Monday, June 22, 2009

Book ends...

I remember 6 months ago sitting in Sky Harbor airport awaiting this adventure… I was so nervous and full of anxiousness for the unknown that would await me in England… 6 months later I am sitting here looking back on what can only be described as the journey of a lifetime. I have lives 200 people’s lives in this last 6 months. I cannot begin to wrap my head around why the God of the Universe would deem to love me SO MUCH and bless me beyond my wildest imagination!! What a gift, what a fabulous, amazing, breathtaking, extraordinary gift. What a loving, beautiful, perfect, majestic, and perfect God I serve, who would love me so perfectly. I am humbled, honored, and elated to have been given an opportunity to experience His love for me SO fully!!
So what do I do now as I begin my journey home? I am not saying I am finishing an adventure, but I want to see my return home as the beginning of a NEW adventure – embarking upon a new chapter in my life. I have no idea what God has in store for me upon my return. In fact I feel very much like I have reached the climax of a story and find only blank pages from here till the end… but I am more than happy to rest in the fact that Gods plan is ALWAYS more fulfilling than my own… ALWAYS perfect and beyond expectation. But one thing I can say for the remainder of my life – I have seen too much to settle for anything less than the abundant life God has for me… I have seen how He goes beyond my ambitions and dreams and blesses me with SO MUCH MORE, so how could I do anything less than surrender all ambition, hopes, plans, and dreams into His capable and loving hands.

I said goodbye to Phoebe… this is in fact NOT goodbye, because I’ll see her on skype at the end of the week, but I realize I have spent almost EVERYDAY with her since my second day here!! Aside from the 2 weeks when my parents were here and I went to Germany, Phoebe and I have seen each other EVERYDAY! What can I say about this girl… she has become my very BEST FRIEND!!! She is spectacular!!! When I return home and try to convey to you all the amazing fun time I have had over here, no one will really be able to understand except for God and her! She has been such an amazing blessing to my life – not just London, but my whole life!!! I thank God so often for bringing her along and, again, answering my prayers for a friend with someone I could never have dreamed up! She and I keep reminding each other that this time at home is only a pit stop to please the family with our presence and build up our bank accounts for our next adventure!! Which I think is going to be southern Spain, or we may do Greece again cause we LOVED it SO MUCH!

**Phoebe – I know I told you this already, but England would have been nothing without you! You have changed my life and I think the world of you!!!! I miss you and can’t wait to see you on skype by the end of the week!!!

Alright – I have to go… I’ll be on Phoenix soil in 18 hours!!

(Posts about Europe #2 will be up soon… Greece was my favorite place EVER!!!)

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Before I leave tomorrow...

So my big bags are safely in Ashford with a kind woman from Carla's church named joyce who I will be staying with when I return to england for one night. My computer is safely at Phoebe's friend Tamsin's house - I will retrieve it from Phoebe when she meets me at the airport before I depart to Phoenix... and so now I am sitting in the computer lab printing off all mine and Phoebe's confirmations for hotels and flights around Europe... it is my last night here! My last night at Royal Holloway!! I am planning on a dinner at founders of Lamb with mint Sauce (very english) then I'll probably take a stroll around the grounds and say a proper farewell.

While I am away in Europe these next 2 weeks be sure to check out my facebook page, those who are friends with me and I'll be letting you know where I am at...
But for those of you who do not have facebook, here is the rough itinerary for the next 13 days!!!

Miranda and Phoebe’s Europe Trip – Part 2!

8th June

Flight from London to Madrid:
LEAVE - 9:40am
Museo del Prado
Plaza del Sol

9th JuneAttractions:
Palacio Real
El Rastro
Pl. Mayor
Parque del Retiro
Plaza de Toros de las Ventas

10th June
Flight from Madrid to Florence

Il Duomo
Bell Tower
Ponte Vecchio

11th June

Palazzo Vecchio
Piazza della Signoria
Santa Croce
Galleria Delgi Uffizi
Galleria Dell’ Academia

12th June
Train from Florence to Pompei
Train from Florence to Naples
Train from Naples to Pompeii


13th June

Palazzo Reale
Castel Nuovo

14th June
Flight from Naples – Milan – Athens

15th – 19th June


19th June
Return from Cruise

Tower of the Winds
Ancient Agora
Temple of Olympian Zeus

20th June

Finish up from yesterday and shop

21st June
Flight from Athens to London

ARRIVE - 2:50pm

That’s all folks! Thanks for playing!

The Summer Ball!!

Phoebe and mine's reason for scheduling our European Adventures a week apart was in order to be able to go to the RoHo Summer Ball!!! It is the event of the year apparently and we were not going to miss it! Phoebe even bought a dress in Paris for the occasion while I brought my $11 dress from Forever21 all the way over from the State for this very occasion!!

The entire day was spent preparing for the ball... hair, make up, manicure, pedicure, etc... all in the comfort of my dorm room while outside in the Quad tents were being put up and sound checks were being had! I even did Phoebe's hair and make up... she looked stunning!! We modeled her look after Gwyneth Paltrows in Sliding Doors... I think it works

Here's me... pretty standard to most formal occasions I go to...

And both of us actually at the Ball!

There was a Ferris Wheel that spins around, bumper cars, a BBQ tent, 3 bar tents, live music from English bands I had never heard of, but mine and Phoebe's favorite spot was the dance tent! We got our dance on like mad women!

We also enjoyed some cocktails with friends!

Me and Charley

My DEAR friend Carla and I (her and I DO NOT have enough pictures together!! But she is coming to AZ hopefully next March for a visit!!)

It was really fun, but not enough fun to stay up till 6am!! Phoebe and I kept saying that we felt like we were at a High School prom with alcohol openly served... people were making out in the corner... there just wasn't that classy "English Ball" feel to it... they shouldn't call it a ball... they should call it a carnival! All the boys looks lovely in their tuxes though.
Another unfortunate component was the rain... and the cold... and the cold, wet rain!!
Phoebe and I made it till 3am and then we were spent... My room however faces out onto the North Quad where half the ball was being held, so even back in my room it sounded like I was still in the middle of the dance floor! Phoebe and I decided to drag my mattress into her room on the other side of the building where it was quieter... in the process we were so giggly that we dropped it several times... at one point I leaned forward too much when I dropped it and proceeded to do a somersault right on top of it... this resulted with Phoebe and myself sprawled on the floor with tears and laughter completely unable to contain ourselves... this is when a random girl walked by and Phoebe and I roared with laughter again thinking about what she must think of 2 girls crying with laughter on the floor in the middle of the hallway with a mattress... priceless moment!

Finishing up England...

I am trying desperately to finish up some blogging before I embark upon my final Europe Journey and then back home to Phoenix!

Here is some of the events of the last week since my return home from Europe Part I
Phoebe and I went into London on Tuesday to see a Performance of Romeo & Juliet at the Shakespeare Globe theater!! Along the way I got my hair highlighted on the whim... a salon in Egham was advertising a discounted highlights job in the window as we walked by... they were able to get me in RIGHT THEN!!
Phoebe and I took tons of random pictures on the train
My Shakespeare pose

Some good shots of Phoebe

The Millennium Bridge by The Globe

Phoebe and I went to the gift shop before the show to get our souvenirs... we decided to get pins to show our loyalty to either the Capulets or the Montagues... I chose Capulets. Phoebe and I cheered when our team went on stage

The Globe

The next day Phoebe and I went to Hampton Court because Phoebe had never been. I was SO excited about it being sunny when I woke up because I had yet to go to Hampton Court when it wasn't cloudy and almost rainy... UNFORTUNATELY when we finally got off the train it was overcast!! God does NOT want me to see this place in the sun!
Phoebe and I took a tour of some of the rooms with a guided tour and as part of that we got these cool robes to wear around for the day... while most people quickly returned them after the tour ended, Phoebe and I continued to wear them the rest of the time. We liked to whip them around as we left each room and pretend like they were long dresses that we had to hold up while we walked up the stairs

Sadly this was the best part of Hampton Court this day... after seeing Versailles in France, nothing can compare.
We did however FINALLY get our Cream Tea we had been searching for all over England. It seemed that every time we wanted some a shop would be closed... but Hampton Court did us proud in this respect

And back to playing with our robes

On thursday we went into London for Phoebe's haircut, some souvenir shopping, and a goodbye to London!
While Phoebe got her hair cut I got to head over to St Paul's Cathedral one last time and sit under the Dome and have some good quality quiet time! I sat and cried for 20 minutes in that beautiful church swaying from "I don't want to leave" to "I can't believe I got to come here in the first place." It was really a sweet time for me to just pour all of my nerves and fears and excitements on to God... Afterwards I felt this incredible peace about all of it that has stayed with me even till now... I will so dearly miss this place, but it has been an incredibly full experience and I still cannot believe God saw fit to give me this time and take me on this journey... it has far surpassed anything my wildest dreams could have conjured up. I am a truly blessed and loved child of my Sweet and Glorious Savior!!!

Munich (Day 15-16)

Our Europe Adventure Part 1 is coming to an end... we are at our final destination! It seems so much faster when you are blogging it later, but I remember distinctly that it was about this time that Phoebe and I were ready to pack it in and head back to London.
I was however excited to visit Munich again... not just because I had SO much more that I wanted to see, but also because since I had been here before there wasn't the fear of the unknown. The main part of the town was pretty familiar and that made me happy.

But before we get to Munich we must journey out of Salzburg. Breakfast consisted of a chocolate pretzel (so very Austrian) and easy train ride to Munich... Munich is not even 2 hours away from Salzburg, so this would be a quick jaunt across the German border.
After we checked into our hostel (6 bed female dorm) we headed to the Marienplatz for food... lunch was at KFC where we watched music videos in German on the KFC TV

This is not Almdudler, but it was still delicious and German
Then Phoebe and I splurged on Hagen Daz ice cream... I felt sick after eating it cause it was SO RICH!!

We had time before the Glochenspiel went off at 5pm, so we hopped back to the hostel, laid around, met our roommates (american girls who hadn't slept in 4 days and were therefore half asleep), and then headed back out for the Gloch. show

This is the #2 most OVERRATED tourist attraction (after the Prague clock) voted not by me, but by people who write tourist books... it was cool to see cause I had heard so much about it, but it was lame. It consists of a wedding feast where people dance around the bride and groom and there is a joust between France and Bavaria... Bavaria wins! Then there are the coopers who spin around beneath the wedding scene... they are famous for being the first to come out into the streets after the plague and they did a little dance. The King then liked the dance so much that he decreed the dance must be performed every 7 years for the rest of eternity!! Ah, to be King.
After the Glochenspiel had done its thing Phoebe and I finished out the night with the Hofbrauhaus!!! This is the most famous beer hall in the ENTIRE WORLD!!! Note: it is also the sight of the formation of the Nazi party... but we won't get into that just yet!
Phoebe and I sat down not really knowing how this whole thing worked, but a waitress told us to sit and that someone would come around for our order. We were soon approached by one of the GRUMPIEST old ladies I have ever met. She seemed incredibly annoyed at the fact that we were foreigners. Why would one choose to work at the MOST touristy place in Munich if one hated foreigners?? Phoebe determined that it was because she was wearing a wench outfit and was in her 70's... after thinking about that, I would be annoyed too.
We eventually got our order out with the little German we knew and her yelling at us in annoyance... and here is what we got!!

Now don't get excited... I didn't finish it... I barely got half way... I'm sorry, I just don't like beer, even though this was REALLY GOOD BEER!

We also got pretzels to go with our beer... I finished that off no sweat and even finished Phoebe's too
Phoebe on the other hand drank me under the table!! She was determined to finish her stein (1 liter) just out of sheer principle... success!

Being a beer house, the Hofbrauhaus is definitely a place to make friends... drunk friends... Phoebe and I made nice with a group of older gentlemen who were sitting near us. They were from the States and we bonded over tourist stories and the fact that our waitress hated them too. Munich tourist unite!
We also got caught up briefly in a truth or dare game with a group of college students also sitting near us... they had to take a picture with random people around the hall and we were selected!

Phoebe and I finished out the night strolling slowly back to our hostel down the main shopping streets... disappointing to us was that they were all closed due to it being sunday... we also discovered at this point that all the shopping we were gonna do the next day would be thwarted due to a Catholic Holiday!!!!! BUMMER!
We got some free internet back at the hostel and we watched some German MTV in the common room... then bed.

The next day - our last day of Europe Part I!
We had learned of a free walking tour of Munich the night before and were VERY keen to go - This was THE BEST walking tour I had EVER been on... the guy Matt was from San Francisco and was a history scholar! He knew EVERYTHING there was to know about Munich and he was interesting too! Seriously my history professors haven't been as good as he was! Phoebe and I wanted to just hang out with him all day if we could. Oh and Phoebe and I met a girl who worked for the tour company who happened to be a student at RoHo on her year abroad... haha! Small world!
Our tour began with the Glochenspiel again... and then on to the Frauenkirche

This church was almost completely destroyed in World War II... the towers survived, but almost the entire remainder of the buidling has been reconstructed along with almost 90% of Munich. Prior to WWII photographers took to the streets to photograph buildings in preparation for the anticipated attacks on the city. After the war finished all the historical buildings were rebuilt to look just as they did before, but they are still less than 70 years old.
The Frauenkirche is also known for having the devils footprint in the entry way. The story goes that the architect of the church tricked the devil over a matter of windows within the cathedral... the devil was so peeved that he stomped his foot and this remains

In truth it is only the architects signature on his work.
This church is ALSO famous for being the home church of the current pope!!

On our tour I discovered that there were 3 other Arizonians in our group! didn't know any of them, but it was cool.
On the tour we got a little history lesson and quick run down over WWI and WWII and learned about the economic problems of Germany leading up to the election of the 3rd Reich and Hitler's rule. Apparently at one point $1 (USD) was worth 54 TRILLION German Marks... people were burning money instead of buy wood cause it was cheaper!
Other tour info
- Hugo Boss designed the uniform of the Nazi storm troopers
- we discussed the famous 1972 Munich Olympics when the group of Israeli citizens were killed
- Hitler's life story - how he was an artist who was denied to art school because of his inability to draw people - funny how he became known for the annihilation of millions of people!
-We heard about the resistance in Munich against the Nazi party
- the many memorials around the city
- how at one point Hitler almost died before he even wrote Mein Kampf in Prison... he was shot at in the Beer Hall Puts in Munich, but his bodyguard took the 11 bullets on his behalf.
- The White Rose resistance at a University in Munich and how the people involved were eventually sent to a Concentration camp
It really was an incredible tour that last 3 hours... great spots around the city too!! We saw SO MUCH
The Residenz Palace

Lion statues out in front of the Residenz Palace... if you rub 3 our of the 4 statues you with have the wealth of Bavaria in either love of money... if you run 4, you're just greedy

the famous Munich Opera House

The view from the top of St peter's church tower

Munich is SUCH a gorgeous city and I still would love to go back and roam around some more! It was a wonderful place to end our first European Adventure!!

Well that's it folks... Europe #1 is complete!!!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Salzburg (Day 13 - 14)

It seems that the main drama of our trip ALWAYS has to do with the train travel. We got to Prague station to catch the train through Munich to Salzburg and while on the platform our train got delayed like 3 times... I finally went up to one of the attendants to ask and see if we would be able to make our connection. Through the language barrier I pointed to my ticket and itinerary and he nodded and said, "this platform" - "will I make the connection?" - "hahahaha... no." As simple as that... why thank you kind sir. When we got onto the train finally Phoebe and I sat down in a little private room on the train. When the ticket man came by to check our passes we began speaking in Czech and pointing to what I thought was the direction of the luggage rack, so I thought he was saying something about our luggage... turns out that was not it, but we were still confused... so he just began speaking louder in Czech. haha, Just because we don't speak Czech does not mean we're deaf. Turns out he needed us to move train cars... luckily we did because later on that part of the train was no longer attached to our train... haha.
We were pretty bored on the train ride so I decided to try my hand at reading an article about the forth coming Terminator movie in Czech... I only was able to catch the proper names of the actors and the movie.

Finally when we got to the connection station we found there was a train leaving within 2 hours, so we weren't THAT late.
The hostel was great and we were alone in our 4 bed female dorm for the first night!

The second day in Salzburg was AWESOME!!!! It began as every day in Salzburg should, with the ORIGINAL Sound of Music Tour!!!!!!! My little girl fantasies came true on this trip!!!! This tour was ENTIRELY geared towards the filming sights of the movie! People pilgramage from all around the world to take this particular tour. One girl apparently watched the movie EVERY DAY TWICE A DAY and when she came on the tour, according to our tour guide she sobbed through the whole thing because it was a dream come true. Weird!!
Phoebe and I were picked up from our hostel in a grand tour bus which was completely full of huge Sound of Music fans... my people!

There was a big mural on the side of the bus of Maria and the Von Trapp children singing... but Phoebe and I thought Maria looked like she was sneezing... hense the picture below.

Our tour guides name was Peter and he was hilarious! I will tell you the entire tour was JUST like the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland... the tour guide just made dry humor cheesy jokes and everyone laughed accordingly... Phoebe and I got to use our annoying laughs on the bus. Phoebe had made her's up the night before and let me tell you I fall over laughing every time she does it. Peter also yodled... so that was AWESOME!
Our first stop on the tour was the Leopold Crown Palace which was the Palace used in the film for the Von Trapp's backyard

That is the very lake that Maria and the Children fell out of the boat into.
Unfortunately the house used as the front of the Von Trapp home was unable to be visited, but we did drive by and see the gate as well as the trees that the children hung out of in their play clothes.
the next place we got out at was my particular favorite... anyone recognize this??

They no longer allow people to go inside the gazebo because an 81 year old lady broke her hip trying to leap from one bench to the other just like Liesle.
After the gazebo it was on to a photo op in front of Nonnberg Abbey where Maria was a nun.

At this point in the tour we headed out to the Austrian countryside to see some lakes and the Alps. These were the places that were used to film the opening scenery sequences. The mountain on which Maria sang on was covered in clouds, but we did drive by and see it through the windows of the bus

Along the way Phoebe and I partook in the bus bar services. We didn't purchase alcohol, but instead we sampled the taste of an Austrian soda called Almdudler!! It is a combination of ginger ale and apple juice they say - seriously delicious!!!! Phoebe and I miss Almdudler dearly!

It was also through the countryside that the bus played the soundtrack to the Sound of Music and of course everyone on the bus sang along!!! It was magical!!
The destination of our country journey was Mondsee, which holds the Church in which they filmed the Wedding Scene of Maria and Captain Von Trapp!!!

There was an actual wedding going on inside the church, but they still allowed tourists to enter and take pictures inside (I would NOT like that if I was the bride!)
When we exited the church a VERY LOUD siren went off almost causing permanent hearing loss for Phoebe and myself... but NO ONE else seemed phased... still don't know what they was about... I was fully ready to see bomber pilots swarm over the alp mountain tops.
The town was rather charming!! So storybook picturesque

The pink building in the middle is where we had the most delicious "crisp apple strudel"

We also shopped around the gift shops filled with souvenirs such as Austrian lace, eidelweiss EVERYTHING, and all the sound of music post cards you could handle. I found an awesome pin for Phoebe to buy that said "Austria: no kangaroos". HAHAHA!
As we headed back to the bus the church bells sounded and I swear I was in the movie as the camera pans above the wedding church!! They sounded the same as in the movie!
The tour ended eventually - much to our dismay. It had been so lovely!
Other facts we learned on the tour:
- The real Maria Von Trapp died of medical conditions related to her eating too much cheese... she died how she lived - eating cheese apparently.
- Sound of Music was not a favorite among the Austrian people mainly because it wasn't released in the German language until only 10 years ago... so the whole phenomenon is lost on them
- the eidelweiss flower only grows on the sides of the highest mountains and is a token of love... so young men would climb up the highest mountains to retrieve this flower for their ladies and some in the process gave their life to the arduous task
- There is an Abraham Lincoln statue in Austria of his riding a horse and reading... what a talented man!

After the bus tour ended Phoebe and I continued our S.O.M. tour with a visit to the Mirabelle gardens where most of "Do Re Mi" was filmed.
This is my Maria-singing-the-last-note-of-Do Re Mi- pose

The fountain they dance around

After we were all Sound of Music-ed out we moved on to what Salzburg is also known for - Mozart!! It was in this city that he lived and died.
His birthplace

The museum inside his birthplace was seriously the WEIRDEST museum I have ever been in... not only was it not too impressive, but the last 3 rooms made NO SENSE AT ALL!! One of the rooms had everything upside down - the pictures, furniture, etc... another room was all back with random doors that lead no where and dresses in front of lights... So strange!
But I did however get to see Mozarts' wig and violin... so that's cool.
I also wanted to go down to the residenz fountain where Julie Andrews splashes the water on her way to the Von Trapp Family Villa... I don't know why, but that scene is so iconic for me of the movie... the fountain was however under construction, but I snuck this picture through the barriers

By this time is was raining pretty hard and we were hungry, so we had lunch as Zum Mohren, which served Italian, Indian, and Austrian food.
Phoebe and I finished out our day with some HUGE pretzel shaped donuts on the steps of the Salzburg Dome Church

and some more sights in the rain
Oversized chess board

View of the Fortress above the city

Note: when I come back to Salzburg I need to take the time to visit the largest ice cave in the world just outside the city... Phoebe and I were bummed that we didn't have enough time and money... or energy for hiking to it.