Day 3, Thursday, 2 July 2009

We had breakfast at the hotel at 7:00 am.  Then it was off to Wesley Chapel for the choir concert.  Since Mrs. Clark’s husband was so ill, it was conducted by one of the other staff members.  The audience was mostly the band members and Ambassador parents, so it was really more like a dress rehearsal.  Given the last minute change in conductor, that was probably a good thing.

After the concert, we visited the grave yard behind the chapel where John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, was buried.  After a short visit, we proceeded to the Embankment area where the band concert was scheduled.

Then we took the coaches to Victoria Embankment Park for box lunches. After arriving, we ate a provided box lunch, then got set up for the band.  The concert began at 12:30 in a nice outdoor band area.  The park was pack with Londoners eating their lunch and soaking up the sunshine.

There were several elderly regulars in the audience near the front. Some of them interacted with the band directors, apparently recalling them from previous years.  A few of them danced during Maleguena and also during the Tennessee Waltz.  And there was rhythmic clapping during Rocky Top, although I doubt they actually recognized the piece. The concert was very well-received by the Londoners.

After the concert was over, we went on a walking tour with our group.  We walked past the side of the Parliament Building where Big Ben is located.  Then we proceeded to Westminster Abbey..  By the time we got there, there were about 60 Ambassadors in all.  We purchased a set of group tickets and cued up in three groups.

Once we finally got in, we were treated to a spectacular interior.  We had time to visit all the parts of the chapel, although we couldn’t dwell.  We saw the graves of Winston Churchill, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, G.F. Handel, and many more.

All three groups met outside the abbey to head for supper.  We walked past 10 Downing Street and on to Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column.  Then on to a street with several restaurants, including a Macdonald’s.

By the time we got to the supper area, a little after 4:30, there wasn’t much time to eat anywhere except at the Macdonald’s there.  Teagan and I tried to eat at Borgia’s, an Italian restaurant, but they couldn’t get our food out in time, so we had to leave.  We joined our group and headed back toward the Embankment where we were to meet the entire group.  We hit a Quizno’s along the way for a sandwich.

We met with the entire group around 5:30.  At about 6:00, we split into groups according to evening activity:  Thames cruise and London Eye in our case.  The cruise provided an informative trip downstream as far as Parliament and upstream as far as London Tower.  Afterward, the London Eye gave us a good view of London from high above the Thames.  It was about an hour before sunset and sky was pretty clear, so we got decent views in all directions.

Once we finished there, we walked around the park to look at the entertainers, the upside-down purple cow, and to hit an ATM machine.  We also got a soft ice cream.  They are very creamy tasting.

After a visit to an ATM, we got an ice cream and walked around the grassy area on South Band by the eye.  We took a Taxi back to the hotel around 9:30.

Around 9:15, we met with our group and split up in to cab-sized subgroups to return to the hotel.  The ride back was 10.80 pounds we we split three ways.

Day 1, Tuesday, 30 June 2009

We left home at 6:40 am and arrived at the Nashville airport at 7:15. We checked our bags and got boarding passes from the Voyagers International representative. Teagan realized that she had packed her neck wallet (with passport) in her checked bag, so we had to get Delta to pull her bag so we could retrieve it. It turned out they had tagged my bag with Teagan’s tag, so the bag they brought us was mine. But we eventually got the neck wallet so all was well. If Delta had asked to see our passports when we checked in, we could have avoided the problem.

The group moved down to the gate around 8:15 and waited to board our 10:05 flight. The flight left a few minutes late, but since we had a long layover in Detroit, it didn’t really matter.

We were off the plane in Detroit by 1:00 pm EDT. We were to meet the group at the departure gate at 5:00, so we had plenty of free time to roam the concouse.

While we were eating lunch, the concourse was blocked off, effectively cutting it into two pieces, due to some security breach. That lasted about an hour. Once the barriers were removed, we were able to get to the terminal area and visit the more interesting shops: Motown Music, Henry Ford.

We met the group at the departure gate at 5:00 and awaited the boarding call for our 6:40 pm flight. Once the call came, we boarded our Boeing 767 (with 2/3/2 seating) and took off on time.

We used the individual flat panels to watch TV (R), a movie (T), and play Bejeweled. Teagan was able to score alot more the I was. She made it to level 7. Teagan watched the movie I love you man.

Wikipedia

I have been hanging out at wikipedia a lot lately to learn about the sites we will see on our trip. I just pick a topic and search for info on it. I need to start setting a countdown timer or alarm, though, because I just keep following links and get totally lost in all that interesting information.

A few days ago I started at Pompeii and just followed links from there. Before I knew it, an hour had flown by and I had to hurry to an appointment.

Here’s a web page that has links to wikipedia pages that roughly follow the itenerary of the trip.

Cell Phones

From what I’ve been able to gather, Italy and Greece use GSM cell phone networks, although at a different frequency than here in the US. I unlocked my Cingular Motorola V551 cell phone so that it can work on networks other than Cingular. That was a pain. It took several attempts and most of a morning. The newer Motorolas seem to be especially problematic to unlock. I purchased a SIM card on eBay that allegedly will allow me to use the phone in Italy without roaming. It will also give me a local number there.