Le Avventure Di Sophia Graf

My thrilling adventures in Europe!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


The day we left for Germany we had to wake up at 3:30 in the morning in order to make it to our 8 o'clock flight. We were supposed to leave at 4 o'clock, but were late and didn't leave until 4:30. Still, we managed to make up the lost time while driving. When we got to the airport, we waited for our check in desk number to show up. Since we hadn't had breakfast, we couldn't refuse the Krispy Kreme stand (they have so many Krispy Kreme's here, why isn't it like that in the States?). When the doughnuts were all devoured and our desk number still hadn't shown up, with only an hour until boarding, we decided to investigate. My dad figured out that for international flights on easyJet there wasn't a specific desk, so we went through line and arrived at security with only forty-five minutes left. We had to run to make it in time for our preferred boarding (because we're a family) but we did get there and just in time, too. Once again I was amazed at how much can change after such a short flight. Since Passau is a small town, it doesn't have it's own airport. We landed in the Munich airport and then discovered that both my parents' drivers licences had expired, so we couldn't get the rental car we had been counting on. Because of this, we were forced to take the train, but this proved impossible because of construction, so we had to take a bus, then a train, another bus and finally one more train. When we finally arrived in Passau, we still had a long walk ahead of us to the hotel. The six of us dragged our luggage along the Danube River to our hotel, the Hotel Residenz. That hotel was by far the best one we had stayed at all summer (hah! Italy doesn't even begin to compare). There was a small library, with couches and a snack menu, a bar, free Internet access, and even English-speaking receptionists. Best of all, there were miniature Haribo Goldbear packets on the reception desk the first day we came. When we got up to the rooms, we were thrilled to find Spongebob Schwamkopf on TV. We could pretty much understand it, since Spongebob isn't a very verbal show. We could figure out most of the plots and even saw a few reruns. That night for dinner we went to a cute restaurant that reminded me of Gepettos Restaurant in Disneyland. They advertised that they spoke English there, but our waiter didn't really speak it. When choosing how to split up in our hotel rooms that night, my mom said that she would pay me three euros a night to put everyone to bed and be the "responsible one" at night while she and my dad got to sleep in the double room.

The German breakfast was by far the best breakfast we have ever had (remember the vat of cornflakes? If not, see London). There was yogurt, cereal, dried fruit, canned fruit, rolls, meats, cheeses, juices, coffee, hot chocolate, and many different kinds of tea. The presentation was all fantastic and the eating area was clean. While my dad went to work (this was supposed to be a business trip, after all) my mom dragged us to the cathedral, or Dom, to see what used to be the world's biggest church organ (it was passed up by a church in LA just recently) and listen to a concert. It was very elaborate, but we all got bored after a short time and I had to take Anthony outside early. After that, we went back to the hotel and finished getting ready for the day. We went in search of Bears And Friends, a candy store filled entirely with gummies, that my dad had told us about last time he came here. We found it, after getting directions from the hotel receptionist, and as soon as we walked in the smell engulfed us. Not only were there bags and bags of gummies, but there also gummy creations like a beer glass filled with gold gummies and topped with marshmallows and a pizza with banana shapes for the crust and shoestring candy for the tomato sauce. The store was long and rectangular, with a stairway in the middle going up to a storeroom. At each end of the shop was a till (he he!) where the cashier (I guess you can't say tiller) was making gummy creations and handing out free samples. We wandered around for a while, just taking in the enormous amount of candy surrounding us. I walked over to the window display and found the legendary tortes made entirely out of gummies. The mini torte was about five inches in diameter and four inches tall of solid gummies, and the large torte was the size of a normal, two-layer cake. I was going to buy a mini torte for myself, but then my mom said that she would buy it for the whole family to share. (Now she's threatening to bring it to our family party on Labor Day, I knew I should have bought one for myself too!) In the end I decided to buy a kilogram bag of gummies that were on sale. Later I deciphered the German on the back enough for it to tell me that the gummies had multivitamins in them. No wonder they were on sale!

Once we had made our purchases, we left Bears and Friends in search of lunch. I found a cafe and chocolate shop with a yummy, reasonably priced menu in English. There were some translation issues, though, because I ordered "pancake soup" wondering what in the world it could be and I got plain noodle soup.

We had quiet time in the hotel room that day where Anthony took a nap and Cindy was forced to wait for Thomas and I do necessary journaling before we could watch any TV. When dinnertime came, we wanted to show my dad Cafe Simon, home of the pancake soup, but it was closed by the time we got there. Bumbling along at eight o'clock, starving and having no idea where to each, we fond refuge in an Italian restaurant where I got some delicious tortellini. Next door we got kiwi gelato, which tasted surprisingly like strawberry.

Our third day, Saturday, was the day that we were going to go to Neuschwanstein Castle, the castle that the Sleeping Beauty castle in Disneyland is based upon, but without a car that was impossible. Instead, we climbed about 100 steps - nothing compared to the Eiffel Tower - to the top of a cliff across the river from our hotel. On top of the cliff is situated a castle, the reason why we had climbed up there. From the top of the cliff we could see most of Passau and all three of the rivers that it is built upon. We went into the exhibit, thinking that it was the castle museum, but it turned out to be the Myths and Legends exhibit that the castle was temporarily housing. The exhibit was really boring because all the English was really tiny and none of the artifacts were labelled in English, but I did find a medieval harp, one more to add to my collection of harps from around the world. Once again, we ate lunch at Simon, but we had to rush because we were late for boarding the Krystalschiff! (The Crystal Ship, made exclusively with Swarovski Crystals, sails a round trip from Passau stopping in Bavaria and Austria three times daily. Tickets are 11.50 euros for adults, half price for children, and free for third and fourth children and children under five.) Luckily, we got there in time and were even waiting a while for the ship to appear. Even the outside had crystal on it: there was a huge arch, full of crystals interspersed with white Christmas lights, that spread most of the length of the ship. From our research we had learned that the ship was spread across three levels, two indoor and one outdoor. What we didn't realize until we got in was the grandeur of the ship. There was a lounge on the first floor near the bow with circular booths, each capped by a throne-like chair. In the middle of the lounge area was a huge Greek-style statue (aka naked) of a woman which appeared to have been spray-painted silver. I decided that the boat would be much improved if I played the harp there ten years from now instead of that statue being in that spot. Behind the lounge was the entryway, with tile floors and a Christmas light studded ceiling. Behind that was the general area, proceeded over by a grand staircase, on which the top of each stair was full of crystals, and topped by a huge waterfall fountain with color-changing lights. Behind the fountain there was a bar and throughout the whole second floor there were tables, just like in the general area of the first floor. The area above the first floor wasn't chairs though, because there was a hole through which the passengers on the first floor could see the huge chandelier (crystal, of course) that rippled out of the ceiling. Behind the captain's area on the second floor there was a refuge for all of the males who got dragged on by their wives/girlfriends/mothers. Well, actually it was a tiny room with a fake steering wheel and a GPS monitor, but Thomas spent most of his time there, partly because there was a big window where you could see the captain steering the ship. The third floor was outdoor and had a lot of picnic tables as well as a bar that was closed because of the bad weather. (I swear, the bad weather follows us. I just hope we don't bring it back to San Diego.) We got two tables on the first floor right next to the "water theatre" under the staircase that was really just a grotto with a mermaid in it behind a projection of different parts of nature and harp music. Across from the grotto was a Swarovski crystal shop where we bought a little crystal as a memento of the trip. Throughout the whole ship there were panels of crystal and columns covered in fabric covered with bits of mirror. The walls were not solid, instead they were huge windows with the beautiful countryside behind them. The two hour ride was really relaxing and fun because we could wander around the whole ship by ourselves. By the end, we had decided that we wanted to decorate our house in San Diego like the Crystal Ship. when the boat came to Passau again, we rushed off in order to get back to Simon before they closed in order to get one of their delicious desserts. We got cherry-coconut pound cake, cherry strudel, and Simon's specialty, a liquor and chocolate cake with gold flakes on top. I tried them all and have to say that the cherry strudel was my favorite. We went home (to the hotel) for our daily dose of Spongebob. later, Anthony and my parents went out together for dinner while the rest of us laid around watching TV. By that time I was really tired because every day Cindy and Anthony woke me up at like seven, when we had only just gotten to sleep at ten or eleven the night before. I know that doesn't sound that bad, but in Hungerford I had been sleeping in until nine every morning and I still hadn't caught up on the sleep I lost when we flew over to Germany. My parents brought back fish and chip (french fries), both clearly previously frozen, since I have developed quite a discriminating taste for fish and chips here in England.
On Sunday we went to church at the Dom (remember? it's the one with the big organ) and ended up at the festive mass. We had decided to take the later train to Salzburg at noon rather than have to go to the 7:30 mass in order to make a 9:30 train. Salzburg, in Austria, is famous for being Mozart's birthplace and the place where The Sound of Music was filmed. When we first arrived, we went to the tourist information booth and booked a semi-private van tour to get an overview of the city. On the tour we saw the place where Mozart was born and the place across the river where his family moved when he was like five. We also saw the von Trapp mansion from the movie from across the lake and supposedly saw the abbey, but since it was on a hill I couldn't find it. The tour dropped us off by the cathedral in a square with a statue of Mozart and a cathedral, so we went into the cathedral. I don't remember it being very amazing, but maybe the number of cathedrals I have been to this summer had dulled my admiration. After going into the cathedral we wandered around for a while and found the strangest, coolest shop I have ever seen. It was a shop filled with ornaments made out of eggshells. "Filled" is an understatement. It was absolutely overflowing with eggs in huge egg cartons, all sorted by color. There were even scenes painted on ostrich eggs with their own stands. My favorite eggs were pastel colors with cutout designs edged in embossed white paint. They reminded me of Victorian lace. There was also a cute jack-o-lantern egg and a snowflake edged in glitter. After we had finished looking through the shop we wandered through the streets again and decided to have an early dinner. We found a restaurant with Austrian, Italian, and Indian food that suited every one's tastes. For dessert we got ice cream at a shop in the first floor of the building where Mozart was born. My mm also bought "Mozart chocolate" for some of her friends. We found a palace garden kind of like the one in Paris and decided to play there for a while. The play area had a giant pyramid that had a huge slide that lasted for about twenty seconds. The only problem was that it took almost twenty minutes to get Cindy and Anthony up it, because it was like they have at McDonald's with the alternating platforms you have to climb up. Having taken too long at the park, we rushed back to the train station and got on our train. It didn't get to Passau until late at night, so we took a taxi from the station to the hotel. On our last day, we had that wonderful breakfast for one last time, then spent the morning shopping while my dad was at work. I got a black and white crinkle shirt and a blue German barmaid shirt (they sell the dresses everywhere, even in department stores, so I think it must be like kilts where they wear them instead of "black tie"). We found a Pimkie and went in, but didn't end up buying anything. We met up with my dad at the train station a 3:30 and them did the train, bus, train, bus rigmarole (because of the construction) to get to the airport. We sat at out gate for a long time, waiting to board, but it wasn't until long after the supposed takeoff time that there was an announcement saying our flight had been delayed. Our plane finally did arrie around ten and we got to London Stanstead soon after. The worst traveling doo doo all summer happened that night when we had to wait in the passport control line for almost two hours. Even when we finished that, we still had a two hour drive to get home, and sadly the Krispy Kreme was not open, so we didn't get in bed until about three o'clock in the morning.


Thursday, August 23, 2007


We took the Channel Tunnel ("Chunnel") to Paris from London. I remember feeling upset through most of the ride over because I had to sit in the odd seat (we got a table group of four seats plus one more seat). Surprisingly, most of the journey was spent above ground, travelling from London to the tunnel and from the end of the tunnel to Paris. It wasn't the exciting experience Thomas had led us to believe from his building excitement culminating in frequent outbursts of "WE'RE GOING ON THE CHUNNEL TOMORROW!" Instead, it was just like any other train ride, only on a faster and bigger train, not a "caterpillar" train as my mom calls the ones in Hungerford. When we got to Paris, we had lunch across the street from the train station, then took a taxi to the apartment we were renting. Out of all the apartments so far, this on was probably the best. It had originally been a one bedroom apartment, but lofts had been added above the washroom (I don't know what else to call it, it was a tiny room with a washer, dryer, and sink in it in the bedroom) and above the kitchen. Immediately we decided that the boys would get the bigger, more rickety loft over the kitchen while the girls would get the stronger, but smaller loft in the bedroom. I might also add that the girls' loft had a railing around it, while the boys' did not. That afternoon we took a walk to look for dinner and the Pompidou, and were successful in both missions. We had pizza for dinner (as well as a lemon crepe with ice cream for dessert, mmmmm!) outside the love of Thomas' life, the Pompidou. You might ask what is so special about the Pompidou, and I will tell you that it is called "the inside-out building" because all it's pipes and escalators, etc. are on the outside of the building and not the inside like normal buildings. I, for one, thought it to be one of the most hideous buildings I had ever seen, but Thomas (and Anthony, who has been copying everything Thomas says in an effort to be just like him) loved it and thought it was the greatest building ever built. To add to the horridness, (he he, I am turning British!) the pipes are color coded with bright red, green, yellow, blue, and white paint to show which ones are for electricity, water, air conditioning, and so on. I'm sorry if this offends you Stephanie, but my first glimpse of a Paris monument was not a happy one. We also saw the Hotel de Ville, which was a lot nicer in my opinion than the Pompidou. There was a beach festival going on in Paris, so in front of the Hotel de Ville was a beach volleyball court. There were also fake beaches set up alongside the river with sand, palm trees, umbrellas, and beach chairs.

The next day, Sunday, we tried walking to the Eiffel Tower, but then when the heavens opened up above us we decided that the Lourve might be more appropriate for the weather that day, seeing as the three of us that did not have umbrellas were thouroughly soaked. There was much argument as we children were dragged through the museam to see famous things such as the Winged Nike, Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Code of Hammurabi, as well as some other, less famous things in other exhibits and collections. That night we went to a crepery for dinner, after my continuous stream of pleading that drove the family so insane that they eventually caved in and found one near the POMPIDOU! Just for good measure, they forced me to walk the long way around THAT building and even stop to take a picture.

The wafting scent of croissants among the other delectable pastries enticed us and prompted us to stop in and buy some for breakfast before we made our way towards the Metro stop to try once again to complete the trek to the Eiffel Tower. We rose from the ground and immediately began wondering where in the world the tower could be, for it was nowhere in sight. Then we turned the corner and, boom!, there it was. The huge, lace like structure loomed above us, throwing it's shadow on the park below. We walked down the long strip of grass to the amazing structure. We asked at the information desk about eating at a restaurant in the tower, but apparently they are booked up to two weeks in advance, so we stood in line for the stairs, which were only 4 euros for as high as you could climb. The elevator, however, was 4.50 euros just to get to the first floor and 7.50 to the second. The top floor, which Thomas really wanted to go to, could only be reached by the elevator, which cost 11.50 euros and was temporarily closed. The whole time we were in line Anthony kept insisting that he would buy us an elevator, meaning that he would pay for our elevator tickets, but since we were in a stairs only ticket line that wasn't going to happen. So fate decided that we would climb all 704 stairs. The first three hundred or so to the first floor weren't all that bad because the stairs were marked every ten steps with their number, so that we could look and say "only 210 to go. . . only 200. . . 190 more. . . almost there, only 180 more!" We wandered around the first floor looking at all the signs pointing out the landmarks, such as Notre Dame. Unlike in the dome of St. Peter's, I wasn't scared at all because the Eiffel Tower has a whole floor that you can walk around on with exhibits, restaurants, and shops, but in the dome there was just a little ledge. Also, there was a thick, decorative railing as well as a wire screen, as opposed to just a stone railing. Then we discovered a dirty cafe to eat lunch at (Hey, why not? It's still in the Eiffel Tower!) like the kind you find at castles that are run by the company that owns the castle. (We have eaten at far too many of those this summer. I don't want to see another one for a long time.) I got a quiche that was cold in the middle because it hadn't been in the microwave for long enough. To work off all the ice cream we'd been eating, we climbed like 400 more stairs to the second floor. The sights were amazing from the second floor, it was almost like looking down upon an aerial map. We could even see the Arch of Triumph from there, which was really far away. While the boys looked even more at the city, my mom, Cindy and I found a nice chocolate store where we bought chocolate with little pictures of things all over Paris on it. After climbing back down all 704 steps, Cindy, Anthony, Thomas, and I rode the carousal next to the Eiffel Tower. We almost took a boat ride, but instead walked to Amarino (thanks, ss!), a fantastic ice cream place. You get to choose three favors, even on a small cone, and they make your cone into a rose shape. Later on we found out that there was on right by our apartment in the Pompidou square. Following more of ss and her family's advice, since it had proved to be good, we headed to the Jardin de Luxembourg. This is a park that used to be a palace garden but is now open to the public and filled with really cool things like a huge play area, pony rides, and a pond in front of the palace where you can rent sailboats to sail.
We rented three boats for a half hour each, but I had to share mine with Anthony, which made it kind of hard. We also got a kind of bad boat, but even so it was really fun. Anthony kept trying to slap the water with his boat pushing stick and also tried to touch the bottom with it, so that by the time the half hour was over I was glad to give back the stick. Our boat had kept coming back like a boomerang, and by the time it learned that it was supposed to go into the open it was time to bring the boats back in. Cindy's had been sailing really well and Thomas' boat was alright, and even though our boat had sailed the worst, that half hour of pushing it along had been quite enjoyable.

After much debate, we decided that the best thing to do would be to got o the Champs Elysee rather than Pimkie, as I had originally wanted (we had passed one once the day before and since then I had been set on going). We took the metro there but got off too early so that we ended up walking a long way between trees on our right and portable theatre seats on our left before we got anywhere near the shops. The whole thing reminded me a lot of the Royal Mile in London, especially its length. The whole way down we kept wondering what the stands had been for (they were being taken down, so we knew that the event had already taken place). Finally, someone figured out that the Tour de France had finished just the day before! We had even been here in Paris (well, at the Lourve) and had had no idea that it was anything other than a normal weekend. We eventually reached the real street that was full of shops and began looking for a place to eat dinner. The previous nights my dad had been unsatisfied with our restaurant choices, so we decided to let him choose tonight. We looked for a while, then got sidetracked and went into a wonderful chocolate shop. There was chocolate in every shape you can think of, from cell phones to mice and lighthouses to bars with Merci! written across them and, of course, the inevitable Eiffel Tower. The smell of chocolate, chocolate, chocolate was overwhelming, so we had to buy some even though it was going to close in two minutes. My favorite thing was a salad made entirely out of chocolate, complete with olives and a hard boiled egg. Anthony kept begging and begging for an Eiffel Tower, but my dad didn't think that a two year old would fully appreciate the sculpture, so instead Anthony got a giant chocolate coin with the Eiffel Tower on one side. We also bought a long thin stick of squares of chocolate. As soon as we left, the store closed and we continued our quest to find dinner. When we did find it, I got the best onion soup ever. Cindy decided that she would pay for six escargot for the family so that we could try them! She and I each tried one, and then we got my dad to try one too. The snails didn't look that good because they came in their shells, but they smelled really good. We showed the waiter that one of them got stuck in the shell, to see if he could get it out, and when he couldn't he gave us another half dozen free! Since no one else really wanted any more, Cindy and I had a few and then made my mom eat the last one because she had tole everyone that they were really good and yet had not had any herself. The reason she didn't want to was because the last time she had escargot she ate so many that she threw up. Eventually she did eat it after we used the threats she uses on us, like no dessert and having to eat the snail for breakfast. This made her feel a bit sick later, but it was worth it for the profiteroles we had for dessert. There were three cream puffs on each of the two plates we ordered, but they were so heaped with chocolate sauce and whipped cream that it was hard to tell where they were. After dinner we walked further down the Champs Elysee to do the shopping my mom had promised me. The first hop we found open was Zara, so my mom and I went in there while the rest of the family found the Disney store. We came out, about an hour later, with four things: a khaki miniskirt, white shorts, and a striped white and gold shirt for me and a black shirt with a Parisian scene on it for my mom. I was really excited about the new clothes because I hadn't packed enough for three and a half months. My mom consented to pay for them because she admitted herself that she was sick of the same shirts I keep wearing over and over. When we met the rest of the family outside and told them what we had bought, Thomas asked, "Why do you need more clothes?"
I answered, "Well, I only have about seven shirts, and only one pair of shorts."
And, being a boy, he had to answer, "Well, isn't that enough?"
Tuesday, our last day, began once again at a pastry shop, though this time at a different one. We also went to a candy store by the Pompidou, where we learned that the owners would be opening up another shop in LA soon. Then we had to go finish packing and say goodbye to the Pompidou. When we got to the station we had lunch at Paul, which is really nice normally and passable at the station. them we rode the chunnel where I was lucky to have no one in the seat next to me, so that Anthony could have his own seat, where he prompltly fell asleep. We had missed the last direct train to Hungerford by the time we made it to Paddington Station, so we had to take a really crowded train to Newbury and change there for the train to Hungerford. The only problem was that our train got delayed and we were stuck in Newbury where my parents finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, constantly interrupted by the cool female voice announcing the trains.



Hey everyone
Just wanted to point out the new countdown timer at the bottom of the blog. It's counting down to Sept. 4 (aka the first day of school- eek!). It really doesn't seem that long, so I've just given up on email (you might have noticed that I seem to have vanished) and have mostly been journaling and blogging. Aaaaaargh! So much for summer!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Our train ride to Scotland was rather uneventful except for that we got on the wrong train during our last switch. There were two trains to Edinburgh within three minutes of each other, and we got on the 12:03 instead of the 12:00. Luckily the ticket lady was really nice and didn’t make us pay a fine. The only bad part was that we ended up being on the train an hour longer than we would have originally. We met Aunt Ellen, my dad’s aunt, at the station. She and Uncle Geoffrey live in a big old house from the 1800s with tall ceilings and servant bells. It was really nice and there were tons of rooms, even enough for our entire family to sleep comfortably. Best of all, I got my own room with THICK curtains! Another great thing was that we got homemade meals that we didn't have to cook as well as huge breakfasts and we got chauffered around so that we didn't have to mess with public transport.

You can see some pictures on Thomas's blog.

Day One:

Our first day in Scotland was very cold (all the others were too) but luckily it didn't rain like is the norm here in the UK. We went to see Edinburgh Castle, the main attraction (and "Boardwalk" in Edinburgh Edition Monopoly) and the site of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo (also featured in Monopoly but I forget where) that happens every fall. There were huge stands set up and more being worked on for the Tattoo that will take place in October. When we got into the castle, we went on a tour of the grounds and then went by ourselves to see the crown jewels. They are the oldest complete set (scepter, sword, and crown) in Europe (I think!). On display with them is the Stone of Destiny where all of the Kings of Scotland have been crowned (while sitting on it) and is sent back to London for the crowning of modern day monarchs (a.k.a. Queen Elizabeth). We also saw the royal apartments where King James VI and I had been born (he was one person, the sixth James of Scotland and the first James of England, he united the two countries). there was also a display on the prisoners of war kept in the castle and what the prisoners left behind, like graffiti and crafts.

That afternoon we ate lunch at the Elephant House, one of the two cafes that J K Rowling had written at. They had really good food and a mice view of the castle from the table where JKR used to sit.

Day Two:

Our second day in Scotland was spent at Loch Leaven. It's a big loch with good fly fishing and a few small islands, one of which houses a ruined castle. We had been planning on taking the ferry to the castle, but when we stepped out of the car and were blasted by the cold and wind we decided that it was too cold. We almost went straight home, but then my dad found a trail that led to a huge playground. It was huge because it had a lot of equipment and because the equipment was large, so even the adults could play. The best thing was a Flying Fox seat (like one of those things where you hold onto a handle and it slides down to the other end, except this one had a seat) because it was really smooth and went on for a long time. There was also a nest swing that reminded me of a hammock seat made out of plastic. We played at the park for a while, then had a picnic lunch and went home, to Thomas’ great excitement, via the Firth of Fourth Road Bridge. Thomas got a book filled with famous structures and the Firth of Fourth Railway Bridge is in there. Since it’s a railway bridge we didn’t get to go on it, but we could see it from the road bridge. We had to rest up because that night was the Harry Potter release! (for more details see “Getting THE BOOK” “New Harry Potter Book!” and “The Queue”)

Day Three:

On Day Three, a very rainy day and our last one in Scotland, we went to an aerospace museum, this time accompanied by Uncle Geoffrey and Cousin Emily. The museum wasn’t just any museum though. It housed, in addition to a ton of other airplanes (or aeroplanes as they say here), a real Concorde jet! Now if you have spoken to Thomas in the past few years, you probably know what a Concorde is, but for those who haven’t it is the first commercial airliner to exceed the speed of sound. Then it had an accident and they all got grounded, so they were put into museums around the world. The one we saw was called “GBOAA” so you can Google that and see pictures of it in flight. (Thomas has done this so many times that he has memorized the code and told it to me as soon as I asked.) The “Concorde Experience” at the museum cost extra, but it was the whole reason we had come so we shoveled out the cash willingly. The “Experience” consisted of going at your appointed time to the Concorde Hanger and listening to the audio guide you received. There were information points both inside and outside the “aeroplane,” so all nine of us crowded into the “toothpick” (you’ll see why it’s called that if you look at the pictures). The inside was really small, with just two seats on each side. The windows were tiny, just about 4in by 5in. Everything was grey, and there were only about 20 rows of seats. At the front of the seats there were many different measurement things displayed so that the passengers could see when they broke the sound barrier and other important things like that. After we finished listening, we milled around for a while and then saw a movie about how they transported GBOAA to the museum. Since it was grounded it could no longer fly, so instead they took it apart and put it on a combination of trains, and trucks through fields and cities. Once the movie was over, Cindy and Anthony played in the play area they had for kids. We had to leave early in order to change and get to church on time. After church we went to a nice Italian restaurant, called something like Vittoria’s, that was on the same street as the Elephant House. The next day we returned home by train.


Friday, August 17, 2007

We're Coming Home!

We've just recieved confirmation about our plane tickets home! We're flying home Saturday, September 1st at 11:30 AM my time and arriving 2:30 PM your time or 10:30 PM my time. I'll have Sunday and Monday to recover from the jetlag, then back to school on Tuesday! Aaaaaaaaaaagh! I probably won't be alive enough to visit anyone on Sunday and maybe even Monday, but I'll definitly see you all on Tuesday! I'm so glad I'm finally coming home. It's only 15 days away!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

By the Time I Get Home, I Will Have Visited All These Countries!

create your personalized map of europe.


The train to Rome was a disaster. Just after our stop at Bologna, about 2/3 of the way to Rome, the train stopped. An announcement was made that stated that there were "technical difficulties" and that we would be going again soon. About 45 minutes later another announcement was made that said we would be going back to the last station where we could get onto another train since this one could no longer run. Of course, that train was so full that we had to sit in the pull-out seats in the aisle. Only Anthony and my mom got a seat, where Anthony soon fell asleep. I spent the two hour journey crunched between people trying to walk down the aisle (the food cart was the worst) and trying not to fall off the seat (it was tilted down). When we finally got to the station (two hours later than we had planned, since we had paid for a high-speed train) we stood in line for a long time to get a refund, only to find that we were given free miles for and Italian train company. Seeing as this was our last journey in Italy, they were kind of useless. We stumbled around outside, trying to find our apartment, then eventually found it and got dinner.

Places We Went:

  • St. Peter's - Our first full day in Rome was a Sunday, so of course it was spent in Vatican City. We went straight there, but even so we didn't make it through the security line untill 10. We had thought that mass started at 10, but it had already begun, so we stood in line through the whole mass and got second row seats for the next one. The reason we had been so confused was that there weren't signs anywhere saying the mass time, so we just had to guess. The hardest part was that the mass was in Italian, so I didn't understand a thing. The next day we came back to do the touristy stuff. We paid eight euros each to ride the elevator up to the inside of the dome, where I was scared. Then we climbed 300 stairs to the top of the dome where we found an outdoor balcony. That was where I was really scared, especially since there was just a banister, unlike the inside which had had a metal screen.

  • Pantheon - the outside of the Pantheon was in relatively good shape for it's age, but the inside was in perfect condition. It had been turned into a Catholic church and had many tombs in it including that of Victor Emanuel who united Italy and that of the artist Raffaello (eek, I have no idea if those spellings are right!). The big dome (with a hole in the middle!) is really cool because since it's so close to the ground it seems a lot bigger than St. Peter's, but in reality it's only one meter bigger.

  • Colosseum - we stood in line for a loooooooong time only to find out that the ticket people only took cash. Since Cindy and Anthony were both full price, and we didn't have 66 Euros in cash, some of us would not be able to go. Even after the lady behind us traded us 15 Euros for 10 Pounds (the exchange rate is roughly 1.5 to 1), we still only had enough for four people to go. We decided that Thomas and Anthony, being boys, were automatically in, and since my mom had been already, twenty years ago, she would take whoever didn't go to get gelato. That left it between me and Cindy. At first she decided that she wanted to go, and that I would be left with the gelato, but she didn't seem sure, so I convinced her to get some yummy ice cream while I went inside. When we got inside, I was thouroughly underwhelmed since most of it had crumbled away. There was hardly any of the outer shell of marble left, since a lot of it had been scavenged a few years after the Roman Empire fell and even used in St. Peter's. We did see some bits of stone with words carved on them though that were supposed to be the senators' seats.

  • St. John Lateran - was another church that had been used as the "chief papal residence" before St. Peter's was built. It was a little bit smaller, but just as lavishly decorated. The ceiling was almost entirely gold, but my favorite decoration was the twelve statues of saints in white marble that lined the seating area. In a big cage-like thing above the altar there were supposidly some relics of the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul.

  • The Forum - Thomas said that he wanted to see some unrestored ruins and he got his wish with the Forum. It was basically a pile of rubble in a hot, dusty, archaological site with a few pillars here and there.


The Hat Incident (part of Venice)

On our way to lunch one day, we stopped at a bridge (like always) to let Anthony watch the boats go by. Thomas and Anthony went to one side and I went over with them, but got bored and went to the other side with Cindy and my parents.
A few minutes later, Thomas walked over with this look of terror on his face and said quietly “My hat went over.”

“Ha ha!” laughed my mom, “Really?”
“Yeah,” whispered Thomas.
“Well, I guess it’s stuck there then.”
“NOOOOO!” wailed Thomas.
We all went over to the other side of the bridge to watch it float by. Then someone asked Thomas how it had happened.
“Well, I was trying to scare Anthony by saying ‘I’m going to drop my hat in the water’ and then I decided to pretend to do it, so I put my finger out below it and tried to drop it on the finger, but it missed.”
"Then I guess you deserve what happened, Thomas" declared my mom among peals of laughter from the rest of us.
We watched his hat float by and tried to think of how we could get it back. Just then, a gondola came round the corner.
"Excuse me," asked a lady nearby,"is that your hat?"
She talked to my mom for a bit in Italian, then began yelling "Gondolieri, gondolieri!"
Gondolieri is, of course, Italian for the person who poles a gondola, just like biker is English for the person who rides a bike.
The gondolieri poled over to the hat and leaned over the edge to pick it up. He threw it towards the bridge we were standing on and it landed in the middle, nearly hitting a tourist.
"Yes!" cried Thomas, "My hat!"
Even so, he may not have learned to keep a close eye on his hat because the very next day he threatened once again to throw it over, this time out of a water taxi window . . .


We took a two hour train ride from Milan to Venice and met the daughter of the owner of our rented apartment, who showed how to find it in the maze of Venice. It was a rather crummy place that had the sense of an old mansion at night. Even so, we had access to our own private canal, where we could dock our invisible boat.

Things We Saw:
• Casa D’Oro – an old mansion on the Grand Canal
• Grand Canal – the main canal that runs through most of Venice
• Piazza San Polo – a piazza near our apartment surrounded by shops and restaurants, but empty in the middle. It was always relatively empty, especially compared to San Marco
• Piazza San Marco – the biggest square in Venice, home Saint Mark’s Cathedral and hundreds of pigeons. The pigeons are only encouraged by the many stands selling birdseed.
• Isle of Murano – the island famous for its glass. We went at 7:00 PM, thinking we were so smart and that there would be no crowds. We were wrong. Everything was closed, even the glass stores, and the island was a ghost town.
• Rialto Bridge – after we went to murano we ate at a nice resturaunt by the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge. The bridge is really neat because it’s huge and has shops going up and down it.


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