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.
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.
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.
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.