Monday, July 20, 2009

Day 28 - From one extreme to the other...Switzerland to Venice

Pictures of Venice are coming soon. In the meantime, please take a look at my additions: the slideshows of each city, the digital video of Trummelbach Falls, and the survey regarding which country you'd most like to visit now that you have viewed them through my eyes.

My Digital Video of Trummelbach Falls

Day 27 - Luzern's Old Town

Upon arriving in Luzern we received an upgrade on our hotel room. I'm liking Luzern already. We ate dinner at a beautiful restaurant in the hotel where they accepted dollars, franks, and euros. I'm liking Luzern a lot. Luzern was a much larger city than I had anticipated. It was suggested that we cross "the bridge" and go into Old Town, which is what we did. It seems this bridge is the oldest existing walking bridge in the world.

I was really intrigued by the way many of the buildings were intricately decorated. There was even one with characters from "Where the Wild Things Are".

I also had to take the shot of the flamingo on the balcony across from our hotel. I wonder if the occupant had connections to Florida.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

From Schilthorn to Luzern - Gorgeous!

We did not realize how beautiful the scenery would be from Schilthorn to Luzern. The pictures simply do not do it justice. These pics are all taken from the train so may be blurry, contain reflections, or be washed out, but I wanted to give you an idea of how pretty it was. This is one of those "once you've seen one lake picture you've seen them all", so be prepared.

Funny story: One of the pictures shows a reflection of Jeannie holding her nose. A young businessman had taken his shoes off for a bit while on the train. Needless to say, he had stinky feet! UGH! Mass transit has its pros and cons, for sure.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Schilthorn to Luzern
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Waterfalls on the way down from Schilthorn... Amazing!

Okay. I really have to work on my commentary during video clips. I say "wow" and "Oh my God" a lot! I also noticed that my video was all over the place, but I wanted you to see all around the scene and see everything that I saw. Sorry! I just couldn't stop my enthusiasm! When we got to the end and over where we needed to catch our ride back, there was a clearing where all the parasailors were landing. That was pretty neat sitting there watching them come in one right after the other. When we got on the bus, there were all kinds of people who had been to the Jungfrau skiing.

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On Top of Schilthorn

Film making at its best! Not really,just some pics and UNEDITED videos of the top of the mountain. It's been so long since we've had good Internet connections, I just wanted to get them up and out there. Enjoy!

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First Day in Interlaken

Well, words can't describe how awesome this day was. We saw gorgeous scenery throughout the entire day. At this point, I want to live here. Mind you, it's summer and the weather is gorgeous. I can only imagine what winters are like. As we were making our way through the little town to catch the cable car to the top, we ran into two girls who are fellow FSU students. Adrienne and Kate are also in the International program, but they are studying the entire summer in Florence. They stayed with us pretty much all day until it was time for them to meet up with their group. They were so sweet! When we got to the top of the mountain we had a snowball fight. They made snow angels and built a little snowman, complete with pencil arms, a glue stick nose, and sun glasses. We had lunch together later and enjoyed our surroundings for the afternoon.

Here are just a few of the fantastic pictures upon our arrival in Interlaken and our trip up to Schilthorn.

Click to play this Smilebox photobook: First Day in Interlaken
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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Day 26 - Interlaken

We arrived at our hotel in the shadow of darkness. It was cold and I LOVED it! I couldn't wait to get to bed; the earlier to bed, the earlier to rise. Here is our hotel in the light of day. We were on the fourth floor with no elevator! Jeannie and I struggled with our luggage, pully them up one step at a time the evening before. When we left, the lady carried them from the top to the bottom without ever stopping. She said she was used to it. You go girl!

When I awoke, I immediately jumped from my bed (it was cold) and threw open the windows to see what awaited me. What a view! The birds were chirping, there was a mist in the air, and the view of the mountains was fabulous! There were no other sounds but those in nature (an Jeannie snoring)! The cold air flowed into the room and within seconds I was freezing. I was so excited, though, I just stood in the open window and looked and listened in awe. Then I broke the silence with some yodeling. (Yes, I really did. I even recorded myself on my FLIP camera!) Can't wait for Jeannie to awake so we can get started up the mountain! OOPS! Gee, sorry I woke you Jeannie! (TeeHee!)

Day 25 - Au Revoir, France! Allo Suisse!

This morning we went out for an omelet and walked around our neighborhood one last time before saying goodbye to Paris. It has been an unbelievable adventure. Our time with FSU has officially ended, and Jeannie and I are off on our own to visit the Swiss Alps and Venice. One door closes...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Day 24 - The Castles of Loire Valley: Chambord, Chenonceau, Cheverny

Well, after spending an hour uploading three pictures, I'm done. While several more were pointed out to us in our travels, these are pictures of each of the castles we actually visited today. The first castle is Chateau de Chambord. It is the largest castle in the Loire Valley, but was simply a hunting lodge. Can you imagine? The second is Chateau de Chenonceau. It has many gorgeous gardens, as well as a maze. The third is Cheverny. We were surrounded by horses and hunting dogs that are taken out twice a week for a hunt. The grounds, again, were breathtaking. I will post more when I can. We'll bid adieu to Paris and head to Switzerland tomorrow. Not sure what Internet service will be like there; hopefully better than here. Talk soon...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Day 23 - Mont St. Michel

I thought this was a perfect example of a digital immigrant. This lady was sitting here texting on her cell phone. This is such a great contrast between the centuries old cathedral and the digital world.

I'll post more AFTER I go through my 757 photos...another personal best(or worse...not sure at this point). :D

Day 22 - Notre Dame, Seine River Cruise, Farewell Dinner

Notre Dame was beautiful, but better yet was our open air riverboat cruise along the River Seine. We saw beautiful scenes along the river and were able to take pictures of many of the dozens of bridges over the River Seine within Paris. One of the bridges we went under, the Pont Neuf, dates back to 1607.

We ended the evening with a yummy farewell dinner complete with red and white French wine, French music, French food, a champagne toast, and lots of fun and friends. Viva la France! Oh, I have a new personal best....640 pictures today!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Day 21 - Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Sacre-Coeur

Happy Bastille Day!
Today we visited a cemetery. It sounds kind of morbid, but it was actually quite interesting. Pere Lachaise Cemetery is the largest in Paris and dates back 200 years. There is a long list of famous people who are buried there, including Oscar Wilde, Frederic Chopin, Rosini, Rothschild, and Jim Morrison, lead singer of the American rock group, the Doors. He is buried in The Poets' Corner of the cemetery. I have to wonder why he was buried in Paris istead of the United States. It seems he went to Paris to take a break and get his life back on track, and was only there four months before his death. When we visited his gravesite, there were several displays of affection for him. Our photography focus for the day was black and white with a spot of color. I hope you like them.

We were close to the red light district of Paris so we went to get a few shots of the infamous Moulin Rouge, a cabaret built in 1889, best known as the birthplace of the can-can dance. It is still in operation today and its red windmill is easily seen.

Next, we went to the Sacre-Coeur Basilica, located at the highest point in the city. We could not take pictures on the inside, but the mosaic in the apse is one of the largest and most beautiful in the world. The Basilica is built of travertine stone, which exudes calcite. This is what makes the structure always appear bright white. U2's music video "Two Hearts Beat as One" was shot here. Because it is Bastille Day, the streets were crowded with people. There is a great view of the Eiffel Tower from here.

Upon returning home, Jeannie and I went to do laundry. Let me tell you; if you're ever in France and you need someone who speaks English, just head to the local laundromat. Everyone in the laundromat were Americans! So, you guessed it, here is where I finally made a connection in France! Janell Rardon is from Virginia and, guess what, she is an author! Not only is she an author, she is also a teacher, a spiritual leader, a public speaker, and she homeschools 22 kids. She is devoted to helping families live in the spirit of God. We thoroughly enjoyed talking with her. You can click here to check out her blog. Oh, the reason she is in Europe? Her husband surprised her with this month long trip for their 25th wedding anniversary. How sweet is that?

Later, Jeannie, Michelle and I had dinner at a fabulous seafood restaurant. What a great way to end the evening...good food, good friends, good memories!

Tomorrow is the last day that we will be together as a group through FSU. We will be taking a peaceful journey on the River Seine...a fitting way to end our journey together. It has been a life changing adventure with a great group of people, many of whom I will keep close contact with, all of whom I will keep close in my heart. Thursday morning will be bittersweet as we end one journey, while many of us will be headed off to other places. Some are heading home; some are squeezing in another country or two while they are here. Jeannie and I will be going on to Switzerland and Italy before going home, so I'll continue blogging my way across Europe. I must say, I'm excited about seeing these last two countries, but I am also getting anxious to get home to my family and friends...

Too see a video of the finale of fireworks from the Eiffel Tower, please visit my friend's blog: Florida Coal Cracker Chronicles

Monday, July 13, 2009

Day 20 - Epernay, Moet & Chandon Winery

I love the French countryside! We traveled first class (Woo Hoo!) on the bullet train to Epernay, the heart of the world's most prestigious vineyards, and the Capital of Champagne. It is a little town out in the country where the Moet & Chandon Winery is located and is the main center for bottling, storing, and selling the wines of the Champagne region. The French countryside is gorgeous! It is true, you can't judge France by Paris. That would be like judging the US with NYC. There are too many beautiful towns, parks and cities to see that give totally different views of the country.

After hearing a bit about the history, we took a guided tour down in the cellars of the Moet winery, a winery that has passed down from one generation to another. It was very interesting to hear about the process of wine making from start to finish. One thing I learned was how they get rid of the sediment from the bottles. They turn the bottles upside down, freeze the bottles, and then pop the sediment ice cube from the bottle. Turning the bottles is part of the maturation process and one person can rotate over 5000 bottles in one day. I was also surprised to learn that the bubbles were created through a mistake made by Dom Perignon himself! What a great flub, Dom!We finished our tour with a flute of Grand Vintage 2003 white and a flute of Grand Vintage 2003 Rose'. I won't say who chugged an extra glass of wine that someone did not drink after the sommeliers left the room! Too funny!

It's good to be in Paris. It's great to be in Paris during Bastille! It's their Independence Day. It is officially tomorrow (7/14), but they've already started celebrating. We attended a dance festival this evening with music of various genres. There is a parade tomorrow morning and fireworks at the Eiffel Tower tomorrow night. We're planning to go see the fireworks. I mean, really! How can you be in Paris and not see fireworks at the Eiffel Tower on Independence Day? I can't wait!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Day 19 - Versailles - Lines!,Lines! Everywhere lines!

Today we visited the Palace of Versailles. The lines were LOOOOOOOOOOOOONG! Seriously long. Like, worse than Disney long! Because of that I'm BEEEEEEEEAT! So, you can click on the link if you want to know more about this lavish palace of King Louis XIV. Otherwise, just look at my pictures to get an idea of my day.

My favorite part of the palace was the Hall of Mirrors and the Gardens, which included sculptues, flowers, manicured lawns, fountains, the preferred home of Marie Antoinette, and a Grand Canal. Oh, it's good to be king!

This last photo is my favorite of the day. Out of the thousands of people who visited the Versailles today, this lovely girl found a place of solitude atop a castle wall reading a book. I'm sure her parents were in a line somewhere! (I did a fresco effect on the picture to make it look like a painting.) Also posted a cropped view.