint, Saint Patrick. More than 100,000 people climb Croagh Patrick every year in pilgrimage. It’s a tradition that dates back at least 5,000 years.
At the top of the mountain sits a little white church that can be seen on a clear day. It’s a tiny white speck from the mainland, but its significance to County Mayo and Ireland certainly is not small. One of our very own Jayhawks was lucky enough to climb Croagh Patrick while we were there. She recounted the climb as a deeply moving experience and was honored to make the same pilgrimage of so many people before her.
Castles and churches and sheep, oh my!
Ireland definitely isn’t short of castles, estates, churches and sheep. These four things can sum up our week in Ireland almost perfectly. Sheep are found everywhere—probably because there are more sheep in Ireland than people. But, that just means more wool for sweaters (for us to purchase) at Foxford Woollen Mills.
This was one of my favorite places we visited, and not just because of the great shopping. The history behind the making of wool sweaters and blankets goes back to the 19th century, and the machines that make the fabric are large and require special attention. Before our shopping spree, we walked through the factory to watch the making of many different types of fabrics.
A couple of days later we got to see the other side of wool, live sheep, up close and personal! We went to see a sheep herding demonstration. The man who gave the demonstration had an interesting story of how he came into the business, but you would think he’d been doing this his whole life. His dogs Holly and Lizzie gave us quite a show. It almost made us forget that it was raining the entire time, but hey that’s Ireland!
In addition to the hundreds of sheep we encountered we saw our fair share of castles, estates and churches. From our first stop at the medieval Dunguaire Castle to the large estate at Kylemore Abbey and the Westport House, each stop offered beautiful sights of historic structures and green landscapes. We were fortunate to have expert guides at each of our stops to walk us through the history as we took in all the natural beauty around us. I could go on and on describing each place we went, but they’re all so beautifully different and had their own unique styles. So I just ranked my favorites by pictures so you’ll see what I mean.
1. Kylemore Abbey
2. Gothic Church at Kylemore Abbey
3. Westport House
All in all, it was a memorable week and I’m lucky I got to experience Ireland with a fantastic group of Jayhawks. Oh, and as if we couldn’t get any luckier, we saw a rainbow while in Ireland… how fitting! Slàinte!
The Flying Jayhawks trip “Wild Atlantic Way” took place May 8-16, 2018. The trip was hosted by Crysta Moon, coordinator of membership 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.
The great Tina Turner knew what she was talking about when she said, “I never saw the good side of the city, ’til I hitched a ride on a river boat queen.” If you’ve never had the chance to set sail, here are four good reasons why your next vacation should be a river boat cruise in Holland.
1. The Dutch know water.
If there’s one thing the Dutch have mastered, it’s water. The Netherlands sits among hundreds of canals. Actually, the Canals of Amsterdam are a real thing, as real as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Amsterdam has more than 62 miles of canals, resulting in nearly 100 islands and 1,500 bridges.
Furthermore, all of the water locks (including the famous Delta Works) work as Holland’s barriers to the sea. These water blockades have been magnificently crafted to keep the water flowing steadily and save harbor towns from high tides. However, if the docks were to fail, the towns themselves have their own safeguards: nine-foot walls surrounding the city with manual locks that require an army of locals to raise and lower in the case of a flood.
All of these waterways make for some beautiful scenery including gorgeous landscapes, glamorously constructed bridges and numerous opportunities for drinks and dinner on a houseboat-turned-patio.
2. You are here.
Because of the Dutch people’s extensive knowledge of waterworks, nearly all of the docks are within walking distance to the city centers. It’s as easy as that: walk off the boat, take a five-minute walk into town and find yourself surrounded by 400 year-old city halls, guildhalls, and housing.
Visit the Beguinage in Bruges, originally built in the 1300s for women that opposed the Catholic Church; cathedrals housing masterpieces by Rubens and Michelangelo; and weigh stations from the 1600s.
3. What’s on tomorrow’s agenda?
During a quick seven days abroad, our group of Jayhawks visited seven cities, three cathedrals, one enormous tulip garden, one art museum, one city exclusively accessible by water, one World War II memorial cemetery, multiple famous works of art, lots of leaning buildings (because of the wet soil), multiple dams and locks, and lots and lots of bridges. Did I mention anything about the famous canals?
4. Jayhawks are everywhere.
The days are fast and furious and your options to explore cities are endless. But you can always count on ending the day with a dinner cruise down the river next to some of the finest Jayhawks. Actually, breakfast, lunch and dinner aboard the Amadeus Brilliant allowed for plenty of time to cozy up and listen to to the stories of fellow Jayhawks.
It also didn’t hurt that our group of 18 ’Hawks left a little bit of Kansas wherever we went. We showed our pride with Jayhawk door tags, place cards and even a KU flag waving in the wind. Everyone arrived to enjoy a vacation but, at the heart of it, we shared a common love for our alma mater, which put the icing on the cake of this river boat cruise.
The Flying Jayhawks trip “River Life along the Dutch Waterways” took place April 18-26, 2018. The trip was hosted by Kara Rodriguez, assistant 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.
The safari vehicles—sturdy Toyota Land Cruisers with pop-up roofs that let us stand and drink in the vast panorama of grass and sky surrounding us—were circled up on a dusty Serengeti track, miles from civilization but mere yards from a parade of elephants tearing into an acacia thorn bush with ravenous gusto. We were close enough to hear the crunching of every leafy, spikey bite.
Rowe McKinley, e’70, b’71, one of 16 Flying Jayhawks on the “Tanzania Safari During the Great Migration,” grinned and called out what many of us were thinking at that moment and many others on the February trip: “Just like in Kansas, right?”
Yes, a journey halfway around the world to the African savannah produced surprising echoes of life back home. Bouncing across Serengeti National Park on roads that ran from gravel to mud to faint two-track paths at times felt a little like driving in the Kansas Flint Hills. Except this sea of grass is larger—12,000 square miles spread across Tanzania and Kenya, compared to 9,900 in Kansas and Oklahoma—and mostly flatter, with vast, treeless open plains broken only by the occasional kopje, rock outcroppings of 500-million-year-old granite that are favored perches of the big cats that call Serengeti home.
Much, much more common, though, were other-worldly moments of awe.
The big cats—lions and leopards—had a lot to do with that. Along with the African elephant, the Cape buffalo and the black rhinoceros, they make up the “Big Five,” the exotic bucket-list quintet that big-game hunters coined to highlight the five toughest animals to hunt on foot in Africa. We were shooting only with our cameras, but the Big Five still loomed as must-see fauna, and our guides made sure that crossing paths with each was at the top of their to-do lists.
We knew we were living charmed lives when we spotted the toughest get on that list—the shy, mostly nocturnal leopard—less than an hour after we arrived in the park. Guides often spend their last day with a tour group trying to hustle up a leopard encounter; we were still shaking off the dust of our bush flight, buzzing from our first wildlife sighting (a bulky antelope called a topi) from the tiny airstrip’s terminal, when an excited burst of Swahili on the Toyota’s shortwave alerted our guide, Neiman, that elusive chui was lounging in a tree not far up the road. And just like that—after 20-plus hours of flight time across three continents, a couple of bus rides and short bush-plane hop—we found ourselves hot on the trail in a surefire African safari.
Over the next week we saw three more leopards, countless lions (including a mating pair that fulfilled their biological imperative with complete disregard for the giggling gaggle of spying tourists), and dozens of elephants ranging from massive solitary bulls to large clans of cows and calves. Alerted by vultures dropping from the sky, we converged on a pair of cheetahs lounging in the shade, their bellies swollen from feasting on a young eland whose parents retreated forlornly in the distance. We intercepted the great migration of wildebeests and zebra and sat idling like drivers at a rail crossing, watching as long trains of the grazers moving in search of fresh grass rumbled across the road in front of us. Somehow, amid a teeming swirl of thousands of the animals, we were able to focus on one wildebeest as she gave birth and, within minutes, nudged her newborn to its feet.
As the days passed, we grew adept at identifying the many, many different African antelope, from the dog-sized dik-dik to the massive waterbuck and the ubiquitous impala. We spotted a few solitary black rhinos and great herds of Cape buffalo, including one bull that nearly crashed our al fresco dinner when a ranger chased him away from the swimming pool, where he and a mate had come to drink. Side-trips to Olduvai Gorge, a Maasai village and the Kibaoni Primary School, where Jayhawks donated more than 30 pounds of school supplies, put us in touch with Tanzania’s human culture, both ancient and current. And back at the lodges after a long dusty day on the safari trail, we gratefully accepted the warm hospitality of our hosts and the good company of our fellow travelers, who included groups from Johns Hopkins and Ole Miss. The dark nights occasionally rang with the calls of baboons and lions, and a skyful of stars—some familiar, some unknown to us—lit our way.
On our first night at the Serengeti Serena Lodge, one of five lodges and hotels we stayed at on the 12-day trip, we gathered for a welcome reception on a terrace overlooking a beautiful valley where the sun was setting behind green hills. We watched as a local band serenaded Fred, e’67, and Juilane Chana, d’68, who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. On our last night there, the lodge treated us to a surprise barbecue, in recognition, our Gohagan tour director Lydian Eijsbouts related, that we were “a special group, always smiling and happy.” As we lingered after dinner under the cooling night sky, in the flickering light of bonfires set to create a festive mood (and to ward off the very real threat of marauding wildlife), we could hear a chorus of many singing voices coming nearer and nearer. Soon a line of lodge staff—bartenders and waiters and chefs in their tall white toques—paraded into our gathering, serenading us with a Tanzanian song as they passed around a cake festooned with a single Swahili word: Kwa heri. Goodbye.
As the song faded away, a lone voice piped up with a familiar refrain. Slowly at first, and then with gusto, the whole table joined in. “Rock chalk, Jayhawk” rang out across the African night, as our hosts smiled in surprise. We hadn’t really understood the words of their song, and likely they were mystified by ours. But the feeling behind both was clear enough: The world is full of wonders, and aren’t we lucky that, together, we’ve shared a few.
The Flying Jayhawks trip to Tanzania took place Feb. 1-12, 2018, and was hosted by Steven Hill, associate editor of Kansas Alumni magazine. View more pictures from the trip on Flickr. Pictures may be downloaded for personal use. For more information about Flying Jayhawks trips, including a schedule, visit our website.
A group of 17 Jayhawks enjoyed a history-rich trip to Egypt February 13-24, 2018. Tegan Thornberry, director of membership and business development shared her account of the trip.
El Kheri Sabah, meaning good morning! We began our day with a trip to the Egyptian Museum. The museum is home to over 100,000 artifacts spanning over 5,000 years of antiquities. The mummy rooms were fascinating to see, with my favorite being the King Tutankhamen gallery. The ornate gold funerary mask was more vibrant in person than pictures can could show.
We visited the Step Pyramids in Sakkara and the Tomb of King Teti in the morning. On our way to lunch, we stopped at a carpet school to see how they used the giant looms to produce beautiful rugs. Lunch included a nice view of the Great Pyramids of Giza before we headed to the site. The Pyramids did not disappoint. It was truly amazing to see how they have weathered the test of time. A trip to the Solar Boat Museum and the Sphinx rounded out the day.
Islamic and Coptic Cairo
The visits included trips to the Hanging Church, Church of St. Sergius, the Ben Ezra Synagogue, the Citadel and Alabaster Mosque and the grand Al-Rifai Mosque. It was a busy morning experiencing the places of worship for different religions all living in the same communities. After lunch, we had time to explore the Khan el Khalili bazaar. The bazaar was quite the experience with the sights, sounds, and smells from the various vendor stalls. It was fun shopping and collecting treasures to bring home.
Time for a morning flight from Cairo to Luxor, and then straight to the Temple of Luxor. A trip to the Luxor Museum and a felucca boat ride on the Nile rounded out the day. The next day was spent at the Valleys of the Kings and Queens. Highlights included King Tutanhkamen and Nefertari’s tombs. That evening a small number of us visited the Chicago House and learned about their mission to preserve Egypt’s ancient cultural heritage through document conservation and restoration.
Setting sail – Edfu, Kom Ombo, Aswan, Abu Simbel
As we cruised the Nile, we made stops in Edfu. It was quite the adventure as we rode in horse drawn carriages to visit the Temple of Horus. Next stop, Kom Ombo to see the Temple of Sobek and Haroeris. The theme of temples continued at the Abu Simbel temples. As amazing as it was to think of how they were built, it might be even more impressive to see how they moved the temples to higher ground to avoid rising water levels. After returning to Aswan, we enjoyed a farewell reception and dinner and we dressed up wearing festive galabeyas.
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.