Click to read about all ten rail trails just in case you're in need of some fall adventure.
It was a blast…and pretty cold up there!
Fodor's Travel has recently published their list of "Ten Best Train Trips to take this Fall." Over the years we've been on four of these on MTA trips. Just this past summer we enjoyed a ride up to the top of Mt. Washington via the Mt. Washington Cog Railway in New Hampshire. Several years ago we enjoyed a ride on the Durango & Silverton Railway in Colorado. Just a few years ago we were on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad in Alaska, and we're been on our own nearby Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in North Carolina. In fact, we'll be on that trip this coming summer. (Also this summer we'll be traveling across Europe by train.)
Click to read about all ten rail trails just in case you're in need of some fall adventure.
Our New England group this past summer on top of Mt. Washington after our ride up on "The Cog."
It was a blast…and pretty cold up there!
2014 trips are full, though there's still lots to be done to get everything ready. But why wait until those trips are back to hear about the next set of trips? We're excited to announce our programs for NEXT summer and already boys are signing up.
Our BIG trip in 2015 will be an 18-Day adventure in Europe traveling by train. This will be our fifth trip to Europe and next year's program will be the best ever - and for several reasons. We'll be going in June which should cut down on a lot of the other travelers we usually encounter and we'll be following a planned itinerary that's sure to offer great kids activities along with some must-see attractions. Travel between cities and countries is by first-class train using Eurail passes.
Boys will be able to offer itinerary suggestions but so far our itinerary offers a great variety of world-class cities and sites.
We'll fly into Brussels, Belgium and some of the cities we'll be visiting include Bruges, Belgium; Strasbourg, France; Bern, Switzerland; Venice, Italy; Vienna, Salzburg, and Innsbruck, Austria; and Munich, Germany.
We'll most likely travel with 14-16 boys. At the moment 13 are already on the roster!
Click to read about the 2015 Europe trip.
Click to check out the Europe itinerary.
Our domestic trip next summer will be a week in the North Carolina mountains basing out of Cherokee and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
This great week offers seven days of outdoor (and indoor) activities that boys will love. Hiking, rafting, geocaching, swimming, horseback riding, train riding, exploring, and more. We'll see the outdoor drama, Unto These Hills, that has entertained millions of visitors over the years.
The North Carolina Mountains trip will take place in July 2015.
Click to read about the North Carolina Mountains trip.
I hope you'll be interested in joining us for one of our trips in 2015. Get in touch if you have any questions.
We've been back just a day shy of a week and this time last week we would have been exploring Munich, Germany and deciding where we would have dinner. Food was important on this trip.
Assuming you've read the daily blogs (or read some of them), there's not much more I need to add to the trip notes. I will say that the trip was fun, was indeed an adventure, and the boys were absolutely great. And that last statement is especially gratifying to say with such an "old" group of teenagers. They were respectful, kind, and behaved. Many of them have been with me three, four, five, or even six summers and I will miss them all.
So instead of reflecting on the trip, I will close with some truisms I/we discovered on this, my fourth trip, to Europe:
Things we’ve discovered:
Heading home tomorrow. In spite of our early challenges, we've survived another great European adventure.
Today we started with a visit to the Deutsches Museum, an incredible science and technology museum. Followed this with a tasty lunch at a neighborhood Italian restaurant. Our afternoon hours were spent at the BMW World exhibition hall and museum. Kids loved that too.
Our final trip dinner was held at a local biergarten and we all enjoyed some great German food to end this trip.
Fun times, but we're ready to get home. See everyone tomorrow. Thanks for making this happen.
See photos from the Europe trip.
We didn’t meet the boys until ten this morning for our day in Munich. They say they’re tired, but I suspect it’s more from staying up late rather than being super scheduled. We’ve kept our activities leisurely paced while still managing to get in our site-seeing.
This morning we took a local train about fifteen minutes (more like a light rail train) to the town of Dachau for a walk through a concentration camp memorial. For most boys (and just about all visitors) it was a sobering experience. We passed through the iron gates with the inscription, “Arbeit Macht Frei” (work will set you free), which was the first message prisoners saw as they passed through the gate into this concentration camp. Over 206,000 “undesirables” were interned here between 1933-1945. I asked some boys to relate one thing they learned after their walk through. Some remembered lots, some very little, but I think it at least had some kind of learning impact on all. One of our kids did say he read that all the citizens of Dachau were made to walk through the camp after it was liberated by the United States Army in 1945 so they too would know what the world would soon know.
We needed something more lighthearted after that experience so we took the train back into Munich and got off at Marienplatz, a large pedestrian plaza with tons of shops, restaurants, churches, etc. We let the boys go off to lunch in small groups and gave them time to do a little shopping afterwards. We did get caught in a small rain shower, the first rain we’ve had the whole trip that actually fell on us. It did bring a bit of relief from the heat.
By then it was nearing 5 o’clock so we returned to our hotel for some rest time before going out to dinner at the Haufbrau Haus, a cavernous centuries old beer hall which dishes out hearty German fare. I will say, and most boys will agree, we’ve eaten well on this trip.
Tomorrow is our last touring day on this trip. No guarantee there will be a blog or photos from tomorrow until we return, but there will certainly be a wrap-up post within a couple of days.
Crowded train to Innsbruck.
The beauty of our Eurail passes is the ability to “supposedly” hop on an inner-city train without reservations and travel to any nearby (two hours or so) destination. And we were told today that we wouldn’t need a reservation to get to our day destination of Innsbruck, Austria. You can guess the rest. We hopped on the train with hundreds of other people and the train was packed. We managed to find some places to sit varying from a few seats in a “ladies’ only car,” a few pull-down seats along the aisle, and some had to stand for part of the approximately 1 hour 45 minute trip through some incredibly gorgeous scenery. There’s one photo in today’s set that might give you an idea of what this looked like. It reminded me of one of those movies where people in these developing countries are sitting on top of the train, hanging off the train, bringing their goats on board. I’m sure you can picture this.
Members of the band.
We did arrive in Innsbruck in time for lunch and the first thing we did was make seat reservations for the trip back. The Eurail passes covers passage but not reservations, but it’s money well spent and we’ve made reservations for just about all other travel we’ve done. So we were excited to get to the Innsbruck station after a dinner in town and a trip up into the Alps knowing we would have seats. And of course, this train heading back was only partially full. We could have easily hopped on without a reservation and found a seat. Oh well. Peace of mind is getting more and more important.
Our main activity in Innsbruck today (other than just absorbing the scenery) was taking a series of trams and gondolas (I think that’s the term) to get the guys up to the top of the mountain. It was a great ride with even better views the higher up we got. Some boys hiked a round a bit just to say they hiked in the Alps.
After we descended the boys split into groups and chose where they wanted to eat in the old City Centre section of Innsbruck. And after dinner they walked around a bit to check things out. We actually saw and heard a group of singers and as we were heading back to the station we saw the muster of a town band with musicians dressed in traditional costumes including lederhosen. I think all the boys thought Innsbruck to be one of their favorite cities on this trip and I would agree.
Check out photos from our Europe 2013 trip.
Side Notes: It seems we’ve come just in time for the anniversary of several things in Europe. The set of trams and gondolas up the mountain in Innsbruck was celebrating their 85th anniversary this year. And just this past Sunday we were in Paris at the conclusion (we didn’t see it) of the 100th Tour de France, and earlier in Paris we had walked into the Notre Dame Cathedral which is celebrating its 850th anniversary. That’s an impressive run.
A few seconds of music from a group we heard in Innsbruck.
After vagabonding across Europe for the past 15 days or so, we’re ending with a four-night stay in Munich, Germany. We left Paris today on a couple of high-speed trains (we know one reached a speed of 199 mph) bound for Munich and arrived around 6:30 P.M. Found our three-star hotel (less than three minutes from the train station) and after settling in headed for dinner.
We found the place we wanted to go to, but it was packed and no room for us. So after walking around for another 30 minutes we found a place where we had eaten four years ago. We ate outdoors under the stars in a biergarten kind of place. There were four Europeans sitting on the same table as us and we enjoyed joining in conversation with them. It was a fun evening.
A really fun event we witnessed this evening was a parade of over 1,000 people on rollerblades zipping through a few closed blocks. It was getting near dusk so many were lit up with glow sticks and headlamps. We found out this is an every Monday event from May through September in this one section of Munich. You would have to have seen it to appreciate it, but it was definitely good for a few laughs.
Check out some photos.
It was another beautiful day in Paris, but in fact all of our days have been picture-perfect weather. The only rain we had was a big thunderstorm in the wee hours of the morning during our Barcelona stay a few days ago. It has been a little warmer than we'd like, but based on the Asheville-area rain...we're not complaining.
Today we gave the boys a choice of activities. A small group went with leader Chuck to the Louvre and got a glimpse of the Mona Lisa and hundreds of other famous works of art on the way to find this particular painting. The larger group with Ray & Mark to the French Military Museum which is housed in a huge set of buildings first built by Napoleon to house and take care of wounded soldiers. It now houses a priceless collection of military weapons, uniforms, photos, etc. dating back hundreds of years.
Also on this same property is Napoleon's Tomb housed beneath an amazing rotunda.
We also came closer to mastering the metro system. I was personally amazed that the metro was absolutely packed on a Sunday. Some of that could be because the Tour de France ended in Paris this evening. We didn't attempt to find it, but were caught up in the spirit of the event.
Click to check out some photos from our trip.
We had one of the busiest days of the trip today starting with our 9:30 A.M. trip to the metro and ending after midnight with most after seeing the Eiffel Tower lit at night. The boys and leaders were tired after miles of walking.Chuck & Ray studying the map at the start of our day.
Amazingly we ended up in Paris on the exact day the Tour de France ends in the city. This has definitely created a carnival atmosphere everywhere we go.
Here's what we did today:
Took several metro rides
Visited the Eiffel Tower
Visited the Arc de Triomphe
Walked and shopped on the Champs Elysees
Visited Notre Dame
Listened to music at a street festival
Most returned to the Eiffel Tower to see it lit up at night
Those were our highlights and it took up an entire day. We'll have more tomorrow.
Click to see photos from the trip.
A short entry to let you know that we've arrived in Paris and plan to be here for three nights.
It's a surprise because we were told by train reservation agents that it would be impossible to get a group onto a train to Paris in the summer if we hadn't held reservations for months.
And so we left Barcelona heading to Valence, France...which was as far as the agent could book us. We were told it was a nice place and lots of people went there. We figured we would make that a stopping point and then find local trains to get us somewhere else on the students' lists of choices. We arrived in Valence and could see that it wasn't the kind of town you could just walk out of the station and enjoy. In fact, we didn't even see a town...just tour buses. There was one hotel in sight but we weren't sure how you could get to it. It was early and we decided just to check to see if we could go anywhere else in the afternoon. After nearly an hour with this agent we had reserved first class seats seats to Paris and a couple of hours later on a TGV (very fast train) we arrived at the Lyon station in the City of Lights.
Or course now we're travelers without beds. This hasn't happened as often as we thought it would because with the help of Internet connections we've been able to book rooms in a new place as soon as we had the train reservations. But arriving in Paris at the start of a weekend was going to be a challenge.
Ray & I left Chuck and the boys at the train station while we scouted out some place to sleep. We had no luck so found an Internet connection and went online and found a place we knew of near the Nord (north) station and we booked it.
It's probably the least fanciest of our digs so far on this trip, but comfortable enough. It's called Hotel Richmond and they do have air conditioning. We got spoiled by the appearance of luxury at our Barcelona hotel so the boys were a tad bit apprehensive about staying in a two-star property. But they had beds and it will be home. Plus, we truly only sleep here. We'll be out all day Saturday and Sunday enjoying the sites.
The boys did have dinner tonight in a typical Paris cafe and apparently the waiter spoke no English, or at least he didn't speak any to the group. But we managed to eat some pretty tasty food. Some boys even ordered snails!
I don't have any photos to post from today but will have a bunch over the next couple of days. We do have wi-fi at the hotel, but it might be too slow for posting photos. I'll do my best.
I never imagined that when I started taking kids on travel trips in 1978 that I would still be taking trips today! It has been a great ride and I'm looking forward to more.