17 June 2007

One one-thousandth of a picture: A word about Europe

June 4, 2007
Today I begin a journey that I set in motion one year ago. In high school I had an amazing teacher. Mr. Devon C. Adams was his name and he taught Advanced Placement English Composition 11. I was infatuated with the idea of writing to begin with but after encouragement and guidance from this man I became more enthusiastic and more confident about my ability as a writer. I guess in a way you could say he changed my life because of this passion he ignited in me to write often and well. After I was no longer Mr. Adam's student I kept in close personal contact as if he were a peer - I really considered him more of a friend than a teacher. He offered that we go to the East Coast at the end of my junior year. My best friend (Zach), a fellow student (Jason) and I went and had a marvelous time. My respect and appreciation for Adams would only increase with time. Although a little eccentric at times, he was always entertaining. During my senior year of high school Devon told me that he was interested in taking another trip. Excited I asked him when, where and how much. He asked me to pick a few countries in Europe, but instead I supplied him with a comprehensive list of just about every country in Europe. He asked me about five specific countries: Poland, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany. I said that sounded very interesting. It was something off the beaten path. I have gone off into a tangent which is typical of my writing style; I also tend to be very repetitive. So low and behold I am on the plane to Europe as we speak. Getting to the airport this afternoon was a rush because I knew what was in store. My excitement only continued to mount.

16 June 2007


Please make me CDs of your pictures from the trip. I want to make a movie, and I know I took 1,000 (I am not kidding) pictures, but I want other pictures, too! I know there are shots you got that I didn't and vice versa.

I will give out CDs with my copies @ the picture party.


Guess where I am? My living room!

Ok, ok let me back up. Yesterday was our final day in Vienna, Austria. We went on a tour in the morning to Schonburn Palace (sp?) where a 6 year old Mozart played for Marie Antoinette. It was so hot there, and Donna swears she will never ever live anywhere humid again. After the palace tour, we went on a tour of the city, which was ok, but it was a lot of time on the bus and not walking.

Last night we had a nice final dinner in Austria, and I was pleased with Explorica's menu. I remember the old company use to make us eat chicken and fries all of the time. Ugh. So this was wonderful.

This morning, the Florida group left the hotel really really early, and Alba went to the airport with them. We were catching a bus later to meet her at the airport. We said good bye to Susan & Geo who were doing an extension, and to Trey who was meeting his father this morning to travel to Rome and Paris before flying home in two weeks. Then we went to the airport, we picked our seats on British Airways, and then Alba said Donna was upset.

Donna was flying Delta through Atlanta to Pittsburgh to pick up our daughter before flying to Phoenix in a few days, but here flight to GA was delayed for OVER FIVE HOURS! She was really upset, and she walked us to our security but couldn't go through with us. I kept thinking she had a chance to catch her connection, but she was pessimistic about it. Eventually we took off for Phoenix, and all of our seats were together in the middle of the plane. We watched several movies, read, and slept. Then we landed.

Lacey's bag is still in the UK, unfortunately. They said they'll deliver it to her house sometime soon, and that wasn't fun. Then all the kids go to see their parents and went home, and Matt's parents drove me home. I called Donna's mom from the car and she said that Donna had infact made her flight in GA but only after running through the airport.

To me, it's 5:36AM. Donna just called me to tell me she made her flight and just got off the plane in Pittsburgh to go see Claire at baggage claim, and now I can go to bed.

PLANS: Look for two things in the future: 1.) I will be posting hundreds of pictures to my Flickr account and attach a link here. 2.)All travelers will be invited to MY house within about 2 weeks to share pictures, etc...

13 June 2007

there you go

So there are some pictures. If you do not see your kid in any, that does not mean he or she is not here. I just put a few people pics and place pics. They are from all over, Poland, Budapest (boat pic), Postsdam in Germany, and also Dresden (fountain pic). The pic of the kids by the roses with Tyler in the center is from dinner somewhere.... and the pic on the boat has ALBA in it. She is third from the left next to Bev. She has on a cool black Goonies tee shirt.



Taken today in Vienna (Wein in German)... on the left down this square was the cool bookstores a lot of us nerdy people went to today. I bought a new book since I finished my last one today.

Chain bridge - oldest in Budapest

On our Danube boat cruise in Budapest, Hungary

Krakow - Wawel Hill


Another one

Some pics?


We have safely arrived at our hotel here in Austria. Tonight we are going into town for dinner, and then we have our big tour tomorrow morning, then freetime, and then dinner and our Mozart concert tomorrow night.

Most of us leave early Friday for the airport. Gotta run.

12 June 2007

leaving Budapest in the morning

Ok so here I am again. I guess you think you are pretty special getting posts two nights in a row, now. Anyway, we are in a Youth Hostel about 1000 metres from our hotel and they have free Internet! Woohoo. I am using a unikey board, which has letters I am not familiar with.

Today, we had a 4 hour tour to the Hungarian Parlament, the old castle, and the squares. It is still really hot here. I remember the last trip to the East Coast and I thought that was hot. Ugh. It rained the day we rode the bus in Poland, but not since. We had some free time today and Alynne both got a really bad exchange rate! 150 to 1 was the rate they got but Citibank downtown gave us 192! Ooops. ű

The food here is heaven. Today Devon had Ghoulash, Chicken Paprika with gnocchi, and Crepes. Tomorrow we are off to Vienna, Austria. It is only about 200 miles away.

The Georgia girls leave tomorrow at 330AM, and they flí through Chicago. Glad I am not them. The kids have not been online much but I share the comments with them when I read them. Including Doug's kitty being sad because he's not there.

11 June 2007

Poland rocks

We're back. Typically on every trip there's a city that we like more than any other, and for a lot of us, that is KRAKOWm (Cracovia)! Even though Prague was pretty cool, Krakow was awesome! The shopping was fun and we bought little presents in the market in the center of one of the oldest city squares in Europe. I was pertty excited about taking Donna to Poland, since she's half Polish. And Sami P. is Polish, and was excited to go there, too! So Geo, Susan, Janeen, Bev, and I had an awesome Polish meal for lunch yesterday. We had galumpki, stuffed cabbage, pierogie (Polish ravioli as they call it). We took pictures and called Claire from the square, since we were so excited. This was by far one of the best meals we ever had EVER!

We spent several hours in Krakow yesterday, and some people told Anqi & Stephanie that they could get an awesome brat at some place in the square. They said this guy comes out in a blue van from 10pm-2am to sell the best brat we've ever had, so 8 of us decided to have us an adventure. We took taxis into town from our Holiday Inn Express (yes, a Holiday Inn in Poland AND yes, we are smarter). They dropped us off on a corner, and there was no blue van None. Nada. After trying to talk to some locals, they told us to walk about 300metres and we'd find him. So we took off down the road, and Alba, our tour director, came with us. We eventually found the place where it should've been and it wasn't there. Anqi & Stephanie were very funny and ran around looking for Polish sausage. We discovered that the guy doesn't work Sunday nights! Darn!

We stopped at a local pub, and then caught a taxi back to the hotel. We really liked Poland. Today we drove through Slovakia. Czechslovakia was unified for over 50 years, but they split in 1993. My family is from Czechslovakia, and I was very excited for these countries. Slovakia was kind of cool. Poland was relatively flat, but when we hit Slovakia it was hilly and more scandanavian. Tons of pine trees and mountains. We were in the bus for almost all day, and slept on and off. We had lunch in a small town in Slovakia, and we still really don't know the name of the place. We walked into this small town square in a very non-tourisy town, and we searched for a lunch place. Eventually we found a basement restaurant that was in English and had Euro conversions on the menu. Many from our group also found the same place.

The Slovakia food we ate was mostly fried and really cheap. It was a fried meat product with cheese and some kind of ham. Potatoes, too, And garlic & Camembert cheese soup. Wow, such good food!

So we now sit here on the patio outside our hotel in Budapest, Hungary. It was once two towns, Buda & Pest, then they unified and it's Budapest (pronounced Buddah-Pesht). Tomorrow is a 3 hour bus tour, walking around and shopping, then a Danube River Cruise. After dinner tomorrow, we will take the trolley into the old town and walk along the Danube and look at all the old old buildings to take pictures. Yes, dear readers, Devon alone has taken about 900 pictures (and yes, I will put a ton online afterward.)

Hotels have been pretty nice. No AC in most and it's STICKY! For AZ people, you don't get it. You just don't ... I feel like I take a bath as I walk around all day, and most of us do. The Holiday Inn Express was the only AC hotel. This hotell in Hugary is nice, too. Free wireless, and Geo brought his laptop so here I sit. Geo. Lacey, Tyler, Bev, Donna, Trey, Sami, Ray, Anqi and a friend from Georgia, Brittany (about whom I've already written).

Georgia friends leave after Hungary, and our bus driver lives here so we will have a new one when we leave for Austia on Wednesday. We are there until the end of our trip. I will try to post some pictures here tomorrow on this blog, but please make sure you are checking the Explorica blog since it's updated everyday by Alba, our Spanish tour director, whom we all love a ton.

08 June 2007

Still in Prague

Here we are in Prague still. It's fun, a nice old city. We had a morning tour with a woman who spoke so softly most of us didn't bother with her, albeit we had a nice time. It was a cool tour up to Prague Castle and around the city. Then we were left off in the old city square at the Astronomical Clock, but we didn't know it was there. Donna's table was charged $10 just to have ketchup on the table, and they weren't happy about it! They never even used it.

Then Devon took one group to Franz Kafka's birthplace, which Stephanie, Ray, and Bev loved. I then dragged a group to Charles Bridge, which you've seen in many famous movies. We're going back to the clock, and then on to the Communism Museum before we head back to dinner.

Tomorrow we go to Auschwitz and on to Krakow; this is really exciting for Donna and Sami who are both VERY Polish. They also have some awesome food there, but there's that here too. Devon & Stephanie split Czech Ghoulash (not a soup) and some more Brats before finishing an Apple Strudl for lunch!

Matt is enjoying the Georgia girls, as anticipated. We will post the pic of him and Brittany later.


Tour Diary

Explorica posts a TOUR DIARY. No idea if this link works, but here it is.
Ok Folks, here we are writing from Prague in the Czech Republic. Sorry it took so long, but Berlin was hopping. We had a relatively uneventful albeit long flight in to Tegel Int Airport through Heathrow. At Heathrow the lines were too long to make our connection, so security told us to go through customs and then reenter the secure area, so we officially did go to England on this trip. We got our passport stamped and everything.

We met Conrad in Tegel who then took us on an hour sightseeing tour before we went to our hotel in Berlin and met with our regular tour leader, Alba, the rest of our group, and Trey, Donna, Susan and Geo (who had a nice day walking around Berlin). The following day we spent on a 4 hr bus tour, followed by some walking around. Then lunch and off to Postdam where Churchill met with Stalin & Truman. Frederick the
Great has two palaces there (similar to Versailles) and we spent a nice afternoon out there.

In the evening after dinner a large group of us took the U-bahn to a street known for nightlife. We stayed together and had a nice time for about two hours before returning to our hotel.

This morning we left Germany. We stopped in Dresden along the way, which was bombed in Feb 1945 right before WWII ended. Kurt Vonnegut was a POW in a slaughterhouse beneath the city and escaped to find the city dessimnated. He went on to write Slaughterhouse V and a plethora of other great novels (and died just this year). In Dresden we saw Rafael's Bella Madonna, that includes the two cherubs you've seen on
LOVE stamps. This is the first artist to use the cherubs in the paintings.

We did a brief walking tour, spent time shopping, and then left Germany altogether. We drove over the border into the Czech Republic now, and we're staying outside Prague. Prague is a beeautiful old, cheap city.

We had dinner and then went out to the hotel where we are now. The money is a little odd, since we change currencies so much. For example 1 Euro is about 72 cents, while 1 dollar is about 25 crowns in Czech. It changes two more times then back to Euro.

Alba, are tour director, rocks! The other groups are nice. Only one other group has students (girls) and, of course, Matt likes that! :) We all get along really well on this trip, and even the travelers who didn't know each other before, are already getting along well. We are safe and happy, and everything is well.

I'll try to figure out how to post pics, too.

04 June 2007

T Minus hours and counting

For me personally, I've always had my wife here to think of all the little things around the house that I've forgotten to do. But she's not here. I am feeling ok about being ready to go; the house is locked up and secure, the dog is visiting the pet resort that he likes, and Donna is enroute to JFK. There was a minor glitch with weather on the East Coast (thank God, most of us will miss it), but I have faith in the airlines that everyone will make their connections to Tegel.

Anqi & Stephanie were running around just today looking for converters (yes, today). I finally just drove to AAA myself (the wife wanted me to check out their maps if I had a chance anyway) and called them from there. Converters were way more expensive there than other places, but the deal is, places like Target do not sell the voltage regulators; they only sell the plug converters and it's misleading. Steph told me she needs to be able to use her Curling Iron and Hair Dryer in Europe (huh?! Really, a curling iron? Oh, what it's like to be a girl) and that she would drive to Radio Shack (read: mommy would drive her there) to get one, and thanks anyway. Anqi called me back and said $40 bucks for the converter was fine with her and to buy it!

So here I sit, packed, dressed, almost ready to go (Donna would be running around like a chicken rechecking everything I already rechecked).

Tonight, dear readers, we fly to Heathrow where we meet up with the group from Florida. They are all adults and speak French & Spanish. The tour leader's name is Marie and she's Haitian. We then fly from there to Berlin's Tegel international airport where we arrive June 5th at 6:50PM. We are, I think, 9 hours ahead of Arizona for the trip (That's 6 hours for my East Coast friends). We will meet a tour director, Conrad (from Explorica), at Tegel, and he will get us all hooked up with Alba and the rest of our tour.

The next time you hear from me personally, we will be in Germany (or Poland).

Luggage Was Once Lost

I think it is safe to say I am freaked out that we are leaving in just a few hours, and I feel like I am completely unprepared for this trip.

When I went to France a few years ago, I thought it was a fun trip--but they lost my luggage and I was without clothes for five days.

I learned to rough it. Now, venturing to Europe again, I feel as if having misplaced luggage is only to expected, thus I am making sure I carry a great deal on. Perhaps my carry-on will weigh more than check baggage.

This is going to be an awesome trip with or without luggage!!!

Me + Europe = super excited!!!

One day and counting....

Matt, Ray and Devon doing some last minute cramming for their Europe trip in ~ 24 hours! They watched informative videos about each of the countries on the trip, but by no means does this make us experts and "yes, we will be your personal tour guide for a small fee" ;)

03 June 2007

Test picture

This is just a test picture to see if we can easily put pictures here. This is of Bradenburg Gate in Berlin --- you know, that place where we're going in, oh, about 32 hours. -DCA


Tuesday and Wednesday in Berlin should be in the 70s but rainy. When we hit Poland, it's suppose to be 80s and partly sunny. I found a ton of good deals @ REI this past Friday, and, also, Target, has some great travel sized toiletries. Don't forget you cannot take any liquids over 3oz in size on top of the plane. -Devon Adams

01 June 2007

Stuff to pack

As I go from graduation party to graduation party, I am realizing I teach a bunch of desert rats! Kids who've never lived anywhere else, and don't own raincoats. It rains in Europe. I recommend some sort of raingear. I have a zip up hooded windbreaker that is waterproof. I love it because it rolls down very small but it's also weather proof and warmish. I don't know what Central Europe is like in June, but I bet it's between 50-80 and may rain. One thing I made sure to do was buy waterproof boots when I replaced my old ones this year.

What else should you bring? Passports! Credit cards, Security Pouch! Anqi asked if she should bring any dollars. I said it wouldn't hurt to have a few to change when we hit Europe. It might be nice to get a drink and some food in Heathrow. Remember, NOT all our countries take Euros, so don't just run and get them.

Also, our tour director, ALBA, has contacted me. She seems very with it and preplanning, like Donna does. She said she will meet us the evening we arrive and we'll have some free time the next day as well. She has several things for us to see through Berlin, and I bet day three we head east. *IF* I have time, I will post a day by day here, but we will see.

31 May 2007

So little time...so much to do

If anyone is free Ray Ceo Jr. is looking for some help on what to pack. He asked me on the phone and I laughed and told him "Where should I start?!" But on a serious note - we are leaving for Europe in less than five days, taking us on a journey to see five fascinating countries. Hi-Five anyone?! I think there should be one today because the number 5 is a motif. This very auspicious number and the promising countries ahead of us all relate to the number five. The best part of the trip is that we are 'going where no man has been before' (figuratively speaking). We are taking the road less traveled to an area that until 15 years ago no American could venture. I am excited, especially being one of the first ones to sign up for the trip - I have been ready for this trip about a year ago and my excitement has only grown since. I have never been to Europe before so this will be something new for me. I bid you adu until next time. I look forward to meeting you all.

27 May 2007


We will use this blog to post information about our tour. All travelers on the tour will have voluntary access to post PG rated information here to share with all of our family and friends while on tour. I just ask that you only use first names, and pick a color for your text and stick with it. Also, make sure to identify yourself in the post.

Don't forget to be at the airport @ 4:15pm at British Airways checkin (terminal 4).