Scotland J-Term Trip Blog

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January 11, 2012
Morning came early but everyone was up on time. We enjoyed enough of a light breakfast to get us through until we found a food court at the airport. The trip to the Dublin airport was uneventful and the city was quiet at 6 in the morning. We pulled into the bus parking, unloaded the abundance of luggage quickly, and had a brisk morning walk and reached the ticketing area in a fairly short time. The airport is very modern, beautiful and very efficient. They had a number of staff with laptops on rolling carts, so they did a pre-check in while we waited in line. The process was pretty fast and we even did the US customs check in Dublin so we could arrive as domestic flights when we reached Newark. It was so nice not to have to pick up luggage in Newark!

By the time we cleared security, customs, and security again and reached our gate; they were starting to board! Quick trip to the deli counter! We settled in for our 7-hour flight and most of the kids did a lot of sleeping! It was essentially a three-movie flight! 
It was a bit more relaxed in Newark. We had a bit of time for lunch, charging electronics, and I managed to download most of our camera cards. It is funny the way things changed over the last 8 hour. The kids started out the day really not wanting to get on the bus. We all wanted another day in Dublin. We knew there was so much more to see and we longed to be able to do it. By the time we reached Newark though they were ready to be home.

And yes, we made it back to Orlando, a few minutes early in fact! Most of us were in the back of the plane and we had a great dismissal plan. As soon as I got off the plane, I hit the deck running toward the shuttle. The rest of the group stayed together until all students were off the plane, and then they proceeded to the shuttle. By that time, I had made it back to where the parents and siblings were gathered, did the 'checklist' and we waited patiently for the students to arrive. What a great homecoming it was too!

I love it when the kids are as excited to see their parents, as the parents are to see them. Families and friends gathered and hugged and chatted for a bit before heading down to the baggage claim area. We lost NO LUGGAGE - going and coming home!

January 10, 2012
Sally was our city guide for the day and once again we were so fortunate. It turned out that Sally (like Kevin, in Scotland) is the head tour guide for our travel company and she sets up the groups for the local guides. In other words, we got the best of the best. I don't think she ever looked at notes and had a story about almost every building or park we passed throughout Dublin. Sally took us on the greatest city tour and told us incredible stories about the sculptures we saw around town. One of our favorites was Oscar Wilde, reclining on a rock. We also saw the place where he grew up. We learned about many more writers, including Jonathan Swift.

Christ Church and St. Patrick's Cathedral are the two main Protestant churches in town. Christ Church was Roman Catholic until the Reformation. St. Patrick's Cathedral has been a church since the 5th Century when St. Patrick (a missionary) first arrived on the scene. 

We also saw the US Embassy. The Embassy is located within the huge Phoenix Park, which is 4 times larger than our own Central Park and is the largest free gardens in Europe. 

All of this is set near the amazingly tall Pope's Cross. We did another group shot at the base of the cross. It is so named because not long ago the Pope showed up and did an outdoor blessing for a quarter of a million people.

We also saw a lot of government buildings and art museums. The Irish are very proud of their artists, writers, and musicians. During the afternoon the students made a trip to one of the museums, so we all did not see the same exhibits. Caravaggio, Monet, Pissarro, Van Gogh and others were on Exhibit in one of the museums!

The Trinity College Library is incredible, housing over 200,000 old volumes. The Book of Kells is an ancient manuscript written by monks over 1,200 years ago. The Book of Kells is only the four Gospels and is written on calfskin, stretched thin like paper, which is the reason it even exists today. It is an illuminated manuscript. The name of the exhibit was "Turning Darkness into Light" which pretty much explains it all.

There was so much knowledge to absorb during the morning that by the time lunchtime rolled around; we were ready to bid Sally farewell and head off for some Irish Grub. 

It was such a beautiful day and Dublin's main shopping area is cordoned off from cars, so it made shopping such a pleasure. With the shopping and lunch break, also came the time for the museum and checking out the outdoor sculptures. 
After we met for a second time, we headed off for our last meal in Ireland. It turned out to be a delicious Irish stew with Irish Soda Bread. Mmmmm, Incredible!

We took another long way home to the hotel and enjoyed a street musician along the way. Dublin is an interesting city; it is full of bustling nightlife and is beautiful under the full moonlit night.

Some of the crew turned in, preparing for an early morning wake up call! 

It has been a great trip and I am really proud of the kids. They have learned so much and I just know that it will serve them well as they go on into their college and career lives. Most of them are already anxious to travel again!

We will be boarding the bus around 6 AM (or 1 AM your time) and should be back in Orlando around 4 PM your time.
January 9, 2012
We loaded up around 8:30 and had a quick meeting about Belfast. None of our students really had much of a concept of the history or the troubles that most parents and grandparents might remember. Terry gave us the History of Ireland in ten minutes, and he did an outstanding job! 

All in all, the experience in Belfast was quite an educational one and Terry and our tour guide did a great job explaining how the city is split, about the peace fences, the meanings behind the murals, and so much more. It is really much deeper than can be expressed here. 

After lunch in a market area, we met back at the Opera House and headed out of Belfast, south toward Dublin. We were delighted to find that our own tour director, Terry, actually acted for a while in that Opera House. We love that Terry kept giving us the update on where we were and what we were seeing as we drove to Dublin.

Dublin is a modern city and it was only early afternoon when we arrived. We checked in to the Belvedere, which is a beautiful, but old, place with a modern feel. It was recently refurbished and has free wi-fi! 

We took a quick walking tour just to get us acclimated to the area and were delighted to know that we are right in the city center. We could not be more delighted. Put on your prayer list that tickets are available tomorrow night so we can see LITTLE WOMEN in the most famous theatre in Dublin. What a treat if it can happen! 

We saw churches, the Writer's Museum, the General Post Office, sculptures and the grand Millennium Spire. Did I mention shopping? Yes, they found an Ireland store!

Back to the hotel for a wonderful dinner, topped off with ice cream! All in all, it was a fabulous day.
January 8, 2012
Our ferry is a Swedish owned charter, which was recently refurbished and placed into service in December. The chair cushions don't even have dents in them. This place has free wi-fi! There are interactive games, food and plenty of places to rest, read, journal, or snooze. Our group is doing some of each.

Needless to say, we could not be happier! A few of the kids took Dramamine, but most of us opted out. The ride is not bad at all, the sunset is lovely, and dusk is coming upon us. We should arrive in Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK...by dinnertime.

We started the morning off with our typical breakfast and a quick loading of luggage onto our bus. King Davey was ready for us and sad that this would be his last day with our group. I am always pleased when our guides and drivers tell me how much they enjoy the group...possibly one of my FAVORITE things to hear!

We drove out of Edinburgh; past the lovely places we had come to love. I think many of us want to return one day. We made it across the countryside to Glasgow and some of those sites even remained familiar, even though we were seriously jet-lagged when we arrived in Glasgow. It is a much more modern city than Edinburgh, but has a definite character of its own. At some point we stopped at a little convenience station, everyone needs to get up and stretch every now and then...and the kids always seem to enjoy finding the local snacks. The hot chocolate machine was great and did not use the powdery stuff, but rather a rich chocolaty syrup mixed with real milk! Mmmmmmmm! They even provide chocolate powder to sprinkle on top of the cream. 

We were on our way to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum and Terry gave us some delightful readings of Burns poetry. It was great to hear it in that Scottish brogue.... well, his was more London, but it sounded great to us! "My love is like a red red rose....." and the kids recognized the work, which made it much more special.

The Burns museum is interactive so the kids had plenty of learning activities to keep them busy before they headed to lunch. After a short stop in the gift shop, we loaded up again for a drive down the coast. 

We passed through a number of little seaside villages along the coastline, saw some coos in fields right next to the water and admired the ages old, stacked stone walls that divided fields and roadways. The rolling hills ranged from shades of green to fresh turned, rich brown soil. The afternoon air was provided a bit of a mist, but the weather was not extreme at all. We did not even need our jackets when we stopped for a bite at the shore. When we finally rounded the bend and saw Cairn Ryan Port and the ferry! Unloading and checking in was a breeze. As I write, I am surrounded by students who are sleeping, journaling, eating, talking, and reading. Others are about the ship having a grand old time. 

As we left Scotland, the road signs told us, "Haste Ye Back" or in good old Southern American English, "Y'all come back again real soon now, ya hear!"

January 7, 2012
Oh what a beautiful morning! This day started out better than we ever would have expected. The air was brisk, but not freezing, and it was not at all damp. The sun broke through off and on and to top it off, the evening surprised us with an almost full moon. It is hard to imagine a day more beautiful on this side of eternity!

After our typical Scottish breakfast, Davey, our driver, once again welcomed us. The kids have taken to calling him King David. He gets on right nicely with them. Actually he and “Uncle Terry” both have found the group quite delightful and quite unlike many of their American groups which they call, stuffy and flat. These students ask great questions.

Among the things we learned today during our drive through the countryside: A cow is a coo, a horse is a hahse, but a sheep is a sheep. A lake is a Loch, a Bridge is a Firth, but if you want your hahse to go, then say gigi, not giddy-up. 

We headed out of Edinburgh today toward the countryside, hoping to make it up into the snow-capped mountains to reach the wool mills and Loch Katrine (Lake Katherine). Because of the extreme rains and up to 100 mph winds that came through last Sunday and Monday, many of the roads were still blocked or underwater. The river was still swollen and running rapidly because “the river broke its banks”. We passed a ‘car park” (parking lot) which was inaccessible due to the floods and there were so many trees down. It really did look like a hurricane had blown through! 

Because we were unlikely to make it to our intended destination, Terry and Davey had a great backup plan. We took a little side trip and traveled through the cutest little towns. What we had imagined that Scotland living would be like. We saw the step gable architecture on homes and the influence from the Vikings. We followed the River Forth, which is the main shipping line and a big reason for the industry in Scotland. We came to realize how close we were to Scandinavia (Denmark, Sweden, Norway) and why the Vikings found this an interesting territory to conquer. 

Then, we came upon one of the great surprises the grand Firth of Forth Bridge. This bridge is comparable to our own Golden Gate Bridge! It is a train bridge and it is still in use today. It was one of the great marvels of its own day. Our group shot has not only the rail bridge but also the car bridge in the photo.

We also saw the oldest post box in Scotland, those round red tubes that we see everywhere. This one was stamped with the seal of Queen Victoria! 

After re-grouping and loading the bus to get warm again, we headed off to Stirling Castle. It was just an incredible experience. Then we headed down the road to the Woolen Mills Stores. 

It was interesting to see how they weave the tartans (the Scottish plaids). Each is a different color or pattern according to the clan (family name). Of course, we had to have our fair share of plaids and some of the girls cannot pass up a direction sign called...CLEARANCE. Oh my! Thank goodness for large suitcases! 

We had lunch at the Mills and got some great photos of the beautiful snow covered mountains just ahead of us. Though we wanted to, we could not get into the mountains due to the trees that were still blocking roads.
Loading up again, we saw many sheep in the fields, lots of crops and plowed fields, and even some Highland cows (coos). If you ever saw a photo of a very hairy cow...with hair down in their eyes...that is a Highland Cow. They have been in Scotland since the 6th Century and are unique to this area. They do not have an extra layer of fat in the winter, but rather, an extra layer of hair. They also call it Highland Angus....or steak....mmmmm. We have not had any. 

Off to Loch Lubnaig in an area called the Trossacks (meaning wild area or woodlands) The lakes are nothing like we have, but are beautiful anyway. The photo does not show the beautiful snow capped mountain behind the group. This group loves their cameras and had a great time doing all kinds of great people shots!

After a quick stop in another little town (Aberfoyle, I think) and some GREAT hot chocolate, we headed back to Edinburgh. It was beautiful coming into the town at night. The castle was beautifully lit and we had an almost full moon. WOW!

We made a quick trip to the Tesco Express to pick up some British candies and other goodies and nice souvenirs! We also learned that the traditional CADBURY chocolate, an English company, was just bought out by Kraft and the Brits are anything but happy about it! 

Dinner at Jolly's was fantastic and a jolly good time! It was a neighborhood restaurant around the corner from our hotel and we got to pick what we wanted to eat. What could be better than that! Everyone returned to the hotel full and exhausted, ready for showers and bed. 

I will post more about Mary, Queen of Scots and Stirling Castle, where she grew up. That was a day in itself! Right now it is morning and we are checking out, checking passports and heading out for the Burns museum and the Ferry ride to Northern Ireland! G'Day!

Friday, January 6, 2012
It is cold in Edinburgh but the weather has surprised us and we even had some sun today. It was misty rain tonight and we are headed into the countryside tomorrow. The kids are doing great! They are a great combination and everyone is tired but holding up just fine.

Our guide is delightful and the kids have taken to calling him "Uncle Terry.” Yes, he is older, but knows so much about both Scotland, England, and many more places as well.



Click the Photo Gallery to see photos from Edinburgh. 

Carlton Hill is a big hill that overlooks the town with beautiful 360 degree views. Not all of the group is represented because everyone was trying to get great shots at sunset. This walk up the hill was not for the weak to be sure. The ground was damp and there are no rails on the stone or grassy steps. 

The next photo is in front of Edinburgh Castle. The castle is on the highest point in Edinburgh and can be seen from any place in the city. At night it is beautifully lit - just amazing! We were able to stand at the wall and see the official firing of the cannon at 1 PM. 

The photo with the gates is at Holyrood Palace. It is at one end of the Royal Mile. There is an interesting story that goes with everything here. Holyrood Abbey came first and it was the place for the Holy Cross. Rood means Cross. The Royal Mile is not the name of the road, by the way. It is the distance from the Castle to the Palace. We had a local guide, Keith, who was quite the character and all of the kids were so attentive and asked great questions.


Thursday Afternoon, January 5, 2012 
Hopefully jet lag is at bay and it appears that everyone did as planned and slept well! Breakfast was good but not as hearty as our London fare. Florida Oranges, they were quite proud of! Our day guide arrived during breakfast, fully decked out in his Kilt and Cape. The girls loved it! 

It looks like we will have fairly nice weather with a chance of rain tonight. We see that it was such a blessing that we arrived on Thursday rather than our typical Wednesday, for Glasgow had the most horrific storms two days earlier. Even the river in Edinburgh was running very fast. Which was quite unusual.

Thursday, January 5, 2012
Arriving in Glasgow was turbulently interesting. The last hour or so of the trip was very bouncy, but we were oh so glad to touch down on the runway! 

Our tour guide (Terry) and bus driver (Davey) are old friends and quite a pair. They took us around Glasgow and what a city it is! It is both ancient and very modern and is the largest city in Scotland. The kids spotted all kinds of interesting things, including a school!

One of the stand-out moments was when we stopped to see the oldest cathedral in Glasgow. Part of it is being restored and it is truly an example of not judging “a book by its cover” or “a person by outward appearances.” We enjoyed the walk beside the church cemetery and the new cemetery up the hill. The church needed a pressure washing, but was no less interesting and we got to walk into rooms under the transept. There was also a crypt and St. Mungo was buried there. Wait until your students tell you about it!

We walked around the lovely city of Glasgow. We stopped at a mall, not totally unlike ours, including "Everything's A Pound" (ie: Dollar Store). At least one family will be getting post cards because we found a post office. Then, there were the nutella crepes. Yum!

Dinner tonight will be of an Indian variety, then showers and bed. This has been the longest 36 hours EVER and no one wants an energy drink. They want SLEEP. I hope no one falls into his or her soup at dinner!

As we put our heads on our pillows tonight, we will be thinking about how we should not expect everything to be the same, and we really should not judge people, or places by the outside. There is some kind of beauty in even the most drab of places, or people, and in the center of it all, there is a Loving God who just wants us to spend some quality time with Him. 
Rest well, my friends. We will! 

Wednesday Afternoon,  January 4, 2012 Newark Airport 
We can call it ‘rest time’…or ‘chill time’…though it is not so chilly here (in Newark) ….still warm air is a bit more like it. We arrived in Newark around 3 PM but the flight from Orlando did not exactly feed us. There is no ‘exactly’ about it. They sold everything but did not even give airplane peanuts, unless we slept through it. 
The flight was fairly uneventful. We found truth in the Scripture that tells us that the ….the last shall be first and the first shall be last……in airplane terms. Our sweet ‘first of the alphabet’ young lady was the FIRST to get to board (after First Class, of course)…..but she was on the LAST row of the airplane! 
It feels like we have been up all day! Moving slowly does that to you, which speaks volumes for the wisdom in having places to go and people to see! We had varied and interesting lunches in the Newark Airport...mostly healthy...I just saw the ice cream coming through...the kids will be ready for naps next! Some are already planning out their sleep time! 
Some of us got to see the Statue of Liberty on the way in….what a site! It is one of those things that brings a thrill to your heart and it will even more-so when we return to the United States. There is nothing like travel abroad to make you really appreciate what you have here…..and if it does not….it should! 

We have our rooming assignments – check your handbook if you want to see where your students are...look at the Quad listing. The guys are SO EXCITED that they each have their own bed! A Quad in Europe generally means four twin beds in a room…a double is two twin beds….same room….only the bed quantity changes. We are so spoiled in the States! But this is what memories are made of! 

I thought everyone would be more lively during this layover, but the kids are reading, chatting, texting…they might as well enjoy the texting because it will soon be much more expensive! And I would have no wi-fi at all if it were not for these clever kiddos who know how to figure it out! 

The charging of equipment continues with the few plugs we can find……we will keep in touch as much as we can, and hopefully I can figure out how to get some photos on this blog. I tried but it kept shutting down. Hello out there…iphone to facebook to email to blog…..technology….don’t you LOVE it! Keep us in your prayers….pray that we get at least a few winks of quality rest on our flight across the ocean!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012
We are all present and accounted for at OIA. Security was a breeze. Flight was delayed. So departure is at 11:50 am. Kids are doing great! Parents were great as well. 



Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Is it early...or is it late? Sleep eludes us tonight. It is probably because there is so much excitement on our minds. We are told that it is quiet on the cold side of Scotland at the moment. The bags are packed. We are ready to go. The adventure is about to begin. We can hardly wait to see all of the cheery faces, students and parents alike, bright and early.