Eclipse 2017

In 2012, I asked then principal (my boss) Dr. Linda Foster, if I could miss the first 2 days of school in 2017; specifically August 21st.  She, of course, thought that I was being funny but later learned that I was serious as there would be a solar eclipse in the US stretching from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast.  Two years after I asked, she retired so I made sure that the new principal, Dr. Cordell Jones knew of my plan. He said sure.  As the years rolled by, I would occasionally remind him of my plans.  He too was very supportive.  In fact, he said that if the system is set up right, the assistant principal should be able to be gone and school should run without a problem.

I had given it a lot of thought as to where I wanted to be so that I could witness totality.  Being in a place that was even 99 % of totality or cloud covered was not an option.  Those prerequisites coupled with the fact that I was going to use my SWA frequent flyer miles meant that I needed to pinpoint where I was going especially since I live in San Antonio, TX and we were a long way away from anywhere where totality would be.  I finally chose Nebraska.  I figured that at 1 p.m. in the middle of a cornfield the chances of rain or cloud cover in August that we would have a good shot at seeing one of the universe’s greatest shows.  We would fly into Omaha on August 19th.  Drive to Lincoln and hang out for a couple of days and then drive south about 30 miles and find our cornfield on the 21st.  That was the plan if all went well.  If…

Got to spend some time in Lincoln.  Love Lincoln.  Lots to see and great places to eat.  While visiting Lincoln, I posted a few pics on Facebook.  While eating lunch, I got a call from my former principal, Dr. Foster.  She began, “Where are you?”  I told her that we were in Lincoln.  Since she retired, she has traveled the world so it was shocking almost when she said that she was in Lincoln also.  They were attending a family wedding and were going to watch the eclipse just a few miles from where we had planned to do so.  She invited us to come to the ranch and eat brisket before the eclipse.  It could not have been a better situation.  We were going to get to watch in a comfortable spot as opposed to being in the middle of a cornfield.  And there was brisket!

Weather was awesome on Saturday but we started seeing some bad signs in the forecast for Monday, Eclipse day/first day of school.  Luckily, five years of thinking about this, I had a contingency plan.  I noticed that the line of totality paralleled an interstate to the west.  I also knew that if we had to travel far we would find it difficult to locate any rooms under a $1000/ night so I packed a small tent and a couple of those new inflatable lounge chairs.

Sunday morning, Nancy and I made the decision to leave the brisket behind and began driving west knowing that we had come all this way and we were not going to miss totality even though it would only last a mere two and a half minutes!  By the way, when I first started talking about going, she didn’t seem that interested.  As I began making reservations, I told her that I was going regardless of whether she went.  She then figured out that I was serious.  And even though my foot surgery on June 30th had depleted some of our travel funds, she decided that we could not miss a possible once in a lifetime experience.  Lincoln is on the east side of Nebraska.  So we figured we might have to drive several hours west but as we kept driving the forecast did not look good for all of Nebraska.  Wyoming here we come.

We finally get to Fort Laramie Wyoming and decide that the 90% clear forecast was the best that we could do.  Now for finding a place to stay Sunday night.  Tent sites were going for $200+ per night.  Motel 6 was advertised for $1200 per night, I kid you not!  Finally, we stopped into the local bar/restaurant in Fort Laramie and found that there were tent sites in the local park.  We went to city hall and were excited to find that they were $50.  Now mind you, I would have been happy pulling off to the side of the road and pitching our tent but access to water and other facilities seemed like a good deal.

We went back and ate supper with the locals.  The special was bratwurst and Cheetos!  The Guinness was extra.  The band was fantastic.  Afterwards, we left the small town and went out to the actual fort.  Although, we were going to lose a few seconds of totality watching from here, the spot was awesome and we would be sharing the moment with a couple thousand other science nerds.

We went back to our tent site.  Talked to our tent neighbors.  We set up and got ready to go to bed.  As the lights went out and we were just about to go to sleep, I could here a train in the distance.  Shut my eyes and thought about the two blankets that I was under might not be enough for the dry, Wyoming night.  It was about then, that this incredibly loud blast of train horn blasted a hole in my ear drum!  It sounded like it was right on us.  Nancy and I said almost simultaneously, “So, that’s why this place only cost fifty bucks!”  In fact, the train honked like 2 or 3 times at all of the town intersections (4).  Add to that the squeaking wheels!  Now, once or twice would have been tolerable.  However, the trains came as often as every 15 minutes but typically they were about 30 minutes apart which, of course is at about the amount of time that I would take to just about go to sleep having been awakened by the previous train.  Luckily, there was a two hour break from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.  Now, you might think that that night was horrible, but no.  In fact, when we would hear the train in the distance, we would just start laughing.  The trains were so loud, that it was just funny!  We also knew that this was just part of the adventure in which we were just wingin it so that we could see the moon completely cover the bright sun and turn the day into night.

When the 5 a.m. train came through, we decided that we were done with trying to sleep as the air filled lounge chairs are not great for sleeping on, especially in a tent in which they barely fit and I was quite cold as someone next to me had stolen my blanket.  Add to that, the vinyl lounge chairs made quite loud/obscene farting sounds every time that you move.  I just knew that along with the train, we were keeping our tent neighbors awake.  We broke camp and made our way to the fort.  We knew that getting there early would be important as a lot of people would be there.  We arrived to find hundreds of cars lined up to get in when the park opened at 7 a.m.  Luckily, we made it in.  However, we had to park in a field a long way off.  I was on crutches and my foot was in a boot.  But we were determined to find a beautiful spot to see the eclipse.  Close to the fort, I saw a bunch of trees where no one had set up.  I knew that by noon, shade would be critical.  It turned out that the leaves allowed light to shine through and you could see projections of the eclipse on the ground.  Bonus time.  Several astronomers set up some very impressive telescopes.  So lots of people ended up hanging out with us.  Since we had about 6 hours of waiting, we did what we do best and that is make friends.  We met some great folks from all over the world who had been planning this for as long as I had.  Many of which had migrated here as well due to the weather.  Everyone was in luck… not a cloud in the sky!

Several hours before the event, the moon starts to partially cover up the sun.  To look at this, you need special glasses.  Being at a national park, the rangers were roaming around handing out glasses.  This was so nice.  I had ordered glasses six months earlier but forgot where I had stored them #seniormoment.   I was able to borrow some from my school but they were not in great shape. We watched the partial eclipse as it slowly enveloped the sun.  You could tell that people were getting excited as the time drew closer.  However, even at 90% it was still very bright.  In fact, you cannot look at the sun even when 99% is covered.  It’s still too bright.  Then it happens.  You see the diamond ring effect, Bailey’s Beads, and then you see the eclipse.  There is a huge roar from the crowd and you can take off  your glasses and look at the sun… check that, the moon and the sun’s corona which is it’s atmosphere.  It is suddenly night time in the middle of the day.  It looks like dusk 360 degrees around you.  It truly is dark.  The eclipse is beautiful.  I cannot describe it any other way.  Once it happens, you then know why everyone who has seen one says that it is a must see event.  I even get chills as I write this thinking of the moment.  I am video recording the event.  During the whole time all you can hear are oos and ahs and omgs!   Two and a half minutes later, there is another diamond ring and then it is daylight again.

And just like that, everyone starts heading to the parking lot/pasture.  While the partial eclipse will continue for a couple of hours, the headliner of this concert has come and gone.  As we drive through remote Wyoming, we find what was once roads that might have 2 or 3 cars per hour are now stop and go (mostly stop) traffic.  It really is like all across America that everyone is leaving a rock concert as the totality goes by.  Even Google Map had no shortcut suggestions.  Nine hours later, we are back in Lincoln to find the nice hotel room that we had paid for and left vacant for one night of three.

Once we got back, we began planning our next eclipse trip.  However, if we are still in San Antonio in 2024, we will experience totality again.  Come join us.  I promise it will be one of the greatest experiences of your life… bar none.

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Phoenix, Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas 2017

During spring break, we decided to take James to the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, and Las Vegas for his 21st birthday.  Kelly was headed to Orlando with the AHHS strings and band.  However, Kelly broke his leg and had to stay at home.  We really missed not taking him although Kelly is not a big fan of Las Vegas due to our debacle trying to get to Portland in the summer of 2016 when we got diverted to LV.  The 109 degrees was not fun as we had to walk around for a day… I digress.

This was an absolute great trip.  We flew into Phoenix and began driving towards Flagstaff.  On the way, we got off the beaten path and found lovely Sedona!  Hope to go back there soon.  The sun was going down but we were able to see the beautiful red rocks of Sedona before eating at the Oak Creek Brewery and Grill.  Afterwards, we traveled the windy road to Flagstaff!

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The next day we traveled to the Grand Canyon.  The pics will speak for themselves.  Afterwards, we made it to Kingman for the night which is on the old Highway 66.  We ate at the Garlic Clove which served great Italian food and featured locally brewed beer.  Fantastic meal.

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Day 3 We get up and travel to Hoover Dam and then on to Las Vegas.  Hoover Dam was amazing.  Both the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam have been on my bucket list.  Once in Vegas, we decided to make a couple of stops before we checked into the Palazzo as we still had our rental car.  First stop was the Pawn Stars Pawn shop.  Kelly and I had been there before.  This time it was packed.  Still fun.  2nd stop- Counts Kustoms of the Counting Cars reality show.  Definitely my favorite!IMG_1880.JPG

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The next 3 nights in Vegas was a blur!  So many things to do and see.  But best of all… rest!  The Palazzo has a great deal that included a magnificent breakfast and heavy Hors d’oeuvres and drinks in the early evening.

What a great time.  James had a blast.  And back just in time for Kelly’s birthday.

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Portland, Oregon-July 2016

As soon as we touched down from our summer Europe trip, I turned around and made an amazing trip to Portland, Oregon with Kelly.  This was about the time of the SWA “gliche!”  On our way, we had a scheduled 2 hour layover in Las Vegas.  It turned into a 28 hour layover and an extra trip stop in San Jose before arriving in Portland around 1 a.m.  While extremely jet lagged, we made the best of the 108 degrees in Las Vegas as we walked around waiting for our connection.

Once in Portland, we stayed at an incredible AirBnB.  We visited Mt. Saint Helens, incredible waterfalls, and the Oregon coast.

Las Vegas

Our Portland AirBnB (Just $60/night!)

Mt. Saint Helens

Waterfalls!

Cannon Beach

Going Home

#2016AHEuropeTrip- Amadeus

I am so excited, I have started my blog 3 days early.  I will be using the hashtag above for my posts on Instagram.  Since I used that hashtag (using different years) on the 2013 and 2014 trips, they can easily be searched.  Since Twitter has limited text/post, I will be using the hashtags #16ahet (Alamo Heights Europe Trip) and #acisItaly or #acisAustria or #acisCzech.  By using the hashtag with acis and the country, my pics will be picked up by the ACIS Tripstream ( http://www.acis.com/tripstream ) feed and ACIS will then feature our trip!  Can’t wait to start posting.

Leaving San Antonio

The first day is such a special day.  Students are excited.  Parents are a bit nervous.  And Chaperones are focused.  It’s neat to watch as the students begin to get out of their comfort zone.  Parents give hugs just before we go through security.  Our ACIS contact, Randy, always sees us off!

Venice!

Salzburg

Vienna

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Prague

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Going Home

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#2013AHEuropeTrip- Writers, Romans, and Royals

Here is a link to my blog for my first ACIS trip:
http://ncollins1962.wordpress.com/

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.

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Chaperones are packed.

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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!

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We are really here!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Could it be Robert the Bruce?

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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!

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Yummy!IMG_5240

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.

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

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Trying to catch up on sleep.

Wakey Wakey!

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

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

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Group pic time again!IMG_5296

Goodbye Scotland.

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Hadrian’s wall before the Texans arrive.

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Hadrian’s wall after the Texans arrive.

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The entrance to the Beamish open air Museum.

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We seem to have stepped into a time machine!

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A motorcycle shop.IMG_5348

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

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

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

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Did that sign really say 1300?

Our country had not even been established yet!

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Getting our marching orders from Stan in York.

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Marching!

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A minster.

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Listening to Stan.

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Inside the minster.

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The old town is really fun!

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Dinner!  Yea!

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A Motte!IMG_5435

We begin our ghost tour at the motte.

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Our guide is awesome.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Wakey Wakey!

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We are feeling British.  Nice belt.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Taking a break on the walk.

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Lunch.

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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.

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My favorite pic!

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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.

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

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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:

WAKEY WAKEY!  WAKEY WAKEY!

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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.

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A lot of selfies today!IMG_5798

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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.

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Bath Abbey.

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IMG_5859The Roman Bath.

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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!

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Having fun on the evening tour.

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Quiet street late in the evening in Bath.

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Go Spurs Go!

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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.

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

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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!

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

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Shakespeare’s burial site.

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Inside the church.

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Shakespeare’s hometown, Statford-upon-Avon.

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William Shakespeare

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Outside the home where Shakespeare was born.

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Inside the home where William Shakespeare was born.

Off to Wales.

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Found this while stopped for services.

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We have arrived in Wales.

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Over the mountain!

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Dinner with our Welsh family.

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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.

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

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On the road again.

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

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Getting ready to board the Ferry.

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The shuttle over to the ferry.

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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.

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Calmer seas as we approach Dublin.

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

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On the walking tour.

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Grafton Street.

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

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Meet at Molly Malone.

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So many pubs!  So little time.

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Getting late.

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The Dublin Hard Rock can be found in Temple Bar.

My kind of store.

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The locks on the Ha’penny bridge.

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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.

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

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The door of reconciliation.  Chance your arm.

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The site of the Irish Papal visit.

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

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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.

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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.

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Hey Coach T. that’s not Molly.

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The winners of the end of the trip trivia contest.

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Dinner… A traditional Irish meal.

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Getting ready for the singin’ and dancin’!

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Pics with the band.

Done!

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.

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

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

Thanks Stan.

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

Long layover in Newark.

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

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Still smiling.

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Still on UK time.

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NYC in the background.

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Chaperones still looking good.

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

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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!

#2014AHEuropeTrip- Across the Alps

Follow along as we travel across Europe on another great ACIS tour.

Note:  Click on a photo to see a larger version.  Click again to zoom or hit the back button to continue with the blog.

Day 1

Thursday, June 26, 2014, Overnight Flight
Day 1 is always the hardest!  We got to the airport at 9:00 a.m. on a Thursday.  Depart about noon to Atlanta.  We have a 3 hour layover and depart about 6:30 p.m. local time.  We arrive in London at 7:15 a.m. in the morning.  If you did not sleep on the plane then you have done an all-nighter!
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Day 2

Friday, June 27, 2014, London

Day 2 really feels like day 1 since most of us have been awake the entire time.  To top things off, Maci’s flight in SAT was delayed because of weather so she missed her connection in Houston.  Cara at ACIS is there for us and gives us the help that we need.  Maci catches a later flight but arrives 2 hours after us.  Nancy stayed at the airport while the rest of us got to do a walking tour of London including Westminster and Westminster Abbey.  We meet them about noon and have lunch.  Afterwards, we ride the tube and spend a couple of hours in the British Museum.   We then head over to the London Eye for some great views.  Finally, we get checked into our rooms at the Park Plaza  and then go out to eat at The Rose which is a pub downstairs and has a dining room upstairs.  Back to the hotel and we have completed or mission which is to keep everyone awake so that we can get our bodies back on schedule.  Not an easy task!

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Day 3

Saturday, June 28, 2014, London

Day 3 is in the books. We awoke feeling much better as everyone slept well and got back on track. ACIS has put us up in the Park Plaza Albert Embankment. We begin with a great breakfast. As per usual, the baked beans are standard fare in the UK. Afterwards, we meet our bus tour guide, Christine, who has been leading tours for years! She is so funny. But more importantly, she loves London and loves to tell its story. We learned so much. Being that it is a Sunday morning, we have London to ourselves, relatively speaking. There are so many things to see. We stopped at the Albert Memorial for a few pics. We see Buckingham Palace. Icons everywhere. My favorite stop is to Saint Pauls Cathedral. We walk up and up and up. The first level is the whisper wall. The cathedral is a geometric marvel. A whisper against the wall can be heard easily on the other side even though it is half a football pitch away. The highest level allows us to go outside and see the best view of London. Now we are dizzy and out of breath as the stairs are a spiral and very long. Our tour concludes with the changing of the guard in front of Buckingham Palace. Since it is raining the guard band is not playing but the site is awesome.

After the tour, we make our way to the Picadilly circus area for lunch and happen upon what may be the world’s largest gay-pride parade. This was quite a site!

We eat dinner at LaStrada before attending an awesome play, The 39 Steps. Dozens of characters are played by a cast of 4. Incredible!

Off to bed!

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Day 4
Sunday, June 29, 2014, Paris

We begin with another great breakfasts before we leave our London hotel en route to Paris. On our way to the train which travels the Chunnel we stop at the Tower of London. By now, everyone’s feet are hurting as we have walked a lot but we have seen so many things!  And it is so worth it.   We take a self tour and see the Crown Jewels! Stunning! They should be on everyone’s bucket list. Afterwards we spend our lunchtime in Covent Gardens, which was a favorite amongst the students. Lots of shops and street performers to see. Afterwards, we are off to catch the Eurostar. We arrive in Paris in the evening and meet our new friends from the New York area. They are exhausted like we had been and quickly go to bed. We feel great so we take a quick walking tour around the area and see the Opera house. ACIS always puts us in hotels that are central to everything. This one is called the Londres New York which is close to everything!

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Day 5
Monday, June 30, 2014, Paris
We wake to a cool morning. We have breakfast and are on our way to a bus tour of Paris with our tour guide, Carlos. Our group has grown from 25 to 34 so the bus is a little more full. The trip takes us to the iconic Eifel Tower. We have lunch in the area of Notre Dame. We get to take a self-tour and are astounded by the enormity and beauty. In the afternoon we hit the Louvre. Most of us see the Mona Lisa.
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Day 6
Tuesday, July 1, 2014, Engelberg
We get up early to get to the train but not just any train, the TGV!  The TGV is the fastest train in Europe.  It travels well over 200 mph.  By the way, it leaves exactly when it is scheduled as trains cannot share tracks.  During our trip, we parallel a highway and pass cars traveling at highway speeds and make them look like they are standing still.  Trains going in the opposite direction take less than 3 seconds to go by.  After the train gets us pretty close to our final destination, we jump into a coach with our driver Paulo.  On our way to Engelberg we stop in the capital of Switzerland, Bern.  Bern is beautiful.  It has great history.  I love the fact that I get to see the same clock tower that Einstein looked at when he came up with the theory of relativity.
As we move up into the mountains, we really start seeing views that are incredible.  Interlaken is awe inspiring.  We arrive in Engelberg to a beautiful rainbow framing the mountains which surround the town.  We end the day with our meal at the famed Edelweis hotel.
NOTE:  Don’t forget to double click on the pics.  One of the Bern (Bear) pics below you can see the bears if you zoom in!

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Day 7
Wednesday, July 2, 2014, Engelberg
We love the hotel, The Angels Lodge.  We were booked here as Eidleweis was full.  Leave it to ACIS to find us something awesome and so close to the lift for Mount Titlis.  We walk over to the lift as it is raining a bit.  Engelberg is just under the cloud level.  The summit is probably going to have no good views.  But we decide to go up anyway.  As we go up, we see some clearing.  But as we near the top we are treated with something that we were not expecting… July snow!!!!!  In fact, it is blizzard conditions.  The students decide to go to the ice park and sled!  They agree that this is the best day so far.  We also visit the ice cave and the suspension bridge.  We don’t want to go back down!  “Can we stay?” is heard a lot.
We go down the mountain and see some incredible views.  After everyone dries off, we head further down the mountain to Lucerne.  Here we have lunch and shop.  I check off another bucket list item when I buy a Swiss army knife if Switzerland.  Lucerne is beautiful and so clean.  I swear the Swiss never get dirty!  Everything is so neat.  Some of us do some shopping on the oldest bridge in Europe, Kapellbrucke.  Loved it.  Afterwards, we head back up the mountain to Engelberg and get ready for dinner even higher up the mountain in an Alpine hut.  We take vans up the mountain as the coach can’t navigate the narrow passes.  The hut is called Untertrubsee.  The guys liked the meal better than any other!  Macaroni and cheese, potatoes, salad, and ice cream.  We stuffed ourselves.  All you can eat!  While we were waiting for our meal we got a lesson on how to play the Alpenhorn.  We then have a contest to see who could play a note the longest.  The winner for the students was Sybil.  And Drew was the winner of the spin the coin in a bowl contest.  In fact, he set a new Alpine hut record.  By the end of our meal, the weather has broken and has turned out to be gorgeous.  We decide to hike down to Engelberg.  We see some of the best views and encounter some pretty cool cows.  Cows- milk – Swiss cheese and Swiss chocolate… Mmmmm!
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