Introduction

This is my account of our three-month trip through Italy, France and the British Isles. I have a sabbatical leave as part of my job at the University of Puget Sound, which allows me the flexibility to structure my sabbatical projects to a schedule of my choosing. So I’ve time-shifted my summer to April, May and June. In twenty years of teaching, I’ve rarely taken a summer completely “off,” so its a novelty to really make good on a summer break. On either side of this break, I’ll be (or have been) working on a freely-distributable linear algebra textbook. A good rough draft (beta version) is probably about 60-65% finished right now.

With Pat’s job as relief veterinarian, she’s free to take work when and if she chooses. So she’s on a three-month sabbatical also, having informed her regular employers of her temporary absence. We just have to forego her pay, too. More on finances later.

David and Robert will miss about ten weeks of school. However, their teachers and the administration at St. Charles Borromeo School have been very supportive of the trip. Each has math workbooks and other assignments to keep them busy. The main rationale for the trip has been the educational experiences it will provide the boys in the areas of culture, history, science, geography and religion. On the whole we expect them to learn as much, or more, than if they were in school. The boys are also at a great age for traveling and appreciating the things they will see and experience.

Pat has been to Italy, Switzerland, Ireland, England, Paris, and Belgium before. Your author spent a week in London several years ago at a mathematics conference, skipping out for just a half-day of sightseeing. Sometimes it seems everybody has traveled extensively through Europe. Hopefully my naive first impressions will not bore the more experienced travelers.