Tuesday, June 23, 2009

1:10 pm-Madrid time, in Lufthansa seat 19 F
Today we woke up at 7:30 AM, dressed, packed up our last few things, and then had our last meal in Spain. It’s so sad to be leaving!! After breakfast, we got our suitcases and chilled in the lobby to wait for the bus. During this time, the Art Boosters gave Luis our gift (a hat and a card). He really was a fantastic tour director. With him, I learned a lot about the stuff we visited as well as the modern workings of European politics and society. Plus, I didn’t get lost (except for yesterday).
We have about an hour long flight ahead of us, so I’ll use this time to catch up on yesterday’s events.
Our wake-up call was 7:45 AM and what a fantastic luxury it was! I really enjoyed rooming with just Kera. It is far easier to coexist with one of my best friends than with three other people. At 8:45 AM we had access to a wonderful breakfast buffet in our hotel. It’s quite funny to see the unusual things that European people traditionally eat for breakfast. I don’t think I’ve ever seen bleu cheese at a hotel buffet! But then again, this hotel is VERY posh.
By 9:45 AM, we were on the bus with the local guide (a woman whose name I have forgotten). She showed us all the sights of the city and explained the significance of each. For example, the old main gate for the city of Madrid had five openings, each for a different purpose: The ones on the outer ends were for foot traffic, the ones just inside of those were for carriages, and the largest, central opening was for the King’s use only.
After our city bus tour the woman led us to the Royal Palace for a guided tour. Our whole group split into two groups. Art Boosters and the Ohio group formed one group leaving Spanish Club and the Georgia group as another.
The Royal Palace was magnificent. Our group went with a guide from the Royal Palace who was quite knowledgeable not only on the history of the Palace, but also the history of America and how it tied to Spanish history. Most of the 20 rooms we saw were done in the Rococo style which is a form of extreme Baroque decoration. It did not suit me at all, far too much gaudy design, but it was terribly diverting to look at and study! The most unique part of the palace décor was definitely the frescoes made of stucco on the ceiling. Now, I have seen frescoes before but these were very different: parts of the paintings hung off the walls to give the illusion of three dimensions! I think Mrs. Webb was as amused by them as I was.
After seeing all the stunning rooms of the Palace, we went outside and met up with Luis. He led us by foot back to the Plaza Del Sol (near our hotel which was, by the way, on Gran Villa: the Broadway of Madrid, all theatrical and posh). From the plaza, Bubba, Kera, Pelley, and I started walking towards the Museo Reina Sofia of Contemporary Arts. On the way we had lunch at the Museo Del Jamon (the museum of ham!!!) and I had some ternera, or veal. It almost surpassed the veal I had in Italy, it was that good. Yum.
We walked on and did some quick shopping, making it to the museum around 4:30 PM. We spent almost an hour and a half going through selected exhibits. The place was quite vast! There were a lot of Dali paintings that I found quite interesting. His works are so intricate and have so many fine nuances that I could have easily spent hours pouring over one painting. He used so many strange and often jarring pairings in his works that it just keeps the viewer attentive for longer trying to decipher his motive in the painting. It was a great thing that I got to see all these paintings.
After Reina Sofia, the four of us walked back to Plaza Del Sol. Bubba wanted a copy of Don Quixote in its original Spanish and the rest of us wanted an escape from the smothering heat. We headed to the book department of Corte Ingles (a HUGE department store) and achieved both things.
Then we got some sorbet.
It was then 7:10-ish so we went to the meeting place to rejoin our group. At 7:15 PM we walked to dinner. We ate at a place very similar to the Museo Del Jamon, the dinner place was a jamoneria, too. I was still full from my fantastic lunch, so I did not eat much.
After dinner and saying goodbye to the Georgia group (who were going to leave at 4:30 AM) Mrs. Webb, Carrie, Alicia, Phano, Bubba, Pelley, Kera, Jessica, and I shopped our way back to the Hotel. Oce back, Krea and I sorted and packed all our girfts for people. I didn’t get very far before I just wanted to throw everything into random bags and call it a night….which eventually I did. We were both asleep around midnight, despite the stifling heat of our room.
I cannot believe we are going home. This trip feels lime it hasn’t started yet! I am kind of glad to be going, though…it’s a mixed feeling. I miss Daddy and Tara A LOT but then again, I want to stay and see more of Spain. It’s a bitter sweet moment.
I’ll have to write more later on the long flight.

6:18 PM Halifax time- Seat 33 F Lufthansa
So, on the flight in to Europe I was mentioning the fact that I wanted to know some of the passengers’ stories because when I travel, I am immensely concerned with what everybody else is doing. So far, I know two people’s stories:
One is the story of Emily, the girl sitting next to Bethany (and two seats away from me). She goes the U of I Champaign-Urbana and was just in Madrid for a month doing foreign term. She and some other students stayed longer and toured other parts of Europe as well. She has been away from home for six weeks. She lives near Chicago and when she gets home, she and her mother are going to order pizza and watch “He’s Just Not That in to You.” She’s excited about going home.
The other Story I know is of the man from Albany, New York. He has been on at least eight flights on his trip to far, and some of them have been to places he cannot pronounce the names of. He has been in Italy for eight days on this trip and has also been to Spain. He asked if I could speak Italian or Spanish. I was proud to be able to hold a conversation with him about traveling. It’s a good feeling to have people, especially adults, be surprised about how much traveling I have done at such a young age. It makes you look wiser, in their eyes, if you can successfully explain the importance of travel and how much of a joy it is to you. It’s a really amazing feeling to be able to look at people and say, “Oh I was there.” It changes your perspective on so many things.
We have about three hours until we get to Chicago and I really don’t want to fall asleep and screw up my sleeping patterns any more than I already have. It stinks re-adjusting to time zones and such. It’s quite a process, coming home should be better because at least I can sleep.
Okay, there probably won’t be much to update until I land so I’m thinking this is the end of my travel journal for this trip. I’m so glad to have gone and seen all these amazing sights. I cannot wait to go back to Spain and show someone else the glory and beauty of that country. France…eh, maybe I’ll return the Carcassonne someday. Paris, not so much.
I can’t believe it’s over.

Monday, June 22, 2009

11:23 PM- Madrid, Spain: Hotel Gaudi room 125
Our last day in Spain
Today was our last day in Spain. I’m terribly sad and also incredibly excited to leave and share this trip with everyone. It’s a bittersweet intersection, the last day of a journey.
It’s getting late and we have a 7:30 AM wake-up call. I’m very tired and I will have to postpone writing about today’s events until I have more free time on the plane ride home. For now, a quick list of the day’s events do I do not forget:
Wake-up 7:45 AM
Yummy breakfast 8:45 AM
Local tour guide meets us at hotel
Bus tour 9:45 AM
Pictures with the statue of Don Quixote and his horse
Bus to Royal Palace
(Melissa and I get locked out of the Palace)
1 hour tour of Palace
Walk back to the Plaza Del Sol
Lunch with Bubba, Jacob, and Kera
Self-inflicted hike all the way to the Reina Sofia Museum
Self guided tour of museum 4:30 PM
5:40 (approx.) PM leave museum to walk back to the Plaza Del Sol
Get gelato (yum) and some books
Meet the whole group at 7:20 PM
Walk to our last dinner together L
Say goodbye to the Georgia group who will be leaving early
Mrs. Webb, Carrie, Alicia, Phano, Kera, Pelley, Jessica, Bubba and I shop back to the hotel
Meet Kayla’s Spanish exchange student (Maria)
Go to room
Pack, pack, pack

And….that’s it!
It was a pretty fabulous day for a self-guided last day of Madrid (and Spain altogether).

Okay, tired,


Sunday, June 21, 2009

2:06 PM- On the Bus to Madrid
I have about an hour and a half left of this bus ride to catch up with all the stuff that happened yesterday. As I said before, we saw a whole ton of Gaudi’s work in Barcelona. His work really inspires me. It’s just so abstract and natural at the same time. I absolutely adored his use of color and organic shapes in all of his designs. I especially loved the House of Bones because of the balconies: they were shaped like masks!!! I really have a soft spot for masks. I wish we would have had more time to actually go and see the interior of his buildings.
We also saw La Sagrada Familia (the church designed by Gaudi). Although it was unfinished, it was BEAUTIFUL!!! It really amazes me the amount of work that goes in to some of these gorgeous buildings. David told us that La Sagrada Familia is projected to be done in 50 years. I’ll be 67, and I’ll be there. I am really looking forward to seeing it, the thing will be just so utterly impressive….
After we saw that feat of architecture, Luis took us to La Rambla. La Rambla is the biggest street on Catalonia Square. It was packed with people. We were given four hours of free time during which Kera, Bubba, Pelley, and I explored. We went first to a cool café to try some picos (the new cool thing to eat in Spain, tapas are so out). While we were outside the café looking at the menu, a waiter walked by and said, “Pardon me, gringas.” Gringas means dirty Americans, and it is highly offensive and borderline vulgar.
So we left.
We had lunch at a place called Bocatta. My sandwich was kind of a rip-off. Lunch was reconciled with some WONDERFUL gelato at a pastry shop called “Dolsol.”
We bought some bags, I got some yarn, my ATM card was denied by the bank, we searched for Correos (the mail service), got a little lost, found our way, explored the gothic quarter (which was mystical to say the least. Very much like a fairy tale), and then finally met up with our group in front of the Hard Rock Cafe at 5:15 PM for dinner. We walked down to a cute little neighborhood café for dinner. There was this apartment building across the street from our restaurant: it was so ornate!! I just love the architecture here.
Dinner wasn’t terribly special. We walked back to Catalonia Square, got on the bus, and went back to the hotel.
We packed in the hotel last night so we could be ready for an early departure this morning. Our wake-up call was at 6:30 AM and we had to have our luggage in the lobby by 7:30 AM. Breakfast started at 7:45 AM, and we loaded the bus at 8:15 AM. Then bus, bus, bus, bus, all day.
We stopped for gas around 10 AM and for lunch at 1 PM. We ate in Zaragoza. It was wonderful. The café that Bubba, Kayla, Melissa, Kera, Jessica, and I ate at served us two plates of food and dessert for 6 Euros!! What a deal! I was so excited about finally finding an affordable place for lunch. I had paella marisco and bistec con papas (a traditional rice dish with seafood and steak with potatoes). It was very very good, especially for only six Euros.
The café walls were covered with pictures of NASA. I’m pretty sure that the crazy old man who seated us (and presumably owned the café) had been a part of a space crew. There were pictures that looked like younger versions of him working on rockets and wearing official-looking name tags. The whole thing was very intriguing.
So that’s pretty much all we’ve done today. Only a couple of hours and we’ll be in Madrid and headed for the Prado Museum!!! Tomorrow we are potentially going to the Reina Sofia Museum (Queen Sofia Museum) which houses extensive collections of contemporary artworks from the great movements like surrealism and cubism. That means DAHLI!!!!!!!!!! Oh man.
I will admit, the art that I have seen on this trip is a little cooler than the art we saw in Italy. I mean, the Sistine Chapel in beyond compare…but there have been so many famous works. Besides, I am far more interested in the types of works we have been seeing this time: impressionism, realism, and (soon) surrealism.
I’m kind of sad that we only have one more actual tour day left of this trip. We have see so much on this trip. I cannot even begin to list it all; it’s like a sensory overload. I’m also really glad that I’ve documented this trip so well. It has been so helpful. I would hate to think about how much I would have forgotten had I not written. I would hate to forget one single moment of this trip. Isn’t forgetting pretty much wasting time? I don’t really know.
The country we are traveling through is so beautiful: the vast mountains with their twisted dirt roads and their somehow perfectly-straight orchards. It’s so rich and alive! The reds, yellows, greens, browns…no gray or white spare a few, floating clouds. The rocks overthrow the landscape in red and purple clusters. I have never fallen so swiftly in love with a land in all my life. I do not think anyone else here is quite as taken with the land the way I am. My pictures and words will never fully do the justice that the beauty of Spain deserves.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

10:52 PM- Hotel
Okay, today was an intense day. We had breakfast at 7:30 AM and then got directly on the bus for Barcelona. It was about an hour or so long ride. Once in Barcelona, we picked up our local guide, David, and did a tour of the city by bus. We walked through the park that Gaudi designed and saw some FANTASTIC architecture.
Gaudi was such a genius. It’s really awesome to think that he was doing all those innovative things (like designing a plaza that drains rainwater down its pillars and into a water collection facility for the use of people who live near by) 100 years before they even became the vogue in architecture. Nowadays, people strive to make recycled products; back then it was quite the opposite. I am so inspired by Gaudi.
After all of that touring, we had free time. I’ll have to expand on all of this later. Lights out time.


Friday, June 19, 2009

8:00 AM- On the bus that will take us to Spain
The train last night was quite an experience. Actually, all of yesterday was an experience. The first thing we did yesterday was tour the Musee Orsay. It was phenomenal. One of the best moments was seeing the Seurat exhibit and that the exhibit contained reproductions of part of The Grand Jatte. It was such a sense of pride to know that the Art Institute of Chicago has the original. It’s kind of a cool feeling, knowing that we in little old Illinois “out-Seurated” Paris. Hah!
All the exhibitions that I saw were smattered with famous and highly recognizable paintings: Degas, Matisse, Monet, Manet…all just divine. Bubba got to see the Monet painting that she loves: the one of the poppy fields. I was so excited to see paintings Monet did and to know exactly where he stood to paint them in his garden. Seeing those gardens was definitely a high point of this trip.
After the Orsay we toured Notre Dame. It took 200 years to build that church. Can you believe that? Not one person who started the project would have lived to see the fantastic results. It just blew my mind: the craftsmanship, the artistry….it was just superb.
On our way to lunch, we walked through the Jewish part of Paris after touring Notre Dame. We reached the Pompidou Center for Modern Arts. This area was by far my favorite part of Paris. Overall, I was not very impressed with the city, but that region of town was adorable.
Bubba, Jacob, Kera, and I had a nice long lunch at a cute little café on the corner by the Pompidou. My lunch consisted of a raw beef salad (yes raw beef) Seasoned with balsamic vinegar. The dish was weird, but good. It was kind of funny how I ended up with that meal, too. I had no idea what I was ordering! Oh French language, so confusing. After lunch we did some shopping together in the cute little streets of the Jewish quarter. All-in-all it was an incredibly enjoyable time.
We met the rest of the group around 5 PM and walked back past Notre Dame and into the Latin quarter (so named because at one point it was the main area for the latin-speaking intellectuals to hang out) for dinner in a Greek restaurant. Before we got to dinner, Bubba was accosted by a gypsy who called her, “bossy-bossy-bossy!” Haha, it was so funny.
For dinner we had chicken and potatoes with popcicles for dessert. I was hoping for something a little more ethnic: I am getting so tired of chicken!!!!
We went back to the hotel, loaded the bus with our luggage, and headed for the train station. One hour later we were at the station and some of us were waiting in line to pay to pee (.50 Euro to pee! But the restrooms were nice). We boarded the train and tried to get organized. I think it was around 2 AM before I fell asleep. I’m feeling VERY tired now.
We got off the train this morning in Toulouse, France. The bus took us to a restaurant called Flunch for breakfast. It was a meal of bread and coffee. Not quite filling. We are now back on the bus and en route to Carcassone, France to the medieval walled city there. I am very excited about visiting this place.
But for now, I ought to sleep. Tata.

10:56 PM- In the Hotel Santa Monica outside of Barcelona, Spain
Today has been such a totally wonderful day. The medieval village was so adorable. The street were like Italy, the people were actually nice….The whole town was just absolutely darling.
We rode the bus for a few hours to get to our hotel. This one is in one of the suburbs of Barcelona, only 45 minutes or so from the main center of town.
We went to the beach as soon as we got to the hotel. I got to SWIM in the SEA!!!!! It was marvelous. The rain was pouring down like mad and oh, it was just so perfect.
There are some drunks downstairs and the four of us (Kera, Jessica, Ashley, and I) are watching them from our balcony.
Will I ever sleep?! Tomorrow is going to be good.

Good night,

Thursday, June 18, 2009

10:45 AM- In the Musee Orsay
Oh my GRACIOUS. I can hardly believe it. All these paintings that are so vastly reproduced and so easily recognized!!!! And I’m looking at them! Amazing.

2:05 PM- Cute Café in district 4 near the Pompidou Museum
I’m eating lunch with Bubba, Pelley, and Kera. We have walked a massive amount so far. We walked through a beautiful Jewish neighborhood full of adorable shops and winding streets. We saw Notre Dame before we walked over to this part of town. OH MY GOSH is that church beautiful. It’s insane, actually. And the Musee Orsay, wow. More on all of that later. Right now, food.

11:22 PM- Train
On the night train and about ready to pass out. The train is rocking me to sleep and taking me away from Paris. Tomorrow will be a great day.

All my love,

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

9:50 AM-
EIFFEL TOWER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yes, I’m waiting in line to catch the elevator to the top. Later: Louvre, Seine River Boat Tour, and Momarte.

12:23 PM- On the boat for the Seine River tour
The Eiffel Tower was fantastic! I had no idea how huge it was. We went all the way to the top via elevator and came half way down using the stairs. Let me tell you, there were a lot of stairs.
Going to enjoy getting some sun today, it’s very nice out. I’m very hungry!!!!

9:45 PM- Hotel
We got lunch at the cafeteria outside of the Louvre ( I had salmon, peas, and carrots, yum!). Then we had two hours to spend in the Louvre. It was very cool because people 18 and younger got in free. Very nice.
But the Louvre!!!!! Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh! Kera, Melissa, Kayla, Bubba and I booked it directly to the Denon wing which held the statue Victory, the statue of Venus de Milo, and……the Mona Lisa. Oh my gracious, it was like an art overload. Seeing the Mona Lisa in person was in the words of Tomas Morgan, “The coolest moment of the trip so far.”
After seeing the artwork (and getting slightly lost) and doing a little shopping in the museum shop, we hopped on the subway and headed to Momarte (yes, where the movie ‘Moulin Rouge’ is set!!!!!!!) and did some shopping. I got some spiffy wonderful fabric! The area, according to Ms. Webb, has grown much seedier over the years.
We had dinner in Momarte after an hour of shopping and several gypsy-with-bracelet attacks. The place we ate at fed us salads with chicken, ham, lettuce, tomatoes, and tons of fried potatoes. Mine was very good, even if I only ate the potatoes and the meat. J
After taking the subway back to the hotel area, we stopped “quickly” at the Franprix Market for food and such before the train ride tomorrow. It got a little scary when some freakish guys started surveying our group and following us around the store. Creepy!! Luis says that the gypsies will be far worse once we get to Spain. He says they’ll be more like they are in Italy. I really hope our group is able to make it.
Okay, tomorrow is the train day! I need to pack and such. Good night!!!


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

9:58 AM- On the sightseeing bus
Uhm, okay, wow our hotel room did not get a wake-up call so the four of us got woken up by Señora at 8:20 AM when we were supposed to be leaving by 8:45 AM. It was upsetting. Bethany, Melissa, and Bubba got us food. We crammed it in our mouths and then sat and waited for the bus until now. Apparently there was a bad accident this morning.
Today we are doing some sight-seeing: Eiffel Tower, Arc again, other famous stuff. Yeah. And the big item for the day, yes, MONET’S GARDEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m incredibly excited.
Wow, this bus smells bad. This CITY smells bad. But it’s Paris? I got to sleep last night, and it was quite good. Okay, sightseeing now. More writing later.

12:19 PM- Still on a bus, this time to Giverny
We had a fabulous bus tour. Our local guide (Andrea) was wonderful although our bus driver was not. He drove about as badly as his bus stank. We are now on a new bus on the way to Giverny to see the gardens and the home of Monet. Luis and another local guide, Sid, are with us. I am really thinking I wish I knew hoe to spell all these French words correctly! Sid gave us a nice long lecture about the life of Monet. Sadly most people slept through it, but I took some notes for later use.
When we get to Giverny we are going to eat lunch right away. I am kind of concerned, considering how little French I know!
This morning we met the other groups from other schools. Some are from Georgia and some are from Ohio. Today part of their group is going to Versailles and part of our group (three silly girls and Señora Bland) is staying in Paris for shopping instead of seeing the gardens.
We saw all the major structures of Paris on our bus tour this morning. It was very, very cool. Seeing the Eiffel Tower, oh boy, that thing is astoundingly huge! And guess what? The Opera house that Phantom of the Opera is set in was magnificent. Just as gaudy and delightful as I had pictured it in my head.
Alright, almost to Giverny.

4:15 PM- Bus to Paris from Giverny
The gardens were spectacular: vaster than I could have ever imagined. Monet was surely a busy man to tend such lush grounds. It was intense to be in the place where all his paintings were actually done. It’s almost crazy to see all the actual places I’ve been looking at for years in his works. I stood on the bridge he painted in all kinds of lighting situations imaginable. I saw the rows of flowers he so meticulously planned and tended. It’s amazing the amount of history that actually withstands the test of time.
I wonder how Monet would feel if he crowds see the crowds walking on his garden paths and through his house. The place was crawling with tourists and yet, it did not feel like a tourist attraction at all. It felt like a world of depth, life, plants, shadows, stones…each piece so planned and still natural all at once. I am so glad to have seen it.
We are headed back to Paris and I believe it is hotel time. This day really went by FAST. It was crazy. We are going to meet the rest of our group (the shoppers and the Ohio girls) at the Opera House (fantastic!!!!!) and head to dinner. I’m going to take some meds before dinner because my head is starting to hurt. No fun.

11:00 PM- Hotel
Exploring was fun. Dinner, fantastic. I have to wake up at 6:30 AM. Must sleep. Good night.


Monday, June 15, 2009

9:47 AM Frankfurt Time- Lufthansa Seat 15 A (Window Seat!!)
Here we sit, waiting for the take off of our second, and last, flight of this leg of the journey. We are going from Frankfurt to PARIS!!!!! I still don’t think it has really even hit me yet that we are going to be in Paris in a mere hour and a half.
Sleep on the last flight was nonexistent. Between Nick Ramsby’s insane, coffee-driven antics, our own crazy laughter, the discomfort, and the heat….yeah, sleeping was basically impossible. Uggg, I’m so tired and yet terribly awake.
The flight attendant says we’ll be there in 50 minutes. Our engine revs, and here we go. I’ll write more after taxi/take off.

8:40 PM Paris Time
Yes, Paris time!! When we landed in Paris around noon local time, it was rainy and grey. We retrieved our luggage and met our Tour Director, Luis Garcia, outside the gate at Charles De Gaulle Airport. He led us to our bus and so began our first day in Paris.
Memories of the trip to Italy came rushing back to me as we rode along. Seeing all the modern structures of Paris disappointed me as the modern structures of Rome did two years ago. All the skyscrapers seemed garish compared to the way I imagined the city: old and dignified.
We got to our hotel (Hotel Itinerere) in the Nantarre region of La Defense (which is a modern part of town slightly removed from “Old Paris” as Luis calls it). We stowed our luggage in this security room in the basement (after Tomas and Reanne got “taken” by the evil receptionist). After all that was taken care of, we walked to the subway station which is only two block from our hotel. We traveled via subway to the most famous street in Paris, the Champs Elyisse with the Arc de Triomph at its head.
I was in heaven: designer shops littered the sidewalk like it was a common thing. Louis Vouton, Cartier, Lacoste, and so many others! It’s such a different lifestyle. Everything was outrageously priced and it seemed like the people in the region were fine with it. Such money and wealth! I cannot even begin to imagine how dropping 10,000 euros on a purse will ever be okay in my life. That’s approximately $15,000!!! I was so dazed. The rain continued.
We explored the area for two hours. In that time Jacob, Kera, Bubba, and I ate at Hagen Daas, went in to the Louis Vouton shop, the Toyota design and concept shop, Lacoste, Marlboro Classics, and some random ones.
The biggest event of the afternoon for me was going to Ladureé, the most famous pastry shop in all of Paris. The four of us split a rose-flavored raspberry pastry tart thing. It was unearthly. Words cannot even describe it. There was such artistry in the production of such a food. It was as if each piece had been slaved over individually for hours. And maybe it had been! Such attention was paid, I’ll tell you that much. I’ve never had anything like that in my life and I doubt that there will ever be anything to quite compare.
We headed for dinner around 5 PM. The Restaurant (La Balonce) opened at 5:15 PM and served us chicken, pastry with cheese, potatoes, and an apple pie thing. It was nothing too special.
All I wanted to do was head for our hotel and sleep. Lucky for me, that was what we did next. After a long subway ride “home” from the restaurant, we were all assigned rooms.
I am in room 431 with Kera, Ashley, and Jessica. Our room is quite scary. I keep telling myself, “You are in Paris! It’s fine!” in hopes that it will make the grossness of our room better. So far, I am sadly unimpressed of the city itself. Our hotel room is cruddy, the city seems terribly dirty, and it smells like urine everyplace we go. I don’t want to dislike Paris!!!!
Tomorrow is definitely another day. One with the promise of the Eiffel Tower!!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

10:55AM- On the Bus to the O’Hare Airport in Chicago
The Excitement and nerves of traveling have not yet set in. I’m sitting here on this bus surrounded by my friends and their parents. This is going to be a fantastic trip, I can already tell! I neglected to eat breakfast and so I have already broken in to my supply of snacks!! Oh man. I have a two hour bus ride ahead of me until we reach O’Hare; the first long bus ride of many. I’ll write later, once we pass customs and such.

2:08 PM- Terminal B17 Lufthansa
We’re all through check-ins and security with no major incidents. Haha, that’s really, really good. Kera, Bubba, and I got lunch at the American Bagel Bakery. It left a lot to be desired, but what can I say? It is airport food!
I have to admit, traveling feels very different this time around. When we went to Italy, I was all nerves; now, not so much. I just feel calm and excited. Can one be calm AND excited at the same time? Maybe calm isn’t the right word…
Every now and then I hear the rush of another plane taking off. I want to know where the passengers are headed. Melissa asked me if I ever wonder where all the people around us in the terminal are going. Of course I do! Every person’s trip has a unique story and every story somehow connects to the story of that person’s life. It intrigues me.
Our flight is at 3:45 PM, so we have quite some time to just sit and chill. Some of our group members are terribly nervous. Jake Pelley won’t show it, but I can tell he is WAY out of his element. Jessica Stinette is very concerned as well. She keeps calling her mother on her cell phone and glancing around the terminal with a worried look. She went for a walk with Ms. Webb, so I’m sure that will calm her down.
I’m considering taking Kera and going off in search of paper. I feel the urge to make something! I’ll write more later.

4:30 PM Chicago Time- At 34,000 Feet, Lufthansa Seat 48 F
I’m jamming out to the in-flight radio: Channel 24, it’s Arabic and blowing my mind! Very different. I ended up sitting next to Kera, Melissa, and Bubba. We are in the center aisle of seats, Kera is on the far left aisle seat, and Melissa is next to her, then me, then Bubba on the right aisle seat. It’s a pretty good set-up if you ask me. Our whole group is scattered throughout this plane and this thing is HUGE!!! I’m glad that everyone got through the take off okay. There were no freak-outs that I know of, although I don’t know where Jessica is sitting. People have been shuffled around several times and it causes confusion.
Seven and a half hours ahead of me until we arrive in Frankfurt, Germany. It’s going to be a whole new world when we get off the plane. German! I can’t even begin to understand that language. I’m horribly excited; it’s going to be crazy.

7:35 PM or so it says on my Chicago Time watch, uhm….where are we?
Dinner on this flight was actually good and it surprised me! I had chicken, rice, vegetables, bread, cheese (along with my Wheat Thins I brought), fresh fruit, and an apple cobbler thing. I’m….full! Again, surprised. It’s starting to look like sleeping time here on the plane. I hope I get to see the sunrise in the morning.
I took a brief walk around the plane with Bethany and Melissa. We are really packed in here like sardines! Again, I wonder, how many people are going home? How many like us are leaving home? How many have traveled before? How many what to do? How many don’t? It just makes me so curious. I’m spending eight hours of my life with these people and I don’t know their stories at all! I know Melissa’s and Bubba’s and Señora’s and Alec’s….but all these other people? Nothing. I only know whether or not they want chicken and rice for dinner.
I’ve seen several couples asleep already. It makes me wonder even more. Are they married? Does he love her more than he can ever say? I think the one thing I really get from any traveling experience is that there is so much life in this world. So much to see, so much to do, so many people to meet, so many stories to hear, so many stories to write. Traveling kind of makes me step back and take a look at the magnitude of options there are in life. How can someone go on living knowing they made the wrong choice? Because life is so short, I feel almost required to choose correctly every time. It’s not that I am not allowing myself to make mistakes, it’s just that I don’t want to make so many that I run out of time to make the right choice. Life is so beautiful; such and intricate tapestry of all these ways we interact with other people. It’s intense, to say the least…the very least.
Kera has been zoning out for pretty much the whole flight. I’m kind of worried about her. I think she’ll be fine but still, I’m concerned. I don’t want her to get sick on this trip, too!!!
Earlier, before dinner, I had made (with the help of Kera and Melissa) books out of magazine pages. It was pretty wonderful. We all wrote stories for each other and they were so funny!
Okay, I think I need to TRY to sleep, at least. Tomorrow is going to be beastly, so good night for now.
According to my I Pod, It’s 3:08 AM in Paris right now. Joy.

Much Love,