RSS

Monthly Archives: April 2017

Vimy 2017 Day 2

Hey, hey kids! Sorry, I had to get a Krusty the Clown reference in there. Anywho, it’s Day 2! Thanks to the miracle of modern air travel and Sir Sandford Fleming all those years ago, it’s the next day. So I’m running on about 4 hours sleep, which means I have no idea how coherent my thoughts are, but whatever. I don’t get paid to write this.

Anyway, it’s 0700 local time, we’re just off the coast of Norway and 1100km from our destination. We certainly took a very adventurous route, not the usual more direct one. Normally we pass below Ireland, but this time our flight plan took us on a big sweeping arc to the north, over Greenland, Iceland and toward Germany from the northwest. I would assume the guys driving er flying the plane know what they are doing. I’m sure it’s not their first rodeo.

Morning over the North Sea, April 2017.

So I’m sitting here half awake waiting for breakfast to arrive. God I’m dying of thirst! I don’t feel too bad, as what little sleep I got wasn’t too horrible. The neck pillow really helped, though the accommodations here in steerage aren’t the greatest. You just can’t seem to get comfortable…my butt is sore! I guess we’ll be on be ground soon enough and I can stretch my legs and my posterior.

The kids are crazy hyper right now, probably since most of them haven’t really slept much. I’m sure they are driving everyone around us nuts with their teenager conversations. Maybe they’ll be happier with some breakfast. Apparently it’s the good ole standby, banana bread. Not that I don’t like banana bread, but it’s not my usual morning meal. Hold on, it’s cinnamon banana bread. Fancy. I guess it doesn’t matter, since I’m not really that hungry but rather thirsty. So I had myself like 6 or 7 Dr. Peppers…wait, wrong movie.

We’re on the ground now in Munich. Gluten tag! It was really nice to get off that airplane after 8 hours…it was getting a little stuffy. It was also nice to stretch my legs and get the blood going. I demolished a whole bottle of water; I guess I was thirsty. Anyway, Munich has a nice airport; very modern. The kids had a chance to get some food, look at the shops and relax.

Unfortunately when we landed we got some bad news. I received a text from the St. Ignatius group and their plane had to turn around 1.5 hours into the flight overseas. They were supposed to go to Frankfurt, and beat us to Amsterdam. Now we’re waiting to hear when they’ll meet up with us. Hopefully it won’t be too long. Our fingers are crossed.

Alright, we’re up in the air and on our way to Amsterdam. I think all of the hyper energy from before is passing into exhaustion. We have been going for more an 24 hours now, many of us with very little sleep. Some of the kids did grab some sleep in the airport, but I’m sure everyone will sleep much better tonight.

A frequent topic of conversation has been our agenda once we land. After retrieving our bags and meeting our Tour Director Jason, we are supposed to proceed to the hotel. Beyond that I had to tell the kids I did not know. Maybe something is happening before, after or in conjunction with dinner, but that’s up to Jason to decide. For myself it will be nice to get out of airports, breathe some fresh air and relax. Not that I will ever relax on this trip, but it makes me feel much better that we are almost at our destination. Well, they are coming with snacks and beverages (except for Zach, who managed to end up in business class and gets meal), so I’m shutting down for now.

Amsterdam airport, April 2017.

Amsterdam airport, April 2017.

Okay, so it’s almost time for bed. The last part of the day was a lot more relaxed and easy. So we’re all checked into the hotel and the kids are getting ready for lights out. Our hotel is literally 5 minutes from the airport, which made things very simple. It took us a bit to get checked in, but we’ve been spending a lot of time waiting the last few days anyway. The hotel is very nice, though the rooms are a bit tight. I know Mr. Marcon and I could use a bit more space in our room.

Amsterdam rooms, April 2017.

We had dinner in the hotel, which was very good. It was buffet style, which let the kids eat their fill. There was all kinds of salad, chicken, roasted potatoes and fish. Quite the spread! Desert was awesome too.

After dinner we had a chance, with our Tour Director Jason, to brief the kids on tomorrow’s agenda. The good news is that St. Ignatius finally made it to Europe, and should be here from Frankfurt very shortly. So we will leave the hotel after breakfast for a guided tour of Amsterdam in the morning. Following lunch, we will have a canal cruise which will take a few hours. Then there will be more walking and time for some shopping. Should be a nice day.

Hotel fountain, April 2017.

Anyway, I better get running. Our hotel has tons of EF travellers in it, so it will be an early morning and a busy breakfast. I’ll be back tomorrow with all the details. Until then…

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 6, 2017 in History, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Vimy 2017 Day 1

So here we are…Day One. Hours from departure. I’m at home getting all the last minute packing done before I head over to the airport.

I am so unbelievably nervous. If you know me, it’s nothing unusual and par for the course. Do you know how many times I have to “go” before a football game? It’s ridiculous! It’s just who I am; I’m a worrier. I was wake this morning just after 4am and could not fall back asleep. I think everything is ready and I’ve done my best to make sure all the “T’s” are crossed and the “I’s” are dotted. I just need to relax. I’ll check back in once we’re on our way to Toronto…maybe I’ll feel better.

Well, we’re sitting here in the secure area of the Thunder Bay airport, patiently waiting for our flight. The kids are just wired, as I’m sure I was way back in 1992 on my school trip to Europe (and Ms. Caza too). I am feeling a little more relaxed, but I’ll breathe a sigh of relief once we are on the flight to Europe. I’m an impatient person (though I’ve gotten better since I became a parent) and this waiting thing kills me.

Our group, April 2017.

We’re in the air now, on the short flight to Toronto. One down, two to go. One of my biggest concerns of this whole trip is the time between our flights from Thunder Bay to Munich. We have just over an hour (depending on how long this flight takes) to get from gate to gate. It is a bit of a hike, since Pearson Airport is not a small place. My fingers are crossed that it will all be okay and we’ll get to the next gate with time to spare.

It’s funny, I was just thinking I that one thing I didn’t do before we left was to ask if we had any first time flyers. I can’t imagine all the emotions they are feeling. Most of our kids have not been away from home without their parents before, so I’m sure they are nervous. The excitement will take care of that though. Obviously I cannot remember all the feelings I had the first time I was away from home by myself (that was probably when I was in the reserves), but there was a lot going on.

Pearson selfies, April 2017.

Our ride to Europe, April 2017.

Whew! We are on our way to Europe. All 23 students and 3 chaperones are onboard this Airbus 330. Next stop, Munich! Wow, I feel like such a huge weight is off my shoulders, at least for the time being. I’m actually exhausted and want to go to sleep. The stress of the day and making sure we got on this flight on time has wiped me out. I’m sure I’ll perk up in a little while, especially after I get some food in my body. I had a granola bar, but nothing substantial since 1100. I wonder what’s for dinner?

I feel a little weird, since for the first time on an overseas flight I am not sitting in a window seat. I always like taking a shot of the rising sun over the ocean, but those are the breaks. Anyway, I have a nice spot. I’m in the middle section, but there wasn’t another passenger in the other aisle seat, so my next door neighbour moved. That gives us lots of elbow and leg room. Maybe I’ll actually get some sleep tonight, er morning. It’s 1900 eastern, but 0100 in Europe. Whatever.

So that was disappointing. Did I say I was hungry? Well, I was, and the food smelled so good. The choices this evening aboard AC 846 were chicken and pasta, and as is always my luck, they ran out of chicken just as they got to me. So pasta it was. I’m sure it was the chicken that smelled good. The pasta, or what passed for pasta, was definitely not to my liking. I’m not a big pasta person on a good day and if I wasn’t so hungry, I probably wouldn’t have touched it. I ate half and that was it. The coleslaw salad or whatever it was was okay, and I liked the bread and brownie. Thank God I brought snacks; that energy bar hit the spot. Besides, I can stand to lose a few pounds anyway.

Now that dinner is done, I’m going to finish my movie and try to get some sleep. We land in about 6 hours and it will be morning by then, so I don’t want to be too messed up. I’m sure I’ll grab a nap during our Munich layover. Anyway, I think this is enough for today.

I’ll post this as soon as I can and starting working on the Day 2 ramblings. Until then…

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 6, 2017 in History, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

There’s places I gotta see…

There certainly are…many in fact. In less than 24 hours, I’ll be on my way to make it happen. If you’re wondering about the title, you need to listen to more classic rock. Connoisseurs will recognize the line from the iconic Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Freebird.”

So after nearly 3 years of planning, we are finally ready to go to Europe. I can’t believe we started all of this in the spring of 2014. Where has the time gone? It feels like an eternity ago. And it’s not just me; the students have grown up along the way. Those young Grade 9 or 10 students are now in Grade 11 or 12, some getting ready to graduate. What a fitting way to leave the school!

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that I usual write about how busy I am and how crazy my life is. My last post ironically said exactly that. Well, when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I managed to find another gear. What an insane few days! So I guess I should tell you about it.

Since this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, I thought it would be great to have the media at the airport for our departure. Last Monday however, I received a call from our school board communication officer, Mike Thompson. He said he was in contact with our two local MPs, Patty Hajdu and Don Rusnak, and they wanted to visit with the students before they left. The trick was that it had to happen by the end of the week, as Parliament is back in session at the start of April. We settled on Friday, but a lot of work had to be done to prepare. Mike would look after the politicians and the media, but I had to find a venue in the school and line up some students to be present.

During our trip, we will be visiting two cemeteries; Tyne Cot near Passchendaele, Belgium and Bretteville-sur-Laize south of Caen France. At those cemeteries, we will honour the fallen but in particular those that served with the 52nd Battalion, CEF and the Lake Superior Regiment. Both were organized in Thunder Bay and are perpetuated by the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment (LSSR) today. I served in the LSSR in my teens. Therefore I thought it would be fitting to invite one of my former officers, David Ratz, who is now a Lieutenant Colonel and commanding officer of the regiment, to the event. It was great to to catch up with him and the students were very appreciative of his knowledge of the history and his stories.

I had to MC the event and scramble with some last minute issues, so I was extremely nervous and sweating like a hog. Fortunately everything went well, and I am very thankfully for that. The media interviewed some of the kids, and even though I knew it was coming, it was still so nervous to speak to them myself. You can read more about the media conference on TBNewswatchCBC and the TBT News.

MPs Hajdu and Rusnak visit students from St. Patrick & St. Ignatius, March 2017.

Probably the biggest source of my stress and the thing that had me running around the most was the tickets for the Vimy ceremony. For security purposes, everyone attending the ceremony has to have a ticket, which makes sense. However, the registration and distribution if said tickets turned into a bureaucratic boondoggle. There was a mad rush to register within a short window and with it came some technical glitches. Then there was the drama getting the tickets. I received my ticket in early March, along with one other chaperone and that was it. We kept receiving messages that because of technical issues, it would be delayed; March 21st, then March 27th and still only 2 tickets. Last Friday Veterans Affairs reported that at the behest of the French Government, all tickets would be reissued. Finally, tickets began to roll in. Cutting it a little close you think, especially since the tickets needed to be printed before we left!

In any case, it’s done, so now there’s just little things left to go. I still have some packing to do and if you know me, I started getting things ready weeks ago. I am not a last minute person; in fact I tend to be quite obsessive about this aspect of traveling, most likely due to the fact that I have some OCD. I don’t care though, better prepared and organized than not.

I have all the boarding passes printed, so we’re ready to hop those flights across the pond. From Thunder Bay we head to Toronto (of course), and from there to Munich. We have a fairly long layover at the Franz Josef Strauss Airport before we heading to Amsterdam, which I guess will give everyone time to nap, including me. I’ll probably be taking the time to blog as well.

Anyway, I better get going. You’ll probably hear from me again from Munich with details of our first day. Until then…

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 4, 2017 in History, Travel, Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,