Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Cinque Terre

Love-Hate Relationship. The cities and the scenery is stunning- bus system is terrible! Walked up a steep, steep hill with all our luggage from the train station when we firs arrived. Waited 2 hours for the bus. Got to our hotel, borgo di campi, and took our luggage down a long, steep flight of stairs. Our condo hung over the mountain and had an absolutely beautiful view of the water. We stayed in riomaggiore, the first of the 5 cities.

We slept in a bit the next day then once we finally caught the bus we checked out all of them except the 'C' city.. All uphill... My favorite was vernazza. Lots of shops! The water was a gorgeous blue and kids were cliff jumping across from us. It was a nice day until we missed the bus, again! But we got to have dinner over the city and watch the sunset.

The next day, Regan and I headed to the beach of monterosso. Rock beaches. Great sun! Finally made it to Genova that night and stayed in the largest hotel room I've seen since being here! We celebrated a little talking about "all the activities" we could do.

On another train off to nice! My family doesn't seem to enjoy this lifestyle very much. Grandmommy doesn't understand why they don't give you more of things and asks where the "dubbya c" is. Mom and kris forget that the people here aren't here to wait on them like at any other tourist place in the US. Logan gets to pick up Beau today and I'm pretty jealous... I'm very excited to see nice and show my family Paris, but Its time for me to go home. Being with my family and hearing them ... Complain?... Makes me realize how much I miss things from home and how different and inconvient my life here has been. Then again, I realize how spoiled we all are and how wonderful this place is and how much Europe has to offer. So much history, so clean, so many unbelievable views and buildings. "I'm lucky, I know, but I wanna go home."


Train from Florence to Rome. Snuck into hostel, discovered bunk beds! Bar free dinner!

Spanish steps, lots of piazzas and people watching. Great shopping. Gelato and best tortellini and lasagna. Lost traci, met up with the others that went to Vatican city. Went to the park to read new books. Drink wine. Leahs phone was stolen...

Naples- gross, dirty, great pizza!! Came
Across eat pray love restaurant, closed but we found some Across the street-3 stories, wood oven, tasty and cheap. Then train to Pompeii, the ancient city. Conserved by ash. Really neat. Gelato!

Meredith and I went to termi di caracalla. Walked around- first sign of tour groups! Blehh!!

Day alone- checke into hotel. Took a
Long, much needed nap. Headed off to piazza to read my book. People watching, avoiding boys. Walked around then anxiously waited for my family to be here.

Vatican city, piazza navola- everyone has a hard time walking, good sports though! Pantheon then Trevi fountain, first gelato!! Spanish steps and dinner. Early morning walk to colleseum and roman forum. Complicated!! Tour guides are a bad idea... Train to Pisa to see the leaning tower- leans a lot more than I had expected! Dirty town until you walk through the fence of the old town of Pisa. Bought my shot gloss that leans! :) off to cinque terre!!


Dinner- pizza! Terrace beautiful Florence
Wine tasting, grape escape: chianti region.
First winery taught the correct way to hold the glass, smell, and drink (slosh around in mouth) bought grappa, and truffle for crackers. All wonderful!
Another winery with lunch- cheese, and more wine) got to see process of making
San gimingnano. Small town with world champion gelato. Bought my hat.
Leather market after ride home.
Dinner with spaghetti and grappa- blehh!!
Duomo with rain! Gelato for lunch..and pizza. Dinner by the river. Walked around had a free glass of wine and tortellini. Went to bridge, warned not to lose my heart in cinque terre. More gelato! Pet the pigs snout for good luck! Watched a street show and raaaan to our hostel in the looting down rain.
Last morning, copy of David. Off to Rome!



Belgium Charleroi (makes me hate Belgium) met Joe on train. Intorduced us to old Amsterdam cheese sandwiches. Hotel experience was terrible! I bought a hotel room for two trying to fit 4 of us in there. It has never been a problem before. Of course, in Charleroi it would be! The front desk man would not let us have more than 2 people even in the HALLWAY leading to our room. I was furious! On top of that, I had to finish my 12 page paper. Bad night.

Apartment was great!! Ate paella. Beach- dirty, topless, nice to be in the sand.
KFC and fountain for dinner. Walked around

Will took us on a tour the next morning. Great breakfast place. Grrreat orange juice. 2 churches. Mexican lunch.
Tracis bag was stolen..We bought her some alcohol to take away the pain for the night. Later that day we went to the beach again. I got a 5euro massage from a little Chinese lady that was wonderful after all the stress of school. That night we ate dinner at a nasty burger place.

My favorite day in Spain: Rented bikes and cruised around Spain. Beach again. Naked man, again! Mexican food for dinner

Moved hostels then beach all day! Finished dear John, always thinking of Logan. All the reading I've done.. Can't wait to see all the movies. Shopped, bought shoes for 12 euro that resemble TOM'S. That night we went to the pier- my favorite night of Spain. Ate paella, spiked our drinks bc we're poor! Sat on pier and looked at full moon, listened to music from nearby restaurant, then fireworks started! Had a scare with some french boys trying to follow us back to our hostel. We so cleverly told them the wrong stop and they headed there instead.

Sleeping with 11 other people is never comfortable. There was a "snore-off" going on next to us. If you know you snore- loudly!- a hostel is not the place for you. We had to put our own sheets on our bet (one sheet to be exact) and no pillows. Not the best hostel we stayed in, but after staying in an incredible apartment for 5 days, it was time for a reality check.

Last day: off to Florence from Reus- ryanair seems to find the most random cities...


Birthday spent on the train for 9 hours. A Spanish man (at least, he only spoke spanish... played the accordian in honor of my birthday for an hour or so. It was great at first, then just became creepy. We played fun and silly camp games to pass the time. Unfortuantely this was not an overnight train- we had to sleep in regular chairs.

Balmer's Hostel- way cool! ate macaroni and apple sauce at a small restaurant by the train station and center of town. Once again we met some not so nice girls from Austin. It such a disappointment to talk to people from your home state and they believe they're better than you because they're from "Austin." Pshhh.

We took a bus to a private resort lake and got kicked out eventually. The water was freeeeeeezing. Beautiful mountains surrounded us as we Layed out. Dinner at hostel bar at funny farm.

Canyoning!!! Amazing! So fun! definitely one of the highlights of my whole summer. Switzerland is beautiful and to be able to adventure our way through the awesome canyons and experience its' nature was unexplainable.

Another manmade lake with a tall diving board, rope swing, lily pads, ducks, ate lunch. Funny farm storm came in an we watched on patio.
Hammock room- my favorite part of Balmer's. Switzerland was a relaxing weekend. There's no sightseeing, just seeing the wonderful, beautiful sights surrounding us. Went to balmers to watch germany uraguay

Left next morning so we could see holland play on championship world cup game!! So many people in highlander! So fun!

Earlier games: we beat uraguay and ran in the streets to listen to everyone blow their vuvuzellas and fly flags out the window as they drive down the street. People danced on other peoples cars and the people inside danced along.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


After a smooth trip from Maastricht to Paris Thursday evening, Bonnie, Jean, and I arrived in the City of Lights to a luxurious hotel room waiting for us across from the Arc de Triumph. A visitor from home, Hilary, had generously allowed us to stay with her in a nice hotel provided by her parents. That night we took a walk by the Arc and down the Champs Elysses then returned to our hotel for a great night’s sleep in our large, comfortable bed with fluffy pillows and an ice bucket.

The next morning we woke up early to explore the area surrounding our hotel. We walked through and around the Arc de Triumph while stopping to people watch for a while. There were many groups of school children in Paris this weekend, mostly American, that I found very interesting to watch because of the difference between a high school students experience, or how it appears to someone watching, and a college student’s experience. The gap in appreciation is very large for such a small age difference.

From there, the four of us checked out of the Renaissance Hotel and into the Garden Hotel. It was quite a big change to go from one to the other; yet, the Garden Hotel at least allowed us our own bathroom, which is an amenity we don’t get very often in our travels. We settled in quickly and moved on to the Latin Quarter for lunch and shopping. My favorite stand in the market was one overflowing with handmade soap in all different colors and scents. The saleswoman was very sweet to us American girls that I found to be a common and unexpected trend in Paris. I had heard many times that the French were hateful and arrogant towards Americans and had prepared myself for these harsh attitudes. I was pleasantly surprised to experience the complete opposite. I would go as far to say that Paris is one of the friendliest places I’ve visited (Ireland remains in first place).

The Netherlands played later that day against Brazil where we met up with a group of Baylor students to watch in front of the Eiffel Tower. This event was by far one of my favorites! It was an incredible feeling to be supporting my “homeland” while watching the game on a big screen television with the Eiffel Tower setting up an amazing landscape behind the screen and surrounded by the opposing team’s fans. On top of all that, Holland won! Throughout all this, it began to rain, and we realized who the true fans were and who the fair-weathered fans were. Soon after the game we returned to the Latin Quarter where I saw the Notre Dame for the first time. Later Friday night, a large group of us celebrated Leah’s birthday underneath the Eiffel Tower, which was absolutely gorgeous, lit up in the night sky.

Saturday we had planned to visit Versailles but woke up to a thunderstorm. We decided to make it a relaxing day and traveled to Versailles Sunday morning. After sleeping in and enjoying the rain outside our hotel window, we checked out the Montmartre area of Paris. I visited Sacre Coeur but spent more time on the steps of the Cathedral being entertained by street singers and performers. We took a walk through the red-light district to take a look at Moulin Rouge then walked through Notre Dame. Outside of Notre Dame sat “the bird lady.” This lady quietly walked up to Bonnie and I and sprinkled bird food on our hair. Pigeons came from all directions to eat off our heads and perch on our arms. As we did every night, we returned to the Eiffel Tower to soak up the beauty and romance of the city.

Sunday morning, July 4th, we headed to Versailles to tour the palace. From there we headed to the Louvre for a free look at the famous Mona Lisa. To celebrate the 4th of July, we went back to the Eiffel Tower, once again, and brought with us market fresh watermelon, chocolate chip cookies, and hot dogs. While there were no fireworks, I decided the twinkling of the tower would suffice.

Paris has been my favorite trip so far. The people were friendly, the city was lovely and the Eiffel Tower where we spent most of our time was magical. Maybe it’s because it is a place I’ve dreamed of visiting for a large portion of my life, or maybe it’s because the “city of lights” is captivating in itself. Either way, I look forward to traveling there again someday.

Monday, July 5, 2010


The last weekend of June, I finally traveled to London! This is the first place I have longed to see since childhood- since “The Parent Trap” came out in elementary school, to be exact. Once again, it was wonderful visiting a place that spoke English!

It was a long first night attempting to meet up with the rest of our party and frantically searching for “Journeys Arsenal Hostel.” Meredith and I walked up and down the street several times looking for our hostel… come to find out, it was directly across the street from where we came out of the station. It was stressful, frustrating and tiring then upsetting to find out we had passed it 3 times! Luckily, I brought my laptop to look up where exactly on the map we were- like I said, 3 times!

Our hostel: This was the first time I stayed with complete strangers; 7 other strangers to be exact. It was located above a bar and we apparently were the hostels first stayers! The shower was ridiculous: coldest and most inconvenient shower I’ve ever taken. There was only a piece of wood separating the stairway from the bathroom and the toilet was connected to the 2 showers… all of this for over 30 people? Not rational. You know those sinks that you push the lever over and over for enough water to come out for you to wash your hands? That’s how our shower worked; constantly have to push the button for more freezing water to come out. Miserable! It’s all a part of the experience though, right? Haha!

The next morning began our adventures in England. We woke up that morning and headed straight for shopping! Oxford Street had amazing shopping (London, in general has great shopping!) but pretty expensive, unfortunately. After buying a pair of shoes, we headed for the Camden Market. Basically, it’s a cheap market full of cute clothes that are seen in other stores around the city. It was here that I bought my crème dress (it will definitely be worn at some point during this trip).

After we spent WAY too much money, we decided to take part in a few things that wouldn’t require us to spend any pounds. (side note: never have I gained and lost so many pounds in one weekend.. J) We stopped by “The Beatles Store” which is right next door to Sherlock Holmes museum. This is where Blake finally met up with us after having a terrible previous 24 hours- he missed his first flight to London, need I say more? Before returning to our hostel to get ready for The Lion King (!!!! Yayyy!!) we stopped by Abbey Road to take THE picture crossing the road, of course, I was the barefoot one.

We headed back to the hostel early to get ready for The Lion King! Covent Gardens/West End area was by far my favorite section of London. The West End (I’m pretty sure that’s what it was considered) was filled with lights, people, and lots of action- it reminded me a lot of Broadway, only with English accents. When we got off the train, I was handed a flier. While I usually would throw it away, this was a Mexican food restaurant with a buy one get one free coupon!! Of course we found this underground eatery and left completely satisfied with stomachs full of half price Mexican food and margaritas.

The Lion King was awesome! Definitely one of the best musicals I’ve seen. The colors and costumes were amazing! So intricate and creative. At the beginning during “Circle of Life,” the performers walked down the aisles in their animal costumes. Towards the height of the song, an elephant came from behind me! By far my favorite part of the whole musical! The dancers were so talented- trying to dance, sing, and operate horns or a backset of legs must be so difficult. I loved it!

I have become confused about which way to look before crossing the street. I went for a run after returning to the Maas and I noticed myself looking both ways multiple times making sure I could cross. Since UKer’s drive on the left/wrong side of the road, it’s very helpful that they write “Look Right” or “Look Left” at the edge of each street.

Saturday was the busiest day we had. Meredith, Traci, Blake and I took a double-decker bus tour through the city. We got to see everything; Hyde Park, Harrod’s, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Tower of London, Tower Bridge (much more exciting than London Bridge), Shakespeare’s Globe, Sherlock Holmes Pub, Westminster Abbey, and more! It was worth it to take a bus around the city to see more sights rather than staying underground and in the subway. Along with our bus tour, we were given a free boat ride. We went under London Bridge (and prayed it wouldn’t fall down!), and many other places we had passed on the road- it was nice to see everything from a different angle… I think everything is prettier from the water anyways.

After sticking our feet in Trafalgar Square’s fountain, we met up with the rest of the group at Texas Embassy. This restaurant used to be the Texas Embassy for London and is where survivors of Titanic fled after the wreck to meet their loved ones. There was Texas memorabilia everywhere! Baylor flag, Baylor license plates, wooden frames, and queso! It was the perfect night to end up there since it was the USA vs. Ghana game. USA lost, but it was still exciting and different to be surrounded by lots of Americans.

That night, the group walked across the bridge to admire Big Ben and Parliament in the moonlight. It was much prettier at night and the city was a lot quieter… at least in this part of town. We asked each other questions like “if you were any structure, which would you be?” I couldn’t pick one particular structure I would want to be, instead I described what I would want: something that isn’t talked up to be much (not the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, etc.) but is beautiful when you stumble upon it; Some place that is relaxing and is easily enjoyed by others.

It has been such a blessing making so many new friends and getting to know all of them so well. It’s going to be weird going back to Waco and not seeing my ‘hall mates,’ travel buddies, or classmates everyday!

Sunday morning Leah, Traci, Meredith and I explored the parts of London we hadn’t seen yet. Our first stop was the Tower of London. Traci and I were the only ones that went in, but I’m so happy we did! Not only did we view the beautiful crown jewels, but also I got to shoot a catapult! There was a cheesy show going on in what used to be “the moat” of the tower that shot an old weapon from the time England and Scotland were at war and four girls were chosen to launch the catapult… of course, I was one of them! After our walk around the tower and my attempt at making an English guard laugh, we did as the English do and ate fish and chips at a small café outside the tower with Meredith and Leah.

In our search for the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, we stumbled upon the Kensington gardens and palace. I have to say I was pretty disappointed in London’s gardens. We heard a story while on our tour that an old Queen gave her King a flower from her garden and told him, “give this to the fairest lady in the land.” To her surprise and dismay, he gave it to their maid. As most women would do, she ordered all flowers to be dug up from the garden and the park remains an area of green grass and trees. What I didn’t realize is that this idea is spread across all gardens that we saw. Hardly any flowers… not what I expected in a “garden.”

The Princess Diana Memorial was fun! I had thought it to be a large, elaborate fountain with people quietly surrounding the memorial and reminiscing about her meaningful life. Basically, it’s the complete opposite. There are no spouts for water to shoot out of and the people are definitely not quiet. It was a small, lazy river made of granite with children and parents playing as if it’s a miniature water park. The four of us girls spent a lot of time there people watching and soaking our feet from the miles/kilometers (J) of walking and searching.

The four of us girls had to carry not only our own huge, heavy backpacks to the train station, on the bus to the airport, then the airport bus to our hotel, but also Jean, Bonnie, and Blake’s luggage to make it easier for them. It was worth it when we gave ourselves the treat of taking the bed and giving them the floor for the night.

While studying for our History midterm (going to school and traveling is pretty tough, by the way), the movie “Wimbledon” came on- perfect! It was so neat to see the London eye and other sites we’d seen throughout the weekend. We’ve started a long movie list (wasn’t started until standing in line at Versailles. Which by the way, I’m a little behind on my blogs, obviously) that includes all the movies we’ve watched waiting for the day we will actually have the chance to see these places in person! Plus, we figure we won’t have any money this coming semester and will have LOTS of movie nights!

London was a great break from the exhaustion of trying to read German or Dutch. This is the first place I know I will go back to one day (God willing) and the first thing on my list is another show at the West End and another night along the river across of Parliament.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


A couple weekends ago, Meredith and I spent the weekend in our home country of Holland and surounding areas. It was a nice change to relax and focus on school- it has been a lot tougher than expected- and to rest from the exhausting life we've been living for the past month. In one day, we visited Rotterdam, Hoek van Holland and Amsterdam. Rotterdam and Hoek van Holland weren't anything special. It was neat to see other parts of the Netherlands, but, I wasn't very impressed.

Amsterdam, on the other hand, was beautiful once again. I enjoyed my first dutch pancake, apple cinnamon to be exact! It was delicious!! Before leaving I'd like to have another one. We walked through the red light district which was just plain sad (but still entertaining). It was still daylight so it wasn't as dirty as I would expect it to be during the late hours, but there were still girls selling themselves through windows. Sure, we think, it's Amsterdam.. there's supposed to be prostitutes in every corner, but in reality, these girls are still real humans and must have gone through some crazy times to end up where they are today. Sad.

On Sunday, Meredith and I took a train ride to Antwerp, Belgium to visit the Mode Museum of Fashion. The city was very clean but the weather was cold! I don't think I've EVER had to wear long jeans and a jacket in the middle of June in my life!

Do you ever smell something, hear a song, or taste a food that takes you back to a certain place? A thought that kept passing through my mind was Thanksgiving time.. The feeling of autumn surrounded me and took over my thoughts. It was cold outside, but I refused to wear warmer clothes because it's summer time! This is a recurring event in November when the weather begins to turn cold and I hold out until I end up getting sick from wearing shorts and t-shirts in freezing weather. Nevertheless, it made me realize how much I love that time of year. Lots of time with the family, a feeling of renewal comes about because of the changing weather, and stress starts to roll away as another year comes to an end. I've always answered Christmas to the question, "What's your favorite holiday?" without hesitation. Thanksgiving is my favorite time. It brings a feeling of peace, warmth, and brings together family and friends. Who could ask for more?

Yes, it's a random thought, but "Thanksgiving" was a constant feeling or thought throughout the whole week of cold weather we experienced... in the middle of June!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Vienna Waits for You


First sleeper train experience. Reminded me of the scene in Anastasia when they are in the "cabins" inside the train. Slept in the train overnight: 8 hour train ride to Salzburg.

We changed clothes, brushed our teeth, and tidied up in the train station "WC." We definitely got our .50 euro worth of that bathroom.

The Sound of Music Tour- Great opportunity to tour the city of Salzburg and tour a small town outside the town called Mondsee where the wedding scene in the movie took place and tasted some wonderful apple strudel with warm vanilla sauce and ice cream. Danced around the Mirabel gardens where the "Do Re Me" song was filmed and posed on the infamous "I'm am 16 going on 17" gazebo.

Then we headed to the Mozart museum which at first brought about a bit of disappointment but ended up being really neat. Lots of old instruments including an old violin and piano he used during his younger years.

Great shopping and a historical walk through the Getreidegasse where the birthplace of Mozart was also located.

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Door bells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

We hopped on another train from Salzburg to Vienna where we realized we had hit the jackpot with our hotel! The room on average cost about 280 euro a night and we booked it for 55! (14 euro each). So how do you fit 9 girls in 2 double rooms? It can happen...

At dinner I experienced my first schnitzel (because my stomach has finally adjusted) and was very impressed!

The next morning we walked through Vienna in the hottest weather we've experienced in Europe so far to the Hofburg Palace where the Hapsburgs ruled for over 600 years. We participated in 3 museums: The Silver Collection (who knew a family could have so many dishes??), Sisi Museum (Empress Elisabeth), and the Kaiser Apartments. When waiting on everyone to get through the museum, we sat on the edge of a fountain and watched a rally. Apparently in Austria when a couple is divorced, the wife always receives custody of the children. This group was protesting for the right to go through the proper process to allow fathers the chance to have custody as well.

More shopping!! This time, I only window shopped, which was still good enough for me.

One of my favorite moments in Vienna is waiting to take the train from the shopping center back to the hotel. We had an hour until the next train ran so we sat outside and watched a storm roll in-- one of my absolute favorite types of weather; the calm before the storm and watching the dark clouds take over the sky and give the world a two-toned horizon. After the storm, the weather become so much more enjoyable, thus making the trip even better.

That night, the 9 of us girls (Traci, Meredith, Amy, Tiffany, Erin, Cheniese, Brittany, Lindsey and I) explored the "Bermuda Triangle" for Cheniese's birthday. We began our night in a club called "The Lounge" that was in the basement of a beautiful building. It was fairly empty when we arrived and they were playing great music! From there, we found a hole in the wall pub with ladies in lederhausen and converse shoes dancing to oldies music. One song later, the ladies were dancing on a pole to a "Grease" medley. After that, we knew that it was going to be a good night. We made lots of Austrian friends and ganged up with a small bachelorette party (the ladies in the funny dresses) and they led us to a local night club full of Austrian natives.

The walk to the club was more fun than the club itself. They made us sing a 'Texas' song to which we bursted out with "the stars at night are big and bright---- Deep in the heart of Texas!!" We also chanted "Oh When the Saints" down the streets of Vienna. I have lots of great videos!

At the club there was more great music: Cotton Eye Joe, Macarena, and Sweet Home Alabama.

We got home just in time to see the sun rise (it rises VERY early; 4am) which was gorgeous!

Most of the group left the next morning, but Meredith, Traci and I stayed around to enjoy another day of sightseeing. We walked through the Belvedere Gardens (the Belvedere holds the famous painting "The Kiss," but we decided not to go on another tour) then headed off the the Prater Fair!

The Prater Fair holds the world famous Vienna Ferris Wheel that was built in 1897. While we didn't ride the wheel, we walked through the carnival and rode on a tall swing ride that allowed us to overlook the whole city. Then we took a break in front of the fair to soak up the fun and admire the old ferris wheel.

My favorite place of the whole trip: Schonbrunn Palace; the Hapsburgs summer residence. This is where we had fun in the maze gardens and hiked up the hill to the Gloriette Terrace to once again view the whole city. So beautiful, quiet, and humbling to realize how small you are in comparison to this historical and romantic city. We took that moment to slow down...

Slow down, you crazy child
you're so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you're so smart, tell me
Why are you still so afraid?

But you know that when the truth is told..
That you can get what you want or you can just get old
You're gonna kick off before you even
Get halfway through
When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Miss List

Not as much of a "miss" list as a list of small things we really appreciate having back home. Of course the top of the list consists of all our family, friends and pets. These follow:

1. Not having to pay to go to the bathroom.
2. Free water
3. Mexican food! ..On the Border, specifically
4. Food, in general- knowing what we're eating
5. English!
6. Big beds and sheets on them
7. Street signs
8. Air conditioning
9. Knowing which way to look before crossing the street

More to come. Just a few we've come up with so far.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

8 Countries, 5 Days

Maastricht Group Trip

The group trip started off chaotically for Bonnie and I. The night before our departure, I decided to set my alarm... not knowing until later it was for 7:15PM, not AM. At 7:50am, Jean woke us up in a panic telling us that we were late for the bus- we were supposed to be on the bus around 7:40AM. None of our bags were packed since we had planned to do so in the morning. I grabbed the stack of laundry sitting on my bed, threw in some makeup, toothbrush and moisturizer, picked up m fanny pack and was out the door. Luckily, Mama Jean had thrown in my liquids bag I took to Ireland. We didn't cause any delays in the trip so I figure it's a laughable situation. This should somewhat explain my clothing selection for the week and my rough appearance the first day (my makeup remained underneath the bus all day).

The whole first day was spent traveling through Germany. We made a stop at the intersection of the Rhine River and the ??? River. It was neat to see the differences the two rivers had as far as coloring is concerned. This was followed by a lovely boat cruise down the Rhine from Boppard to St. Goar where we saw over 5 castles, many vineyards, and classic German architecture.

Residenz Palace in Wurzburg: The palace we toured was gorgeous! The detail in the decor was unbelievable. No one is really sure what the palace was used for, but it was interesting to witness the amount of time and money pt into one room. Plus, it's not only decorated to look nice; every painting, every animal, every color has a symbolic meaning. We took a walk through the garden of the palace then returned to the bus.

Rothenburg: This has to be the most adorable town in Germany. A wall to preserve the city’s original look surrounds the village. We stayed in a hotel that has been active since 1380 called Roter Hahn (or Red Hen). It had a homey feel that was nothing like the typical hotel.

The next morning we walked across the street to the Criminal Museum: so cool!! yet, terrible. It's hard to imagine that people actually tortured other people in these horrible ways. Stretching limbs, dunking caged people into the water, chopping off hands, etc. Our favorite part was the mask display. Apparently, those who were wild, talkative, gossipy, pig-like and more had to wear a heavy, metal mask to display their bad personality trait(s). Bonnie and I chose which ones we would've had to wear if we lived during that time period. It was a common thing to have to wear one and it was a form of entertainment for everyone in the town.. I' sure it was fun until you or a family member were the ones being punished.

Neuschwanstein Castle: Next we headed out of Rothenburg to Hohenschwangau to see a castle—but not just any castle, the one that inspired the Disney castle! Sure the castle was nice and pretty, but the scenery was definitely what made it something to be inspired by. It was built in the 1800’s, so fairly recently, on top of a hill surrounded by snow covered mountains and greenery with a small waterfall below and a lake behind. I also found out that this castle is featured in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” More facts

Austria: for such a pretty place, the people sure are ugly.. Since our group was only passing through for the night, I have reason to believe that we didn’t get to see the best parts of the country. It was more of a trip to be able to cross off our list. Once arriving, most people immediately went to the townsquare—Jean, Bonnie and I weren’t far behind, but we took a bit of a detour through the city. We hopped on the wrong bus and went out of the way about an hour until we finally ended up where we wanted to in the first place. We had some pizza downtown then headed back to the hotel. So typical of us to get lost!

Luckily, this weekend I will have the chance to go back to Austria and see Salzburg and Vienna! I wonder if the hills really are alive..? J

Switzerland: my favorite place so far! The most beautiful place I’ve ever been. My two favorite things: mountains and water. Switzerland has the best of both! We had the opportunity to sit by 2 lakes; both royal blue and so clear you could see to the bottom. Surrounding each were mountains; some covered in trees and hicking paths and some covered in snow. All in one place!!? That’s how I imagine heaven. We had lunch at the top of a mountain looking over the lake (Vitznau-Rigi Kaltbad, to be exact). Afterwards, a bunch of us went for a walk down a hill where a large cross was built into the ground. Such an amazing concept, I thought. I’m sure there are TONS of people that visit that exact spot every year, believers and nonbelievers. Why not set up a cross at the edge for everyone to reflect over His gorgeous creation and remember (or realize) we are all a part of His awesome creation and should appreciate these priceless gifts given to us.

That night, we stayed in Montreaux, Switzerland. Our hotel sat right on Lake Geneva and our balcony view included more mountains and the lake. In Vitznau our group had discussed how great it would be to jump in the lake rather than only being able to dip our feet in. Once we found out our destination for the night would be on another lake, jumping in was a must! So, after dinner, each of us showed up at a central dock on the lake and did just that! Jumped into the freezinggg cold Lake Geneva. So exhilarating! Definitely my favorite memory of the trip.

From here on out, nothing we did topped Switzerland. While I learned a lot of historical information and facts and experienced lots of different cultures, I don't have much to write about the other places since they were not AS enjoyable (plus, after riding a bus for over 2500km, things begin to run together and start to take a toll on our energy levels). So, the rest of this blog is basically to jot down small thoughts to be able to remember the places we went.

Chateau de Chillon: This castle, only 20 minutes from Montreaux, was by far the most interesting one of all that I have visited. This castle was so authentic and was full of so much history that it was hard to take it all in. It was really fun for us to run around the courtyards into the "keep" and pretend to be princesses and knights (as if we were 5 years old). Good times... Facts.

Another cruise from Chillon to Vevey followed the castle tour and was a refreshing break between all the bus riding and museum tours.

Vevey to Schaffhausen: We stood next to the Rhine Falls which is apparently the "Niagra Falls" of Europe. It was pretty neat to sit somewhat underneath the falls and once again was a refreshing break from the traveling.

The scenic drive through the Black Forest in Germany was very... green..? It began to rain as we drove through but the amount of trees surrounding us was more than I've ever seen. The trees are so thick that light cannot shine through-- I know understand why it's called the black forest. More.

Freiburg: the hotel we stayed in was not my favorite and the city was a lot dirtier than I had expected. The townsquare was nice and I wish we could have spent more time there. Since it was a Sunday night, Freiburg was an absolute ghost town. The shopping would have been awesome and if the weather were better we would've walked around a bit more. Maybe another day I'll get to revisit and my outlook will change, but for now, not in my top lists.

Verdun: (say it with a country accent and it's really fun!..) My first time to France! It's so intriguing how different the culture and architecture as soon as you cross the border into a new country. The weather was great and food was excellent! I'm so excited to go back to France later in this trip.

Bastogne, Belgium: I'm not a big history buff.. facts

Maastricht: It was sooooo great to come back "home" after traveling for days! The trip as a whole was overwhelming, but it was great getting to know all the people that we are living with, eating with, and traveling for the next couple of months! I feel like we have a fun and diverse group of people that will make (and already have made) this summer this best ever! :)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Lost Girls in Neverland

Ireland: the friendliest, most charming place on Earth
*after Texas, of course...

Our adventures this week began way before we even arrived in Ireland. I'll take it from the Tuesday night before leaving. Let me preface this with these thoughts: Mom and Dad, I knew all along our plan to "wing it" wasn't gonna work out. Yet, this one time I allowed Bonnie and Jean to convince me that I was being too uptight about the situation and needed to just go with the flow.. therefore, I did. I've never been the most patient or the most responsible person.. why did I decide to be this time?? So many lessons have been learned through this experience.


Bonnie and I slept until about 1:00, knowing that we would have a late night trying to get to the airport and then leaving on an early flight to Dublin. Once Jean finally gave up on being sweet with her ways of waking us up, we hopped out of bed and headed for food. We once again found a small cafe with great food, and even better pie! *Side Note: J, B, and I have made a pact (more than one, actually) to meet for a dessert once a week at our newly discovered cafe. :) This makes our record for food findings in Maastricht 3-0! Since the "mall" is next to the Cafe Monopole, I stopped by Shoeland to buy some more comfortable shoes -- have I mentioned that we walk EVERYWHERE!? Probably a good thing seeing that we will be having pie dates at least once a week. After a stop by the market, a shower, and packing, Bonnie and I realized it was about time we left for the bus so we didn't miss the bus. Little did we know what was in store for us

I traveled with five other girls on this trip; Jean, Bonnie, Traci, Leah and Kaitlin. None of us had any idea where we were staying once we got to Ireland and only little about what we were going to do when we arrived. Once again, being the responsible one, (kind of..) I tore out the "Ireland" section of my tourist book and stuck them in my "fanny pack." I thought it'd be fairly simple to ask the front desk to staple the pages together for me to make it a little easier on us, but nooooo... The stapler had to get stuck- which at the time, wasn't a big deal. Now, I strongly believe that that one little happening created a domino effect for the rest of our trip. As we're nonchalantly walking out of the dorm and to the bus stop, we conveniently see the bus drive away, for the second time this trip, right in front of us. The train is scheduled to leave at 9:09 and it's currently 8:45... Thinking the bus ran every few minutes, we patiently waited for the next one to come around. We could have EASILY walked to the station in about 20/25 minutes, but instead waited. And waited. ..I'm sure you have already predicted that we missed the 9:09 train.. You're absolutely right! :) So, we ordered kebabs from the train station and waited around for the next train to Liege. The next step happened with no problems. On the train in Maastricht, off in Liege. It was upon arriving in Liege that our situation became a bit sticky.

"It makes me happy to know none of us get a 'how to' guide; we're all just kind of winging it."

As soon as we stepped off the train in Liege I pointed out a marquee above one of the platforms that read "Charleroi-SUD" which is the airport we were going to. Being clueless and "responsible," yet again, we decided to ask a security gaurd (garda) which train would take us closest to the airport (or if there was one that took us straight to the airport.. cause we had no idea if there was or not). He kindly directed us to Brussels and told us to get off at Brussels-Nord. We listened. We got on the train to Brussels-Nord. Because we were still a bit unsure and wanted a second opinion, we asked the train conductor once getting on the train. He told us to get off at Brussels-Midi. Figuring he was our best source of information, we took his advice and set off for Brussels-Midi. Along the way we met some interesting people... One man who played the accordian and another chinese man that spoke little English but was a huge Spice Girls fan! The two formed an entertaining duet to keep us occupied on the train ride. I say it very lightly now, but at the time, we were quite frightened by these characters that were just a little too friendly for our taste. The man with the accordian advised us to get off at Brussels-Central... uhh, thanks, but no thanks mister!

There are sometimes that I just wish someone followed us around constantly with a camera to capture moments like this: we stepped off the train in Brussels-Midi to find an empty station. We walked outside past a few homeless people and across a deserted street to a lit hotel. Luckily it wasn't TOO late for the doors of the hotel to be locked (I believe it was 1:30am) and I chatted with the man at the front desk. I explained to him our situation that we needed to find Charleroi airport and we cannot get a straight answer from anyone about how to get there! Of course, we needed to take a shuttle to the airport and it was too late to catch one that night. We inquired about booking a room for the 3 hours we had to wait around for the shuttle, but the man allowed us to take over the lobby for the night. God Loves Us! :) We knew he especially loved us when we found out the bar was open for another 20 minutes.. "two bottles of wine, please!"

It was basically downhill from there getting to Ireland.. minus the security at Ryanair! Terrible!

.. And that's all I have to say about that..


Sure, Tuesday and Wednesday are considered separate days, but for us, it kind of runs together since we had little sleep over these 48 hours. Time number two I wish we had a camera following us: stepping off the bus in Dublin. Luckily, the Irish speak English so we didn't have much of a problem finding the "hostel row" with tons of choices. We chose Isaac's. Great Choice!! Once again, God was watching over us as the hostel receptionist informed us that there was one 6 bed room available. Well, we took it and we were VERY pleased! I always pictured a hostel to be small, dark, dirty and scary.. that was not the case at all. It was spacious, light, fairly clean, and the beds seemed to be more comfortable than the ones in our "hospital dorm" rooms.

Our Explorations Found us in:
Trinity College -- see below
St. Stephen's Green -- swans in the pond and people of all ages soaking up summertime
and the gorgeous weather
The Dublin Castle -- disappointing, but a castle nevertheless
"It's moments like this that make me wish I could freeze frame time..."

A game of Cricket, beautiful and perfect blue skies, a field of green, bubbles, and a group of Irish students singing and playing Beatles tunes.. What could be better? Each of us sat in silence for a good 30 minutes just reflecting on the chance we had been given to travel all over the world for a full summer. I also realized the power of music, not only at this college, but all throughout Ireland. Music is a universal language that all can enjoy and relate to.


After a full night's worth of sleep-- FINALLY! --we woke up and met on tour guides across town. Altogether we traveled 600 km on a bus Thursday! Holy moly! But no worries, it was totally worth it!

We traveled from Dublin to Galway, Galway to the Cliffs of Moher, a circle around western Ireland, then back to Dublin.

The Cliffs of Moher were breathtaking! It's places like these cliffs that make me wonder how anyone could ever deny that there's a God. I attempted to capture it's beauty by taking pictures, but those don't capture the sense of peace and quiet that is felt on those cliffs. The castle remains at the top of one of the hills made it even more lovely while the cloudy weather made my expectations of Ireland a reality.

"God saw everything He had made, and indeed, it was very good." Genesis 1:31

Since it was pretty chilly on this day, I decided to invest in a hat to keep my head warm. Little did I know it was going to become a part of my Ireland experience. When buying my hat from an Irish man working in a shop next to the Cliffs exhibition, I asked, "Did you make this?" His answer: "No, Marian from the barn handmade the hats and the scarves." ...This is probably one of my favorite quotes from the whole trip. It's humorous to think about an old lady knitting my hat from the wool she acquired from the sheep on her land and them ending up in this shop. It's even better that this man spoke of Marian and the barn as if I was an old family friend.

That's the thing about Ireland-- everyone (except one grumpy man in the park.. haha!) is friendly and willing to help those around them.

That night, we tried out the Dublin nightlife, which is somewhat overrated. The Temple Bar area, the nighttime hotspot, was filled with people-- unfortunately, mostly older people. We had lots of fun: stopped by all the popular pubs, listened to some good ol' Irish music, and tasted a Guinness!


After getting to sleep-in for the first time during our trip, the six of us took a walk around Dublin to find breakfast and were entertained by a group of Algerians chanting songs and waving around their flags. Algeria and Ireland played a friendly soccer game that night, come to find out.

Again, we hopped on a bus to a small town called Enniskerry that was suggested to us by a tourist information lady. Upon our arrival, we had no idea where we were staying or really even where we were going. I stepped off the bus, looked up to see a sign that read 'Ferndale B&B' ... perfect! Exactly what'd we'd been wanting all week. So we took a chance -- I walked straight up to the bright red door and was greeted by a sweet Irish man. "Hiiii... Do you have anything available for tonight??.. :)" I'm sure he was shocked by 6 girls, all with huge backpacks standing at his door in the middle of the day in a town that is not used to tourists (The town consisted of a couple of pubs and a string of boutiques). He invited us inside and we made ourselves comfortable in the lounge. AGAIN God loves us-- "Grandpa Noel" informed us that he had 2 rooms available that each can sleep 3. PERFECT! Of course we took the deal, only 30 euro, and enjoyed our luck for the rest of the day.

The Powerscourt Gardens were located about a mile from the B&B so we took a stroll up the hill. A few hours later we finally found ourselves at the garden but decided to wait until Saturday to take them on since we'd spent so much time soaking up the beautiful scenery that led the way to there. We stopped at an old Catholic church and cemetery that sat in front of the Irish mountains. There were many other times along the way that we paused for a picture or two. We also saw some wild horses hanging around the path on the way there. This is significant because on the way back we sat down along the edge of the fence (not sure how else to describe it) they were guarded by to observe. To our surprise, the horses slowly made their way over to us and before we knew it, they were eating grass out of our hands and letting us pet their faces.

At that moment, each of us laughed and realized how awesome and blessed our lives are: Petting wild horses with a scenic, mountainous background on a warm, sunny day in Ireland. Wow.

That evening we walked ALL THE WAY across the street to "Nancy Murphy's" where most of us had our first Bailey's experience. Yuck! The Ireland vs. Algeria game was happening at the time and a nice middle-aged man directed us to the hot club "Bray Sea Front" that was only a few minutes down the road. After talking with another Irish woman for a while about her life, she also suggested the club. So, we took off to the bus stop once again, got off the bus, and started walking aimlessly. Luckily, we ran into a group of young Irish people who were headed to the same club after stopping by a local bar where their friend was playing in a band. We walked down a creepy, dark alley to the "Bray Harbor Bar" and joined a small group of people supporting this talented band. This was definitely my favorite night in Ireland. Listening to wonderful music, mostly American, drinking with Irish people, and staying away from your usual tourist places in the country. We became pretty good friends with the bartender and the owner of the bar (his son to be exact) and had such a great time together singing songs such as American Idiot, Sweet Home Alabama (we all stood up and danced for that one) and many others. We took a taxi back and called it a night.


Saturday morning was so fun waking up to a delicious and nutritious breakfast downstairs and enjoying it with many native Irish couples. Josie, the owner, allowed us to stay for a while after check-out to let the weather clear up for our day at the Powerscourt Gardens. We sat around and drank coffee while eating cookies in the lounge. PERFECT, once again!

The Gardens were beautiful! So bright and colorful on such a cloudy day with the mountains surrounding us, nothing could be better. I tried, again, to take pictures to capture their beauty, but it doesn't amount to the real life experience we had.

The rest of our trip was really simple. We took a bus back to Dublin where we spent the rest of the night talking and resting for our trip back to Maastricht the next morning.

All in all, the trip was definitely a terrific first trip with lots of relaxation along with trials and tribulations we had to go through. As I said when the volcano postponed our trip, God is in control of everything and will take care of us no matter what. That fact is going to be reiterated throughout our studies and travels over these next few months and I cannot wait to see what else He has in store for us!

The End.

Monday, May 24, 2010

More People, More Fun

I don't think I have ever been nearly as exhausted as I was today when leaving Amsterdam. This may have had something to do with the fact that I haven't been able to sleep for the past few days.. is it excitement, the fact that the sun doesn't set until wayyy too late, or just pure insomnia? On the upside, the lack of sleep has been made up by tons of great memories and fun times.

This morning, Caleb, Bonnie, Jean, Kaitlin and I took our first train ride and successfully made it there in one piece!! I'm not sure if you understand, but that's a huge accomplishment considering there's others on our group that unfortunately spent all day on trains and buses and never made it to their anticipated final destination.

Upon arriving in Amsterdam, we aimlessly wandered around the city looking for FOOD! ...probably the fact that we walk everywhere has made us constantly hungry!.. So, we stopped at what we thought to be a donut shop --which it was-- but ordered the "bacon sandwich." In America, usually when you order a bacon sandwich (or any sandwich for that matter), you expect there to be a bit of flavor and more food than what you ordered. Not here! I ordered a bacon sandwich, and I got bacon on bread.. oh wait! .. and mayonnaise! blehh! But, we were satisfied.

The five of us hopped on a bus and headed down to the Van Gogh Museum. Our museumkaarts (museum passes) not only got us in for free, but allowed us to cut the looong line! It's like having a fastpass at DisneyLand! :) Van Gogh's art was beautiful! Each painting, even within the same year, had a different personality, texture and story to tell. It was so interesting to observe his paintings and also read his reasoning behind the art. A few that stood out to me were these:

Courting Couples in the Voyer d'Argenson Park in Asnieres

The Almond Blossom (inspired by his newborn nephew)

The Sea at Saintes- Maries- de- la- Mer .. It was neat to see his original signature in the bottom left.

From there, we wandered a bit more down to a beautiful park for what we were hoping to be a photo op on the famous I AMsterdam letters. Little did we know, we'd have a lot more fun sitting next to the "foot pool" and people watching. Amsterdam is a lot prettier, brighter and less polluted than I had imagined it to be. I loved the scenery and interacting with people who are in a hurry to get somewhere! In Maastricht, people take life slow and enjoy every moment. Maastricht also has less people making it more homey and distinguished from the populated, crazy Amsterdam.

Later, we stopped by another park along the walk to the Anne Frankhuis. This somewhat reminded me of a cleaner Central Park. People laying on the grass, unicycling, playing the violin, and just taking in LIFE.

FINALLY, after a loooong and confusing voyage to find the Anne Frank house (I was determined), we found it! I have read the book and seen the movie, but nothing will compare to the real life experience of being in the very same rooms and walking the same steps as Anne Frank and the other 7 Jews being hidden in the attic of this factory. My favorite part was in Anne's room: all of her wall decorations -- which came from magazine cut outs, comics, and pictures taken -- were still there! I could try to regurgitate every fact I learned, but I'd rather soak in the experience and take it for what it's worth. I only made me look forward to witnessing a concentration camp even more.

The Anne Frankhuis was the last stop of the day, so we headed back to Maastricht! All of us fell asleep in the train at some point, just proving the exhaustion we felt. It's tiring trying to find your way around a large city you've never been to, especially when everything is in some language other than "American!" haha!

Looks like tomorrow we will be heading to Brussels for the night to catch an early flight into Ireland Wednesday morning. I'm not sure what I expect out of Ireland ... I've learned to not expect anything because it'll never be what you imagine! I will not have my computer, so I will have to record the trip into my blog once we return to Maastricht!


Sunday, May 23, 2010

If it ain't Dutch, it ain't much!

This morning, Jean, Bonnie, Kaitlin and I spent our first Sunday at a historical church in the square. Apparently it is Pentacost (we aren't exactly sure what that is, but it IS celebrated by Catholics.. Thank you, Jean Carter) which made this outing even more special. We arrived at the service early so we snuck into the one taking place at the time. Absolutely GORGEOUS! Stained glass lining the walls, exquisite architecture, tall and decorated ceilings, only two columns of pews and one aisle down the center with a man in uniform standing in the back with a golden axe...? Someone that's Catholic needs to explain this man to us. The whole service was in Dutch, but nonetheless, it was an interesting experience. Of course people tour ancient churches, but we can now say we attended one.

This is the victory that conquers the world - our faith. 1 John 5:4

After church, we headed to the bike shed to check out our bikes!! We get these all summer (and found out we can even take them on the trains... paris by bike? heck yeah!) A group of about 12 of us headed through Maastricht, down a beautiful road consisting of a castle, vineyards, storybook houses, and a luscious, green countryside.

About 10 miles later, we arrived in Belgium at the Albert Canal. We stopped for a picture break as Bonnie interviewed Dr. Rust about the history of the canal while I filmed (should've been the other way around..). Once again, we all hopped on our bikes and traveled in a single file line approximately another 10 miles. Bonnie DID make it-- barely-- but we all were struggling a bit at the end. After calculating our trip, a few of us decided we biked almost 25 miles! But hey, it was definitely worth it seeing how it was probably one of the most amazing bike rides I'll ever take.

Of course once that was over we were all VERY hungry! So, Caleb, Jean, Bonnie and I strolled down our main street to find a small cafe on the corner. The pizza and calzones the little man made us were not only made completely from scratch, they have made it to our top 2 places to eat here! Finally full once again! Bye-bye spreadable sausage... :)

When we returned to the room, a group of us spontaneously decided to take a train to Amsterdam tomorrow! This trip will NOT consist of any coffee shops, rather the Anne Frank house and the Van Gogh museum...

Later tonight, we took another trip to the square. This time, we discovered there's another square just a block down the street! Once again, movie set quality. While walking down the street we stopped to witness a Maastricht Street Show-- and golly, were we in for a treat!! An older man wearing a silver jumpsuit with pink leggings and heels was singing a Dutch pop song with backup dancers wearing similar outfits. Older men and women were dancing and singing along, so I decided to join! :) From there we continued to explore and found the "Maastricht projects," as Bonnie calls them. It felt like a ghost town.. So we circled back to the newfound square and took a seat outside to watch the sun go down (at 10pm.. I still don't know how long it's going to take me to get over this..)

I just posted pictures on Facebook so you can put images and stories together!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

I recently realized that we have only been here for a little over a day!

I have already learned so much and had so many fun and unforgettable experiences;

I can't imagine what's in store for these next 3 months!

Bonnie, Jean, Caleb, our new friend Zach –who we are very fortunate to have to show us around the city-- and I explored downtown Maastricht last night. We hit up all the coolest local bars and one of the hottest clubs. Shamrock's was VERY fun! We began by trying out The Netherlands home beer: Grolsch! Once successfully winning over a Maastricht Rugby teams heart (don’t worry Logan, they were about 30 years old—surprising for a rugby team I thought) we received a FREE pitcher of Grolsch. We continued onto the "club" in downtown Maastricht… It is sooo beautiful walking down the street, and during the daytime it’s even more gorgeous… Oddly enough, one of the songs played in a mix of techno music was “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!” I found it odd and goofy that all the European boys knew the words and sang along!

This morning we went to brunch, which consisted of cereal and egg rolls (still the only aspect of being in another country I have been disappointed by.. the food). From there all 32 of us took a walk to the location where our classes will be held, through the market/mall (seems like shops go on for miles!), over the river, to the train station, and back. Of course we were shown pictures of the river, but never did I expect it to look so picture perfect. The building our classrooms are in used to be a monastery. The doors, staircase, and courtyard are still in place but the walls are painted an array of bright colors with artwork scattered throughout. The lecture room’s chairs are all different colors such as yellow, red, purple, green and orange. Very modern and uplifting.

One of my favorite differences is that every place there would normally be a basketball court in a park in America, there is a soccer/futbol court with metal goals. Jean so graciously attempted to help out some of the boys playing futbol by fetching their ball for them that had gone over the short fence surrounding the court. Instead, she made a fool out of herself because she was trying to "play it cool!" The ball was thrown right into the fence and bounced back to her. The next time she stood a bit closer to the court and lightly tossed the ball over the fence and back to the boys.

Once we returned Bonnie and I finally tried the spreadable sausage we’d been anxious to taste. Turns out, it’s not all that bad.. the cheese on the other hand- gross! We’ll have to try again when we return to the market… But for now, we will more than likely enjoy all of our meals at our new favorite restaurant—Nora’s!

Today was the championship game in the European Champions League between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan. A group of us made our first trip to he Highlander and felt as though we were locals cheering on our favorite team: Bayern Munich (the red team!). We were livin' the life: watching good ol’ futbol while drinking a Heineken with our new Dutch friends. J

Friday, May 21, 2010

Maastricht: Day One

We made it! FINALLY!!
After another long flight full of anticipation, we landed in Amsterdam! With ease we all strolled through customs (literally only a small detour through a hallway that separated us from the natives) and loaded up the bus to begin our trek to Maastricht.

Along the way I experienced my first "dutch" meal. Each label was of course in Dutch, therefore I'm not exactly sure what it was that I ate. All I know is that the sandwich consisting of a wedge cut tomato, half a boiled egg, cheese, and some sort of meat on bread was very... bland. Mayonnaise, and other condiments, cost extra. Speaking of extra costs, I also had my first experience in a European bathroom.

A couple years ago I saw the musical Urinetown, a comedy depicting the lives of those who are broke and are in need of public bathrooms, yet, they must pay to use them. Never did I think paying to go to the bathroom was REAL! So yes, I paid half a euro to use the bathroom.. along with this experience I made an observation that I wish I hadn't paid attention to- because now I'm completely grossed out--- These people don't wash their hands with soap! BLEHHH!! Now, this might not be true for everyone in the Netherlands, but it was for sure true for the four people that shared the bathroom with me.

The drive from Amsterdam to Maastricht was gorgeous. The houses are so adorable! ...exactly what I pictured! The green countryside goes on for days and the grass even seems to be greener (really!). We made jokes that they must clean the grass and fluff it every once in a while. When driving through the city of Maastricht I saw the about as more bikers riding along the street and on the paths laid out for them at one time than I have ever seen. I can't wait to get my bike! This city is a lot more populated than I expected it to be: therefore, there's tons of apartment buildings everywhere.. All very old and pretty!

Once we made it to Universiteit Maastricht, we promptly received our dorm keys: Bonnie and I are very pleased with the rooms! They're very spacious and long.. the only downside is the beds. They seem to be very uncomfortable, but I shouldn't judge until I have slept on it.

We met with the group after getting settled in and took a walk to the mall. It was so difficult to buy groceries since EVERYTHING was in Dutch. Bonnie and I stood back several times to see what the locals picked out, and then we'd pick the same! When there weren't locals around, for example in the bakery, we just bought one of everything that looked appetizing and decided we'd try them all-- that way, when we return to the store we'll know which kind we like best. There were many firsts on this grocery run such as my first purchase of spreadable sausage and first time to legally buy wine :)

All day I have been super exhausted, yet I have managed to stay awake because of the exciting sights and people surrounding me. When we first arrived it didn't feel like I was actually in another country 5,000 miles away from home. It's beginning to become more and more real with each experience and I keep thanking God for this incredible opportunity. I can't believe we made it!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Damn Volcano..

Never have I traveled so far for so long just to end up exactly where I started.
...Ohhh the adventures of traveling...

After leaving the Houston airport at 3:40pm, our plane traveled halfway across the Atlantic Ocean only to return to Houston, turning a 9 hour flight into a 13 hour one. After taking NyQuil and falling into a deep sleep, I was unpleasantly woken up by Jean and Bonnie "joking" with me about the plane turning around: we were only 3 hours away; why the heck would we turn around?? ..That question still remains unanswered. All we know is that Volcano Ejavnfjksdlvndjakvn [at least thats what it looks like] is not done exploding yet!

As I continued to believe they were messing with my head and began to watch When In Rome for the third time, the couple behind me called over the flight attendant to explain that we were, in fact, making a U-Turn.

All I could think once we arrived back in Houston was "Is this real life?" We were all SO excited and had a sense of closure after telling friends and family good-bye that I couldn't imagine having to 1) experience another dreadfully long flight and 2) go back to Texas.. Continental so graciously gave us each a room in the Sheraton Hotel until 1pm (we arrived at 7am) and sweet Dr. Rust booked the group another flight. Looks like we will be vacationing at Miss Kaitlin's humble abode on Lake Conroe until our flight leaves this Thursday.

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

Lesson Learned: God is ALWAYS in control!

This lesson also applies to the tragic loss of a good friend, Hunter Smith. I am truly saddened by the loss of this kind, caring individual that touched the lives of so many people. Of course, he is now in a better place but will be very missed by everyone still in this place.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

This is the day

This summer, I will have the incredible opportunity to embark on a once in a lifetime journey to Maastricht where I will be studying at Universteit Maastricht.

I am:
and SO much more!

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

I have started this blog to not only allow my family and friends to keep up with my many adventures, but also to record the places I go, things I see, and people I meet. Being a gypsy isn't an easy task and after spending 3 months in over 8 different countries, recording my thoughts on each visit and crazy experiences will help me to remember and re-live this life changing trip.

The 30 other students traveling to Maastricht will begin classes in two weeks. I will be taking 14 hours/4 classes: 2 from Baylor professors and 2 from native Dutch professors. While there is a 7 hour time difference (from Texas to Maastricht), I'd like to share my schedule so we can communicate and stay in touch -- because after the initial excitement, homesickness will obviously be in order...

[Texas Time] [Cape Time]
comm 6:30-8:30am 7:30-9:30am
history 12-2pm 1-3pm
mgmt 1:30-3:30am 2:30-4:30am
history 12-2pm 1-3pm
comm 8:30-10:30am 9:30-11:30am
mgmt 1:30-3:30am 2:30-4:30am

I will be available through SKYPE: erinelise8 OR facebook. {international calling fees are outrageous!} If you would like a postcard, send me your address!

Here we go-- I guess I'm really doing this.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with youwherever you go. John 1:9