And They’re Off …


Our first stop this morning was the Civil War Battlefield of “The Battle of Franklin” at the Carnton Plantation.  When you go back and consider the tragedy that war was for our country in the amount of human life that it cost us, it’s too sad to think about.  But then again, it also made us who we are as a country today.  We won’t ever go back to the terrible injustices of treating people differently because of the color of their skin or because of the way they look.  We learned our lesson during those tragic days.

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Since it was our first time in “The South,” we wondered how a tour would be … would it be too confederate, would we feel uncomfortable?  We were a little hesitant but we figured, “we’re here, we might as well go.”  It turned out that our tour guide was amazingly un-biased and she gave us a tour of the house and the property that just told the story of the battle at Franklin, Kentucky that day.  It was one of the war’s worst battles, and the people who lived on the Carnton Farm saw it all happen right in front of their eyes.  They became an instant hospital, caring for the fallen soldiers, and burying them right then and there on their farm.  As we peered out the windows from their second story bedrooms, you could certainly feel the sadness of that day, and at the same time, give honor to all those who fought and died on both sides of the battlefield, because, after all, they were all Americans.

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This is the first “Civil War Site” that we have been to and it was very moving.  Sad and tragic and yet they did a beautiful job at honoring all those who fell during those terrible years.

As we continued our road trip, I was so curious about the stone walls along the side of roads that we kept seeing for miles and miles and miles.  I kept telling the gang, “this looks like what I imagine Ireland to look like, with the short hand-stacked stone walls.”  I’ve never been to Ireland but it really looked like all those pictures we see in movies and on postcards.

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We finally saw a “Historic Site” monument sign and we stopped to read what it said.  Well, you’re never gonna believe it!  These walls are called “The Rock Fences of Kentucky” and here’s what one blogger says about them:

Central Kentucky is world famous for Thoroughbred horses and endless miles of rock fences (dry stone walls). There are more rock fences here than any place in the USA. In Central Kentucky only 5 -10% of these 19th century dry stone walls built by Irish Immigrant stone masons still stand. These stone masons passed their craft on to black slaves that became masters of the craft of building rock walls.

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It was so picturesque to see, and then when you touched them, you felt the spirit of those who built them, proud of the work of their hands!  So, I got to see a part of Ireland in Kentucky!  Who would have guessed that??

We continued our drive along these glorious green roads til we came to … Churchill Downs — Home of the Kentucky Derby!  And WOW!  What a sight this was!!

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As soon as you pull into the parking lot and see the steeples, you can hear the trumpets playing the “song” in your mind … you know the one, “da da da da da da daaaa — and they’re off!!”  This was going to be great!!

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We had a little time before our tour to see the grounds and visit the museum.  They have an actual gate from one of the previous Derby’s for you to play in … and so we did!

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They also have lots of interactive exhibits for more playing … and so we did!

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Of course, I was the winner of the horse race because of my horse’s name.  “Little Lu” beat the girls by a whole length!  Haha!!

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They are also the only museum that has a 360° theater that shows actual footage of horse races going all the way back to Seabiscuit (he did NOT run in the Derby though) through American Pharaoh, last year’s KD winner!  It was quite exciting to experience those big races again!

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This place is full of history and fun.  On the day of the Derby last year, they sold over 170,000 tickets!!  And the cheapest ticket is “General Admission for $60.00 per person” … they are making a killing for a couple of minutes of thrills!

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We had a great time touring and visiting all the cool exhibits, the actual grandstands, and the barns where all those famous horses live.  The race track was so beautiful and green and perfect.  And all for a quick run around the track!   I think their website says it all …

A trip to the Kentucky Derby is an unforgettable experience! Watch one of the world’s top rank horse races, known as “the most exciting two minutes in sports”, while immersing yourself in iconic southern Derby traditions – sipping a mint julep, donning a beautiful hat, and joining fellow race fans in singing
“My Old Kentucky Home”.

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EJG March 2016 008Well, not sure my hat makes their Top 10 List, but we’ll definitely be back here for a race or two!!  Not to mention a mint julep or two!  😉

Oh, and in case you’re interested, the Kentucky Derby is this Saturday … anyone care to make a little bet??

And we’re off … talk to you tomorrow!


Bon Voyage!

Well gang, I promised that I’d write you “next year” … so here it is!  But first, I hope that your 2016 has started out in peace and health and that this year brings each of us lots of surprises, stuffed full with love!  Yahoo!!

So you might think the title of this blog, “Bon Voyage” is weird for the first post of the year right?  Well, not exactly.  Most of us think of this word as meaning “Good Bye, have a great a trip!” but it really translates to “Good luck and great wishes for your journey!”  So it’s very appropriate for this post as both the first post of the new year and the journey we all look forward to this year, and as a title for our family trip.  So, here you go!

As for us, we started out with a bang!  We left Chicago on January 1st heading to Miami, just as you all were settling in to watch the Rose Parade.  We met the kids from all their different starting points and began a “Galvan Family Vacation” or as the kids would call it “#galvantravels” with a cruise to the “Eastern Caribbean.”

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Since we arrived a day early (I needed to make sure they would all make it there on time and not “miss the boat” … literally!!), we had Saturday to take a look around the city, eat some amazing food, and enjoy their fabulous culture.  So first … a tour of the Everglades!  We were loaded up on a “fan” boat … it brought back memories of my favorite tv show back in the day … remember “Flipper”?  hahaha!  Yes, Sandy and Flipper, my two favorites … “they call him Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning, no one you see, is smarter than he …”  Oh come on, tell me you don’t remember that one!!  I can hear you humming the tune!!!  Alright, well, back to the fan boat.  It was a blast, literally!  We blasted through the Everglades on this crazy fast fan boat looking for alligators.  I didn’t see any alligators (TBTG!), however, we saw lots of beautiful native birds, the sea life and plant life of the area, and had a lot of fun on that crazy ride!

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After the ride, they have an arena where they show you lots of the area’s animals, and they brought out one of the common “loud mouths” of the Everglades.  A huge frog!  The presenter obviously had an eye for Ashley, so he asked her to give the “little guy” a kiss for him to see what would happen … so she did!!  Yes, she did!  But the funniest part about it was the reactions on the young girls’ faces who were sitting behind her!  I probably looked just like them, but I think this is priceless!!

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Kudos to Ash for being a good sport with that one!

That was a really fun day and we were all able to check off our bucket list … “See the Everglades.” 

Before we left for the cruise the next morning, the kids presented us with a very cute gift.  They made Eddie the “Captain” and me the “First Mate” and they were all the “Crew.”  We wore these hats all during the cruise and many of our co-passengers would comment on how clever they were.  Even one of the real crew members asked me, “So when did you get promoted?”  It was a great addition to our family vacay!

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The Galvan Family Bon Voyage Party on deck!

Our first stop was Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic.

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I missed the sunrise, but this was about 6:30 a.m., as we arrived to the Dominican Republic

Eddie and I went exploring in the very small shopping village and the kids found the one and only resort!  We reunited later that afternoon at this beautiful resort, that included one of those crazy water slides!  Well let me just tell you … it was crazy fun!

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It certainly brought back childhood memories of some great slides!  And the view from the top was pretty spectacular!

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Sunset as we say goodbye to Amber Cove, Dominican Republic

It was a beautiful day in paradise …

Our next day was spent in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.  This is definitely a larger port than yesterday’s, filled with shops, culture, musicians, and beautiful, friendly people.  The mountains and oceans were stunning, colors that we have never seen before … deep, deep greens, blues that were sparkly (is that a word?), and some vivid (and my favorite) pinks!

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We met up with the kids again at the beach in the afternoon for some snorkeling.  It takes a little getting used to, especially when you’re un-coordinated me!

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The colors under the water were just as beautiful as the ones above.  This was truly a blessing in seeing the “awe” of the Creator’s hand.



It was a beautiful day in paradise …

Third stop was Puerto Rico!  Ai Yai Yai!  That was a fabulous place and we only had time to see “Old” San Juan, “New” San Juan, and the Great Fortress!  This place is a definite do over.  We all loved it and will be back here for sure!  Take a look!

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Entering the Port of San Juan, Puerto Rico

The famous “Fort” in Puerto Rico was absolutely fabulous!  You can’t imagine a place like this until you walk through its halls and tunnels, on the walls, and in the cemetery.  What stories lie in this place!  It’s actually four “forts” … Castillo San Felipe del Morro, Castillo San Cristobal, most of the city walls, the San Juan Gate and Fort San Juan de la Cruz just across the entrance to the bay.  It was continually built and re-built over 250 years by Spain and then the United States to fortify the prized location of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean.  This is a place for everyone to experience.  These pictures definitely do not do this place justice, but I’ll try.

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The walls and a look-out area


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The cemetery, dating back hundreds of years!

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Looking out from one of the cannon areas.  Look to the middle of the picture and you can see another end of the fort.  

Being the history fanatics that we are, Eddie and I really enjoyed this day.  We will definitely come back to explore more of these walls.


As we were leaving the fort, someone had to come by to say “Hi” … I very quickly said, “GOODBYE!”  Haha!

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This little guy (approximately 4 feet long!!) decided to say hello to us!  

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HELLO!  Yikes!  I ran away, of course!  

After leaving the Fort, Eddie and I took a walk through the “two” cities, and of course, visited their beautiful cathedral.  St. Juan Bautista was simple and beautiful at the same time.  The cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in the “Old” San Juan neighborhood, and is the second oldest cathedral in the Americas.  Isn’t that something?

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After a nice walk and a delicious lunch, we made our way back to the kids …

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Apparently, we “took over” the hot tub as we pulled out of Puerto Rico … and yes, that’s a good old-fashioned Bloody Mary that I’ve been caught drinking!  

If you are planning a get-away anytime soon, be sure to stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  I had no idea how beautiful it was and Eddie and I, hopefully with some of you, will certainly be back!
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It was a beautiful day in paradise … 

Our last port was probably our favorite.  Well, maybe.  Not sure.  The others were so great too!  How do you choose?  I guess we have to go back!  Grand Turks was a beautiful, peaceful, reflective place.  The water was even more spectacular than any of the other places we had seen so far.

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We took a catamaran to one of their smaller islands, and did more snorkeling and exploring.  Edward and Ash took pictures with their drone, and I think you’ll agree with me, that this place was pretty extraordinary!

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It looks like someone took a few crayons and went wild with the blues, greens, turquoise, etc.  Well, I guess “Someone” did … when you see places like this, you have to believe that God was having a great time creating scenery like this for us to appreciate, but also to care for.

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It was definitely a beautiful day in paradise … 

That was a trip full of blessings.  We made some great memories, had some great experiences, saw beautiful places, met wonderful people, and were especially blessed with the gift of spending time with one another.  We couldn’t ask for more than that.

Bon Voyage everyone … may your next journey be guided by God and led by love!

Talk to you tomorrow!