December 8, 2021 – my daily 3 things

I am grateful for honesty above all else; I am grateful for all that I am learning about myself and the world through this journey of healing; I am grateful that I will be traveling abroad again this summer with students- WWII AND THE WESTERN FRONT. #gratitude #3things #choosejoy

getting ready; another smash book

As I prepare for for my trip this summer with students I am continuing my tradition of keeping a smash book throughout the journey.  I can’t wait to fill it!!

We are traveling with Education First Tours (EF Tours) and will be visiting Germany, France, Spain, and Portugal on a 16 day trip.  I have the largest group yet, at 27 travelers.  I encourage them to write about their experiences while we are traveling and I model this with my smash book.  Writing down the little jokes and other things that make you laugh; exploring your feelings as you are far from home in a new culture, recording your memories for years to come…these are the things I tell my students when they ask “what should I write about?”

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My Smash Books

Thanks for reading my post!  Read more at Fields of Poppies.  The original SMaSH Book post is here.

Yanks out for a run in Killarney, Ireland

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Me and my travel buddy, Kelly

I love to grab my phone and go out for an early morning run while on tour with my students.  Unfortunately, exhaustion tends to take over and the rest becomes more important as we move through our 14 hour days of walking and sight-seeing while traveling abroad.

 

Still, when I am able to do this I am able to see a few things that I would have otherwise missed.  Plus, running through town can really give you a sense of what it is like.  I mean, you are on foot and don’t have the protection of a vehicle or a large group.   You smell smells and hear sounds that you would otherwise miss – things that really add to the ambiance of a town.   If it feels unsafe – you usually know it right away.  Still, I would never run where I thought I might be unsafe.  We always discuss the area with our tour consultant and folks at the hotel to ensure our safety – and I would never run alone.

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Our Hotel in Killarney

While in Killarney, our first stop on the Britannia with EF Tours, my travel buddy and I went out for a short run – about 2 miles.  We went away from town in the opposite direction from which we arrived.  It did not disappoint.  Our first lesson was to run on the correct side of the path.  We were running on the right and the running path/bike path follows the rules of the road.  We ran into only one person before we realized our error and began keeping to the left.

First, we saw a flock of sheep in a field with a lovely backdrop.  OUR FIRST FLOCK!!!2015-06-18 17.19.53

We ran to a bridge as saw this lovely view.2015-06-18 17.18.00

We went out a mile and then backtracked.  There was a lovely gentleman selling strawberries near this bridge and he gave us a taste.  They were fresh and yummy.

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Our tour bus never did make it this way.  I feel like I won a special prize when I get to experience these places with a short run.  Stinky clothes remain the problem.  I can put them in ziplock baggies with dryer sheets, but they really need a washing machine!

 

 

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Read about more group travel trip here.

Read about my first marathon here.

 

 

 

Arms waving, feet flying – This is my life!!

Rome, Italy: Picture this  – a 10 year old American boy running full speed down the cobblestone street – arms spread out and waving in the air – excitedly and repeatedly screaming at the top of his lungs “This is my liiiifffffe!”,   “This is my liiiifffffe!”

I wish I would have snapped a photo of this little boy. Happiness consumed him until he actually burst and could no longer contain himself.  Pure joy.  And pure energy. After we witnessed this, my travel buddy and I decided to strike this pose whenever we were feeling overcome with that joy of realizing how amazing it is that we can visit and experience such beautiful places.

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This is our life – in Florence, Italy

Travel with us through this blog!  So far, you can climb to the top of Mt. Vesuvuius, visit the ruins of Pompeii, or spend a day in England visiting Stonehenge, Abbey Road and the home of Sherlock Holmes.  I lead student tours through Europe – follow me to see where we go next!

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Pompeii, Italy

DSC_0759Italy remains one of my favorite destinations.  After our journey to the top of Mt. Vesuvius, we took an expertly guided tour of the ruins of Pompeii.  Mt. Vesuvius destroyed this ancient Roman town in 79 AD, but the ash, evidently, preserved quite a bit of it.  There are lots of photos and I only saw, probably, a quarter of the town.  All of my information comes from our tour guide.  So, if there are any historians out there that think I have it wrong, please let me know. I am a tourist, not a historian.  Please enjoy my photos and the mini amateur tour through the ruins.

 

 

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Before we entered the walls of the city, we viewed the mass graves in what would have been right outside the city walls.  DSC_0762DSC_0763

We first entered the Gladiator training grounds – a big courtyard, basically.  The trees are magnificent.DSC_0773

Then we made our way to the amphitheater.  You can see the courtyard we just left in the background – and look at those mountains – wow!DSC_0790

So, then we started walking through the ancient streets.  We were told that the giant stones in the middle of the road were for pedestrians to be able to cross without stepping into the sewage that flowed in the street.  Each of those gates represent a different shop.  This was the market street, evidently.DSC_0793

This is a wood burning pizza oven – ha!  Seriously, it was said to be a bakery.  They thought this because the fireplace was so much larger than that in the home areas.DSC_0791

Random street of Pompeii.DSC_0827

Me and my best travel buddy, Kelly.  We make a great team. She makes laugh and laugh – we have so much fun together.  We are standing outside the infamous Pompeii brothel.  The middle school group that walked through with us could not quite handle the artwork on the walls.DSC_0826

So, this is the brothel.  Do you see the upside down cross?DSC_0841

As we made our way from the brothel to the city square the tour guide pointed out the map on the ground carved into the stone.  It points to the brothel so that those visiting the city for the first time know where to go.  The brothel does, in fact, have artwork that survived on its walls, as well.  Images of people, men and women, in various sexual positions cover the walls of the brothel.  Our guide explained that a customer would simply point to the desired position.  Bed pictured below.DSC_0830

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Another random street.  We are on our way to the city square.  We just left the brothel.DSC_0797

You can’t really make out the walls, exactly, but this street was “apartments”.DSC_0800

An example of the residential fireplace.  DSC_0802

The courtyard of the gladiator school.  This area was one of the best preserved.  The photo below was the ornate, arched ceiling.  The photo does not do it justice.  The colors and the artistry took my breath away.DSC_0808

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This was displayed within the walls of the gladiator school.  I am not sure why he was separated from the rest of the artifacts that I posted below.  This was just mesmerizing.  The thought of all of those people being buried so quickly in the ash that they were frozen and then preserved.  Amazing.DSC_0821

So, a regular ally leading to a beautiful courtyard.  These small private courtyards were blocked off and we could not see them up close.  They were off of private residences.DSC_0863

The next several photos are of the many artifacts recovered from the ash.DSC_0865DSC_0867DSC_0866

Lots of vases and urns.  The plastic crates in the background unfortunately detract from the collection.  Did you see the dog in the glass box?  I think that was a dog…I never did get a definitive answer.DSC_0847

If you saw my Mt. Vesuvius post, then this photo may look familiar.  That’s it in the background – the devastating volcano that covered this city in ash.DSC_0870

More images of the city square.DSC_0871DSC_0872DSC_0877DSC_0881DSC_0883DSC_0887

DSC_0889Some of those last pictures really show the beauty of the area.  So that’s it.  My trip through the ruins of Pompeii.  A very hot day that ended with overpriced frozen lemonade and a stroll through the vendors outside the gates.  Oh – and we saw a demonstration of cameos being made from shells – then we went for the lemonade.  They were beautiful, but not for me.

If you have not seen my Mt. Vesuvius post you can find it in this link to the top of the volcano.

Thanks for reading my post and traveling with me! Be sure to follow me on fields of poppies to see where we go next!!

To the top of Mt. Vesuvius, Gulf of Naples, Italy

Mt. Vesuvius is the one of the most dangerous and most closely monitored active volcanoes in the world – according to our awesomely amazing guide – ANNA.  It stands 1293 meters and was last active in 1944 during WWII – at which point the area was evacuated.  I mention the war, because I remember something about an airbase there at this time losing lots of planes to the heat and the ash.  Again – tour guide, ANNA.

Our group took a special journey to the top of the volcano.  We walked through gravel to the top until we peered over the edge into the crater.  The trail goes around the top of the opening, but did not go the distance due to our schedule.  The stairs in the featured photo led to the other side of the crater.

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As we traveled from Rome to the Naples Region and Mt. Vesuvius we saw the Italian country side from the bus window.

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From the window of the bus on the way to the drop off point.  I love the tree on the right, giving the photo depth.  Anyway – this is the port of Naples.

DSC_0630 (2)DSC_0629 (2)As we drove up part of Mt. Vesuvius, the roads were very winding and narrow.  Sometimes I did not quite know how the bus driver did it.  Pure luck, because the rode was not wide enough for one tour bus, let alone, a second bus coming down the hill.  The photos above, again, were from the bus window. The buildings and life surrounding this potential firestorm are amazing.

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We arrive to the point where we could get out and walk the rest of the way.  Lots of souvenirs made from the lava rocks from the volcano.  The girls above are in their this is my life pose.  And so…the climb begins….

They do offer tour guides at the site.  We were held up a bit, actually, because they would not let o20140622_112656ur tour guide lead the group – we had to hire theirs.  Honestly, we did not even want a guide, but we were required to have one.  She was kind of awful.  So boring. Too quiet, she seemed like maybe she, herself, had looked at this crater one too many times.  Eventually, we trailed off and kind of left her.  I am sure we missed out on history of the hill this way, but I could not help it.  There is nothing worse than a boring tour guide when in the presence of such amazing history and beauty.

And so, we make it to the top.

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Looking to the left….(above)

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And looking to the right….Naples, Italy…then zoomed in.  Literally felt like we were on top of the world.  Breathtaking views, beautiful wind, and the excitement of knowing the thing could erupt at any moment (not really, but I’m just sayin’)

Also at the top of Mt. Vesuvius…

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Remnants of a once functioning cable car ride to the top of the volcano.  The guide did not seem to know anything about the history of that or why they removed it.  I would imagine, perhaps, it is a gruesome, tragic tale better forgotten.  I rode on one of these in Chattanooga, TN once.  ONCE.

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Another little visitor on the top of the volcano…I caught him mid color change.

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Beautiful flowers in the harshest of conditions…in gravel and stone…with such a backdrop!

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DSC_0690DSC_0691Views of the inside of the crater wall.  The steam coming out of the holes in the ground tell us that this is, indeed, an active volcano.

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This is the view from our lunch spot,  half way back down the mountain.  The Island of Capri is in the distance…going there tomorrow.

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After our climb and a little lunch, a guided tour of Pompeii awaits us.  The mountain in the distance is Mt. Vesuvius.  If only all of those pesky people were not in the photo!

Both locations – worth every penny.  If you are in the area and have the strength, I totally recommend the climb to the top.  I will always remember that view with the wind in my hair and the sun in my face.  Also in fields of poppies – check out the post about Pompeii.

Thanks for reading my post and traveling with me! Be sure to follow me on fields of poppies to see where we go next!!

Stonehenge and Day 13, 2015

20160215_154016.jpgDay 13 of a 14 day trip – one of the best and the busiest. I visited this site in June of 2015 with a student tour from EF Tours (Education First) .  I love using this touring company to lead student tours.  Anyway – this stop, one of the last on the tour, far surpassed expectations.  A bucket list item for years and years, Stonehenge and the surrounding area truly boggles the mind.    As you can see from my SMASH BOOK page we did quite a lot on this last day on tour.  In fact, because we had ditched the middle school group that had been traveling with us – it may have just been the best day on the tour!  I have difficulty in declaring this because I loved every country we visited on this tour (Ireland, Scotland, Whales, England).

 

DSC_0493 (2) I know the photo of Stonehenge does not look any more remarkable than any other photo you may see on the internet, but when I am able to take it myself something amazing happens.  Visualization becomes more reality based.  I firmly believe in putting the camera down and living in the moment.  I encourage travelers to encounter the environment and experience the wonders without looking through the lens (or phone).  Still, as an avid photographer, when I look around DSC_0460 (2)sometimes all I see is “the shot”.  Like this one of the teenager and the horse head at Stonehenge.  Why not?

The slide show contains photos of cathedral and smash book.

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We started our day in Salisbury with the Cathedral and the a viewing of the Magna Carta.   Displays of honor and remembrance of local veterans from WWI and WW II fill the halls and alcoves of the cathedral.  Also, a display on a wall  (in honor of the language of change) amazed us as the illuminated words and letters seemingly moved to avoid our touch – only to form new words.  I profess that words are power daily in my classroom.  So, to see this presentation and read first-hand about the Magna Carta felt somewhat cathartic and validating – just plain cool.  Amazingly, there was no security surrounding this precious document – not like our own Declaration of Independence.  It merely rests under glass in the center of an unguarded room in a small tent protecting it from harsh lighting.  It is all very unassuming.

The day’s journey across the English countryside revealed the fields of poppies to me for the first time.  So beautiful – and again – unassuming.DSC_0489 (3)

 

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We took the Underground to the fictional home of the fictional character and found a real store…221B Baker Street.  The statue of Sherlock stands nearby.

Next – we traveled a bit more to satisfy the dream of one of my travelers…visit Abbey Road.  My son and I – and the rest of the group – did our very best at trying to recreate the famous Beatles cover as we crossed this very busy street.  Our tour director, Steve, told us how annoyed the locals get at the tourists in this spot.  I try 1557269_10152980260361918_2424869840105685698_overy hard to be respectful of these types of things, but the heart wants what the heart wants.  The white building in the background was then and is still now a music studio.  We rode our first double-decker bus back to the hotel for the night.  Quite a full day.

 

If you would like to climb to the top of Mt. Vesuvius in Italy or tour the ruins at Pompeii I would for you to take a look around!

Thanks for reading my post! Be sure to follow me on fields of poppies to see where we go next.

Successfully Setting Expectations for Group Travel

Group travel can be stressful when you are the one in charge of everyone having an enjoyable and positive experience – while staying in the group and remaining safe.  Most unhappiness in our lives comes from unmet expectations.  Sometimes that is because we did not know what to expect and we were left to our own limited experiences to set the level of expectation.  This is disastrous for group travel.  I do my very best to make expectations very clear before students and parents even enroll.  However, they need to hear them again and again – I promise.

I have three departure meetings for every trip.  These meetings serve several purposes.  First, the travelers begin to get comfortable with one another.  After all, it is going to be close quarters for about two weeks.  Second, the parents not traveling can begin to feel a little more comfortable about sending their student abroad – in their eyes alone.  Third, these meetings allow foparents late busr repetitive statements about the rules and consequences.  Fourth, multiple events still need to be decided upon as far as optional excursions, extensions and the like. They need to know they have a voice and are part of the decision making.  Fifth and final, all of the nuances of student group educational travel need to be addressed. (Like, early is on time, and on time is late.)

The two photos used in this post are of students and parents waiting outside of a Paris hotel for a bus that is over an hour late.  Preparing them ahead of time for such a possibility (of things sometimes go wrong) kept their attitudes positive and we all found a way to entertain ourselves while we waited.

The most important discussion I have with them is about the contagious attitudes of the group.  You can either choose to sit and nit pick every little thing, or you can find the beauty of everything around you, embrace the experience, and remain positive so that everyone can enjoy the trip.  Of course – I then point out that this a great way to live life, as well.   We had a choice – stand around and complain to one another about the wait – or make fun, unforgettable memories.

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The Smash Book

Every trip I take abroad with students can be relived while flipping through the smash book I created while on tour.  Just keep things as you go and take notes – when you have a free hour, spend some time writing, pasting, and doodling.  The end product is practically finished when you arrive home.  The practice has grown on my trips and now multiple members of the group work on them as we travel.  As for the others in the group, although they don’t care to complete a book, they do enjoy seeking out items to include in the smash book.

Post cards, maps, brochures.  I am always sure to put several clips and various types of pockets in the book before I leave.  It is also fun to try to fancy a pocket out of a travel trinket of some sort.  This just adds to the unique, one of kind souvenir I take home.  Also, I love to grab every free brochure at the hotels to cut the little picture out of the places that we end up going to.  I also like to use the words and titles in them.

When I do finally make it home and print out all of my pictures from a trip, I will always get extra prints of a few of my favorite shots – usually the ones with the people in them – and put them in the book, too.