Sunday, December 21, 2008

Day Nine: Solden to Zurich to Camberley


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I was so sad leaving this morning. I really wasn't ready to leave just yet. I got to say goodbye to my friend, and we took a taxi to the train station. It was just getting light outside when we left, so I got one last look at the mountains. The train ride to the airport in Zurich was pleasant. We got to sit in a box, so that was nice. What scenery I did see was pretty. I can't get over how beautiful everything is with snow blanketing it. It looks like a picture on a postcard. I slept the rest of the way to Zurich.

The whole deal with getting back to the UK was a mess. We were really early to our gate at the airport, so we waited forever to board. The flight was delayed for I don't know how long due to some wind, they said, in London. They shut down a runway and part of the terminal, so I'm not sure what really happened. I don't think it was just wind. Our plane was parked away from the terminal, so we had to walk to waiting buses that took us to Terminal 5. Anyway, our trip went full-circle and we made it back to Camberley.

I am very tired and kind of sad that our holiday has come to a close. It was an unforgettable trip. I probably won't get the chance to do this again, so I am extremely thankful for the opportunity. How very blessed I am. Now it's time to re-pack one more time for one more flight before we arrive back home. I am thankful for two more weeks until school starts back again. I need some time to recoup, and to spend more time with my family.

The End!

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Day Eight: Solden


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I was raring to go this morning, ready to ski. I woke up a little after seven, but it doesn't get light outside until eight-thirty or later. We ate breakfast, got ready, and made it to the slope around noon. The weather was great for skiing. It wasn't snowing too hard. Rebecca and I skied for pretty close to two hours. My muscles were killing me! It was harder the second day because of sore muscles. We decided to go in for lunch, and we went back again after. The second time was much better. I guess I was warmed up enough. I absolutely love skiing. I wouldn't have stopped as soon as I did if it hadn't started snowing so hard. I went on the slope probably close to ten or twelve times. I'm going to look up the closest place to Starkville to go skiing when I get home. If it is withing four or five hours, it could be a day trip. Perfect! I also discovered two things this trip: 1) it doesn't start hurting until you stop moving, and 2) whirlpool tubs are not for luxury here, they are a necessity. I was not sore, I was in pain! All for a good cause though-fun!

I got a nick name today: Miss Sunshine. :) One of the guys running the ski lift was particularly friendly. I saw him several times as I went up the lift, down the slope, and around for another run. It was funny watching him try to figure out what nationality I was. His first guess was that I spoke German. Next, he tried Spanish. And finally English. lol. I was interesting that people automatically spoke German to us, and then they would ask us if we were English. We had to tell people we were Americans. I thought it was really interesting, and a good thing, I think, that we didn't scream "American Tourists." Anyway, I saw my friend several more times before we left because he worked at the place we were staying. He was nice, and spoke fairly good English. Sadly, I didn't get his name.

I love Solden! It's a gorgeous place with incredibly nice people. When I am rich, I will buy a place here to spend the winter and ski to my heart's content. :)
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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Day Seven: Solden


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The place we are staying in Solden is really neat. Very modern furniture and some...ahem...modern art. Europeans have twisted taste in art. Anyway, the view is spectacular! We're in the Alps. It never ceases to amaze me when I'm in the mountains. The snow here fascinates me. There is a blanket of snow over everything. i'm not sure how many feet of snow they've gotten here, but it has snowed perpetually since we arrived. I love snow! :)

We spent a leisurely morning. we had bread and butter delivered to our room. Very good as usual. After a while, we decided to get dressed and go get our ski gear. I was pumped! Others in the family were significantly less excited. Finally after lunch we made it to the right ski slope-the beginner slope. Very important to make that distinction... We strapped, snapped, and adjusted all our equipment and headed to the lift. Since it was the beginnner slope (the kiddy ski school was nearby) it had a different lift than I had seen before. It was an upside down t-shaped "seat" that you put behind you and it pulled you up the mountain on your skis. The slope we were on was bigger and steeper than where we skied in New Mexico. After getting the hang of skiing again (it had been almost three years since I skied last) it was alot of fun! Skiing is one sporty thing I do well. I enjoy it very much and hopefully I'll be able to go skiing more often than every three years. I might even move up from the kiddy slope eventually! :) Speaking of kids, there were several kids who were zipping up and down the mountain. They couldn't have been more than 5 years old! Someone told us that Austrians were born with skis on. I believe it. i'm looking forward to skiing a full day tomorrow! (Even though I can barely walk tonight.)

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Day Six: Salzburg


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Everyone woke up much more refreshed this morning. Breakfast was, as usual, exquisite, and even more interesting than usual because Christopher began telling us about the house and the real Von Trapp family.

Some of the movie is accurate, but a good bit is hollywood fiction. There were seven children initially, and three more after Maria and the Barron were married. They also entered a folksinging contest at a local festival where an American agent heard them and offered to take them to America. Initially they declined. When the Nazis occupied Austria, the family resisted. Even when Barron Von Trapp was offered a military position because he was the highest decorated naval officer in Austria, he refused. The Nazis required everyone to fly the Nazi flag in front of their home, but the Barron flew his military flag instead. The family was also asked to sing at Hitler's birthday celebration, but they responded saying that they did not sing for Hitler. The family's butler was a Nazi, but was also loyal to the family. He warned them that they were in danger, and the family decided to leave Austria for America. They met in a room in their home and decided to leave. The barron siad that if one person said he didn't want to leave, the whole family would stay. It was unanimous. He also opened up their family Bible and the verse that he happened to turn to was the one where God tells Abraham to take his family and go to the place where He would lead them. That made the decision firm. Contrary to the movie, the family did not have to flee the Nazis and hike over the mountain to Switzerland. Acually, Germany is on the other side of the mountain where the movie was filmed (in Salzburg). The family simply walked to the train station at the corner of their gardens and took a train to Italy. From there they went by ship to America. The family never went back to Austria, but toured for three years singing in the U.S. After that, they bought a ski lodge in Vermont, where five of them still reside today. Maria is 94 years old and still visits Austria occasionally.

Another interesting fact about Villa Trapp is that after the family fled Austria, the Nazis used it as a headquarters. I walked in a room where Hitler and several other leaders came up with the Holocaust. Kind of creepy... After the war, the family did get the house back, but sold it to an order of monks. It is still in their possesion today, but they rent it out to the people who run the hotel. A very neat place with tons of history and a very interesting story.

It was great to learn more about the real Von Trapp family. We took a Sound of Music tour this morning. We got to see many of the places where the movie was filmed, including the two houses used for the Von Trapp family house, the convent where Maria lived, and the church were Maria and the Barron's wedding was filmed. Our tour guide was Rosamaria and she gave us lots of "insider" information and neat stories from people who were there during filming, and the real Von Trapp family. She was great!

I was sad to leave Salzburg. There was much more we could have seen. But we still have half our trip left. Skiing! A three-hour train ride and we'll arrive in Solden.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Day Five: Salzburg



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This morning we packed and finished seeing everything we wanted to see and said goodbye to Wien. It was a beautiful city and the people were very nice, even if we didn’t speak German. Only one person I came across didn’t speak English. I would definitely recommend visiting Vienna, and hope to come back here someday. It is a wonderful place to relax, enjoy beautiful scenery, and eat delicious food.

We made it to the train station just in time to catch our 12:44 train to Salzburg. We also discovered that five people and about ten pieces of luggage do not navigate the inside of a train car very well…

On the three hour train ride to Salzburg, I caught my first glimpse of snow! How exciting for this Mississippi Girl to have a white Christmas! I feel like a little kid again when I encounter snow. It is awe-inspiring to me.

I didn’t get a very good first impression of Salzburg, because it was dark when we arrived. It was a lot bigger than I expected. We got a taxi at the train station and told him where we were staying. We arrived there but it was not Villa Trapp. They were private apartments. Talk about feeling like awkward Americans… He finally called the place, and we arrived at Villa Trapp, the Von Trapp Family Home. As I said, it was dark but inside the house was beautiful. Christopher, the man who runs the villa, was extremely nice, and showed us to our rooms. Mamma and Daddy stayed downstairs in the Barron’s suite. The three of us stayed in Maria’s suit. How neat! It was beautiful, very clean and fresh. Only two benches in the foyer were original furniture. The rooms were furnished with modern furniture. Still, very pretty.

After getting our luggage put away in our rooms, we called a taxi to take us to a restaurant. When we went inside, they did not have a table available for us, so we had to sit in the bar area. As time went on, it got smokier and noisier. We also had a rather…fresh waiter, which my sister did not approve. The food was good though—I ate beef goulash—but our dining experience was less than pleasant. It probably didn’t help that we were very tired. We went back to the hotel and crashed.

We only had one night and half a day to spend in Salzburg. A good detour on our way to Solden, I think.

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Day Four: Vienna to Salzburg


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Another day starting with a fabulous European breakfast. Everything is so good. The bread, tomatoes, yogurt, boiled eggs, and hot tea with milk-yum! Anyways, this morning we went to the Spanish Riding School. This is a famous place where Lipizzan Stallions are trained and perform. They are amazing horses, and we got to go to the “most beautiful indoor riding arena” and watch them do morning exercises. Each rider is responsible for training their own horse. It was neat to watch them ride, and look for the subtle cues that they give their horses. It was also interesting to watch the young stallions who didn’t want to listen to their riders.

After we left the Spanish Riding School, we went looking at different shops. We split up so we could finish some Christmas shopping. I think this has been the most fun Christmas shopping I’ve ever done. It’s interesting trying to buy gifts for someone under their nose!

This trip has been a little different from trips we’ve taken in the past. While we’ve gotten to see a lot of the city, it has been more relaxed than times past. Usually, we are rushing to cram everything in a day. This time, there has been more leisure time. I’ve enjoyed it quite a lot. A much needed escape after a difficult semester.

Another thing I love about Vienna is the window shopping. Where we’re staying is not far from the more affluent shopping areas. One street we’ve walked down several times is home to Versace, Gucci, D&G, Cartier, Tiffany & Co., and Armani. It’s been neat to browse all the elaborate window displays. Most of the things I’ve seen, I could never afford, but it is fun to dream. : )

Tomorrow, we’ll spend the morning in Vienna and then head to the train station to travel to Salzburg, where we’ll spend a night at the Von Trapp Family Villa. How cool is that?!
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day Three: Vienna

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Today was a great day! We got some sleep last night and breakfast this morning was really good. We started out the day with a bus tour of Vienna. It wasn’t very long, but we got to see a good portion of the city. Vienna is a very modern city, but has so many beautiful, old buildings, and a rich history. After the tour, we walked around the city some. We found another bigger Christmas market, the Wiener Weihnachtsdorfer, and spend a good bit of time shopping and looking around. We also ate lunch there- crepes and kinderpunsch. It was interesting shopping because we were trying to buy Christmas presents for each other with out letting them see! We were pretty tired after we finished, so we headed back to the hotel. We had tickets to a koncierto tonight, so we ordered up some tea, ate some snacks, and caught a nap. We were reluctant to wake up, and if it weren’t for wanting to hear some Mozart and Strauss, I might not have woken up! But we did, and ate supper at a nice cafĂ©. The concert was really good. It was 2 violins, a viola, a cello, and a piano. They were very talented (and the pianist was good looking too!). There was also a lady who sang, and a couple who danced ballet. They were good too. A very good day in Vienna, Austria!

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Day Two: Vienna



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Today was mostly a travel day, but we did get to experience some of Vienna this evening. Our plane from London to Vienna was delayed for almost an hour because of fog, so we arrived here around 4pm. A taxi took us from the airport to our hotel, a Best Western, of all places. It’s much nicer than any Best Western in the States I’ve stayed in. The picture above is of our room, complete with mints on the pillow. It’s not directly in downtown, but it is on a quiet street near the center of the city. Everything around here looks to be a hundred years old! Mozart stayed in this very building several times. How cool is that?! (Of course, it wasn’t a Best Western then.) We checked in our hotel, freshened up a bit, and asked the front desk where a good place to eat supper was. They recommended Leopold’s, so that’s where we headed. It was a short 10 minute walk. On the way, we came across a Christmas Market. They are all over the place this time of the year. There are all sorts of booths and vendors, selling everything from glass ornaments to wooden musical instruments. We meandered through on our way to the restaurant. Supper was very good. Each of us tried something typical of the area- four cheese gnocchi, Wiener schnitzel (“Wien” is Vienna in German.), goulash, and Christmas goose. All of it was very good. On the way back to the hotel, we browsed through the market. All-in-all, it was only a small taste of Vienna, and I hope to see much more tomorrow.

All of us are exhausted. The time difference and jet lag are catching up with me. London is six hours ahead and Austria seven. I went to bed around 11 pm last night and woke up probably around 2 am and couldn’t go back to sleep. I am hoping to get more sleep tonight. I don’t know if that’ll happen, ‘because it’s 7 pm and I could go to sleep right now. It’s probably a good idea to stay up a little longer, however.

My dad is watching TV, which is mostly in German. They just showed a Coca-Cola Christmas commercial in German. It still amazes me how Americans think we are so different from everyone else. The more I travel, the more it seems as if people everywhere are essentially the same. I know we don’t think about it that way. It’s interesting though. I absolutely love to travel! Even if I have to deal with waking up hungry at 3 am. :)

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Day One: Camberley

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Our family trip has begun! We left Houston this afternoon (well, yesterday really) around 4 pm. The 8 hour flight into the UK was pretty uneventful, aside from some pretty loud and tipsy guys sitting behind us. I watched a movie, read, and slept the rest of the way. London greeted us with its typical winter weather-cloudy, dark, and rainy. We got through customs with no problems and a taxi met us to take us to Camberley. I was so glad to see my dad! Since we arrived in London before 7 am local time, we ate some breakfast after arriving at the house. A lovely English breakfast of scones and hot tea! :) The food isn't all that great in the UK, but breakfast is the exception. We slept most of the afternoon, and now we're packing and getting ready for our flight into Vienna tomorrow morning. I am so excited to be here with my family! Since we can't all live together in the same state, I guess this is an acceptable compromise-for now at least. No way would I want it to be this way long term. Updates to follow!

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

The End

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Finally, the end of an incredibly long and hard semester has come. I am so thankful to have it all behind me. Not all of it was bad. I had some pretty awesome times with The Girls, went to some great football games, and learned a lot along the way. Would I like to repeat the semester? Absolutely NOT. I was so glad to finish my 5 finals and 1 paper, and only had to pull a few all nighters to get there. I am exhausted, but very happy with the product of all my long hours of classes and studying. I, for the first time in my educational career, made all A's. I don't feel bad for tooting my own horn because this never happens to me! It made a great end to the semester and beginning of the holidays. I am really looking forward to spending a whole month with my family. I've missed everyone so much. I'm going to take time to refocus also. Spend some time away from the computer, facebook, and my cell phone. Read a book for fun! Oh, how I have missed reading for pleasure. I plan to devour every book I can get my hands on in the next few weeks.

So as I prepare to spend some great times with my family, I thank God for everything he has given me. My family and I are so blessed. I have some truly incredible people in my life. And I want to take this time to say thanks for everyone who has been reading my blog all along. Thanks for the kind words of encouragement. I love you all!
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Monday, December 1, 2008

Amish?




I just finished watching the movie "Saving Sara Cain." It's a great movie about a single woman living in Portland. Her sister dies, leaving her four kids in her guardianship. The catch is that her sister was, and her nieces and nephews are Amish. I loved this movie. It was sad, but a great story. I haven't cried during a movie in a long time.


So I began thinking about the Amish way of life. I don't really know that much about it, but I do know that they value a plain or "simple" life. I almost wonder if it would be a better way of life. They are void of all the clutter that seems to plague our lives and really live a life that is, in my opinion, closer to God. I'm not saying that you have to be Amish to be close to God, but there are fewer obstacles. I'm not naive enough to think that they don't have problems. Every way of life has problems associated with it. I just wonder what it would be like. It would be very hard work, but I know it would be rewarding. It would be neat to at least experience it.
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