#2013AHEuropeTrip- Writers, Romans, and Royals

Here is a link to my blog for my first ACIS trip:

Day 1 Traveling to Europe

We begin our journey in the SAT airport.  Everyone is so excited.  Parents are a bit nervous but happy for their kids to be going on such a cool trip, Writers, Romans, and Royals.  ACIS has provided so much support for everyone.Our first day is a travel day as we leave San Antonio and fly to Newark where we begin talking to the locals.  At Newark we have a lay over and we try to find a way to keep up with the Spurs and the Heat before our flight takes off overnight to Edinburgh (pronounced “Edinbruh” as we learn in Scotland!).  Go Spurs Go!IMG_5026

Friendships begin.


Chaperones are packed.


and take a last look at our phones  before we leave the US.  Go Spurs Go!

IMG_5041When we get to Newark and see the sign at our gate… we know it is real!

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We try to get the kids to sleep on the trip across the pond as it will be morning in London when we get there.  Some do and some are just too excited!

Day 2 Edinburgh

We arrived in Edinburgh Scotland at about 9:00 a.m. local time.  If you didn’t sleep you were operating as if it was 3:00 a.m.  That’s where our ACIS tour manager, Stan Pretty, comes in!  His job is to keep us awake all day so that we get back on schedule.  And boy does he do a great job.  We take our luggage to the hotel and drop it off and we begin a walking tour of the beautiful city of Edinburgh.  IMG_5044

Get your passport ready!


We are really here!


Stan!  IMG_5048

The ride from the airport.IMG_5059

We begin unloading for our first stay.IMG_5060

We begin our walk by going through a “Close” which leads to the Royal Mile!  IMG_5066

Stan would gather us together and tell us something interesting and then he would be off.  Look for the white hat!  “Look Right!”IMG_5074

Everywhere you turn are signs that you are in an historic place.IMG_5080

Locals working slate for renovations for the roof of a church (a kirk).IMG_5075

Greyfriars Bobby is a great story!


So many cool stores.IMG_5249

The Edinburgh Castle from below.  This photo is an example of my photos that I have filtered on Instagram.  All the photos are my own that I took with my iPhone 5.  Only a handful have been cropped or filtered.IMG_5076

Keeping up with Stan is tough.  I know he is 75 years old but he is amazing!IMG_5097

So that’s how they make this place so pretty!IMG_5081

We love group pics.IMG_5102

Back to the hotel.  The view from our room.  Time to go to bed.  Yes it is still light out because we are so far north.

Day 3 Edinburgh

Most of us are back on schedule with a good night sleep behind us.  After breakfast we board a coach (not a bus) for a tour of Edinburgh.  Our tour culminates at Edinburgh Castle where we are free to tour the castle on our own and then find our way back to our hotel later that evening.  Everyone loves Edinburgh.  The shopping was the best.  Princess Street is a must.

We had the good fortune of being in the castle as the UK was celebrating the official birthday of the Queen.  We got to see the 21 gun salute.  Awesome sight (and sound).  IMG_5106

Our coach driver, Stan, and Allen (local guide).IMG_5109 IMG_5113

Girls in one pic, boys in another.  Similar to grade school!  Checking out the swans in  a lake in the hills above Edinburgh.  IMG_5117

This is by far one of the best pics that I took.  It is a panoramic above Edinburgh.  Click on the above picture and then click on different parts to super Zoom.  See if you can find the Edinburgh Castle, the Rainbow, and the Edinburgh ski slopes.

Views from the hills above Edinburgh.


Queen Mary of Scots’ bathhouse.IMG_5127

Allen… probably right before the punchline of his next funny story.  IMG_5132

Cameras and smiles the entire trip.IMG_5134

Allen and Stan conferring before we go up to the castle.  IMG_5142

Allen posing in the cemetery.IMG_5161

An Edinburgh cathedral.IMG_5162

The Edinburgh Castle.IMG_5164

Getting last minute instructions before we are on our own.IMG_5175

A real soldier.IMG_6262

Preparing for the 21 gun salute.IMG_5179

Large crowds had gathered.  The guns that fired are the modern cannons (upper left).IMG_5181

This crowd was watching from above.IMG_5252

Cannons keeping watch over the city of Edinburgh.


Could it be Robert the Bruce?


Edinburgh was having a parade.  These two guys let me take their picture!IMG_5251

Nancy said that she was ready to move in!  IMG_5228

IMG_5231Dinner at the Edinburgh Hard Rock!



Everywhere you turn in Edinburgh, there is a site like this.  IMG_5241

Ran into the girls while shopping.IMG_5243

Love the streets.IMG_5244Wait… are we in Egypt?

Day 4 York

We wake up wishing we can stay in Edinburgh for another day.  What a cool place. We are off to York so we cross the border between Scotland and England.  We stop at the Beamish Open Air Museum for lunch and some free time.  While at the Museum, we happened on a vintage car show.  It was too cool to see a Lincoln Continental that was a used as a Texas State Trooper car!  On our way to York, Stan was able to find a portion of Hadrian’s Wall after he found out that we were so interested in the Romans.  We finish our day with a Ghost Tour in York.


Sunday morning in Edinburgh is quiet.  One last look before we board the Coach.


Trying to catch up on sleep.

Wakey Wakey!


Our Loo Stop happens to be right next to a ruined Abby.


Cool rock that sits on the border between Scotland and England.  I missed the group picture (wrong side of the rock)!


Group pic time again!IMG_5296

Goodbye Scotland.


Hadrian’s wall before the Texans arrive.


Hadrian’s wall after the Texans arrive.


The entrance to the Beamish open air Museum.


We seem to have stepped into a time machine!


A motorcycle shop.IMG_5348

A Lincoln in England?  From Texas no less?  Wow!


Hey Mr. Collins look at the really cool street car we are in!


Yes the girls fall asleep on the coach too!  Onward to York.


Did that sign really say 1300?

Our country had not even been established yet!


Getting our marching orders from Stan in York.




A minster.


Listening to Stan.


Inside the minster.


The old town is really fun!


Dinner!  Yea!


A Motte!IMG_5435

We begin our ghost tour at the motte.


Our guide is awesome.


Ghost tour.

Time for bed.

Day 5 London

Today we are up early for our coach trip to London.  On the way, we stop at Hampton Court, the home of King Henry VIII.  While there, some of us are involved in a play featuring Henry and Anne Bolelyn.  The actors were in period costume and talked to us, the audience/co-actors as if we were part of the aristocracy.  Henry was trying to convince the men in the audience that he should be granted a divorce so that he could marry Anne and become the leader of the Church (instead of the Pope).

After the self tour, we travel to London.  Eat Dinner and explore the Tube by traveling to Piccadilly Circus and Big Ben.  Some of us get up in the middle of the night to watch the Spurs play the Heat.


IMG_5454On the road again!  I just can’t wait to get on the road again!     New word… Services.

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They say that they only contemplated getting something here.

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Group pic in front of Hampton Court before we go on the self tour.

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The Kitchen.                                                                                        The garden.

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The bedroom.                                                                                     A ceiling mural.


A door knob.IMG_5493

The courtyard where we became part of a play.

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Henry VIII and Anne Bolelyn (before she lost her head).

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Dinner at Cocco Momo.  Yummy… again!IMG_5518

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The Tube and the Tube Station.  Stan giving instructions.

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Piccadilly Circus.

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Leicester Square area.


Back on the Tube!

IMG_5536 IMG_5541The London Eye and Big Ben at night.

Time for bed so that we can get up in the middle of the night and watch the Spurs!

IMG_5449Day 6 London

While we stay the night in London today, we actually travel south to Canterbury and Dover.  We stop in the quaint town of Canterbury and tour the cathedral and do a little shopping.  We check out Dover Castle and are treated to a tour of the tunnels beneath the castle that were used in secrecy by the English during World War II.  We also get to see the famed Cliffs of Dover which were the beacon for so many pilots during the war.  We then travel back to London to celebrate Father’s Day!


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The road out of London is a site to see.


Only a few hours sleep last night… Spurs played from 2:00 a.m. to 5:15 a.m.

Wakey Wakey!


We are feeling British.  Nice belt.



Canterbury is a fun little town.


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The Canterbury Cathedral.

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Last minute shopping before the bus leaves Canterbury.  Going to Dover Castle.

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The Castle entrance.                                                                    Getting ready to go into the tunnels.  Great media show inside.


This place really looks like a Castle. It even has a mote.

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The Roman lighthouse.IMG_5631

The Cliffs of Dover.IMG_5647

Back in London we are greeted by the Erotic Gherken…IMG_5656

and Big Ben…IMG_6265

and more bikes than we have ever seen.


By the way, the kids bought all of the dads a Father’s Day Cake.  They love Stan.

Time to sleep!

Day 7 London

Today we begin with a coach/walking tour of some of the cool sites of London.  We time it just right to see the guards marching out of Buckingham Palace.  We head over to the Globe Theater which is a replica of Shakespeare’s theater.  We break up into several groups to explore London.  My group chooses to the London Eye.  Others go to Harrods or the London Museum.  IMG_6122

Driving by the London Eye.


Tower Bridge!

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Driving on the left!

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Our guide gets us out of the coach and we are walking!

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Buckingham Palace.


Taking a break on the walk.



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The Globe.


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The tour of the Globe.

Click on the picture to zoom.  Click again on particular section to super zoom.  Hit the back button to get back to the blog.


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On the London Eye.  Each pod is huge!

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The support structure for the London Eye is enormous.


My favorite pic!


Panoramic of London from the Eye.

Click on the picture to zoom.  Click again on particular section to super zoom.  Hit the back button to get back to the blog.


We just saw the Phantom of the Opera!  So much fun!


Driving by Harrods after the play.  On to the hotel!  Sleep!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Day 8 Bath

n the lobby early as we are off to Stonehenge and Bath.  Stonehenge was on the bucket list for many of us.  We loved Bath.  The Roman bathhouses and the town were group favorites.  Free time tonight was spent together at the Royal Crescent.  The boys played American football and the girls contemplated talking to some local boys.

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Up early in the lobby!  Saying good bye to London.

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On the road again!  Stonehenge bound!  Fortunately, we leave early and get to Stonehenge before the summer solstice crowds.  By the way, these guys are about to hear the infamous words from Stan:


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Stonehenge is in sight!

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Reading about the stones while Stan gets our headsets for the self guided audio tour.




A lot of selfies today!IMG_5798


Listening to the audio tour.IMG_5802 IMG_5806 IMG_5808 IMG_6121

My Instagram filtered pic!  Love it.

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Saying goodbye to the stones.

On to Bath.

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Driving into Bath you know it is going to be great.

IMG_5848 IMG_5851Start with a quick walking tour.


Bath Abbey.


IMG_5859The Roman Bath.


Roman artifacts in the museum.

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Free time to shop and to take pics.  The shops on the bridge are cool.

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Street performers.                                                                  Shoppers

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Afternoon tea!  This is where I became a tea drinker!




Having fun on the evening tour.


Quiet street late in the evening in Bath.

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Go Spurs Go!


On the lawn of the Royal Crescent, the girls are having fun while the boys are playing football.  Check out the stair step girls in front of the stair step building.


The panoramic picture came out very different as the actual building is a crescent and the wall in front is actually straight.


Back to the hotel room.  Our view.

But it will be another long day as the Spurs play again.

Day 9 Carnarfon

Up early again.  We are off to Wales but we will stop in Stratford-upon-Avon and visit Shakespeare.  One of our highlights is having dinner with a Welsh family.  Everyone wishes that we could stay in Wales a little longer as the countryside is beautiful.IMG_5939Technically, this is day 9 as it it 2:00 a.m and we are watching the Spurs.  The hotel staff was so accommodating.  They set us up in a conference room with a big screen tv so that we could hook up our laptop.

IMG_5942       Leaving Bath!



Stan showing us the church where Shakespeare is buried.  As an actor, this is holy ground for Stan.



Shakespeare’s burial site.


Inside the church.


Shakespeare’s hometown, Statford-upon-Avon.


William Shakespeare


Outside the home where Shakespeare was born.



Inside the home where William Shakespeare was born.

Off to Wales.


Found this while stopped for services.


We have arrived in Wales.


Over the mountain!



Dinner with our Welsh family.


Stuffed!  I counted at least 8 desserts!

Time for bed.  Dublin tomorrow.

Day 10 Dublin

We leave Wales wishing we could stay longer.  We head toward Dublin which means we have to cross the Irish Sea.  So that means a ferry ride.  Turns out that the wind was blowing very hard.  The seas were rough.  We make it though.  We find Dublin and take a walking tour.


Saying goodbye to Wales.  Stan takes a small group to tour the castle in Caernarfon.


On the road again.


Before we leave Wales we stop for a little shopping.  Notice the word above the group.  The longest word in the Welsh language.



Getting ready to board the Ferry.


The shuttle over to the ferry.


Inside the ferry everyone sits down so that they don’t fall over.  According to the crew this is a rare wild ride.

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Outside the wind is so hard we can stand at a 60 degree angle.


Calmer seas as we approach Dublin.


Riding in from the ferry to our hotel we see a pretty cool bridge.


On the walking tour.


Grafton Street.

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Dublin is busy today.                                          A street performer.  This is a sand sculpture.


Meet at Molly Malone.

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So many pubs!  So little time.


Getting late.



The Dublin Hard Rock can be found in Temple Bar.

My kind of store.


The locks on the Ha’penny bridge.


Riding the double decker back to the hotel to hit the hay.

Day 11 Dublin

We begin our last day with a coach tour of Dublin.  We are lead into Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and then we check out the Book of Kells, one of the oldest known versions of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  In the afternoon, we have free time to tour Dublin on our own.  Before dinner we have a wrap up meeting and a contest amongst our “chaperone up” groups to see who was listening to Stan the best.  It turns out that the group that won had the European history teacher and a former UK resident.  Hmmmm?  After dinner we see a live band performing Irish music and dance.  What a great way to end our trip.

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On the coach tour.



Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (pronounced Catedral in Irish).



The door of reconciliation.  Chance your arm.




The site of the Irish Papal visit.


Mmmmm…. Ice Cream.                                                The Irish White House (same architect).



Every monument has a name.  This one is the Stiletto in the Ghetto.

After the coach tour, we got to see the Book of Kels and the Dublin museum.  Cameras were not allowed to photograph the Book of Kells but this picture of the library associated with it is stunning.


My theory is that this poor soul died from a Viking hatchet to the head.

The afternoon is free time to check out Dublin!  Meet at Molly Malone!

IMG_6311IMG_6201                                         Right before the entire group sang the song of Molly Malone for all the other tourist to hear.

The boys did some shopping too.


Hey Coach T. that’s not Molly.


The winners of the end of the trip trivia contest.

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Dinner… A traditional Irish meal.


Getting ready for the singin’ and dancin’!


Pics with the band.


Day 12 Back to the USA

This day starts earlier than any as we have to get through security and customs.  We will miss the UK, especially Stan.  The people here are amazing.  The sites are awesome.  The new friends will be cherished.

Back to Newark and on to San Antonio.


It’s about 5 a.m. when we meet in the lobby.


Not the best picture.  But it shows Stan working until the last minute making sure that we are being helped.

Thanks Stan.


Saying goodbye to the Michigan crew as they catch their plane in Newark.IMG_6240

Long layover in Newark.


Plug in where you can.  We can finally call home easily again.


Still smiling.


Still on UK time.


NYC in the background.


Chaperones still looking good.


If you bought an Irish shirt, stand over here.  It’s the Craic!


The first thing that I had to find when I got back home… I really am a tea drinker now!

Traveling does change lives.

Home Sweet Home!