Author: Emilie C. K. LaRosa
In May, I had the pleasure of joining a Penn Alumni Travel trip to the “Celtic Lands” with faculty host Professor Rebecca Bushnell (who wrote a lovely post about the tour here). The tour was a seven-day cruise to Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Normandy, and England- the Celtic Lands. In addition to Professor Bushnell, we were fortunate to have four other wonderful lecturers aboard from Brown University, Dartmouth College, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Smithsonian Journeys.
One of the unique qualities of a Penn Alumni Travel trip is access to these world-renowned scholars. Nearly every tour we run includes a Penn faculty host who not only gives formal lectures during the course of the trip, but also participates fully in the program and is available for conversation and informal discussion throughout the journey.
On this particular cruise, there were more scholars and more lectures than even the best alumni student could keep up with! As I noted, the theme of the tour was “Celtic Lands,” and so we had a wonderful lecture “Who Were the Celts” by Dwight Young of the National Trust. Professor Bushnell continued this theme with her theater-themed lecture “Shakespeare and the Celtic Lands.”
Rebecca speaks to lingering alumni after her talk.
But that wasn’t the only theme explored on board our ship Le Boréal. We had several interesting lectures about transatlantic journeys from Professor Christopher Griffin of Smithsonian Journeys and, of course, there were many lectures about World War II and Operation Overlord. In addition to the scholars who joined us for the entire tour, we had two special guests at the end of the trip: D. David Eisenhower II, grandson of Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Celia Sandys, granddaughter of Winston Churchill.
Both David and Celia joined the cruise just before we reached the D-Day beaches of Normandy on June 5, one day before the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. We heard fantastic lectures from both. David presented “Operation Overlord” and Celia discussed “Memories of my Grandfather.” Both talks were full of interesting details and personal reminiscences that brought that period to life for those on board.
When we arrived in Caen, France David joined our Penn bus and spent the day pointing out significant landmarks and discussing his own lengthy research about the battle and his grandfather.
David at the Pointe du Hoc with Penn alumni and friends.
David speaks to an American soldier at Omaha Beach. Many troops were in Normandy for the 70th Anniversary commemorative ceremonies. Photo courtesy of Penn alumnus Frederick Allen, C’60.
It was a truly special moment for everyone on board. Our hope at Penn Alumni Travel is that every tour experiences moments such as these—unique insights into a culture, a people, or a moment—that will transform the trip into more than just an itinerary.
Next year we’ll be joining David again on a Celtic Lands cruise. For more information, click here.
For information on all our 2015 tours, click here.
We hope to see you on a future Penn Alumni Travel trip!