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And...We are off to begin our European Musical Adventure!

I'm marking my spot so I can hopefully provide updates on our Magical, Musical European Adventures!!

For those who have seen my posts over the past few days, I have been on the fence as to whether to cancel due to my dad's recent health issues. It was a week filled with worry, fear, stress and lots of time spent in the hospital.

He is still there, will be having surgery as we fly to London this evening and will probably be discharged early next week. Then he begins cancer treatments. It was a hard decision for me but he told me on Wednesday that I had better not cancel or he would be upset. He wants to see our pictures, read and hear about our adventures, and live vicariously through our travels. He loves to travel and hopes to be able to get back to it when he is well again.

I'm very happy I spent the past six months gathering info, planning packing lists, researching technology needs, how to get money, how to keep documents safe, etc.

It helped to be ready for the packing we finally did - last night!! :). We are not going to be carry-on only road warriors - but neither did we pack everything including the kitchen sink. I think we found a good balance and will have room for souvenirs.

My dad spent time traveling through Europe when he was in the Army. He's been to all the places we are going, and he's been back a few times over the past few years. I'll be looking for something special for him while we are there.

Thank you for sending me encouraging thoughts over the past few days - and for also helping answer my questions over the past several months!!

I will use this thread to share what I am sure will be an amazing experience!!! Au Revoir for now!!

Jacque

Posted by
8889 posts

Yes, bon voyage, gute Fahrt and lots more.
Hope your large group all enjoy themselves. There is a risk any large group travels as a "bubble" and it ends up being more like a 360° iMax cinema than actually experiencing and touching the places.

And I hope you and your own kids can sneak out and cross London on a double-decker bus (upstairs at the front). I promise not to tell anybody.

Posted by
9904 posts

Jacque, I am so happy you were able to make the decision and are comfortable with going. I am certain your trip reports and photos will provide a needed distraction for your Dad and will help him remember some fun travel times. I am also glad he told you to go!

Also, you make such a good point about having spent a good deal of time on research over the last few months. You had your clothes and shoes figured out so that was probably close to a no-brainer for you when it came to actually putting stuff in the suitcase plus are comfortable knowing how to get money and manage the other basics. I am sure that took some stress off of you this week when your focus needed to be elsewhere.

Wishing you all the very best trip and that those new First Chair clarinet/french horn musicians play well and have a very enriching experience.

Posted by
5697 posts

Bon voyage, Jacque. Hope your musical adventure will be amazing -- and full of great stories and pictures to bring back to entertain your father during his treatment phase. Lots of people rooting for you here.

Posted by
193 posts

We have had good travels so far today but still have the last leg to go. Ready to board our flight to London in about 10-15 minutes. My dad made it through surgery this afternoon/evening and my sister said he did very well. She is getting a good plan in place for him - so glad she and my other sister are there with him & my mom!

The big group travel is interesting! I figured out why they don't allow subway travel - these kids couldn't even get on the people mover in ATL without getting separated!!!

So, signing off for today - getting ready for our first overseas flight that is longer than 3 hours. Hope we can get some sleep!!!

London tomorrow @ 11am!!!

Posted by
193 posts

Oh, we are Delta Flt. 30 if anyone watches those flight trackers. They are pretty cool!!

Posted by
5697 posts

Just keep thinking what my husband was told when he chaperoned a band tour to China :
"We left with 120 kids. We'll go back with 120 kids. With luck, they'll be the same kids."
;-)

Posted by
9904 posts

So funny Laura!

I'm a sucker for the flight trackers. Yep, I checked and you are over NC and it looks like you are ahead of the nasty weather, lol.

Posted by
6510 posts

Jacque,
Glad to see you're on your way and that your dad is doing well and in good hands. I'm sure everything will go well.

I envy you the trip to Europe, I don't envy you herding the kids around - it's a big responsibility.

Posted by
526 posts

Good luck, and have some fun that is funny!! So glad to hear your dad made it through surgery. It is lovely when family, ie. siblings, can work together to help with parent care. I know, first hand, your dad will be extremely pleased to hear your travel stories. Especially if you visit places he traveled to. My dad, also spent lots of time in Europe during his military days. He would tell us kids about his adventures, some of them hair raising. He passed his travel bug to me, and he always enjoyed hearing our adventures, just like I did about his when I was growing up. On one of our trips we traveled to the Air Base he was stationed while in England. I was happy that I got to share that with him.

Posted by
193 posts

London Day 1 is under our belts!! After a long 20+ hours of travel (home, airport, flight, layover & night flight) we landed safe & sound 11am this morning London time! The first part of the day wasn't too bad as far as adjusting to the time change; Delta gave us eye masks and ear plugs, pillows, blankets - but darn we didn't have the first class seats that reclined into beds! Those were cool to see.

The biggest wait was collecting all luggage and instruments - but really that was no problem either. Gave us a chance to go brush teeth and freshen up; figure out how to get the AT&T hotspot app to work; and to enjoy the cool weather. It was overcast and about 50F when we landed. Looked like rain but it never did.

First stop was to the town (village?) of Windsor. We walked around the castle, looked at shops & then found our first pint of beer!! It was 2pm by then - 5 o'clock somewhere - but apparently 7am at home, which was mentioned when I posted a pic on Facebook :)

We found a sausage and cheese pasty that was yummy and tried to get some more water in - have to balance the beer/water ratio to stay awake (and hydrated).

Found a bank with an ATM that was inside and successfully withdrew £200 - no problems. I saw the choice to conduct in dollars or £ - and I chose £ - pretty sure I did that the smart way. Went a bit further inside the bank and sat down to put the money away. No problems!

Back on the coach bus - it's huge by the way (we somehow are on the biggest coach that seats 70 people; the others hold about 50. Many of us nodded off and on during the ride from Windsor to London. I was one of them. All the travel was catching up with me. But I did try to look around and the band guide for our bus got on the PA when we reached London.

Check in was much more organized than I could have imagined for a group our size. We were in our room in no time and trying to figure out if we had any AC - by that time it was definitely humid.

Dinner was at 5:30. There are 259 kids and adults on this tour. We are the 2nd biggest group of the sixteen states making this musical journey this year.

It was nice to sit down and have a real meal after all the travel. It gave us a second wind and by 7pm, we were off for a first night London walk!

We left our hotel (Thistle City Barbican) and set off on quite a walk!! We walked to St. Paul's Cathedral, the Millennium Bridge, crossed it , saw the Shakespeare Globe Theatre, hung out and enjoyed the pleasant breeze by the Thames, walked back and saw the front of St. Paul's, and then walked by the remaining Roman Ruins wall that is still standing in the area.

All this was done while sometimes in big groups, but we really only stick with our one guide so our group is only about 10 kids/adults. There was no big rush. The kids went down and took pics on the bank of the Thames (and everywhere else), we sat, we chatted, we laughed. It was a very nice evening!!

After we got back to the hotel, hubby and I headed to the bar for a nice cold pint and I put a lot of pictures on the FB page I started for this tour. After a nice break, we went back out again and found a little grocery/convenience store and bought a couple items for our room (including wine) ;)

We used our Cap. One Chip & Sig card at the hotel bar - no problems. So two of the four cards we have have worked so far.

It's now 12:20am Sunday London time. I better call it a day and get some sleep for our big day tomorrow - all the kids perform!!! Should be a great day and the weather looks to be 70 and no rain!!

Wifi is awesome in the hotel so taking advantage of it now before we move to locations where this might not be the case.

Got news that my dad made it through surgery fine and will probably be discharged Monday to begin his treatments. Thank you all for your kind words and concerns for him. I really appreciate it!!

Posted by
9904 posts

Wow, what an excellent start to your trip! Thanks for taking the time to post and glad Dad is doing well enough for them to be considering discharge from the hospital.

Posted by
2050 posts

Wonderful to hear your Dad is doing well and so are all of you! Your report was fun to read and it's great everything is going along so nicely. May the good times continue!

Posted by
193 posts

Cheerio!! Back again :). Just a quick nor for anyone in/around London. The choir group performs this morning at the 11am service at Wesley's Chapel & then at 2pm, the band & orchestra performs at Victoria Embankment Gardens Band Shell area. It will be a 90-minute performance. Hoping for good weather! It's cool & overcast again this morning - but we are enjoying the break from the heat we had back home.

Posted by
70 posts

Did we ever get a blog address for this trip?

Thanks.

Em

Posted by
193 posts

I haven't had a chance to get the blog going with my dad's hospital trip right before we left but I do have a FB Page for friends and Family I set up back in Feb. and now I'm using it to post all my pics and daily updates. I had a lot to upload today, so I won't have a chance to give an update here tonight (it's actually tomorrow since it's 1 am) - and we start out early tomorrow for our last London day.

I'm not sure if this will work, but send me a PM if you want to see the FB page and I'll try to figure out how to add you. I have pretty strict FB settings so I may have to search for you - leave me your FB name in the PM.

I uploaded lots of the musical performances today and that took quite a while.

Oh, and benefit of traveling with teens - found out my phone has a step counter built in. Over 14,500 steps today, which was less than yesterday!!! Yowzaa!!! ;)

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193 posts

Wifi has been pretty nonexistent in our Paris hotel and I haven't quite mastered finding the AT&T hotspots yet Day 3 in London was the concert day for all the performers. We got to sleep in a little,, which was nice after all the walking and flying. This was Sunday, and we arrived at the Wesley Chapel (home of the Methodist church beginnings) and the choir sang during the church service. The church was beautiful and the choir singing (approximately 100 singers) gave me chills as it was just beautiful. All the Kansas Music Ambassadors sat in the top section of the church and the stained glass, huge organ pipes were great to look at as the service was conducted.

Lunch was at Victoria Embankment Gardens and we all spread out and found spots to eat, then walked around the area before the orchestra & bands performed. Rain was a little iffy - if it rained the orchestra would not be able to perform. Band, maybe.

Then, the sun broke out and the concerts began! There was a very nice crowd of locals and we talked with several who said that they come to the park every three days to see the various states perform during the summer. They fill the first few rows completely and some have been doing this for 10 years or more. I believe all the chairs were full and there was a nice standing crowd that stayed to listen or stopped by as they were walking to enjoy a free concert in the park.

Of course I'm a wee bit biased, but the concert band was absolutely stunning!! I stood at a location so I could see all our 'kids' (our daughter, nephew & the other kids from our town). I recorded all performances and was able to upload most to Facebook so the folks at home could watch and listen.

I'm VERY happy with my decision to upgrade to the iPhone 6 Plus with 64GB!! I'm well on my way to filling this thing up, so I'm trying to delete each evening & delete some of the pics/videos I've uploaded.

After the concert, the rest of the afternoon and evening was ours to explore the Lindon area. We crossed the Jubilee Bridge and bought tickets to the London Eye. Our small group was about 10 plus the band director from our school. He helped us make the most of our time since he's been several times - and he kept a good eye on the kids so we could enjoy. He did not ride the Eye with us and since he knows us, he made sure we got in the queue and told me to text him when we were done. We enjoyed the ride, took tons of pics, the selfie sticks were in hot and heavy use by the kids and we had pretty clear weather to see all the sites.

After the Eye, we wandered around the busy South Bank area a little and then crossed back over the walking bridge to head to Trafalgar Square. We stopped by the fountains and people watched (and of course took pics). I commented that I was surprised to see so many people out on a Sunday night compared to what we saw on our evening walk on Saturday. The band director told me our hotel is in the financial district and since it was the weekend not many people were there and that we were now in the busy tourist areas.

From Trafalgar, we walked to Covent Gardens just to look around. By that time all the stall vendors had closed up and not much was happening there. He wanted us to see it in case we wanted to go back tomorrow during our free time.

More to come - too many words for this one day!! :)

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193 posts

The rest...Next up, Piccadilly Circus!! Definitely the kids favorite area! On the walk, one of the teens pulled out his phone, looked at it and said we had walked about 6 miles so far. I said 'oh, I wish I had a FitBit or something, I'd love to know how much I've walked'. My nephew overhead and said 'um, you have that same thing on your phone Aunt Jacque' (like I was totally clueless to life with technology - yes, actually I can be, thank you very kindly) - and he proceeded to set up my walking app (it's the app with the heart on it on the new iOS versions of iPhone. I thought that app was only to be used with the Apple Watch, so I had not used it). He set me up to record steps, stairs & walking & running counts. We averaged 6.5 miles of walking in London & 8 flights of stairs. I now take a picture of the dashboard at the end of each day so I can see my daily totals. So cool & one of the benefits of traveling with teens!!

In Piccadilly we looked for a place to eat. Some kids (my group) went for curry, and the rest of us went for Fish & Chips, mainly just to knock that off the list. We ate at the Fish & Chipper and it was ok, nothing spectacular but we sat outside and ate (hubs and I) and enjoyed a pint with our meal. I then figured it would be the perfect time to call my dad and he was thrilled to hear from me. Sunday was his last day in the hospital and they had quite a good support plan in place for him so he could be discharged on Monday. We talked about all the places we'd been so far, he said he LOVED seeing all the pictures and he was also reading the copy of our daily itinerary now so he could see all we were doing. He said he was impressed with all we get to do in such short amounts of times. This tour group has the schedule down to a fine art coordinating moving 5 coach buses, 259 people & staying on schedule! It's been very impressive - especially in Paris, if I ever get to writing about that section ;)

Ok, back to hotel from Piccadilly - dinner and drinks revived us a bit but my husband and I were starting to move pretty slow. We decided to see how far we could go before calling it quits and hailing a cab. We were glad we stayed a little longer. We ended up going by the Royal Air Force church and the Senate building, both which were impressive and had statues in the area to look at & photograph. A few blocks after that, we said 'Uncle', told the chaperone & kids we were D.U.N & we had our first London cab ride!! It was only £7.40!! We weren't sure what to tip, so we gave £9 and used some of our coins. Worth every £££ ;). Into the hotel bar for another pint, visited with some of the other adults in our group, decided against going to the pub on the corner with them and decided to head to our room.

This was a 15,000 step day!!! You bet I posted that one on my personal FB page ;)

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193 posts

Last full day in London - London is where we had the most actual time since we flew overnight and hit the ground running, so this is now day 4, Monday.

Today was all about sightseeing - and was it special!! It was the day of the 800th Anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta - a very big deal for the UK (and later the U.S.). We started out on a guided tour & each coach/bus had its own professional London tour guide. I believe we had the best guide ever!! A smart, sophisticated/sassy British woman named Trudy. She was a hoot to listen to!! It's obvious she loves to talk, she made sure to point out all the highlights, gave history - but her British proper yet sassy comments kept us all entertained (but her voice was also so pleasant to listen to that many of the kids & some adults were lulled to a sleepy slumber on the coach.

"Trudes", as she often called herself when she spoke of 'her Lordship' (her husband) and how he would ask her questions, set up an absolutely brilliant walking route for us once we reached the Westminster Abbey area. We oohed & awe'd at the sites, took pics and then we started our walk to Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guard ceremony. Trudes was one smart cookie, as she got our group there first out of all the 5 coaches and we were shoulder to shoulder directly across from Buckingham Palace!! Front Row viewing!! Along the street (what is the name that runs in front of the Queen's home? Drawing a blank), the streets were still lined with the British flags everywhere as the Queen celebrated her 'official' birthday the day we arrived. Trudes told us the flags would be coming down later today or tomorrow. It made a regal area look even more regal, glad we got to see them out and blowing on the breeze (this was a very nice day by the way; 60's, no rain, and very comfortable).

Trudes kept a close eye out for the GiGi's (horses) and kept telling us we were lucky little 'sausages' to be in such a spectacular location (all in her lovely British accent). And then it happened!!! We saw the Changing of the Guard Ceremony, front and center!! The Quessn's horses and Guards in perfect formation and marching right in front of us!

But it didn't end there!!! Trudes saw some movement going on close to the Palace and had a hunch something special was happening. And, yes, it was!! The entire Riyal Family (minus the Queen, who was already in Windsor) was loaded up in a big white coach bus (probably much more plush than our coach buses) and they drove out of Buckingham Palace with their escort vehicles to go join the Queen in Windsor for the Magna Carta ceremony (remember, 800th Anniversary today!!). We could actually see Prince Andrew, the Queen's husband, and Trudes said William, Kate, Harry , etc. (not the babies most likely) were all on that bus. She was literally almost moved to tears!! She has never had that happen to her on a tour and she just could not believe our luck!!!

And, then, another awesome event - especially for our group - we also got to see the Royal Marching Band do its official marching with their instruments & drums - and we got all of the above on video!!!

Awesome morning!!!

Next stop was to the Tower of London for a sack lunch in the plaza area where there are lots of benches and steps and the weather was almost sunny!! The grassy area that used to be the moat was filled with elementary school kids playing football (aka soccer to us). They were in their school uniforms and it was so fun to sit and watch them run, play, do cartwheels, etc.

We had 'fast passes' to enter the Tower and since our bus got in first and we got in line to see the Crown Jewels. Trudy had given us good info about the history of the area and after seeing the Jewels, including the amazing Baptismal Font that will soon be used to baptize Princess Charlotte, we headed to the White Tour to see the suits of armor and weapons of the past. Got a lot of steps in that day! ......

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193 posts

Last of "Last full Day"... As we were preparing to leave the Tower area and meet our group, we got to see two different changing of the Queen's guards there. It was much smaller but they were right in front of us. And the second group walked right towards us and announced "Make way for the Queen's Guards" and they meant it, we had to hop out of the way! Got video of both!!

After the Tower we headed back to Victoria Embankment Gardens and said a fond farewell to the sweet Trudy and wished her and her Lordship well.

Many of our group had theatre tickets for the evening so we decided to head out walking, but not before we decided to attend Evensong at Westminster Abbey at 5pm. That was a beautiful break to see one of the Royal Churches on the inside. William & Kate got married there instead of St. Paul's Cathedral, where Charles and Diana were wed; per Trudy it was to have a bit more humble service of only 1,900 people vs. the 9,000 in St. Paul's.

After the service, we were up and out again and headed to the West End theatre district. We stopped at Her Majesty's Theatre to part ways with those seeing the Phantom of the Opera (our daughter & one of her friends), and then we headed to our theatre to see Les Miserables! We had time to find a quick dinner before the play and my husband and I chose a restaurant at the corner opposite the theatre that offered a pre-play dinner. We had a wonderful pasta dish with a cream rose sauce, chicken & mushrooms & some red wine. Very nice. I think the kids in our group split a pizza. My nephew was in our group and he was mesmerized by the musicians performing the music and also the conductor, who we could see as we had pretty good seats (I did not expect that for a student trip). At intermission I told him he could consider that type of music performance for a career as he has his heart set of being a music teacher. His music teacher was there and said if he did something like that, it could be a pretty good career as these shows have been running for 10 to 20 years. What my nephew did not realize was the musicians were in the pit right in front of the stage (he could see the conductor but didn't know about the pit), so my husband took him up there to look down into it at intermission. See, we can teach the kids a few things - but we won't tell them that!!

After the fabulous Les Mis, we took a taxi back to the hotel, tried to figure out how to repack our bags (the carry on bags take up too much room on the coach so we packed those in our suitcases and had our small day bags ready for tomorrow's trip - which would take us across the English Channel over to Calais, France to start the second leg of our tour - 3 nights in Paris!!

Posted by
697 posts

Great report so far! Can't wait to hear about Paris.

Posted by
876 posts

A Royals spotting? I'm green with envy!

The kids in your group are so lucky. :)

Posted by
193 posts

My goal is to get caught up with our Paris days in case we have spotty wifi in the Alps so I don't forget anything!

We are getting ready to leave the beautiful & guilded city of Paris tomorrow to head to Switzerland - but we have seen and done so much, I want to try and post while most of it is still fresh - the days are so busy we find ourselves asking what was it we saw this morning as we are on our second or third big adventure.

Crossing the Channel - A Tale of Two Cities:
We were up early on our moving day. Suitcases down to the coaches by 5:45am (and after our late theatre night!); quick brekky and then off we went towards Dover. Once we got out of London, we started seeing countryside and when we got close to Dover, I believe we saw the castle of the Dover Lord or Lady.

I didn't realize we would drive by and see the White Cliffs of Dover in the actual town and at the port. They were beautiful & impressive to see. When we got the the Port, the coach coordinators told us we may or may not have to stop and get our passports checked and stamped. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. We were the lucky ones who got to unload, line up and go through customs to leave Dover/enter France. But, we all have another stamp in our passports - especially the kids who might have brand new passports with lots of pages to fill.

We really enjoyed the crossing of the Channel. We were on a P&O Ferry, which was really like a cruise ship of the basic variety. We were hoping to see some water and we enjoyed the top deck watching the cliffs, taking pictures, watching the other ships in the water and seeing the seagulls sneaking into people's selfies;)

The journey to Calais was just about two hours and we managed to buy some duty free wine to take with us for our hotel room. It has been very nice coming back to our room after all our walking and relaxing with a glass or two of vino before bed. And this particular travel day really took a toll on me. I can't figure out if it was from 3 days of go-go-go; or the long time we spent on the bus moving over to Europe. Whatever it was, I slept like a rock as soon as we reached our hotel.

The music tour company contracts with one restaurant in Paris and we ate dinner there each night before going to the hotel. It was Le Saulnier and I had not read many good reviews about it online so didn't know what to expect. Which means I shouldn't have worried. The restaurant treated us great, provided a different French meal each night that was very good, and we could order escargot, wine, beer, etc. and pay extra for those. We had escargot all three nights! We've had this many times before on cruises, but we've never had the snails come out in their shells and get to use the special gripper and snail fork to get out the tasty little things. It was fun and the adults laughed about a "Pretty Woman" flashback while I'm sure the kids had no clue what we were talking about.

It was fun to see the kids around us look at our escargot and decide they wanted to be brave and try something new. We had a lot of fun watching them and helping them figure out how to get those little things out of the shell. We also taught them the very important rule of not wasting any of the delicious seasoning and using the French bread to soak up all that yummy goodness.

This was also the first time the kids had a chance to try out their ability to order wine or beer with dinner. The chaperones have to love these nights because many kids would choose the first wine on the list, a vin rouge, & hate it! They could only have one glass and the restaurant sold small bottles (3 glasses per bottle), so the chaperones usually got to enjoy some vin or biere once the kids decided they didn't care for it. They learned to move to a sweeter wine by night two, and on night three, I didn't see many of them do anything but drink water because they had music practice and packing to do when we got back to the hotel tonight.

Posted by
8293 posts

It is so much fun to read your enthusiastic essays. I remember how thrilled to death I was the first time I went to England. I even loved the chimney pots. Carry on having a wonderful time.

Posted by
193 posts

I jumped off here and posted some of the pics on FB so now I must try to sleep in order to keep up with this awesome group of musical adventurers!! I'll work on my Paris notes on the coach bus tomorrow, in between taking more pictures, I'm sure.

I will say this - we had a fantastique time in Gay Paris & I can't wait to come back!!

Au Revoir & Bon Nuit!!

Posted by
1040 posts

Thanks, Jacque, for your trip report. I am enjoying reading all about your trip and remembering my first few trips to Europe as a student, when everything was bright, new, interesting, and very foreign to me.

Posted by
193 posts

Some miscellaneous notes before I move on:
1. Sorry for any weird typos or misspelled words. I'm writing this on my iPhone and it has that silly area where it can finish your words - and sometimes I hit it and it doesn't work; I'm also writing these at night so I don't forget the details of what we've done and I'm not doing a lot of proofreading because I really need to go to sleep instead of writing - but C'est La Vie!
2. What I am very glad I brought so far: first item has to be travel size bottle of Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo! I grabbed two of these at Walgreens or Target when I was finishing up odds & ends for the trip. I thought the baby shampoo might be good for hand washing but then also remembered my mom told me she has been taking this shampoo on her travels because it's cheap (leave it, lose it, throw it away - no big deal) but more importantly, it's gentle on hair (especially hair that has to see the hairdresser often to maintain ones 'natural' color)! I have used it exclusively for my hair on this trip and I don't need to use any conditioner to comb out my hair after washing it. I may make the switch to this at home too!
3. Compression Socks! I had the foot swelling experience in early May on my cruise and figured I better get some support for the long overseas flight and long stretches of time on the bus between countries. I did heed the advice of many on the forums and also checked with my doctor before buying. I ended up with 2 long Smartwool medium compression knee socks, one pair of Smartwool ankle socks, and one pair of compression trouser socks (not Smartwool brand). I haven't worn the trouser socks yet (I wore them at home to test them out but they were so-so). However, the Smartwool are amazing and have kept swelling to a minimum, helped my legs feel ok with 6 miles of walking (the first three days in London that was about our average; and the same for our two full tour days in Paris). They also are not hot, my feet/legs don't sweat & I don't have any blisters! Thank you Amazon Prime for delivery of these awesome socks!
4. My merino wool cami's. Same 'miracle' features that the socks have (except compression control, of course). I packed three, have only worn two so far and have been rotating them every day or so. These keep me cool and comfy, tuck in nicely and whatever shirt I'm wearing for the day goes on top.
5. Another item that was last minute but a huge plus - a 3oz spray bottle of Downy anti-wrinkle spray. We are not using it for wrinkled clothes but we are using it to freshen up our clothes each evening and it's been a great item to have!
6. JAG pull on capris/ankle length pants! I was getting down to the wire on deciding on my pants for this trip. Throw in the extra medical scare with my dad the week before we left and I was getting nervous about what pants to take. On the Tuesday before our trip, my mom ran errands with me in between a doctor appointment for her and the hospital. We bought some overpriced foreign currency (but by now I needed to not be stressed about landing with no $ and still wasn't sure I was going at that point depending on dad's results. If I stayed home, I definitely wanted the kids to have cash to start the trip). Then we went to Von Maur and I was going to see if the sales ladies could help me find something that would fit decent, travel well and not be too hot. The sales woman heard me mention I'd really like capris that pulled on and didn't have zipper and buttons to mess with and be uncomfortable. She brought back two different styles of JAG brand capris in three different colors (black, dark denim and a mid-color denim). I bought all three pairs and almost hugged her for saving the day on my pants dilemma!These have been the best travel pants! Look good, keep their shape, not too hot & very, very comfortable!!! And I read about the brand on this site but had never seen them in a department store in our area. Now I know!
Sorry no spacing, too wordy!

Posted by
786 posts

Enjoying your travel stories advocate! I was wondering what you had decided about the trip and I am happy you decided to go and are enjoying yourself!

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193 posts

Wow! I just had fun reading what I have posted so far! :-) Yes, we are safely back home and we had an absolutely wonderful European adventure!! I started out good with keeping up here and on Facebook, but as we kept moving I focused on updating my pictures and videos to Facebook so the family and friends could see what we were doing. I would usually post at night and try to give a summary of all that we had done that day, and I'd wake up and have tons of comments and likes from folks back home that got caught up while we slept. It was fun to know they were following our every move and loving all the pictures. I had a feeling that most of the kids would not be doing much updates for their families - but probably found time to Tweet and SnapChat with their friends, so I would tell the kids to add their parents or family to my FB page and I soon had moms, dads, grandmas, aunts, etc. following along and thanking me for sharing the pictures and videos of the music performances. As we got to know more of the kids and adults on our coach bus (the Blue Bus - we were the biggest bus with about 68 people on it), I expanded my pictures to include the other kids and adults and they enjoyed seeing the pics too. My 'kids' got a little tired of seeing me with my phone ready to take their pictures at the various locations, and I had to tell them to stop and smile a few times and that the grandparents at home wanted to see them in Europe. But they were pretty good sports and we got some really good pictures of the kids, their friends, pictures with us in them, etc. and I am sure they will be happy to see these in the future when they discover most of their pics are selfies lol.

A note about the weather before I forget. We had incredible weather everywhere we went! The hottest day we had was in Venice and that only topped out at 77F! It rained buckets the day before we arrived but we got to enjoy clear blue skies and nice breezes that day! I've heard that is pretty good luck and that Venice can be 90F in June. The weather in the Alps was obviously cooler, but we loved it! It was between 50's and upper 60's in Switzerland and Austria. One day in Switzerland we went up a ski lift and watched snow in the morning and then wore short sleeves to walk along the beautiful banks of Lake Geneva in Montreaux later in the day after touring the Castle of Chillon.

Have to run now; just wanted to check in; add a few notes and bump up my post so I can find it and try to get my notes done! :-)

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809 posts

Jacque, I'm glad your trip went so well, and look forward to seeing further trip reports!

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1040 posts

Thanks for the update. It's always fun to read about other people's adventures, especially for my husband and you need, as it revs up our excitement for our upcoming trip.

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9904 posts

Glad you are back and it sounds like you had a terrific time. Hope things are better with your Dad as well. Look forward to your updates!

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193 posts

Hello again! It was nice to have a little more time this morning to write up some more details of our travels! When we returned, jet lag had us pretty mixed up for the first day; then Monday was busy getting my son checked into a new day program for a 6-week trial experience to plan for next summer when he officially ages out of the Special Education system in Kansas. Then, I ran over to see my parents and get caught up on dad's new medicines, doctor appointments, chemo & radiation schedule while my youngest sister (the nurse was still here). I took gifts from our travels with me and also our travel safe bags and adapter plugs as well, because as we finished our adventure, my sister was preparing to leave with her family for a 2-week cruise in the Mediterranean (starting in Barcelona and ending in Istanbul). They have 6 Greek ports on their 2 cruises - she loaded up on Euros & US dollars before they left just in case the Greek ports are in cash chaos when they are there - and it sounds possible.

The past two days, I've taken dad to get his second dose of chemo and his first two radiation treatments. Two down, 35 radiation treatments to go. It's going to get tough on him. Not sure how many chemo treatments he will get, but we will have a very busy 7-8 weeks coming. So far, he still feels pretty good, but I think he lost another 15 pounds while we were gone :(

Now, on to the travels - Day 2 Paris (Part 1):

After arriving in Paris via ferry crossing the English Channel, driving through past WW2 bunkers in Calais, and then continuing south through beautiful French countryside, we had arrived in Paris last night right at rush hour - maybe every hour in Paris is rush hour - it certainly seemed that way during our stay here!

The kids were not scheduled to perform in Paris this summer, due a change in venue sites (they had performed in Luxembourg Gardens for many years but the area is undergoing construction) plus the terrorist attacks that had happened earlier this year - the tour company decided not to have performances here. We were disappointed but it also gave us more time for sightseeing. And we did a LOT in our 2 full days here!

This morning we enjoyed our first French continental breakfast at hour hotel, the Safir Hotel, was closer to Euro Disney than central Paris, so our coach would be driving us back and forth each day. Breakfast was a bit skimpy by American standards (even by the end of London we were over ham slices & cheese as our breakfast staples), but we had a nice espresso maker, bowls of croissants & pain au chocolate on our tables, yogurt, banana & corn flakes. Nothing fancy, but feeding 260 people in an hour - not bad.

After breakfast we loaded our buses for our first day of sight-seeing. On the agenda for the day was a visit to Montmartre & the Sacre Couer Basilica; a professional tour guide to drive us through Paris and the major sites; and then a visit to the Louvre museum before heading to our restaurant for dinner; and then ending the evening with a twilight boat ride on the Seine.

It was one of our days to sleep a little later, which was nice after the late last night in London followed by a day of travel to change continents. It gave us time to figure out the new electrical plug-in we needed now; time to figure out how the shower and toilets worked; realize again air conditioning in Europe is not what we are used to (this hotel did have AC but it was pretty wimpy) - again, we were thankful for the nice weather so we didn't need a lot of air conditioning. July & August would probably be uncomfortable.

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Paris Day 2: Part 2:

On the way to Montemartre, we got to see more of the crazy traffic that Parisians live with. I don't think I've every seen so many motorcycles - and the "lanes" they drove in were scary! They would pass between our big buses and cars next to us, weave in and out of traffic;it was fascinating to watch them and hope we didn't witness an accident!

I took a lot of pictures while we traveled on the bus, and then even more pictures when we got to wherever we were headed. I ended up with about 4,000 picture and 100 videos! I have shared about a quarter of those with family and friends on my FB page and have many more I can share over the next few months as we recall our grand vacation!

When we arrived at Montmartre we all unloaded and our small group chaperones made sure we knew the meeting time and point and off we went to explore in groups of three or more (the rule for the kids). Most of the Ambassadors headed to the many, many stairs to climb the hill to the Basilica, but our awesome chaperone (my daughter's band teacher) told us that off to the left (facing the church) was a little funicular type elevator lift that would take us to the top for a euro or two. We opted for that and several other adults joined us. Walking down looked much more pleasant than walking up! The queue for tickets was short. It was €2 for the ride up & it was a great choice for us.

At the top we were able to stop and enjoy the views of Paris spread out before us for as far as we could see. It was incredible! We were really here! I looked and looked to try and spy the Eiffel Tower but didn't see it from where we were, so we headed up the final series of steps to take a tour of the massive, white church atop the high hill of Montmartre. We had been given the updates the night before on the various scams we would likely see in this area and the surrounding area, and I was glad for the refresher and also that the kids heard the safety tips from someone other than "mom". We had no problems, and I believe we saw all the various scams described.

My husband and I spent at least an hour inside the church. It was incredible, beautiful, awe-inspiring, amazing - all of the descriptive adjectives I could imagine - and more! Very different than the beautiful churches we had seen in London. We saw priests giving a service in Latin, nuns singing, faithful patrons sitting in the pews & candle stations everywhere to light candles and say prayers for loved ones. We would stop in different parts of the church and just watch and listen to what was going on. It was beautiful and moving. We lit candles for my dad and for my husband's 101 year old Grandmother, said some prayers and crossed ourselves with the holy water as we finally exited the beautiful church. We had to take a moment to collect ourselves and process our thoughts after that experience. Very special.

We still had plenty of time left so we took many more pictures of the outside of the church, admired more of the views of the city spread out below us, and then decided to head over to the the Artist's Quarter behind the church. This is where we started to see more of our group as we rounded the corner behind the church and followed the noise and smells of fresh baked breads. On our way, we had the city views to our left and as we were about to round the bend - I spotted it! The Eiffel Tower! It was perfectly clear and stood tall and impressive in the distance. Of course, I was thrilled and we had to stop and take more pictures before moving on. I was so excited - I had just had my first real glimpse of the ET!

We saw some of our group eating at an outdoor cafe and we stopped there to visit and sit at a little table next to theirs. They were under an open-air roof, we were in the gorgeous sunshine. We ordered beer, yes, French beer, not wine, and it was a nice & cold while we sat people watching, chatting & seeing what food the others had ordered.

To be cont...

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Paris Day 2: Part 3:

As we sat enjoying our drink in the Artist's Quarter, we saw our group of kids stroll by and they stopped to tell us that they had bought a painting for their great-grandma (my grandma) from an artist. The kids split the cost of the painting. How sweet! Of course I made them stop for some pictures before they ran off for more exploring :)

After our drink, we paid our waiter and asked to get a picture with him - he had a cool Paris, artsy looking outfit so we wanted a picture with a 'local' - but I believe as we talked to him we found out he was from Texas originally. Oh well! It was still fun. As we were getting ready to do some more exploring, a wandering artist came up to our table and wanted to sketch my husband (he must have been more interesting looking than me!). He said 'no' but the guy really wanted to sketch him and kept asking. I told him that it was nice, but we had just given all our money to our kids and after paying for our drinks, we had no money. He didn't believe me of course, but I said, no, really, we have no money - our kids have it now :). He finally walked away and we got up to walk around some more.

Soon the smell of crepes and the sight of gelato got us feeling hungry so we decided to find an ATM and make our first Euro withdraw in Paris. It was down a little cobblestone street on the outside of a building. We met a group of students on our bus who were also looking for the ATM so we decided we would all use it together and make sure we all knew how to get our cash - and safety in numbers was good also. My husband stood in the street as our 'protector' & I helped each of the girls make their transactions. Then I used the machine and got us stocked back up on Euro's. The wandering sketch artist had visited us too soon ;).

After getting our money stashed away, we visited a crepe shop and ordered crepes made right in front of us. My husband and I split the crepe complete, which had egg, ham & cheese. The lady kept asking what my husband wanted and I said just one for the both of us. As we were waiting, she got another crepe on the round griddle and cracked another egg. I said, no - we only want one! She looked perturbed and muttered how she asked me multiple times. Yes, my first experience at ticking off a Parisian. I apologized, even though I had answered her each time, and we paid our €4,90 for the crepe and got out of there! It really wasn't too big of an incident, but I had to laugh. Maybe that's how they try to turn a sale of one into two - or maybe she just really didn't understand me. Who knows. Whatever the issue - is was a very yummy crepe that we shared as we walked down the steps leaving the Artist Quarter and the Montmartre area and met up with our waiting buses at the bottom of the hill. So far, we were loving every minute of our Paris time!

Next up, our guided bus tour of the city began. We had a good guide (not as entertaining as Trudy in London), but she did a very good job giving us information about the history, sites and areas we drove through. Her English was good yet she had a nice accent to listen to; my husband had a little trouble with some of her words but I helped decipher for him if he looked puzzled. My high school French & one college class still had a little space in my brain and I enjoyed listening to her speak and to the Parisians we encountered during our visits.

After our hour or so drive, we circled the Arc de Triumph; stopped for pictures of the Eiffel Tower; saw several Metro stops; passed the red light district, including the famed Moulin Rouge; & caught a glimpse of the Champs Elysees before we were dropped off at the Lovre where we would begin our group entrance process into this massive museum.

As we arrived in each new country & city, the staff would give us a briefing usually before or after our first meal, make sure we had our little hotel info card in our passport holders; and we'd get a map for the area.

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Paris Day 2: Part 4 - The Louvre!
On the bus tour, we received a map of the Louvre and I studied the map looking to see where the big 'must see' works were located; and began a rough plan for my husband and I when we got through the group entrance. We had about 2-1/2 hours to explore and decided to head out on our own and follow the notes I'd made on our handy map. I did pretty darn good! My husband was impressed!

We started in the Egypt area and saw Ramses Egyptian statue many other interesting works of art as we headed to Major Item #2, the statue of Winged Victory in the Greek area. We also saw the Big Item #3, Venus de Milo, at the end of this long hall that was filled with amazing marble statues of Greek gods & goddeses.

Then we were off to find the famed lady - Mona Lisa! The museum had pictures of her and arrows pointing in the direction to find her. We just kept looking for those as we climbed stairs, turned corners, and navigated this huge and busy place. There was little doubt when we reached her gallery. It was packed! We shuffled, side-stepped & moved as part of a herd, and finally got close enough to see her up close and personal (as much as is possible as she is roped off and still pretty far back from the crowds). I was surprised by how small the painting looked in real life, but still took many pictures of her. My husband stayed longer and enjoyed the famous painting while I decided to get out of the mob of people and look at the other amazing paintings in that hall. The HUGE painting that takes up the entire wall when you turn around from Mona was amazing! The painting was so big, I could not get a picture of the whole thing. Luckily on the bus tour, one of the teens showed me how to take Pano pics, and I was able to scan from left to right and get the entire painting in one picture. Another good techie lesson from the teens paid off!

We spent the rest of our time touring various galleries and always remembered to look UP because the art was everywhere! We ran into our kids and they had made it to most of the 'biggies' as well. We continued to wander and we enjoyed the differences in the 13th Century Gallery, the 14th Century Gallery, and so on. I think our favorite was the 16th-17th Century paintings of Jesus, Mary, various biblical scenes, and also the area where the artists began showing distance and depth in the paintings. One artist we liked was the 18th Century artist Giovanni Pannini. His paintings were so detailed and showed distance & depth, and of course we took more pictures.

One thing I couldn't believe was that I could find the Mona Lisa, and several other 'biggies' on my own - but had a heck of a time finding a restroom! I don't know how far we walked trying to find that little spot that looked easy to locate on the map, but I believe we were back in the Far East and African art area of the Louvre before I finally found the ladies room! After my visit there, we needed to head back to the exit (Sortee Pyramid) meeting place. Again, my husband was impressed that I had listened & remembered which signs to look for to take us back to our meeting place. But with that, it was tricky to actually make it back to the big glass pyramid and we walked through areas we hadn't seen before so he was sure we were lost. I just kept looking for the pyramid "Sortee" signs and we weaved and wove our way back to the meeting point eventually! We didn't get too worked up about it, I had alarms set on my phone to alert me and give me plenty of time to head back whenever we split off from the group and knew what our rendezvous time was. The group had a tight schedule to stay on, but I never felt like we had to race through any of our sightseeing locations and that we had a nice opportunity to get a feel for the area before moving on.

After everyone was accounted for, we left the lovely (& massive & amazing Louvre) for dinner at our group restaurant. So far, we'd walked about 5 miles! Busy day!

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Day 2 Paris: Part 5 - almost done! Evening boat ride on the River Seine:

After dinner, we headed to the Seine River for our twilight boat ride. We made our way to the top level and found some good seats towards the front and let the kids pile in behind us. All 259 of us were on the same boat, along with some groups of other travelers and I saw a group with Trafalgar stickers on their shirts - so there were probably 400 people on the boat with us. We just comprised 50% :)

While waiting to board our "bateaux mouches", I called my mom & dad to say Bon Jour from Paris and describe our beautiful surroundings. River in front, Eiffel Tower to my right, and I believe Napoleon's gold dome of his tomb to my left (or a church with a gold dome - a lot of guild and gold in Paris!). They were thrilled to hear from us and my middle sister was there. Her son walked by as I was talking and I told him to say hi to his mom. He literally said hi & bye, passed me back the phone and kept heading back to find a place to sit. She was still asking him questions when I put the phone to my ear and I said that he was gone! What a brat ;). I also found out later that the home health nurse was there when we called and she got to hear about our great adventures too. My youngest sister, the nurse, had done a great job getting all the many items in place for my dad to go home from the hospital and the home health nurse was there to help set up all his meds, monitor his vitals and serve as a coordinator between all the specialists and meds so everything stayed on track. Dad had been home a day or two at this point, but had not started any chemo or radiation yet.

We said Au Revoir as our cruise began and we enjoyed seeing the various activities going on over on the Left Bank side. It was full of people and activities and many people waved and shouted hello as we cruised by. We also passed under many beautiful bridges and each one was different and impressive! People on the bridges also waved and said hello and of course all our big group was waving back and shouting greetings too. I felt a little sorry for the other 50% on our boat - but C'est la Vie!! ;)

We passed under the famous, infamous, controversial "Love Lock" bridge and we could still see thousands of locks from our vantage point. We couldn't see any of the segments that were being taken down from the boat ride. That is going to be a BIG job getting all those removed. And vendors are still selling locks to tourists if they can.

We passed by Notre Dame and officially saw the Ile de Le Cite and we turned around not far after passing the church and went back following the Right Bank. We saw more of the massive Louvre museum and the boat guide described each area we passed in French, English, Chinese (?) and maybe one other language. When we got close to the Eiffel Tower we were a bit disappointed that it was still so light out - we didn't get to see it lit up and twinkling in the night. I am not sure it ever got really dark anywhere we visited - and if it did - it was very late and didn't last long!

We ALMOST made it down past the Eiffel Tower to see the real Statue of Liberty, but no, the boat turned us around again to head back to the dock. If you zoomed in to the max on your phone/camera, and squinted and focused really hard, you caught a glimpse - but it would have been nice if the boat had gone just a little bit farther for us to see it better. Oh well. Still a lovely, lovely evening ride on the famous River Seine!!

After that, Day 2 in Paris was over and we drove back to our hotel and we headed straight to bed that night. After a glass of wine in our room, of course! ;) We topped off the day at about 6 miles walking, evening with the bus driving us to and fro. My merino wool socks and Sketcher Go Walk 3 shoes were doing their job, and still no blisters!

The next day we had another full Paris day. I'll stop for now and let you read (or skim) my novels about this day so far!

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Good morning! It was a busy 4th of July weekend so no more updates of trip yet. However, I did succesfully figure out how to get my videos up on YouTube! And I also made my first two iMovies from our Pais pictures :). I might have to change my line of work to the travel industry ;) ;)

You can find the Austria performances here and I've created playlists for the other countries. London is done, but still have Switzerland and Germany performances to upload. It takes a lot of time. But as I get these uploaded, I can reclaim space on my phone! I managed to use all the memory on my 64GB new phone in one months time!! Yikes!

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwIkHHXNJsztWd89VzA8nTeWvKvwBiTvs

Jacque

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This is absolutely a great trip report, I couldn't imagine , when you said how many were with your group. Sounds like well behaved, responsible kids, and adults. Thanks for hints on what worked well. My daughter and I are headed on a BOE this fall.

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Paris Day 3: Part 1: Breakfast was a bit earlier, 7am, so we could leave promptly at 8am to start our last day in Paris. The group was very good about stressing leaving times, meeting times, and so forth so we could maximize our days, and also keep a big group on task. With an 8am departure time, that really meant we needed to be on or near our bus 10 minutes early. Chaperones did head counts on their group members and we got used to doing a "passport pat" several times a day to make sure we all had our precious passports. I did not hear any instances of a student or adult losing or misplacing a passport on our trip. We were good listeners and responsible travelers.

Our first stop of the day today (June 18) was to the Eiffel Tower. We had about three hours to spend, but ended up with an extra half hour because we were so efficient at getting on the buses by now. I believe everyone was excited to get the chance to see the Eiffel Tower up close and personal and each small group got to decide if they wanted to walk up, ride up, explore the area, etc. My 'kids' were all about going to the top of the ET and they headed off to find the line to the steps. Several adults found the line to ride the elevator up. Another group decided they wanted to walk across the street from the ET and make their way to Napoleon's Tomb.

My husband and I decided we would skip walking up the ET and would instead walk past it (taking many pictures of it and of our kids waiting in line) and cross the Trocadero Bridge to get pictures of the ET from that area. We had a great walk across the bridge, stopping to watch the boats go by, people-watch and take pictures. It was overcast this day and we wondered if we'd have rain.

After we had spent some time across the Seine, we headed back and found the restrooms (WC's) in the ET area, which were free. After stop, we decided we would go wander around the Rue Clare area. It was a beautiful area and we had fun looking around and getting our bearings to make sure we could find our way back when our exploring time was up. Lunch was 'on our own' in Paris since breakfast and dinner were provided and the tour group had good ideas on how to get nice meals or try new foods for a reasonable price (especially for the students), but today, we needed to get some of the yummy smelling foods that we began smelling as we walked.

We found a patisserie/boulangerie on a corner that looked perfect. I took a picture of the name of the place so I would remember; my picture shows 'Patisserie Boulangerie' in cursive above the windows, but I can see Sebastien B inside the window. The address sign says "7th Arr.; Avenue Bosquet" in its little blue French street sign. Even their street signage was classy!

From the bakery, I had a Croquette Monsieur & my husband had a flat bread covered with chicken, cheese, herbs - both were very good and easy to walk and eat. I also bought a delicious Pain au chocolate to enjoy after our sandwiches. The bakery did not have a sitting area so we walked a bit and found a ledge outside a small grocery story on a side street and stood and ate our lunch. We travelled with water bottles during the day that we either filled at the hotel or bought from our bus driver for a euro a bottle. Across the street, I spied a very pretty canopy. I finished my sandwich and told my husband to meet me over there! The canopy was black and had hot pink lettering that said "Boutique Chocolats & Macarons" and the designer was Daniel Mercier. The shop was connected to a very nice hotel and it was a little slice of sugar paradise! The sales lady (from Russia/moved recently to Paris) spoke great English (the bakery was very French and we did some basic French there & pointing to get our food), gave us both a sample macaroon, which were heavenly, and of course we added to our snack pile by buying several pieces of gourmet chocolate and macaroons to enjoy and (maybe) share with the Eiffel Tower climbers...

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Paris Day 3; Part Duex: During our walk we also visited a pharmacy as we had spotted dozens in the Paris area and wanted to see one in person. We bought some hydrocortisone cream and I sampled some of the eau de toilette spray samples and we had a pleasant chat with the woman working there. It certainly seemed like if we needed help with any medicine issues, the street side pharmacies would be perfect. We took the advice from many on this forum and had paper scripts of our generic medicine in case we lost any or needed a refill. We never needed that, but we were prepared.

We found our way back to our meeting place by continuing up that street. We felt we were parallel to where our bus was parked and a few blocks to the right of the ET area, and we were correct. We didn't get lost and didn't need a map. I hate feeling lost, so I was happy that we were able to keep our bearings so well. Not that we wandered far, but maybe you know what I mean :)

At 12:30pm, we were scheduled to regroup, load up and head to the Arc de Triomphe to look around and then walk along the famous Champs Élysées for some window shopping (or real shopping if we wanted). We arrived at our ET meeting point and saw our kids sitting around a statue on a small hill. They looked tired!! Probably because they had gone to the top of the ET (as high as visitors can go), taking only one elevator up & then the steps the entire way down! My daughter asked if I had any deodorant or perfume with me LOL! Nope! But I smelled good from the samples I tried at the pharmacy:) I handed out some Macarons as a condolence as we waited for our group to reassemble and head to the Arc & Champs Élysées.

There is an entire story within a story about our bus this day - but with the way I'm writing, I may never get to our next locations! I will summarize by saying, we gained the name of the "gypsy bus tribe" and/or the "rainbow bus" this day because we had to bus hop the rest of the day due to our Blue Bus having a major problem. But to us, no sweat! This is where a professional tour operator, like ours or RS, is worth its weight in gold. Other people got to handle the scrambling and logistics and we got a few extra minutes to enjoy our surroundings and talk about our adventures thus far, and sneak in more pictures :)

If we ever travel to Europe again, and I'm sure we will after this great experience, we will do so with a tour group that works out all the details for us so we get to enjoy the sights and surroundings and not worry about the logistics. Our 'gypsy bus' experience made me respect the group even more and appreciate all the work of the state-side staff, the professional City Coordinators, the bus leaders and chaperones. Yes, we might pay extra for their help and assistance on tours like these - but in my opinion, a priceless benefit!

When our substitute bus arrived, we headed to the majestic Arc de Triomphe and marveled at its regal-ness and beauty & also watched the chaos of the traffic around it. I did not know it, but to safely get to the Arc, you cross UNDER the street and come up right in the circle where the Arc is. I got some nice video of the big French flag blowing in the breeze in the middle and we viewed it from all sides. There is a memorial/tomb with continued burning flame dedicated to a French unknown soldier. Reminded me of Arlington National Cemetery. We did not have time to go to the top but we had a nice visit viewing the famous monument. When it was time to go, we went back underground and crossed over to the most famous street in Paris, the Champs Élysées.

We walked on the left side of the Champs (with Arc to our backs) as it had more shops & 'action' on that side per the guides. Our meeting point to regroup was the statue of Charles de Gaulle in front of the Grand Palais. I'm not sure I was even appreciating all the historical events and places we were seeing - coming home and writing my notes makes me realize much more. Wow.

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Paris Day 3: Part 3: Visiting Notre Dame! After meeting at our appointed location of Charles de Gualle statue, we hopped onto our next 'new' bus and headed out to see the famous Notre Dame Cathedral. If you are keeping count, so far (in 7 days - 6 actually 'on the ground'), this would be our 6th (maybe 7th) 'big church' visit so far: Church @ Windsor; Wesley's Chapel; St. Paul's Cathedral; Royal Air Force Cathedral; Westminster Abbey; Sacre Coeur & now ND. Maybe this is a church tour & not a music tour ;).

Notre Dame was unlike any of the previously mentioned churches; Gothic, gothic, Goth-Ic! The outside was fascinating to look at! So MUCH to look at - almost TOO much. Those gargoyles were a bit spooky, especially on this overcast Paris afternoon. The line to get inside was also the longest we had encountered thus far. So, perfect time to take pictures, take pano pics & practice my not-so-good selfie shots. I got approached by street vendors quite often in the big cities selling selfie sticks but I told them 'no thanks', I wanted to figure out the (now) old-fashioned way ;). And, my daughter had one so I really had no need.

The line moved pretty quickly and we were soon inside this beautiful cathedral. We were pretty awed by the sheer size of the church, the statues, tombs, stained glass, various prayer and confession areas and again all the areas you could light candles for loved ones. We lit a few more candles for family back home and tried to take in all the detail and beauty around us. There was singing and Mass going on and we'd stop and watch and listen. We took pictures (no flash) and tried to be as respectful as possible when seeing such beauty and history.

We were probably some of the last of our group to leave the church because we just found it so peaceful and amazing. We crossed ourselves with the Holy Water as we left and felt very privileged to have visited the church. Outside, we really didn't have a lot of time to explore since we had taken our time inside. When we rejoined (yet another bus to take us to our last Paris dinner & back to the hotel), we found out several in our group had walked some into the Latin Quarter area; some exited the back of the church and took pictures of the locks on the bridge behind the church, and others checked out the street vendors selling old books in some of the street book stands (les bouquinistes) in the area. One of our daughter's friends did that and bought a few books to take home to book worms.

It was a great end to an amazing two days of sightseeing in Paris and when we boarded our bus we were ready to get our escargot on for the last time in Gay Paree! We had escargot - and pretty sure all the kids we had been dining with and talking to over the past week of travels, all decided to be brave and try them too! We enjoyed red wine, French baguettes & chicken cordon bleu that evening.

We had a birthday girl (mom) at our table that night, and as the wait staff served desserts, the lights went out. We didn't know why but soon heard the singing of Happy Birthday head our way and we all joined in and sang to our dinner mate. It was a nice touch we actually saw several times as summer birthdays occurred, and we even had a 23rd wedding anniversary celebration couple later in the trip.

When we were all sufficiently full and starting to feel sleepy, it was time to say Au Revoir & Merci to our dinner crew for the past three nights and make our way back to the hotel. It was moving day the next day, so my husband and I went and packed & he watched some of a Clint Eastwood movie in French (Three Mules for Sister Sarah :) ) and I probably really did the packing. The musicians had rehearsal in the garden area outside of the hotel to get some practice time in since it was an early night. We decided to let them practice and get ready so we would be blown away by their concerts in our next country - Switzerland! Actually, I was worn out and enjoyed the time to rest!

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Jacque, thank you so much for taking the time to describe your trip in detail. (and this after you have already spent the time to record and upload the performances --wow!) Makes me feel just like I was there with you. And, I 'd like to compliment you on your good attitude bout those glitches that invariably turn up on a trip of this magnitude. I'm sure your good attitude helped other participants see the silver lining as well. Keep it up -- looking forward to hearing about Switzerland.

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I just watched your group on YouTube. They are soo good!!! Is this a high school or college group??? Really wonderful!

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Thank you all for taking the time to read and respond! I know I can be wordy but hopefully I'm not boring you too much ;).

About the performers - yes, these are high school students! It amazes me, too, how good they are! The students (they range from 10-12th grade), are nominated by their band, choir or orchestra director, and are typically the most committed students; have good attitudes; are responsible; etc.

When they are nominated, they receive a congratulatory letter from the governor (at least in our state) and it's a pretty nice recognition. Not every student nominated can go, because it is a pricey trip, especially if college is looming - but it is an amazing experience for those that are able to go.

The chaperones are typically the band or music directors from schools across the state. As a chaperone, they have the responsibility to keep track of their small group; deal with any problems; etc. The chaperones can escalate issues to bus coordinators, etc - but with this caliber of students, serious problems are very rare. Chaperones have their expenses covered but do not get paid; they pay their own personal incidentals, non-covered meals, etc. But, not a bad way to travel if you are a teacher with the summer off and want to see Europe & be around music!

There were a dozen or two adults that performed with the students (band, choir, strings). Usually these were the chaperones (our two band directors both played trumpet in the band performances), but the kids are the main performers. On the YouTube videos, you might notice the Bugler's Holiday song features a trumpet quartet of adults; two of these are our band directors and the other two are friends of the band director. Adults still active in music can attend but have to be connected in some way to the group.

Once you are an 'Ambassador', you can sign up for future trips if you want. I don't think we had any returning student performers this year, but I could see some of the students returning later if they have a younger sibling participate in future tours.

The very amazing part of this (for our state), is that the students meet and learn all their music 3-days before leaving! They had the 3-day camp at a university located in the middle of the state (close to us luckily) and if you performed, attendance was mandatory! So before we left, the students and adult performers put in three 10-hour days learning music, auditioning for chair assignments, etc. & several students played in band or orchestra and also performed with the choir. Lots to learn in a short time!

We also had a pretty good amount of parents, grandparents, siblings on the trip, but we were 'non-performers' and just the lucky ones that got to go along for the ride and experience all the magic of the trip. There was a nice mix of dads traveling with a son or daughter; moms doing the same; and some couples like my husband and I. If you traveled as a single adult, you were paired with a room-mate or you could pay a supplement to have your own room. There was a mix of that in the single parent travelers we met. Everyone we met who had roomies they didn't know beforehand seemed to be getting along fine - although we did hear some funny stories as we got into the smaller towns where two twin beds might be connected by a single permanent frame ;).

It was a great group of people we met from around our state and honestly I'd do it again, even if I didn't have a kid performing. But I'm sure some of the magic and excitement might be lessened if you didn't have a kid performing.

I believe I now have all the performances I recorded uploaded to YouTube. I still have my pictures to deal with, but I've had fun putting some iMovie slide shows together and have posted those on the various Playlists too.

I hope you enjoy the performances as much as I do! I'm so glad I can share these memories with others in more than just words & static pictures. How amazing the technology we have today!

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Really enjoying this blog, I checked out the videos, they are great. Also, thanks for the tip on the Jag capries, I bought a pair yesterday, they seem quite comfy.

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Switzerland! Part 1: Friday, June 19th we had an early start to get our bags to the bus (6:45am), then 7am breakfast & 8am departure to head out of Paris to start our journey to Switzerland. Today, we also had a new bus! It was actually my favorite bus of the entire trip. The people working behind the scenes had procured us a bus from the MSC Oceania Cruise Lines, and it was very nice. Extra nice because it had a lower level & a higher level. My husband and I saw the lower level and knew it was for us. I think it seated about 20 on the lower level & 50 up high. The lower level became known as the "kid free zone" and it was awesome for the four days we had it!

At this point in our trip, we were leaving the big cities behind for smaller towns/villages in the rest of the countries. After a week of non-stop action, the bus drive through beautiful countryside was a welcome change.

We stopped for lunch at an AutoGrille while we were still in France. There was a hot foods area, a hamburger & fries area, or the grocery store area. We opted for the latter and bought a few different sandwiches to try, some chips & a diet coke. It was beautiful outside (because apparently we were also on the trip of amazing weather luckily) so we found a nice spot outside and ate enjoying the sun and nice breeze.

Back on the bus we continued on to the French/Swiss Border. The gentle rolling green fields started to gain some height as we neared Switzerland. Because our new bus was registered in Switzerland, we did not have to stop at the border for a passport check. At least that is the story I heard. The other buses in our group had to stop. Their buses (and our original bus) were all registered in Austria. We did not get a stamp to add to our passport pages, but we gained time and were the first of our group to enter beautiful Switzerland!

We had one more rest stop before we arrived at the beautiful mountain ski-resort town of Crans-Montana. The Swiss AutoGrille blew all other AutoGrills out of the water! It was like stepping into an upscale shopping center filled with beautiful flower arrangements, art work, gourmet food stations & of course a gift shop filled with Swiss chocolate. Guess where all the kids headed first?

There was an observation deck on the back side that we went to and enjoyed our first outside views of the Swiss countryside. We were not quite in the Alps region yet, but the hills were becoming much taller by now and our view from our fancy pit stop included a beautiful pastoral scene with green hills in the background and a little village, farm land, a church & a castle in the valley. Per my pictures, the castle we could see in the valley was the Chateau de Bavois if that gives anyone an idea of where we were in Switzerland.

According to the (very interesting) direction signs on the observation deck, we were 3'659 km from the pole nord (that's how it was written) & the sign also included a picture of a camel and a man in Sahara desert garb - so I'm not sure if that was the distance by camel & walking through the Sahara - or if we were seeing a new representation of travel I hadn't seen before that was designed to indicate distance to multiple nationalities. Whatever the reason behind the pictures, it was interesting and a bit comical. Also per the signs, we were 343 km from Lyon; 672 km from Marseille & 947 km from Berlin.

Leaving the beautiful AutoGrill, where we decided NOT to buy caviar even though it was available in the grocery area (really!!!), we kept climbing higher into Switzerland headed in the direction of Laussane and Montreaux and encountered more traffic round-abouts than I have ever seen. Every time we moved past a town, a little round-about lead us out. They all seemed to have beautiful artwork in the middle of them, so we could enjoy ever-changing designs as we slowed to make the curves in our big bus.

Traveling by coach was nice & a very scenic way to transition between countries.

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Switzerland Part Duex: As we neared the area we would leave the main highway and start the climb to Crans-Montana, we drove past the beautiful Lake Geneva and saw the Castle of Chillon on its shores (we would be touring that tomorrow); passed miles, and miles & miles of vineyards that stretched high up the Alps (we were officially in Alps Country now!), and drove with the Rhone River on our right before we winded up the mountains towards Crans-Montana.

We reached our destination at about 5pm. Our buses were now all staying at different hotels in the small towns & our bus got to call Le Hotel Green our home for the next three nights. It was a very nice little hotel & all rooms used special keys (no key cards or electronic readers here) and each key was attached to a beautiful hand carved heart with the room number etched onto it. We had room 201. We took our bags to our room after figuring out the little hotel elevator (we manually opened & closed the door like a regular door), checked out our new room set up, our hinged balcony door (never used one of those before & was afraid it was broken when we saw it as it was leaning in at an angle), figured out how it worked and stepped onto our small balcony and took in our lovely views. Then we were off to a group welcome meeting at the performance tent (which was conveniently right next to our hotel), and were met by some sweet townspeople holding a 'Welcome to Crans-Montana' sign and waving and saying hello as we entered. Very nice!

We got info about the area, our new maps, info about activities we could do during our free-time, performance info, etc. Dinner was at our various hotels at 7:30pm and then curfew for the kids was at 11pm; but 'Town Quiet Time' started at 10pm. That time held true about everywhere we went but had meant hotel quiet time in London & Paris - not Town quiet time. Welcome to sleepy little villages!

All the stores and shops were closed when we arrived but we enjoyed walking around and seeing all that was in the area after dinner. I think we walked about 2 miles after dinner, at about 3,500 feet altitude, and had only done about a half mile of walking during the day due to bus travel; I decided to call it a 10,000 step day due to the altitude and inclines we walked on our outing :).

We followed our group of kids up the hill from our hotel and got some great pictures of them with the Alps in the background. They ran off after the photo stop and my husband and I strolled around, and up and down, the little shopping area near our hotel. We found an ATM and got some Swiss Francs to re supply since we'd used almost all of our starter amount between the four of us during our Swiss rest-stop.

Crans-Montana is a pretty swanky ski resort but during the summer it has its second season, which has included the Music Ambassadors groups for the past decade or more. It also hosts some European golf tournaments and they had one coming up in July - should be starting the 27th, I believe. The outside of our hotel had a painting of a young Jack Nicklaus setting up for a swing, so we made the golf connection early on. His head of golden blond hair made him easy to identify and of course I had to get pictures of my husband standing next to him :).

We headed to bed by 11pm after finishing our walk. We saw the Crans-Montana police station, or rather its sign, and it was also closed for the night, and we marveled at the difference in this little area versus the big bustling cities we'd been at thus far.

Tomorrow we would have free-time to explore the town before we headed down the valley to the Castle of Chillon for a tour, a walk along Lake Geneva's shore to the famous Montreaux - our meeting place was the bronze statue of Freddy Mercury; and then back to Crans-Montana for dinner at our hotels followed by an 8pm concert series with all groups performing.

We had a busy day ahead of us! We figured out our little Swiss beds and got some sleep!

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What a terrific trip report about an amazing experience. I am truly enjoying reading about your adventure. I love the Autogrilles in all the countries! My Grandchildren learned early on to head first (chocolate coming in a close second) for the potato chips display-who knew such wonders existed? Cheeseburger, honey mustard, catsup....and all put out by Lays. We don't have such wondrous selections here in Colorado! I am looking forward to the next installment. I know for all of you, it's been the trip of a lifetime!

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I'm really enjoying your posts. And I'm with Andi: the Autogrills are awesome. I can't believe we don't have them in America (at least not on the West Coast)! The little cinderblock cabins with grotty toilets just don't cut it.

Favorite Lay's flavor: Bolognese. Had some once in France, but have never found them again.

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What a crazy weekend. Just after my post on Saturday, we ended up taking my dad to the hospital. He was diagnosed with throat cancer the week before my trip and he started treatment while we were gone. When I returned, I started taking him to daily radiation and weekly chemo. He was doing very good and we wondered when side effects would get worse. They did - and quickly.

However, his abdominal pain was much worse than we imagined and he ended up in emergency surgery for perforated bowel. He's in ICU now and hopefully will be able to come off the vent today. We also hope that no sepsis will show up as his white blood count has already dropped from the three chemo treatments.

We waited until he made it through surgery to let our youngest sister know, as she is on leg two of her cruise in Greece. She's worried but we told her to not change her plans; he's got the ICU team plus all of us here now and we will keep her updated. Thank goodness for technology!!

I told her to keep sending us pictures of her and her family in Greece so as soon as dad is feeling better he can continue seeing his grandkids on their big 'field trip' (what my 3-year old niece calls it).

As I spend time in the hospital this week, I will keep writing my trip report notes. It helps me to keep my mind busy and not watch those machines beep. I'm glad I was able to do a lot of YouTube uploads and make some fun iMovies last week. He enjoyed watching all of those while we went to his appointments.

We have super hot weather at home this week & my sister reports that all their ports so far have also been very hot. Makes me realize how lucky we were on our trip! Our weather was amazing!!

We will work on getting dad well and back on his feet to finish treatments so we can get him on a Europe trip hopefully next year!! Thanks for all your well-wishes and positive thoughts about the extra challenges thrown our way as we got ready to depart and now that we've returned.

I'll keep posting as I can - I want to share more about the rest of our trip. It was just incredible!!

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Switzerland Day 2/Part 1: Today we had our first Swiss breakfast buffet and it was very good! In addition to scrambled eggs (first time we've had eggs since leaving USA), we had delicious yogurt, the most wonderful cheese I've ever had, crisp bread, cold butter & at least four jams that had to be made locally. There were a few other items, but these were my mainstays. The cows in Switzerland must be very happy! The cheese, butter and yogurt were divine!

After breakfast we had a few hours of free time before we went to Montreaux. There were several choices presented to the group: walk, shop, picnic by the lake, paddle boating, an activity maze of some sort, or a ride on a ski lift up to the top of one of the mountains for sightseeing. We opted for the ski lift. The operators opened the ski lift early for the music groups. They normally open later in June, but for us, we were lucky. They had a special rate of 15 Swiss Francs vs 25 for summer use.

It was a cool day, almost cold, and the high in Crans-Montana that day was going to be 49F per the weather channel app. As we rode up the enclosed ski lift, we had rain droplets as we ascended. My husband sat facing the back & had no rain drops and had a great view of the town growing smaller behind us.

There was one platform stop and we thought we were at the top and got out. But the operator at that level waved us back in to another lift and we continued up. I'm not sure what the name of the mountain was, but it was a beautiful ride up.

When we reached the top and got out - it was snowing! It was so cool! Literally :). We were glad for our long pants, rain jackets and umbrella today! Only thing we didn't bring was our little gloves, but hands in pockets was fine. I'm sure it was in the 30'sF up there. A bit chilly for the 20th of June! :)

After admiring the views, the snow, chatting and taking pictures, we rode back down. It was definitely worth the money for that optional excursion.

Another deal they had for us that day was a laundry special. For 30 Swiss Francs you could fill a bag (bigger than a hotel laundry bag but smaller than a kitchen trash bag) with laundry and a local cleaner would pick it up, wash, dry, fold & deliver by evening. We took advantage of this deal and got quite a bit of laundry done. Several kids could go in together to get some items washed and it was a nice mid-trip offering that a smart business person offers to these groups. Maximize the off-season opportunities!

We walked back down the hill from the ski lift and headed to the grocery store to buy some snacks for lunch. We were still full from breakfast but were eager to check out a Swiss grocery store. I don't normally get excited about grocery stores, but when I'm on vacation I love checking them out and seeing what good stuff there is to buy. The locals were very nice and we talked to many people while we were there.

We took our guide's advice and bought our Swiss chocolate in the grocery store. Good selection and good prices! We also bought some of the best walnuts I've ever had, some sweet bread rolls with a Nutella filling, some fresh fruit, etc. Food prices were not bad; what was amazing was the price of cosmetics and beauty items in the area connected to the store! I thought a new lipstick color would be fun however a colored lipgloss was about 35 Swiss Francs! And a bottle of O.P.I. nail-polish was 25 Swiss Francs! Wow! I stuck with my one color :)

There was a pharmacy area just past the beauty area and I bought some cough drops there as a cold was making its way through our bus. The cough drops were "Ricola" times 20! Very brown and herbal tasting. Not bad, but definitely different.

We went back to our hotel after our morning adventures and rode our fun little elevator - I still couldn't remember to push the door open at our floor without a reminder, and we relaxed for a bit on our balcony enjoying Alpine views before it was time to head down to Montreaux.

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1040 posts

Sorry to hear about your dad's setback. Hope he's extubated by now and on the mend. It's tough in general to be in the hospital and, of course, much worse when debilitated by chemotherapy. Hang in there -- Kansans are made of tough stuff!

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My dad has made impressive improvements this week; moving to a regular room after four days in ICU. He's still got a lot of healing and treatments to face, but each day he's been so much better, it's been very positive.

On with the review! Part 2: Castle of Chillon and Montreaux. We loaded up on our buses after our morning free time and heading down the mountain to our guided tour of the Castle of Chillon, which sits on Lake Geneva. It was a very nice tour and I had added a fleece vest to my outfit since we had been in snow just a few hours before. I did not need it! Quite amazing how much warmer and different the temperature was. Our tour guide took us through the castle and showed us the prison where Lord Byron was inspired to write his famous poem & we saw where he carved his name in the stone pillar in the dungeon. He carved his name as B.yron (as in Be Iron). The tour guide was very good especially with our big group.

My favorite parts of the castle were the windows that looked out onto the beautiful lake. I would try to get close to these in each room I could and look out at the amazing views. The guide provided us with a lot of good information and we enjoyed the tour. I obviously did not take good notes and haven't looked at my pictures in a few days, but I would recommend this tour to others. I have info in our guidebook info I can refer to but just do it if you have the chance :)

We ended the tour in a stone courtyard area with a fountain and I asked the tour guide if it was drinkable spring water, and it was, so we refilled our water bottles and enjoyed some crystal clear mountain spring water. Can't do that in Kansas!

We had the option to ride the bus into Montreaux for shopping or sightseeing, or walking along the lake to Montreaux. We decided to walk and are glad that we did. It was such a beautiful day and a nice paved path that took us to the city. Lots of picture opps on the walk including dozens of various flowers; beautiful estates that were right on the shore of the lake; swans in the lake; dive boats in the lake; etc. I believe it was a 2 mile walk and we took our time, admired the views, took a lot of pictures, removed layers because it was so warm, and enjoyed the people watching of the other folks out enjoying the beautiful day.

I stopped at a tree to look more closely because it looked like a Magnolia tree. It was! I was amazed at all the variety of trees and flowers and how clean it was. We also saw palm trees! Switzerland was like a fairy tale land. And healthy active people out and waking. Families with kids on scooters; adults walking with hiking sticks; bicyclists; people out walking their dogs. It was a busy path.

We passed several gelato stops and saw many from our group getting snacks so you can make the walk and not worry about lack of food or drink options.

Our meeting place was at the bronze statue of Freddy Mercury (lead singer of Queen) and it was in a busy square right on the water. No worries about missing it. There were shopping areas and food options but we just looked around and took more pictures. We found our kids and our daughter was so excited to show us the bright yellow leather purse she had bought - for 260 Swiss Francs ;). Ooh la la!! Shopping was a favorite activity for most of the kids and she was loving that day. My poor husband. We kept the cost on the down low from him so he wouldn't get cranky. She had her own money to spend and that was her favorite purchase. She's carrying it every day now that we are home and I think of our great trip whenever I see it.

When we rounded everyone up and it was time to go, we headed back to Crans-Montana, ate a delicious dinner at our hotel and then spent a few hours listening to the kids perform for a nice big crowd of locals and visitors. Perfect ending for a perfect day! I have many of the Switzerland performances on YouTube. If you have a chance, hop over and listen. They are very good! :)

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Jacque, I just discovered this thread after our return from France and Switzerland, and I'm really enjoying your posts! I traveled to Italy with our high school orchestra (and my daughter!) a few years back, so I am also enjoying hearing your perspective on traveling with such a big group of talented musicians. What fun!

Thank you for sharing your trip memories. It's a real treat to armchair travel with you.

Laurie

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Before I get too far ahead in my review (it seems like it's taking me forever!) here is a link to our long travel day as we woke early, headed out of France and made our way into lovely Switzerland. It's a long video clip - but it was a long travel day ;)

This shows the French countryside, crossing the French-Swiss border, the stop at the fancy Swiss AutoGrill, our views from that rest stop, moving on and into the Alps, spotting Lake Geneva, rows of vineyards on the mountains, our hotel & welcome to Crans-Montana, some shots of our room, the view, the performance tent, and then our evening stroll around the sleepy town.

https://youtu.be/zL6wQL6qhjc

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This slideshow catches me up on my review - exactly one month ago today we had our fabulous day in Switzerland that included the morning ride up a mountain, a tour of the Castle of Chillon & our walk along Lake Geneva to our meeting place in Montreaux! One month & about a 50 degree difference in temps ;). I miss the beautiful weather we had on our getaway!!

https://youtu.be/J5gd-NOg_D8

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*Continuing from my last update from about 32 days ago; after my last post my dad was rushed to the E.R. & just got moved to skilled nursing yesterday... It has been a scary month.

The Mighty Matterhorn!
Our group made the magnificent journey from French Crans-Montana to the German area of Zermatt on June 21st, 2015. Father's Day.

It was a beautiful journey through amazing Swiss towns, spotting countless waterfalls, the now-normal beautifully decorated round-abouts, and glacial rivers.

This day seemed to be a very exciting day for all in our group. We had definitely fallen in love with Switzerland! We loved hearing our bus leader talk about the Swiss military prowess and how this tranquil looking country was ready to defend itself from any potential enemies. All my previous notions of Switzerland was that it was a 'neutral' country & that rich people hid their money there to escape U.S. taxes :) That is probably not my ONLY knowledge, but a simple example because I never imagined I'd be visiting this beautiful country.

Our trip to view the Matterhorn continued to follow the theme of our fabulous weather on our musical adventure through Europe. Blue skies, white fluffy clouds & and amazing scenery all throughout the day.

We traveled on our bus to the train station that would take us to Zermatt (so much has happened since we've returned I can't recall the town's name at the moment). From the station, we boarded a train to ride up the mountain to Zermatt, the beautiful town (resort/tourist town) nearest the famous peak.

When we arrived in Zermatt, the town was still pretty quiet. Not many people out and about. In fact, I believe church services were going on and we were asked not to walk into the church near the Climbers Cemetery because services were being conducted.

To get us even closer to the Matterhorn, we had tickets to ride the gondola/rack type cars UP & UP to the Sunnega Summit. We had group pictures taken when we arrived and thanks to Photoshop, each group picture has a pristine and clear view of the Mighty M in the background - just in case the weather was off.

While our actual views of the M.M. were not crystal clear, it was still absolutely breathtaking (maybe the altitude, grin); the sun was shining and Life & Father's Day was GOOD!

My husband and I enjoyed the outdoor patio at the Sunnega Bar & Grill and took many pictures of the magnificent mountain/glacier we were so lucky to see. Our kids, being young & energetic, decided to hike down from the Sunnega to Zermatt, and they all said it was the best experience EVER!! :)

When we finally made the decision to head back down to Zermatt (boo), we found a great food bargain at an outdoor brat grill and enjoyed some wonderful grilled brats on delicious bread. I do believe I ate more brats in Europe than I have in my whole U.S. life. They were very good!!

As we assembled to end a fabulous Father's Day in a fairy town land, the choir performed one of their more interesting songs. It wasn't one of my favorites, but performed outside, surrounded by beautiful mountains, clear skies full of hang gliders, and Swiss chalet hotels filled with balcony flower boxes full of vibrant flowers - the performance had an undeniable Wow factor! I recorded it and it's on my YouTube channel; if you've seen my links, you may have already seen it; if not take a few minutes and check it out if you are interested.

As our wonderful day ended, we headed back to Crans and a town fondue & Polka party given in our honor! Oh how I miss all that wonderful Swiss cheese!! This day brought our fabulous time in Switzerland to an end and after the party we had to pack our bags to be ready for our next day's journey to Austria via Litchenstein. Hard to complain, but we were sad to say goodbye to this beautiful country. Many fond memories we still remember clearly today. We can't wait to go back! Talk about the Travel Bug! Yes, we have it! :)

More to come... :)

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On to the Tirol region of Austria via Litchenstein. Moving day from Switzerland was a bit sad for all of us. On Monday, June 22nd, we were up early for a full day of travel. We had our last breakfast at our lovely Swiss hotel and loaded up the buses. There were many sleepyheads as we traveled out of quaint Crans-Montana and made our way across Switzerland to our next destination of Seefeld, Austria.

We drove back into the German area of Switzerland and we stopped at a rest stop after a few hours that was near Bern. The move to German-language counties was fascinating to me. German is a language that I just do not have an 'eye' for, much less an 'ear'. French and Italian, I can look at and somewhat figure out. German, not so much. So some of the fun for me was to look at and take pictures of all the German signs along our drive.

Our drive out of Switzerland included a lunch stop in the tiny country of Litchenstien. It was an interesting stop in an interesting little country. I believe we had seen a RS episode that included info about the little 'micro-country' of Litchenstein. So we knew to look for the Royal castle sitting high atop a hill watching over the country. And sure enough, it was there.

Our stop was in the heart of the tourist area with the castle always in view. The town square had several restaurants and little shops & statues to check out. Toilets were free here but they made me appreciate the 'pay' potties. Yikes.

We had a very mediocre lunch in the main square and then decided to walk around & found a "coop" grocery store, where we bought some much better food to snack on for the rest of the drive. We also bought some Pinot Noir wine that was from the Prince's Vineyard. It was good wine that we later enjoyed in Seefeld.

We arrived in Seefeld at approx 5pm, checked into our various hotels and then met for dinner and orientation at 6pm-ish. As we moved out of the big cities to the smaller towns I believe I've mentioned how different each hotel was. At this stop, my husband and I were assigned to a HUGE condo. It had a master bedroom, full living room, dining room table, bathroom (WC) and separate shower room. Also an entry way and foyer and a patio with chairs, table and a real glass ashtray! It's been quite a while since I'd seen one of those :). Our condo had to be at least 1,000 sq. ft. & there was a second bedroom and kitchen but those rooms were locked and we did not have access to them. So it was probably 1500 sq ft with those included. But it also looked like it was straight out of a 1970's Brady Bunch episode as far as decorations and decor go. Very retro and we LOVED it!

Seefeld was another easy-to-walk town and as I relaxed with a glass of the Prince's Pinot Noir after our first Austrian dinner, which was delicious, my husband went out to explore. I would have gone with him but our amazing weather luck had hit a bump and it was a bit drizzly and damp, so I decided to enjoy our little condo and I watched an episode of Big Bang Theory in German ;)

The next day, we would travel to Innsbruck for a day of sightseeing and then return to Seefeld for concerts performed at the Olympic Medal stage in the town square. We would also be getting our original bus and driver, Tomas "the Legend", back. The kids were thrilled! ;) I can't remember if I mentioned that the kids had developed many "legends" of how cool Tomas was. After he turned a 70-passenger bus in a U-turn in Paris traffic without missing a beat, he was their idol. He also had long, flowing hair and the 'legend' goes that when he was born, he was born with that hair. My best comparison is Fabio hair. My daughter's comparison is Orlando Bloom. Pick your generation. Whichever one, it was great hair ;).

My husband didn't walk for too long. Seefeld was another sleepy town and all the stores were closed. But he located the Olympic stage area and enjoyed the beautiful mountain views that surrounded the town. It was a beautiful area.

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Time for the next installment! Hopefully I still have some folks hanging in to read these but if not, it's a great journal for me of a fabulous trip :). We woke up to beautiful weather for a busy day in Seefeld & Innsbruck. Bright and early, and after a nice breakfast of meats, cheeses, breads, jams & yogurt, we headed out to explore Innsbruck, Austria. My husband and I loved this day. Our first stop on the way was to the fabulous Wilten Basilica. WOW doesn't even begin to describe this beautiful Rococo style church. The choir performed four songs while we were there and it was incredible. They sounded beautiful and the surroundings were breath-taking.

After the basilica, we went to the Olympic Ski Park from the 1964 & 76 Winter Olympics. We got to go inside the park and see the steep ski jump area up close and personal. It was very cool. We took lots of pictures and enjoyed the views.

Our next stop was into the touristy part of Innsbruck to see the famed Golden Roof. That would be our meeting point after a few free hours of wandering the town. A majority of our group went to the Swarovski Crystal store to ooh, aah, and SHOP!

After what seemed like forever in the crystal shop, at least to my husband, we got out of there with some very pretty items I bought for family back home. On the way out, my husband asked one of the workers where the best bar was nearby. We were told the Stiftskeller Bar and were given directions. It was easy to find and was old and full of character. It was also pretty quiet in there since it was early, maybe noon (5 o'clock somewhere). We enjoyed some very good Austrian beer and some very potent schnapps while we were there and chatted a bit with the bar staff. After our drinks we needed to keep moving so we verified our directions back towards the Golden Roof. Along the way we spotted others from our group so felt we were doing good on time and directions.

We stopped in some souvenir shops and we picked out an Innsbruck ball cap for my husband, his big buy of the trip :). He had brought along a Cabela's (free) ball cap and wore it every day while out in the sun. We started getting comments on FB from folks asking if he worked for Cabela's or was getting commission, so we decided a new hat was in order. We had fun seeing if the FB followers would spot the change. They did. We got some good laughs over that.

Our trip back up the mountains to Seefeld was beautiful, watching the mountains and trees go by as we headed back to our home base. Once we got back, we had a few hours before the evening concerts began so we took the opportunity to check out the town. We walked, shopped some more, visited the grocery store for more supplies (wine, snacks, schnapps, you know, the basics). We found a late lunch spot and had some authentic Austrian dishes and some more Austrian beer. Very glad we were not chaperones on the trip and could enjoy ourselves while we wandered the town. The kids were all out doing their own things and we'd spot some of the group here and there. We hung out until it was time for the concerts and enjoyed a beautiful afternoon. We peeked into the casino but didn't go in.

The concerts at the Olympic Medal Park were wonderful and made even more magical by the surrounding scenery. We were surrounded by mountains and flowers, hotels, a small pond and green space. Just beautiful. After the band performed we all headed back to our hotels for dinner and then the choir performed at a church near the band shell. We opted to hang out in our huge apartment and relax. Tomorrow would be our super-duper early day trip to Venice. We enjoyed the last of our wine from the Prince's Vineyards (Litchenstein) and turned in early ready for another day of adventure and amazing sights.

I'm working on my YouTube picture slide show from Austria. Will post link when they are done. We are really missing travel and we are checking out some of the RS tours for next year, maybe in May or June.

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Am enjoying your trip report immensely! (I can't even begin to imagine the logistics of planning something on that scale for such a large group!!) I'll bet you're glad you could just "go along for the ride". :)

Posted by
193 posts

Thank you, Hille! Yes, I was so happy we could just show up and enjoy what was planned for us! It was an action packed tour but I believe we saw much more than we ever could have on our own. After today's report I am down to Venice & Germany to report on! And each day we spent in those locations were just as enjoyable as the ones before. Hopefully I can wrap those up before the end of the year :).

We do get to do a little state-side traveling in November. We will go to Baltimore for a few days for a work conference and then go see some friends in Philadelphia afterwards. We've not been to Philly before, so a new place to visit.

And while we are there, we will probably ask our friends if they are ready for a Europe trip ;)